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Is there anything left to learn about God’s love? When Jesus was asked what mattered most to God, his answer was seemingly simple: love God earnestly and love others the way you want to be loved. In his debut book, Steve Daugherty dives deep into this command and what it means for those who follow Jesus. Throughout Experiments in Honesty, Steve shares stories from the Bible and his own life to explore the ideas of compassion, fear, anger, and faith. This journey will lead all who want to follow Jesus to understand the truth about God’s Love—that it sets us free from fear and allows us to love others more than ourselves. That is, after all, what matters most.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
For fifteen years, Steve Daugherty has been a pastor and counselor. Steve has served as teaching pastor for more than a decade at Crosspointe Church in Cary, North Carolina. Steve’s writing, including devotionals, prayer journals, and group materials, has already been enjoyed by thousands. Steve is also a conference speaker, storyteller, and poet who jumps at the chance to capture imaginations outside the traditional church context. He has been married to Kristi since the 1990s, and together they raise three children, Emma, Anna, and Ian. Learn more at stevedaugherty.net.
Read an Excerpt
Too afraid of God to not be afraid of God
HIP-DEEP IN SEAWATER and dragging their boats ashore with exhausted hands, Peter — who at this point in the story still went by Simon — as well as the other fishermen heard someone speaking.
A group of a dozen or so was huddled together, walking along the beach, listening to a man talk. A predawn prayer group, by the looks of it. The tired anglers pretended not to notice them, but they did. Must be nice to have that kind of time. Peter noticed the group moving in their direction; a rabbi flanked by men and women eating up his words like fish used to gobble bait in these waters before the empire had fished it nearly empty.
The group continued moving until it was on top of Peter and his crew, and then it stopped. The rabbi kept walking, away from the group, sloshing out to Peter's boat and legging over the side while the crowd watched. The rabbi just got in and sat down.
The fishermen's lined foreheads said it all: With all due respect, what's this guy think he's doing?
The rabbi asked to put out a bit, seemingly oblivious to the crew's hollow, tired hearts. They'd been out all night with no fish tales to tell. The crowd stared at Peter, pressuring him with their eyes. With a sigh, Peter motioned to a few of the others to push back out in the water. Rabbis deserved honor, yes. But he better not press his luck after a night like we've just had.
The teacher spoke from the boat toward the shore, and it took no time at all for Peter and the others to recognize a simple power in his teaching. Not counterfeit power, one pretended with high volume and ultimatums. The markets were full of mouthy two-bit prophets like that, their fists in the air and their tails on fire. This rabbi was different. It was clear this one had gone out on the water for amplification, because it was too easy to confuse shouting for strength.
The man's words were rich, and yet they weren't all that exotic. He spoke persuasively, but not as the salesmen and the oracles did. It was an artwork of traditional-sounding speech braided with an awareness of coming realities that seemed ready to break in at any moment. Like a familiar door hinged to the jamb of a great palace. The men wondered among themselves, We've heard this before, haven't we? Or have we?
Then the rabbi asked to go fishing.
"Sir, respectfully, we're really tired. We've fished all night and pulled nothing but water into this boat." The rabbi nodded but seemed to not understand that Peter was objecting. Someone in the crowd cleared her throat as wives and mothers do to force consent. "All right. Since this is what you want" — Peter directed a mock bow toward the rabbi — "it looks like that's what we're doing."
Peter and his crew pushed their boat out into the waters. It took several minutes to get out far enough to reasonably expect a catch. The four men threw the net out halfheartedly, the weights on the corners splashing into the chop, their aching hands and legs protesting the beginning of a double shift. Each of the men leaned over, watching the net sink. Andrew and John loosely palmed one of the pull ropes as it unwound into the water. James and Peter managed the other. The net disappeared.
After a few moments Peter nodded to the others. That's enough. They began to lift the net hand over hand while the rabbi peered over the side, naive and expectant.
Then Andrew was shrieking. "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" The men's arms pulled taut and the boat listed. The rabbi stepped back to the high side of the boat, laughing.
