Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review : Many Coloured Realm

Many Coloured Realm by Anne Hamilton is a difficult book for me to review as I don’t read a lot of fantasy. It is a complicated tale of goblins and elves, various realms and time zones. It is the story of children on a dangerous mission but I was never quite sure who was on whose side. It is a story that appears to end in a tear jerking tragedy but ultimate ends in hope.

The story is apparently written in a mathematical design, not that I would have noticed. Unfortunately I suspect I also missed many others elements that an experienced reader of fantasy would have picked up.

This is not a quick read and probably needs to be read by true lovers of fantasy who are able to pick up the underlying meanings while I only saw hints. This being the case I would recommend it for teenagers rather than children.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Best wishes for Christmas to all who pass by here.

I’ll be away for a few days catching up with family.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why don't we see Him more?

“Why don’t we see Him more?” is a line from the Christmas song, “Where is the line to see Jesus?” by Steve Haupt and Chris Loesch.

It reminds me of a scene from the movie, Prince Caspian. Lucy sees Aslan, the character who represents Jesus, in the distance but the others don't. When they ask her why they didn't see him, Lucy gives these answers. "Maybe you weren't looking for him," and later, "Maybe you don't want to see him." Likewise we are not always looking for Jesus to be present in our daily lives and we don’t always want to see him.

Looking for Jesus suggests our dependency on him. It requires us to acknowledge our inadequacies, that we are not as self-sufficient as we thought. It is interesting that of the four children in Prince Caspian it was Lucy that saw Aslan. She was the youngest, the one who was not trying to be mature or assume authority but the one who was most trusting. Somehow we lose this when we become teenagers and adults. I’m sure I did. For some reason I feel the need to impress, sometimes even myself, with my own proficiency. Yet to see more of Jesus in my life, I must cultivate the same child like trust that Lucy had.

Furthermore perhaps we don’t always want to see him. Seeing Jesus is challenging. We may sense his conviction when all we want is comfort. We may sense his calling when all we want is to be left in peace. We may sense his holiness when all we want is to be left in our selfishness. Being in God’s presence changes us and I know I don’t always want to change. Yet he only changes us for our benefit to heal us of our brokenness and free us from our burdens.

How do we see Jesus? We live in 2012 not in Narnia or even ancient Palestine so we certainly don’t see him with our physical eyes but rather with our spiritual eyes. We become aware of Jesus’ presence in our life when we realize he is orchestrating our circumstances and we notice the little coincidences. We notice a bird, a sunset, the laughter of a child and realize that God is behind every blessing. So often I am too busy to notice, too distracted by other concerns to stop and take the time to say thank you, Lord. And when I stop saying thank you, I stop acknowledging his presence and then I stop seeing the evidence of his presence in my life.

If we aren’t looking for him then others won’t see Jesus in us either. The world desperately needs to see Jesus and the only way they will see him is through the lives of his followers. As we seek Jesus, trust him, thank him, others will see Jesus in us.

This Christmas allow a watching world see the life of Jesus in you.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Friday, December 21, 2012

Devotional Thought : Matthew 9:17

Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. Matthew 9:17

Jesus was seeking to show the Pharisees that Judaism wasn’t working. It wasn’t bringing people into a close personal relationship with God. Years of defining the law, adding requirements and tradition meant that it had become nothing more than a list of “dos” and “don’ts”. It was beyond fixing. It had served its purpose. The law showed us our need of a Saviour (Galatians 3:24) because we were not able to meet its requirements in our own strength.

Jesus was bringing “new wine” and to preserve this new wine it needed new wineskins. A new way of being God’s people, a new understanding of the relationship God wanted with his people, and a new revelation of the extent of God’s compassion and grace. God did not want to guide his people by regulations but by his Spirit. It was the fulfilment of God’s promise to his people through Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees…” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

The old wineskins of law keeping were not able to hold the rich “wine” of God’s Spirit leading and guiding. The old wineskins of rituals and ceremonies were not able to hold the sweet “wine” of fellowship that God desired with his people.

Likewise we need to leave behind our old wineskin of trying to please God and embrace the new wineskin of grace.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review : Black Forest Redemption

Black Forest Redemption by Amanda Deed is a historical fiction novel set at the time of the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat. It concerns two young people who are kidnapped and held for ransom. Both characters are dealing with significant issues of purpose and direction for their life when they are kidnapped. This complicates their ordeal and their relationship with each other.

