Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Book Review : Controlling people


Controlling people : how to recognize, understand, and deal with people who try to control you by Patricia Evans (Adams Media, 2002)

This is a complicated book which uses its own set of jargon to explain the behaviour of controlling people. However on the whole the author is successful at getting her message across. Evans looks at all types of controlling relationships ranging from minor difficulties with work colleagues, to difficulties in marriage relationships, to domestic violence, to terrorists groups and cults. I found the book enlightening and her advice helpful.

Evans' main argument is that controlling people are unaware that they are under an illusion which makes them believe that the person they are tying to control, refered to as the witness, thinks exactly as they do. This gives them a sense of connectedness, albeit an unhealthy one. So any attempt by the witness to act in a separate way or voice an opinion that is different to the controller is seen as an attack or an affront. In its mild forms this may just make the controller feel uncomfortable or irritated, in more serious cases it makes the controller violent.

This book makes a helpful edition to understanding people's behaviour.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Devotional thought : Jeremiah 9:23-24

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord." Jeremiah 9:23-24

God's great desire is that we know and understand Him. In the Bible the images God uses to describe our relationship with Him are often very intimate, like that of husband and wife. God wants us to know Him in a very close and personal way. Interestingly we learn more about someone when we go through tough times together than we do when all is going well.

Many years ago there was a song around that asked the following questions: "Would you cherish loving arms, if you'd never shed a tear? Would you welcome going home, if you'd never been away? Would you treasure guiding hands, if you'd never been alone? Would you value having hope, if you'd never known despair? Would you treasure being safe, if you'd never lost your way? Would you cherish gentle words, if you'd never been afraid?" The response in the song was, "I don't think so, I really don't think so." (Note: There is a link in the comments to all the words of this song.)

In order for us to really know God and the depths of His compassion, mercy and grace it was necessary for God to allow evil to enter His perfect world so we could see how He would deal with such a crisis. There was no other way that we could learn about God's amazing love and grace except through the extreme measure of knowing the devastation of sin and evil.

Through the cross we learn just how valuable we are to Him. How much He loves us and how much grace He has made available to us.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday's lighter note

Cashing my pay cheque at the bank, I handed my driver's licence to the teller. "Oh, I see you're an organ donor," she said. "What a nice thing to do." And then she added, "Which one did you give?"

- Kelly Craddock (Readers Digest)

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Book review : Communication plus



The mother and daughter team of Marita and Florence Littauer have written a very practical guide to public speaking called Communication plus (Strand, 2006). I found the information useful and the format easy to follow. They begin with a quick overview of the different personality types and how it impacts on one's communication. There are suggestions for how to improve your communication particularly with people who have a different personality style to yourself. There is a chapter on introductions and then they move onto selecting a topic and putting a talk together. They note the key elements to include in a talk so there is something for all personality types. The authors recognize even after covering all the technical aspects a talk can still lack impact so there is also a chapter of how to put heart in your presentation. The last few chapters are written for the speaker who is also an author and discusses issues of marketing. Also included is advice about how to dress for the stage.

The book is aimed especially at authors who are looking to enter the public speaking arena and as such provides a very good overview.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Devotional thought : 2 Corinthians 4:17

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17

Paul has listed his "light and momentary troubles" as being hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Later he mentions being whipped, stoned, shipwrecked and being cold, naked and without food (2 Corinthians 11). Yet these troubles are light and momentary because Paul looks at them in the light of eternity. Paul was thinking about the long term purposes of God. He was focussed on the big picture.

Recently I watched the movie "Cast Away". At the start of the movie, the main character Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), is a workaholic who is obsessed with time.
After being ship wrecked and living for four years on a desert island he returns to civilization a different person with a more realistic perspective on life. The thought occurred to me isn't that what God does to us? He puts us in situations that we do not ask for or want in order that we grow. And if that means sitting on a desert island for four years then so be it because the eternal glory far outweighs the present inconveniences. We struggle to understand a God who operates like that, since our focus is usually on the here and now.

In the book Hind's Feet on High Places, God's love is described as "beautiful but it is also terrible - terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved." We need to remember the big picture. God loves us and always acts with our best interests at heart. With an enlarged picture of God and His purposes we can trust that when we run into difficulties He is using them to make us more like Christ and achieving for us "an eternal glory".

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Grateful for rain

I'm very thankful to report that we have had good rain over much of Victoria yesterday and today, which means the bushfire problem is greatly reduced. More rain is expected. The bushfires started early December (50 days ago) by lightening strikes in remote and inaccessible bush. While this is not an unusual occurrence for Victoria, this summer the fires started much earlier than usual and the bush is much drier after many years of drought. In the last seven weeks one person has died and about 40 houses have been lost to fires.

Tuesday was very bad with high temperatures and strong winds driving the fires close to towns and farms. The smoke from the fires caused transmission lines to short circuit and power was lost to large parts of Melbourne and other large towns. So although the fires are a long way from Melbourne we do get our power from that area.

Meanwhile my computer monitor had been on the blink for a couple of weeks. I think the power disruption on Tuesday was the final straw and the monitor died. Buying a new monitor proved a little more difficult than I expected (Are you sure it is the monitor? Do you need drivers? Do you want a flat screen? etc.) However I'm now back online with a new monitor and busy catching up on my emails and blogging.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Computer and power problems

I'm having trouble with my computer monitor plus we have had power interruptions because of the bush fires. Will be back soon, I hope.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Songs that make me think : Would you cherish

I was thinking about this song during the week and managed to find the words on the internet but I was unable to find out who wrote it. I think Evie Tornquist sang it in the late 70's/early 80's. If anyone knows any more details, especially who wrote it, please let me know.

