Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review : Mellington Hall

Mellington Hall is a murder mystery/romance novel by Meredith Resce. It is set in Wales in 1839. It begins when Sarah Montgomery finds the master of Mellington Hall, Lord Alan Mellington, lying near death after an apparent attempt on his life. She sets about saving his life at enormous personal cost to herself and her reputation.

The story exposes the self-righteous, legalistic attitude of many in the church of that day which is not pretty, but unfortunately realistic. Sarah’s relationship with Alan Mellington faces many challenges ranging from further death threats, unhelpful neighbours, suspicious church members and dubious household servants.

This is a well told tale with the many twists you would expect in a murder mystery and ends completely satisfactory. The characters are well drawn and believable. Those who like Christian fiction but find it too convenience when the characters become Christian will enjoy this story as no one is converted! Though there is a clear message to avoid a judgmental attitude but act with grace.

An enjoyable story.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 19:23,25

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven…When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:23,25

Jesus’ disciples wanted to turn away the children (v.13) and welcome the wealthy. This was not surprising since Jews believed that wealth was a sign of God’s favour and that children were insignificant. So often we get God’s priorities back to front!

Often God will call his disciples to serve those the world consider insignificant. In America it could be those on death row who are considered insignificant. In Africa it could be children orphaned by AIDS or by war. In Australia it could be disengaged youth. In China it could be the disabled. In many third world countries it could be the poor or the oppressed. Maybe it is marginalized in our own communities.

Not only do disciples working in these situations have the challenge of making personal sacrifices to serve others but also the additional burden of realizing that many, even Christians, won’t consider what they are doing worthwhile.

However at such times we need to bear in mind Jesus’ words to those who would minister to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

The value of such service won’t be known this side of heaven but we can have confidence in knowing that Jesus sees and values our sacrifices. It brings honour to him when we are obedient to his call. Though the world may not consider our ministry successful, heaven applauds.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

With Jo-Anne Berthelsen

As part of this week's blog tour, I had the opportunity of asking Jo-Anne about the invitations she now receives as an author to speak to groups:

Letting my books speak
If you were to ask me whether I prefer writing over speaking or vice versa, I would be hard pressed to give you an answer. I love being by myself writing, letting my thoughts and imagination take over. But I also love relating to people as I speak, watching their expressions as they connect with what I am saying. Both writing and speaking can be uplifting or draining at times, but to me that is what ministry is about. And I feel very privileged to be able to do both for God at this stage of my life.

Not long after my first novel, Heléna, was published in 2007, I began to receive invitations to speak to groups connected directly with churches. I love ministering in this way, seeing people encouraged, challenged and blessed when I share along the lines of the different themes of my books—for example, on God’s grace and forgiveness, on receiving God’s love, on trusting God through times of change. But I also enjoy the opportunities that have opened up for to speak to community groups in more ‘secular’ venues. God is there, too, I have discovered, as I share about my journey to publication and the challenges and joys involved in that in a way that hopefully connects with my audience. I always pray for sensitivity in what I say publicly about my faith in God and the Christian aspect of my books to such groups—but I don’t pull any punches either! And I always pray for at least one significant conversation at my book table afterwards.

I am delighted how my speaking ministry has flowed from the books I write. God is amazing, don’t you agree?

Yes Jo-Anne, God is indeed amazing. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blog Tour: Soul Friend

This month's non-fiction blog tour is for: Soul Friend by Jo-Anne Berthelsen. My book review can be found here. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

18 - 22 February 2013

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing October 2012)


Jo-Anne Berthelsen

About the Book:
Soul Friend is an honest and intimate portrayal of the author's own journey with her wise, spiritual mentor and the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between them during their fifteen years of meeting together. This story is written in the hope that it will inspire many not only to seek out such a spiritual friendship for themselves but also to provide such a friendship for another.

Beautifully written, this honest and insightful memoir is an inspiring celebration of the ancient art of spiritual companionship. Dr Rick Lewis

Soul friendship is a very under-emphasised resource of Christian discipleship, particularly for Christian leaders. Jo-Anne has written honestly, beautifully, sensitively and powerfully. Dr Keith Farmer

About the Author:
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy, with a sixth, The Inheritance, due for release in 2013. Her first non-fiction work Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey was released in October 2012. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren.

Genre: Non Fiction

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review : Soul Friend

Soul Friend is being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance this week. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen has written Soul Friend with the intention of showing the value of mentoring. Yet this is not what I most gained from her story. Perhaps because I am also a pastor’s wife I identified with Jo-Anne’s journey through study, pastoral leadership and into a writing/speaking ministry. The lessons Jo-Anne learnt through her experiences were similar to the lessons that God has also taught me. Consequently I found Jo-Anne’s book deeply encouraging and for this reason I enjoyed the book very much.