Peter looked to the others on shore. "Come throw another net! C'mon!" he yelled, tugging and frantic. "Hurry!" The rope popped and groaned in the men's hands as they shouted orders at one another. A convulsion of fish broke the surface in a flash of tails and scales gleaming in the sun. Soon the second boat was a few yards away, its net cast close. They immediately found themselves in the same tussle. Those on shore laughed and clapped, more amused than awestruck at the crews' frenzy of yelps and ropes and tangled legs.
Peter's boat was full. The second boat was as well. Writhing tilapia, binys, and sardines where only bare floor planks had been before. Both vessels squatted blessedly low in the water. Amazement replaced exhaustion. It was a miracle by anyone's standard. God had poured out tangible, scaly goodness on Peter and his crew and their families.
No doubt Peter had prayed during that long night. Frankly, it's impossible to believe there hadn't been one clenched-jaw petition for at least breakfast to swim into the nets. Whatever Peter said, I'm persuaded the catch of fish was an unambiguous answer to an unrecorded prayer.
Anyone would've said God had answered this prayer by way of this mysterious man standing in the boat with Peter, knee-deep in fish. This moment had been pure blessing. A gift. An act of Love.
So how did Simon Peter react when this Rabbi Jesus miraculously filled two boats with fish? Pay attention, because Peter does a lot of reacting in the Bible ...
One time Jesus started glowing right in front of Peter. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on a mountain. They were maybe also glowing. It's hard to say how Peter knew this was Moses and Elijah before the advent of photography, but Peter seemed sure enough to start talking of his religious intentions. Religious men have often been the first to speak with certainty of mysterious things. And so Peter was suddenly speaking: "Jesus, I know ... I'll make some tents, one for each of you!" It was a sincere offer. It was the most meaningful gesture Peter could imagine in that moment. However, Peter was told to shut up and listen, more or less, when God's voice broke through the clouds and commanded everyone to listen to Jesus.
Another time Peter, along with the other disciples, sent children away so they wouldn't bother Jesus. "Seen and not heard," as the saying goes. Jesus in turn put a child on his lap and explained to the crowd, and to Peter, that God highly values what society ranks low.
Another time Peter was involved in sending hungry people away so they could go feed themselves. "God helps those who help themselves" goes another adage. Jesus contradicted this as well with a mass feeding of fish and chips, along with a reminder that spiritual and physical needs are two sides of the same coin.
Another time Peter told Jesus that he was wrong concerning his own crucifixion. The biblical text actually says Peter rebuked Jesus for saying he'd soon suffer a criminal's demise. True messiahs, after all, don't get crucified. Everyone knew this. Jesus responded by calling his friend Peter "Satan" and telling him to stay out of his way.
Another time, when Jesus was being arrested, Peter lunged forward with a sword. To Peter it seemed reasonable that true messiahs needed to be physically defended by armed apprentices. Peter was going for the officer's head but only connected with his ear. Jesus told Peter he was perpetuating the wrong movement and the wrong religion and commanded that Peter stow his weapon — to use it for no more than filleting fish — and then he healed Peter's victim. Remarkable, I think, that Jesus was having to heal the victims of his church so early on.
Another time Peter puffed out his chest and said, "I will never leave your side, Master." Jesus winced and told Peter that he would not only do exactly that, but would do so three times before the rooster announced breakfast.
Another time Jesus asked Peter who he thought Jesus was. "The Christ, the Son of the living God," Peter answered with zeal. Jesus went on to say he'd answered correctly, but not on his own. God had given Peter the answer.
Peter — Saint Peter — stands in for many of us: devout, sincere, and almost completely mistaken about people and God. Which brings us back to two boatloads of fish from God. In response to this miracle catch, Peter fell down on his knees and cried, "Get away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
* * *
When it comes to this fishing story, every sermon and book and article and commentary I have ever come across presents Peter's fearful response as appropriate, prescriptive, humble, and good. "When in the presence of the mighty Jesus," they explain, "you should tremble in abject fear."
Peter, whom we know was always wrong (comically so, if you allow yourself to smile when reading sacred literature), was suddenly so terrified of the presence of the Divine, so jarred by the miracle, he begged the Lord to exit the boat even before Jesus had demonstrated he could walk on water.
But why should I suppose Peter's impulse had been right this time? Why would I think Peter's reaction to Christ here had been the right one but the ear-chopping thing was crazy? His actions had always been impulsive, his perspectives narrow, his theology needing constant dismantling and rebuilding. More often than not, when Peter did or said something, it needed to be undone and corrected.
Why do we not shake our heads and sigh at him as he cowers in the boat, "Oh, Peter, ya doofus. Stand up."
And why would the very next sentence have Jesus saying to him, "Don't be afraid," if being afraid was the prescription?
On what basis do we think that being afraid of God is the key to getting goodness from God? Why would we gather to sing to such cosmic psychopathy?
Perhaps even now you're getting nervous, wondering if it's okay to stop fearing the one who always opens conversations with, "Don't be afraid." Almost as one fears letting his or her guard down around a dangerous man, this business of removing fear from our faith feels like leaving ourselves at risk. Perhaps it has more to do with Bible verses, since we could all pitch in several about fear being part of what faith even means. After all, "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," as the proverb reads. I find most of us don't realize we've made fear the middle and end of wisdom too. Nervous adults still following the rules as toddlers do, for the same reasons toddlers do. We attempt being good for Dad to avoid a spanking, rather than to live well, to grow up. We do this and call this "wisdom" rather than the wrath mitigating it probably is. Some of us gave up on this faith long ago, because we outgrew a mental state that makes choices based on not getting busted. Some of us would leave, but we're too afraid God might prove to be a cosmic spanker after all. Imagine the minds of those singing in church of love and joy, afraid of the very object of their singing. It's mentally exhausting and often spiritually gangrenous.
Peter was a Jew. And Jews have always knowingly affirmed that God is aware of everything. As in nothing slips divine notice. One of God's traditional nicknames is El Roi, "The God Who Sees." (El Roi is pronounced "El Ro-ee," in case you thought ancient Israel might've looked to the heavens and called for Elroy.) God told the prophet Samuel, "I don't see things the way people do. People are stuck with appearances. What their eyeballs show them. I can see all the way inside." This is to say Peter's tradition taught that no one ever fooled God with their performance or achievements or Sunday best. No one ever tricked God into being kinder than God intended to be. No one ever incurred God's wrath by becoming less convincing. God's unlimited seeing is a big part of what makes God God.
And yet Peter, knee-deep in seafood, seemed to have thought the bounty of fish was given to him because God had yet to read his file.
"Get away, Lord, before you figure out who I really am and regret your kindness!"
If there is a mantra of the ashamed, this is probably it: If only you knew.
Peter acted like a terrified child, but because of our conviction that fear is good — holy even — we assume without justification that Peter got this thing right. Be afraid. Be very afraid. And if you don't walk around genuinely feeling it, you need to learn to conjure fear as a way of proving your devotion. Preach that people must be afraid of God in order to get God to tell them there's no need for their fear. Get people to fear God's randomly applied justice, like tornados and cancer, so they can live in fear that they don't live in enough fear. Because who knows — God may fill the boat with fish, or God may sink it to teach a lesson. Stay anxious. Your daughter may be born healthy. She may not be born at all. Depends on what point God wants to make. Stay nervous. If a good thing happens, you're owed a bad thing. It will happen when you least expect it, so remain tense. And by the way, God's judgment about that night back in college when you made a move on your buddy's sister is still pending. God Loves you, but that encounter did not go unnoticed.
What if being afraid of God is as wrong as telling children to get away from Jesus? As wrong as swinging a sword at an enemy's head to "protect" the Son of the Almighty? As wrong as telling hungry people to go find food on their own?
What if God doesn't want us afraid, but we've so stubbornly assumed human beings can only do right if kept under threat that we can't imagine another way?
And what if the reason the divine voice is always heard saying, "Don't be afraid," is because there's ultimately no need for fear, and that it might actually be bad for us?
I know, I know — there doesn't seem to be much left of our faith if fear of divine disappointment and consequences are extracted. Wouldn't it be arrogant of us to think we'd become less afraid in the light of the Divine, rather than more? Well, if we're ready to get on with living the lives given to us, we'll need to recognize that Love cancels fear just as catches of fish cancel empty boats. And only when that fear is cancelled can genuine, honest life be lived.
