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Runaway Bride’s Pastor to Publish Book

January 7, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) _ The pastor who became spokesman for runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks has hit the ground running with a book about ``the various issues of life that cause us to make foolish decisions.″

The Rev. Tom Smiley said he started writing ``Runaway Lives″ about a year and a half ago, long before Wilbanks’ escapade became national news. But when it did, he said it provided a perfect window for the thesis he was trying to convey.

``With the national media putting her in our living rooms with her emotional issues, I think her story gave credence to the fact that emotional issues unaddressed can create some havoc in your life,″ he said.

Wilbanks, of Duluth, Ga., disappeared just days before her scheduled 600-guest wedding. A national search followed and her mother and fiance made tearful pleas, begging for her safe return.

The morning of her scheduled wedding, she turned up in Albuquerque, N.M., claiming to have been abducted and raped. Relief that she had been found quickly turned to confusion and anger when Wilbanks recanted her story, saying she fled because of ``certain fears″ controlling her life.

Smiley, pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church, where the family attends services, said the book gives practical advice to deal with painful emotions like jealousy and fear.

``It’s not a book about Jennifer, but it’s a book about various issues that we all struggle with that can be rather destructive,″ he said.

The woman’s father, Harris Wilbanks, said she is ``doing great″ and is not planning her own book.

``Tom is a marvelous preacher. This book deals with how to get through life’s problems,″ he said. ``I can’t wait to read the book.″

Smiley’s 165-page book, published by a religious books publisher, will be released Feb. 7.

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