I have lived in the area where the story was set (but not during this time frame!) so it was particularly interesting to me to read about places I knew well. I also enjoyed the historical content which surprised me. I learnt about this period of Australian history at school and found it very dull but reading it from the perspective of a person’s living through it made it come alive.

The story creates genuine tension and intrigue. It is well written and well paced. Towards the end I did find the prayer thing a bit overdone, but that might just be personal taste or perhaps I just don't pray enough!

Overall it was a great story.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, December 17, 2012

Devotional Thought : Matthew 7:1

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

This is a tricky verse because elsewhere we are told to judge. For example: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). And often the temptation is to judge my mere appearances. I recently read this quote by Augsburger:

People judge others' actions by their effects and their own actions by their intentions.

We believe our intentions are always good even if our actions are inadequate and if our actions are inadequate we feel we have legitimate reasons – busyness, under resourced, unrealistic expectations etc. However we often don’t know the intentions of others so we are tempted to judge only their actions. At such times we can remind ourselves that we never have enough information to set our judgements in concrete. We never know what work God is doing in their heart or will do in the future to have any finality about our conclusions. Oft times we would be wise to keep our opinions to ourselves, particularly regarding issues that do not concern us.

Furthermore we have to be careful that our judgements don’t come out of pride. Do we criticize others because we think we are better than they are? Perhaps we think we are a better writer, singer, preacher and our judgements are coming out of own insecurity rather than out of any real sense of discernment. Since we want God to be gracious in his dealings with us, we ought to be gracious towards others.

Overall I think the message here is don't usurp God's role of judging as it is not our job to pass judgement on anyone; don't be critical of others, especially as only God knows their motives; and don’t set judgements in concrete, God is not finished with us yet!

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review : God made something...

Penny Reeve has written a series of Find the Animal children’s books. Each book’s title begins: God made something… and concludes with a word that describes a particular animal – tall, clever, enormous, funny, clever, amazing, beautiful, quick and strong. Currently there are eight books in the series.

Not only are these books a fun way of learning that God made animals but each books stresses a different aspect of God’s character. For example, God made something enormous also teaches that God’s love is enormous and as an extra bonus each book includes questions about shapes, sizes, numbers or colours.

Since there is so much in each book, not just a story, but things to look for in the pictures, questions to answer, Bible verses to read, they can be read over and over emphasising something different each time.

I love this series of books and I’m looking forward to sharing them with my grandchildren.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Devotional Thought : Matthew 4:3, 6, 9

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”…“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down”… “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Matthew 4:3, 6 & 9

The three temptations that Jesus faced: to provide for his needs through his own miraculous power and not by trusting God; to force God to serve him instead of him serving God; and to achieve power and glory by the wrong avenues.

These temptations are not unique to Jesus. We too are tempted to meet our own legitimate needs in ways that are ungodly. Perhaps for us it is about our need for acceptance, belonging and security. While there is nothing wrong in having these needs, if we use people or things to meet these needs we find not only do they not satisfies us but they lead us away from trusting God.

We are also tempted to think God is there just to solve our problems and resolves our difficulties. Our focus becomes about what God is doing or will do for me rather than on how I can serve God. While God is interested in meeting our needs, he has bigger plans for us and his world.

Likewise God’s desire is for us to be successful but not in the way the world defines success. We can live a successful Christian life and never achieve power and glory in the world. Alternatively we may receive some measure of power and glory but if we achieve it through our own devices we will ultimately find it unfulfilling.

The tempter will continue to tempt us but, like Jesus, we are empowered by his word and Spirit to overcome.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review : A New Resolution

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! The reason being is that I generally find romantic stories too predictable and although this one ends as you would expect, Rose Dee has included lots of interesting benefits along the way.

Some of these benefits are created as a result of where the book is set, in northern Queensland. Environmental issues, illegal fishing and growing marijuana are real issues which appear as part of the story. However the issue I thought that Rose handled particularly well was the sexual tension between the two main characters. This is a difficult, but very real issue, to handle in a Christian book. Both characters had slept with others before they were Christians and now they had to consider how to handle this issue from a Christian perspective.

I think this would be an excellent book for older teenagers, as rather than confronting them directly with the importance of making good choices, the story creates a way of looking at relationships in a non threatening way. The characters are easy to identify with and the lessons they learn are easy to apply to our lives.