Would you cherish loving arms, if you'd never shed a tear?
Would you welcome going home, if you'd never been away?
Would you treasure guiding hands if you'd never been alone?
I don't think so, I don't think so, I really don't think so.

Would you value having hope, if you'd never known despair?
Would you treasure being safe, if you'd never lost your way?
Would you cherish gentle words, if you'd never been afraid?
I don't think so, I don't think so, I really don't think so.

(Note: The words to the third verse are in the comments)

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday's lighter note

To give my daughter a break, I took her two toddlers for the weekend. When I asked later how she was enjoying her time alone, she replied, "The silence is deafening. I can't remember the last time I heard the refrigerator running."

- Nora Nelson (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Book review : Desiring God



I found Desiring God by John Piper (Multnomah, 2003), to be enlightening as I had not come across Piper's line of thinking before. Piper uses the term Christian Hedonism to explain his beliefs. Hedonism being the pursuit of pleasure and Christian Hedonism being the pursuit of pleasure in God Himself. Piper addresses what he feels is the unscriptural belief that to expect enjoyment is to have the wrong attitude. Piper teaches that in the Bible the promise of reward is everywhere. God is never in debt to us so we cannot do things for Him in order to repay Him or to expect payment from Him. However, because God is the Rewarder of those who seek Him, He delights to bless us if we are vulnerable and willing to receive.

Piper uses much Scripture and in depth explanation to describe his beliefs. It seems like he feels it necessary to answer every objection that has ever been raised to his ideas which unfortunately leads to some of his answers becoming long and complicated. Nevertheless his overall theme that God's purpose is that we should experience much joy in the Christian life comes through loud and clear.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Devotional thought : 1 Corinthians 7:31

"For this world in its present form is passing away." 1 Corinthians 7:31

Recently I was reading about an atheistic scientist who didn't believe a compassionate God would create a world where there was so much suffering. It's a common theme that even Christians sometimes struggle with.

This scientist's concept of Christianity was far too small. We are not just asking him to believe in a compassionate God we are asking him to believe in a whole spiritual realm that is far more real and enduring that the visible world in which we live. The scientist looked at the visible world and sees that human beings are highest life form and incorrectly assumes that life is all about us, but it is not. Life is about God and His Kingdom. Paul tells us to "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

God's kingdom is unseen and eternal. We live our lives knowing that we are apart of something that is far greater and more important than our individual lives. We are participating in making known the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Mostly we do this without realizing it. But we do it on a daily basis by the lives we live, the choices we make and the way we spend our time. All these have an impact on God's Kingdom.

We can only make sense of suffering if we take the long term view, that is the eternal view. I think it was Selwyn Hughes who made the comment - the most tragic life from a human perspective will seem like one night in a bad hotel from heaven's perspective.

So let us fix our eyes on what is unseen.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday's lighter note

My brother, a strict vegetarian, travels abroad for long periods on business. When he got back from Europe once, he called our parents' home and told Dad he was about to pay them an unexpected visit. Dad hung up. "The prodigal son is returning!" he called to my mother. "Kill the fatted zucchini!"

- Janine Hill-Pettit (Readers Digest)

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Book review : So beautiful



So beautiful : our journey complied by Jeff Hulls, is a collection of devotional thoughts, personal letters and photographs of the life of Lauris Hulls. She was the wife of Jeff Hulls, a former pastor in the town where we use to live. Lauris suffered a series of strokes over four years that eventually lead to her death last year. The book is a memorial to her life. Lauris was a loving wife and mother who also worked as a nurse so she had spent much of her life caring for others. While it is a sad story, it is also deeply moving and reminds us of the importance of relationships.

Early in the book Jeff touches on a very important theme that spiritually our lives are more about the fact that we are people of value in God's sight before anything we may or may not do. First and foremost we are human beings not human doings. While this message gets somewhat lost in the flood of memories it is an important truth woven into the message of the book.

While this publication is self-published, it is an attractive and high quality product. It can be purchased from this web site.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Devotional thought : Hebrews 11:6

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6

God not only rewards those who earnestly seek him but we must expect that He will. This is not the completely altruistic (unselfish) attitude we might think God wants us to have. We must believe we are rewarded for seeking God.

In the book of Job, Satan challenges God with the question, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" (Job 1:9) Satan is suggesting Job only honours the Lord for the rewards God provides. He is suggesting that Job is only interested in God for what he can get out of the relationship. Ultimately Satan was proved wrong.

So on one hand we expect God to reward us but on the other we don't honour God simply for those rewards. To illustrate this balance it is helpful to remember that Jesus told us to call God our Father. At Christmas many of us spent time with our parents, because of who they are, but probably we also expected they would bless us with gifts. We would visit them regardless of whether they gave us a gift or not but it is a joy to receive from them.

Likewise God wants to bless us but often we miss His blessings because we do not expect them or look out for them. God's blessings come in many ways – through the beauty of nature, through amazing coincidences that only He could have orchestrated, through the blessing of another person.

At the start of a new year let's acknowledge God is our Rewarder and be on the lookout for those blessings that only He could have provided.

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