On the way to the beach a few years back, we saw an enormous billboard overlooking multiple lanes of highway. Pictured along the top of the giant rectangle was a storm cloud, with a huge Caucasian hand protruding from the underside. The hand was pointing at us all, the thumb and forefinger extended like a pretend pistol.
It read, "Jesus has your number. REPENT NOW!"
I felt angry and embarrassed. I began to imagine conversations leading to the decision to rent the billboard. I pictured an evangelism committee in some dank church basement passing around the concept art, which was endorsed with eager nods of approval before they finally segued to a discussion about how much church money they'd be throwing at this "ministry" to beachgoers. I felt angry that thousands of people a day were being told Pistol-Finger Jesus and my Jesus were the same.
I wondered irritably for several dozen miles, Which of us can be wooed to God by threat? And to whom exactly was their JeZeus supposedly speaking? All drivers or just liberals? Those who enjoy a good IPA here and there, or strictly those with footed fish on their bumpers?
God Loves you, losers. Accept it or be shot at.
I got over it after half an hour or so. But I'm sure there were other drivers who never did. Because for many of us, this is the god we grew up fearing. And we hide and estrange ourselves from what we fear. The Scriptures explain that Peter did. Adam and Eve did. Most of us still do. We hide from whatever threatens us or disapproves of us or wants to harm us. At the very least, we attempt to anxiously perform ourselves back into good graces. Or we get over it thirty minutes later and do what we want at the beach, having left the gaze of angry PFJ miles behind.
* * *
We don't want to be close to anyone who thinks badly of us, let alone a god whose mood is negatively altered by what we do. There is nothing more frightening and terrible than a god whose disposition we can sour with our humanness. The god who, when presented with the reality of our weaknesses, seems caught off guard by the power of these weaknesses. Like a gasping mother who walks in on her kids trying out some new potty talk despite their being commanded to quietly watch Little House on the Prairie. How dare you! She is powerfully oppressed by the least powerful beings in the house.
Some of us feel compelled to argue for this god. For the goodness of this god. That fearing this god is what makes us take this god seriously. Some of us insist that when we say the word fear, we really mean respect. There's a world of difference, though. I respect my mailman. But if I am only respectful to my mailman because I think my disrespect might trigger his righteous indignation, then I have simply folded my fears behind a vocabulary word. Respect and fear shouldn't ultimately look anything alike. Especially in light of God's command not to fear, how disrespectful it is to continue being afraid!
But this idea that God wants you to be afraid of him isn't going anywhere because of a few paragraphs trying to convince you to the contrary. Faith seems dysfunctional without it. How else would we sinners be impelled to practice the holiness this god calls us to unless confronted with this god's terrifying volatility? Isn't the threat of a wooden spoon to the rear end how my mother kept me and my brother from beating the snot out of each other? Isn't it fear that holds the house together?
Excerpted from "Experiments in Honesty"
Copyright © 2018 Steve Daugherty.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Naked or Afraid
1 Too afraid of God to not be afraid of God 3
2 PFJ 13
3 Apocalypse of Love 21
Part 2 The Beauty in That Hideous Thing
4 Life sucks 41
5 GIVE 47
6 There is a free lunch 55
7 The opposite of Love 59
8 It's always something 69
Part 3 A Love So Basic
9 Do this-all of this 81
10 51% 87
11 Love is in the air, and everyone breathes 93
Part 4 The Polarities of Control and Love
12 The amnesty of honesty 107
13 There is no remote control 113
14 The strangely transformative effect of letting people be 127
15 God Loves you* 137
16 If "stop it" worked, Jesus coulda stayed home 147
17 Speed trap 153
Part 5 More Than Meets the Eye
18 Her name isn't Mom 169
19 Anointing 62 feet 177
20 How to save a galaxy 183
21 There was evening and there was morning … 189
22 A Love that's intents 197
Part 6 Undebted
23 Paralysis 211
24 Billy Joel sang it best 215
25 Forgiving you for being you allows you to be the real you 223
26 Forgiving my idols 229
27 Diss-ciples 237
Part 7 Don't Worry. Everybody Dies. Even Death.
28 Reality is deciduous 251
29 Behold, I make all things nude 257
30 Look out below 263
31 Conquered 271
Hat tips 285
Scriptural references 287
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book has changed the way I think about life and God and the foundational Love that exists within all of us. Daugherty strips away the fear of God that I’ve grown up knowing, and he peels away many of the constraints that people have placed on Love throughout time. What I found in these chapters is a flashlight shining on the numerous instances throughout the scriptures that God has called us not to fear, but rather to embrace one another and embrace God in love and kindness, just as God continues to envelop each person in the love that is free to all. Free Love. It’s hard to imagine that we cannot do anything to earn this Love, but that is what Daugherty points to over and over throughout this book. Reading this will provide relief from the pressures of having “to do” something to earn God’s Love, or that we might have “to do right” before we come back and find Love again. I highly recommend this book to all, no matter what you believe. You won’t find judgment in this book. I found relief and peace. I hope you’ll consider reading this book and that these readings help pass on that peace so that we might all find that Love again and again.
Experiments in Honesty by Steve Daugherty explores practicalities of being human through masterful storytelling and conversational writing. Personal and Bible stories are used to illustrate how to love others. The authors’ unique paradigms will engage and challenge to live an “awakened” life loving others. I highly recommend this book for anyone that desires to live more harmoniously with other people in the world.
Experiments in Honesty is a beautifully written and honest reflection on many of the things that really matter most in life. The stories are great, but the real gift is the way these stories give us a new awareness and appreciation of things we already know to be true, just maybe have not expressed. It is a joy to read! Read it at the least because its funny, at best because it is refreshing to your soul.
-Read this book if you are interested in living your life outside the confines of tired old narratives drawn up to force us down the straight and narrow. -Read this book if you don't know who Jesus is, or if you think its possible that someone has misrepresented who Christ was, and who Christ can be. -Read this book to know God and be known because God loves you, not because God is threatening you. -Read this book if you want to make up your own mind about this Jesus character, and what it means to follow Him well. -Read this book if you like books with lots of words and a few drawings.
A excellent, thought provoking way to consider God. He is either everything or nothing, what will be my choice? Mr. Daugherty is a great story teller and his gift shines through, especially in his rendition of church leadership discussing a billboard about a pistol pointing God and the God of Love, Grace and Forgiveness. I can’t wait to present this book to friends and family!
In a book with such an imperative message, I couldn’t help but find myself chuckling at the pleasant banter the author has with the reader. This enjoyable and thought provoking read will not give a definitive, concrete statement about righteousness but it will cause the reader to examine one’s conscious and unconscious thoughts about the topic. The reader is encouraged to notice, observe, examine and question one’s own internal conversation. Daugherty writes, “…we are students of the one who shows us how love dignifies difference and unifies us around kindness and light, not around conformity.” (pg. 240) “And if I do need you to be different, well, now we’re talking about my weakness, not yours.” (pg. 220) If you are concerned about righteousness in an ever changing world, read Experiments in Honesty with a reflective, open mind and heart. With considerate contemplation, each of us has the power to bring togetherness in a divisive world.
If you have ever wanted a different approach to the message of Christ, this book is for you! Steve's wit and honesty merge to speak the message of love as only a real flawed human can relate to. We are all flawed and we are all loved...I recommend you dive into this interesting book full of humor, sarcasm, realism and no-nonsense messages - this is sure to become a MUST read!
This book is a breath of fresh air. Steve Daugherty writes in a way that takes you on a leisurely stroll through the park with a friend you feel you've always known and trusted, while at the same time writing about things that force you to question any comfort you've found in your faith and understanding of God in a remarkably new way. From his humorous anecdotes to his compelling insights, this is a unique book that seems to want to break through ancient, unfair mindsets about our place within the Love of God and man. But it doesn't feel like the intent is to shock the reader or buy into something new. Instead it's more of a thoughtful discussion to return to our place in the Garden of Eden in healthy relationship with Love. Regardless of where this book leaves you in your own thought processes, you will benefit from this "leisurely stroll through the park".
Steve brings a fresh perspective and context to some familiar stories. His take generates thought and conversation. His humor and clever command of language kept me turning the pages. The messaging is from someone that has experienced the same doubts and questions that I have and not from someone that is talking down to me. The book is a very good read and a great addition to my small but growing collection of Christian-based books.
Steve Daugherty is a gifted storyteller, both in person and on paper. His storytelling talent is evident on every page of Experiments in Honesty. Throughout the book, he takes ordinary, day-to-day life situations (oftentimes steeped in humor) to offer his readers a different perspective on well-known Bible stories and how they relate to God's compassionate, unlimited gift of love through Jesus Christ. This is a book that I will refer to time and time again knowing that I will find new treasures of wisdom/guidance with each reading.
Steve brilliantly delivers the same "digging deep" approach in this book that he does during Sunday messages. He takes an idea, breaks in down, pursues all angles, and then brings it back together in a fresh and inspiring way. He has helped me realign and reinvest myself in the daily work it takes to be a loving, yet flawed human. I highly recommend this book to everyone, no matter where you consider your place on the spiritual or religious journey.
Listen. I am not gonna try to sell you on something that I don’t think you need. I value our friendship and your money not being wasted too much for that. And even with all of that said I can, without hesitation, recommend you buy this book. I grew up in the Christian tradition. I was fully bought into that lifestyle. And then I lived outside of America. And now I don’t know what to think. I honestly don’t. There’s a part of me that just wants to throw up my hands and walk away, but there’s also something that won’t let me completely sever ties with my faith. I know a lot of people who are in the same spot. Friends—this book is for us. It really is a fresh look at issues of faith (and Jesus) formatted into storytelling chapters. My friend, Steve, the author, is a (relatable) mystic, a talented artist, and an award-winning storyteller. This book is an excellent collection of his stories. Some come from the Bible— some come from his life. All of them are very readable and make you think. You’ll want to read it once for the entertainment factor and the next time to let each episode ruminate. You need to buy it
Steve Daugherty is an incredible storyteller. He shares his thoughts on faith in such a witty and candid way. One moment, I'd find myself laughing out loud...then the next I'd be thinking deeply about what I had just underlined in my book. I highly recommend this book!
A fresh look at what we are called to do as humans - Love one another. Steve uses his life (which is often quite hilarious) to make the book very relatable. He uses his vast knowledge to present a picture of what Jesus was about - Love. You are loved the way you are and we are called to do the same for our fellow humans. There are so many passages I want to shout from the rooftop - our world needs more love and it's our job to spread it around! Steve helps put that into perspective in a wonderful way in this great new book!
I do not have enough good things to say about this book. What a fresh new perspective of God, Jesus, religion, life and myself. The part I like most is that the questions this author addresses in this book are the same questions that I have often asked in my head. He is, like the title of his book implies, honest. If you've lost your way and aren't sure why, this book just might be the way back.
"...We've come to refer to the moment when Eve took the forbidden fruit and gave some to her husband as The Fall Of Man. Well played ladies. A serpent is not endowed with limbs. No hands and feet. They are self-prioritizing. Nothing with which "to serve" others. This is why we say, "Give me a hand." It means help me. No one says, "Give me a snake." Snakes cannot Ahava, making them utterly unlike Christ. If you find yourself, Tired, Worn out, Burned Out on Religion... in need of Love and in need of being Loved without the judgement and hypocrisy that some aspects of Christianity can sometimes present, this book will make you laugh, cry, and think while presenting Christ without being tied to the Yoke of western nationalism or the fear of an angry God. Steve's knowledge of and trust in sacred texts, ability to blend cultural references, wit, storytelling, wisdom, and to speak from the heart about his own fears, doubt, and hopes will energize your heart and mind and invite you to reconsider the message of The Christ.
I highly recommend this book. It spoke to me on so many different levels. Steve has this incredible way of being both honest and humorous at the same time. His stories about his own personal struggles with God's love, compassion, fear, and anger makes him extremely relatable. Reading this book, I found myself laughing, thinking, re-reading, self-examining, understanding, realizing, then trying to put his words into action in my day-to-day life. So many times, I found myself wanting to share sections of the book with my friends and family... until I realized I might as well just buy the book for them. Which I will!
An easy-to-read collection of stories from the Bible and the author's life, masterfully crafted together to illustrate what loving God and loving others means. Daugherty gently challenges the reader to rethink what you thought you knew about God and His love for us and humbly encourages us to follow Jesus' example. The author is a skillful storyteller - and as an added bonus – he included his own sketches!