Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thoughts from Taco Bell

Matt Ouellette’s first book, “Thoughts That Fell from a Taco Shell,” released Jan. 3, turned out completely different than what he anticipated. But, then again, what more could he expect from a book that was almost entirely written from inside his local Taco Bell?

With a little encouragement from Ouellette’s wife, Missy, what began as a letter written for his kids to read when they grew older about how to genuinely live out their Christian faith, transformed into his first book.

“I was reading through Proverbs, and it’s all really practical stuff,” Ouellette said. “I wish I had a book like that from my dad, and I decided to write one for my kids. It just happened to start in Taco Bell.”

Ouellette, a youth pastor at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Waterville, Maine, constructed his book like a Taco Bell employee assembling a hot, fresh burrito — tossing in humor, funny personal anecdotes and stories about his family like ground beef, lettuce and cheese, supported by a hard shell of biblical truth.

Readers looking for a cookie-cutter Christian living book might be caught off guard by short chapters resembling journal entries more than anything else, but Ouellette’s sense of humor and ability to make accurate spiritual analogies out of otherwise mundane events more than make up for its unconventional appearance.

“It was kind of a series of thoughts,” Ouellette said. “I definitely wanted my kids to own their faith and kind of drop the religious repetition that Christianity can always offer. I wanted them to really own it themselves and get past the point of just rituals.”

Each chapter combines a tale from a trip to Taco Bell, a story from Ouellette’s childhood, college years or his family with a corresponding thought about his misplaced “attempts to impress God” and his experience with various pitfalls of the Christian life. The 26-year-old author even inserted self-drawn, comical cartoons between chapters.

“(The book) is so sporadic,” Ouellette said. “Each chapter stands alone but (not trying to impress God) was the one common theme.”

Ouellette’s conversational tone allows readers to relax as if they were paging through a collection of friendly, God-centered advice rather than a complex, theological analysis of God’s grace.

“It’s definitely the way I converse with people all the time,” Ouellette said. “I wanted the reader to feel like they’re eating a taco with me.”

Although making light of the strange occurrences that seem to be commonplace in Ouellette’s favorite Taco Bell is always fun, he hopes that readers will come away with a better understanding of God’s view of their walk with Him.

“Sometimes, we don’t look at our failures in the right way, and we kind of brush it over,” Ouellette said. “Hopefully (the book) would bring us to a better awareness in that sense. Also, some of us just want to give up and focus so much on our failures. In that sense, we get to see God’s grace poured out.”

Ouellette won an annual publishing contest held by Deep River Books, and almost two years after being notified that he had won, he released his book.

“I asked how much it would cost, and they said ‘nothing,’” Ouellette said. “I thought, ‘Now you’re talking my language.’”

Ouellette frequently writes on his website, matthebun.com, but his future plans as an author have yet to be made.

“I’m not opposed to writing, although the idea of writing another book is daunting,” Ouellette said. “I’m really enjoying it for now, and I’ll just see what the future presents.”

It is anyone’s guess as to whether Ouellette will write another book in the future, but if he does, chances are it will be written from his favorite spot by the window inside his local Taco Bell.

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