I loved the honesty and humility with which Jo-Anne shared her story. Her struggles and the blessings she experienced along the way were moving and well explained. I appreciated the role Joy had played in her life as a mentor but in the absence of one person in my life to play this role, I have found that a number of people have imputed into my life in similar ways over the years.

This book is not only for those interested in mentoring. Since in the final analysis it is about the way God works in the lives of his children. God may use one person or a number of people to help us apply spiritual truths and through the process he is refining us and growing us into the people he wants us to be.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free book for review.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

On being honest

"I write because other writers' words changed my life [in] a million and one ways, and I want to be a part of that…

…there are things you can find words for that might maybe matter to someone else, that might set someone free, that will make them feel one tiny bit less alone, like they’ve made a friend, like they’re not crazy, like they’re not wrong just for being who they are. You write because you think it might matter someday, to someone, the way other people’s words mattered to you..."
~ Shauna Niequist’s blog

This resounded so much with me and made me realize that I also write because I know and appreciate how much other writers have impacted my life. And often they changed my life simply because they were honest about their own pain, which freed me and made me feel one tiny bit less alone, like I had a friend, that I wasn't crazy, and I wasn't wrong for being who I was.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review : Judging Meghan

Trudy Adams has set her book, Judging Meghan in Australia during the depression in the 1930’s. Meghan Manley, is a teenager whose family is forced to leave the family farm and travel to various towns to pick up casual labouring work. Since many find themselves in this position, wages are low and the work sporadic. Many in positions of affluence take advantage of the situation which compounds the distress.

The story raises many issues. Meghan’s parents are Christians who hold onto their faith during this difficult time whereas Meghan has difficulty reconciling a loving God with her circumstances. Meghan’s best friend from school lets her down and she has to work her way through the pain of the disappointment, but will she forgive? Meghan’s older brother and sister are developing romantic attachments and perhaps she is too. Meanwhile the wildness of the country challenges their resourcefulness.

I identified with Meghan’s struggle to understand God’s ways and also the choices others made during this difficult time in Australia’s history. I am a little mystified as to why the book is called, Judging Meghan. Unless it refers to a scene very late in the book which is perhaps meant to be Meghan’s defining moment.

An enjoyable read especially for older teenagers.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 17:26-27

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” Matthew 17:26-27

It is interesting that Jesus does not want to cause offence. Often in the Gospels we see the religious leaders highly offended about the things Jesus said and did. Jesus was not afraid to upset their traditions and customs in situations which created hardship or showed a lack compassion for people. Jesus wasn’t afraid to cause offence but not over incidentals like paying temple tax.

The temple tax is described in Exodus 30:11-16 (half a shekel was worth two drachmas). Jesus explains to Peter that children of a king do not pay tax and as God’s children we are indeed children of a King. Therefore Jesus and his disciples were exempted from paying tax to maintain the temple. Jesus may also have been hinting that because of his coming, temple worship as outlined in the Mosaic Law, was drawing to a close.

As Christians there are many things we are exempt from having to do, such as performing rituals, keeping traditions, maintaining ceremonies that have lost their meaning. It is important to make a stand on issues of importance but with incidentals it is sometimes better to go along with them to avoid causing offence.

An interesting aside to this story is that Jesus was with all his disciples (v.24) yet only Jesus and Peter paid the temple tax. Temple tax was only required of those over twenty years of age and suggests the rest of the disciples were not yet twenty.

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Friday, February 08, 2013

Blog Tour : The Greenfield Legacy

This month's fiction blog tour is for: The Greenfield Legacy. I recently read this book and my book review can be found here. This book is part of a blog tour organized by the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

4 – 8 February, 2013

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing October 2012)


Rose Dee, Amanda Deed, Meredith Resce and Paula Vince

Available from Light the Dark
with a contest which ends 14 February 2013.

About the Book:
Mattie was in love with Billy, but she was too young to wed. When Billy was conscripted to fight in Vietnam, they made a decision that affected their lives and their future. But so much pain resulted that Mattie never really healed. Every turn Mattie made affected her daughter and her granddaughter in ways she didn't even realise. But forty-six years later, is it time for things to be set right?

Navy is a young woman who has never known her family. But what could be a wonderful opportunity is met with jealousy and apprehension from her cousin Brooke and her aunt Connie, especially with handsome Aidan around. Each must look past their struggles and find forgiveness and trust and perhaps even love.

This absorbing family drama, set in South Australia's beautiful McLaren Vale wine region, is written by four of Australia's outstanding Christian fiction authors who have brought you best-selling and award-winning novels.

About the Authors:
Left to Right: Rose, Meredith, Paula, Amanda.

Award winning Australian author, PAULA VINCE, loves to evoke tears and laughter through writing fiction. She has a passion to provide inspiring stories that highlight her own beautiful country.

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. 'Beyond Resolution', and ‘A New Resolution’ are the second and third books in the 'Resolution' series. Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.

AMANDA DEED grew up in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne in a Christian home, and found faith at an early age. She has followed her passion to serve the Lord through music and literature since her teen years. Now married, with three children, Amanda enjoys the variety of being a mother, finance administrator, musician and historical romance writer. Her debut novel, The Game, won the 2010 CALEB Prize for fiction, and Ellenvale Gold was a finalist for the same prize in 2012.

South Australian Author, MEREDITH RESCE, has been writing since 1991, and has had books in the Australian market since 1997. Following the Australian success of her “Heart of Green Valley” series, an English Publisher has taken the first three books in this series, and has released them to the British and American markets. ‘The Greenfield Legacy’ is her 15th novel published. Apart from writing, Meredith also takes the opportunity to speak to groups on issues relevant to relationships and emotional and spiritual growth. Meredith has also been co-writer and co-producer in the 2007 feature film production, “Twin Rivers”. With her husband, Nick, Meredith has worked in the ministry since 1983. Meredith and Nick have one daughter and two sons.

Genre: Fiction

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Devotional Thought : Matthew 14:19-20

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves…They all ate and were satisfied. Matthew 14:19-20

Jewish tradition and Bible prophecy said when the Messiah came the lame would walk, the blind would see, lepers would be cleansed and they would be fed – like Moses fed the Israelites with manna. This last belief grew out of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you.”

Many times Jesus said and did things that should have alerted the Jews to the fact that he was the Messiah. Another example was when he forgave the sins of the paralytic man. Jews believed that only God could forgive sins (Luke 5:21-25).

Jesus gave many signs to the Jews but they missed them all. They had formulated their own ideas of a Messiah. A Messiah that fitted into their expectations. Someone who would overthrow the Romans and restore the nation to the Israelites. A temporary fix to the problems they were currently facing.

I suspect many still do this. They create a caricature of the god they want. One who will solve their temporary problems, bring immediate comfort and require nothing from them. Or they create a caricature of god that is so small and pathetic he is easy to dismiss as irrelevant or impotent.

The evidence needs to be considered objectively. Was Jesus just a good teacher when he made so many obvious claims that he was God? From an insignificant group of his disciples came the greatest movement the world has ever seen. Christ followers changed societies’ values and impacted the world in countless fields of endeavour.

So what about you? Who do you say Jesus is? (Mark 8:29).

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Book Review : Water or goo?

Water or goo by Penny Reeve is a fun book for primary school children about the availability of clean water. The main character, Tania, is a likeable girl whose enthusiasm sometimes gets her into trouble but she is a follower of Jesus with a good heart. Tania’s teacher encourages her to be involved in the ‘Water for the World’ march and initially Tania decides to get involved to impress her teacher. However her desire to serve Jesus, along with her contact with her Indian friend, Shanti, plus an embarrassing incident with a blocked toilet convince her of the value of the project.

This is an encouraging book for children to teach them that they can make a contribution and make a difference in their world.

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Friday, February 01, 2013

On being too lazy to read fantasy

I have mentioned before that I dislike reading descriptive passages in books. In general fiction I already know what mountains, rivers, flowers look like and I know what people look like. By the end of the story I’m unlikely to remember if the main character had black hair or brown, short hair or long, blue eyes or green, unless it was significant for a particular reason. Maybe the murderer left long black hairs on his victim, then I might remember. Generally though I don’t have detailed pictures in my mind of the characters. I also quite quickly forget the names of the characters, long before I forget the plot.

However I have discovered that the dislike of reading descriptive passages is a serious disadvantage when reading fantasy. I actually don’t know what a goblin looks like or an elf or some other fanciful character. Likewise with scenery, if it doesn’t behave or look like scenery in the real world then I have to rely on the author’s description. If I have skipped over these details I find myself floundering later in the story because I simply have no pictures in my head for what is happening.

As I pondered this dilemma I realized that the reason I don’t read fantasy isn’t because I find it unrealistic, or because I have an ethical problem with it as a Christian but rather I am simply too lazy! I don’t want to draw pictures in my mind of goblins or the landscape of an imaginary world.

This probably explains why I enjoyed the movie based on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe more than I enjoyed the book. Seeing it on the screen meant I didn’t have to read the descriptions and imagine it for myself.

So the challenge for me, if I am going to enjoy reading fantasy, is to take more notice!

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