This book is part of a trilogy of books set on Resolution Island but each one is complete in itself.

A great read.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Saturday, December 08, 2012

In the writing zone

Yesterday I wrote a post for Christian Writers Downunder about the process of writing.

Check it out here.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Friday, December 07, 2012

Devotional Thought : Matthew 3:3

This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Matthew 3:3

This prophesy is from Isaiah 40:3 and refers to God bringing the Jews back to the Promised Land from their exile in Babylon. Here in Matthew, it refers to the Jews coming back into right relationship with God.

By using this prophecy God reminds his people of his purposes and plans for them. He has not forgotten them. This prophesy speaks to them not only of their history but also of their future. He wants his people to return to wholehearted allegiance to him. So he can bless them.

Likewise God calls us to prepare ourselves in order to receive his blessing. Perhaps our spiritual life has grown stale and dull and now God calls us to prepare our minds and hearts, to stir ourselves into action so we are ready to face the next task God has for us.

It is so easy to drift from our commitment to Christ. In the intensity of a moment we plead our allegiance to him but the daily routine seems to wear down our intentions. Life doesn’t turn out quite like we expect. We experience disappointment and disillusionment and slowly our focus is drawn away from God.

However God challenges us to prepare for the next part of our spiritual journey and to focus on his unchanging character. Despite our circumstances God is a good God who has our best interests at heart. He will not always rescue us from bad situations or solve all our problems. Yet he is always there for us, continually seeking to spiritually spur us on and draw us into closer communion with him.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Blog Tour : Back to Resolution

This week's blog tour is Back to Resolution by Rose Dee. I recently read the third book in this series, A New Resolution and really enjoyed it. Each book in the series can be read as a stand alone. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

3 - 7 December

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing November 2012)

by Rose Dee

About the Author:

Rose Dee
Rose Dee was born in Ingham, North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel. Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, decided to try her hand at writing two years ago. The result of that attempt is her first novel, 'Back to Resolution'. Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women

Rose’s other releases include, 'Beyond Resolution' - the second book in the 'Resolution' series. And ‘A New Resolution’ – the final book in the series. Rose has also co-written a novel in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian Authors; ‘The Greenfield Legacy’.

Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.

Book Description:
Back to Resolution
Bay Anders is lost. She enjoys every privilege a wealthy upbringing affords, but the void in her soul refuses to be filled. Her mother's dying revelation drives Bay to the brink of self destruction, before a move to Australia changes everything. She embarks upon a search for her father that leads her to his island home, into a hazardous melting pot of hostile locals and a mystery – her father's disappearance. The only person who can help her is a strong, self assured and intensely magnetic man. Bay must fight an overwhelming attraction to stay focused on her goal.

Flynn McKenna is hiding from the world. A past filled with mistakes drove him to withdraw from society and live in seclusion. But the arrival of a woman he cannot avoid shatters his solitary existence. As the search for Bay's father unites them, can he resist his desire for her? It becomes a race against time as developers try to take over the island.

From the glittering streets of LA, to the beautiful Daintree forest in North Queensland, to the idyllic island `Resolution', Back to Resolution is a romantic mystery that shows how far a little faith can go.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo

Monday, December 03, 2012

Devotional Thought : Matthew 1:19

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:19

All the evidence points toward Joseph being deeply in love with Mary. He would have been looking forward to marrying her and having a family. Mary’s actions tell us that she was a devout Jew with a sincere faith. Joseph must have been devastated when he learnt Mary was pregnant, when he knew he was not the father. How could Mary have done such a thing? Poor Joseph! He was living a life of faithfulness to the law and must have felt deeply betrayed.

It seems he had three choices: he could expose her to public disgrace which he was entitled to do and under the law she could be stoned (though this was rare at the time); he could divorce her quietly which only required two witnesses and was a more compassion alternative for Mary; or he could remain engaged. In his mind this would mean, forgiving Mary for her apparent unfaithfulness, soiling his own good reputation and bring an unknown man’s child into his family line.

Joseph opts to divorce her quietly. His anger did not fuel a desire to punish Mary. He planned to act in a way that showed compassion for her and shows us how deeply he cared for her.

When we read the rest of the story we realize how fully convinced Joseph was by the angel, since we read in v.25: “But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son.” It was a virgin conception but Joseph ensured it was a virgin birth.

Joseph lived righteously despite his perplexing circumstances, honouring God and being an example to us.

Technorati StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo