Friday, June 28, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 11:11,15

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve...On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. Mark 11:11,15

Jesus saw there was a problem with the temple courts the evening prior to his intervention. He could have cleared the temple then and there but he waited. Jesus didn't rush in and deal with the problem straight away. He went back to where he was staying. It was late. Many people had already gone home. He gave himself some time to think, to pray and to seek God for wisdom. He waited for the right moment. Oh, that we would have Christ-like discernment and patience!

The next day, having waited for the right moment, Jesus now takes action. He initiates a confrontation. They had probably been trading in this way for quite a while but there comes a time when it is necessary to confront. Likewise there comes a time for us to initiate a confrontation. Sometimes we are too quick to jump in but sometimes we are too slow or too timid to confront at all.

It requires wisdom to confront well, wisdom to discern the timing, wisdom to discern the method. Nathan confronted David indirectly with a story (2 Samuel 12:1-13). Here Jesus confronted directly with actions that could not be denied. Elsewhere he confronted others, like the women at the well, more subtly and discreetly.

As we look for wisdom as to the necessity, the method and the timing of confrontation, God will provide the opportunity and the grace to confront well.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review : Clues to your calling

Clues to your calling is a practical look at finding God’s will for your life. While it doesn’t really cover any new ground, it does discuss all the issues associated with giftedness, opportunity and dreams. It is written in a down to earth manner which is easy to read and understand.

It is surprising the number of words and phrases we use to discuss the concept of God’s specific plan for our lives, such as calling, dream, purpose, destiny, passion, vision and ministry. This shows that there is a great deal of interest in knowing what God wants us to do with our lives. Janet Camilleri outlines many ways of finding our unique niche so that we can feel confident that we are moving in the direction of fulfilling God’s plan for our life.

Janet has quoted a number of other writers and speakers which adds interest and variety, though I would have preferred a few more stories of her own.

Nevertheless a good read.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 10:32

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished. Mark 10:32

This chapter covers Jesus’ teaching in several areas which the disciples could not have foreseen. It is hard to know which area caused the most astonishment.

Firstly there was his teaching on divorce (v.2-12) which so surprised the disciples that they ask Jesus about it again when they were alone. Possibly one of the things that surprised them was men, not just women, could be guilty of adultery, which was generally not considered in divorce cases. Then there was Jesus’ reaction to children (v.13-16). At this time in history children were considered insignificant and disposable but Jesus took the time to include them and portrayed them as having valuable things to teach us. Next there was Jesus’ teaching about riches (v.17-27). Jews felt that riches indicated God’s blessings so it was astounding to the disciples that the rich would find it difficult to enter the kingdom of God. Lastly there was Jesus’ teaching on rewards where God (v.28-31) will blesses those who were really only doing their duty (Luke 17:10).

In all four areas Jesus’ teaching was completely different to the teaching the disciples had received from their religious teachers and from Roman culture.

Today we are more familiar with Jesus’ teaching. Yet divorce is undertaken lightly. Children are still not valued. Riches are still seen as significant and God’s rewards are not taken seriously. Jesus’ words no longer take us by surprise. We have heard them often and take them for granted.

The challenge for us as Christians is regain the sense of being astonished, to take Jesus’ words seriously, reflect on what they meant to the disciples in their day and consider what the implications are for us today.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Blog Tour : Boondaburra

This month's blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance is for the children's book: Boondaburra by Natalie Lonsdale.

My book review can be found here.


17 - 21 June


is introducing


(Even Before Publishing February 2013)

by
Natalie Lonsdale



About the Author:
Natalie Lonsdale is a former Early Childhood Educator who is currently studying to be a Library Technician. Natalie loves children's literature, photography, travelling, history, and eucalyptus trees. Boondaburra is Natalie's first book, and she is working on several more. Natalie has a heart to write stories that encourage children to delight in God's word and in His love.


About the Book:
Boondaburra is sad. Why do the other animals make fun of him just because he is different?When tragedy strikes in the Australian bush, Boondaburra learns that being unique has its advantages. Boondaburra is the story of a platypus' journey from rejection to accepting and understanding his uniqueness, and the friends who come to accept and admire those differences.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Book Review : Boondaburra

Boondaburra 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.

Boondaburrra is a lovely story about a platypus that feels rejected because he is not like other animals. However following a devastating bush fire, it turns out that he is made just right to help out.

This is a story that many children will relate to, especially if they have ever been laugh at for being different. It has beautiful pictures and an attractive font. It is especially delightful because it is set in the Australian bush with uniquely Australian animals.

I also like the message of the story that, despite our differences, God has equipped us to help others in times of need.

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

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Monday, June 17, 2013

On writing things we did not intend

"There is a mysterious, spiritual component to writing. We may start writing our words but then find that our words are being written for us. We may find we are in the midst of an encounter with God, writing things we did not intend, discovering things we did not see.”
McHugh, A. (2009) Introverts in the Church. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity
Earlier today I wrote a post for Christian Writers Downunder about this quote.

Check it out here .

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Friday, June 14, 2013

On the editing process

The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say a brain surgeon.
Robert Cormier
I was listening to a speaker at a writer’s conference commenting that of all the creative pursuits like painting, drawing, sculpting etc. that writing is only one where you have editors and publishers suggesting alterations. Normally artistic pursuits are critiqued but not to the point of suggesting the artist change something in their picture or work of art.

Sometimes writers are very touchy about their manuscripts believing it to be the best they can make it. It is somewhat disillusioning to have an editor suggesting quite a lot of changes and your final manuscript suddenly becomes a first draft in an editor’s eyes.

However reading this quote by Robert Cormier made me realize there is an up side to the editing process. I don’t have to get it right the first time; I don’t even have to pretend it is right the first time. I can slap words on a page and know it will be read, and reread and reread before it ever hits the public arena, even if it is only me re-reading it for my blog.

Somehow there is quite a lot of comfort in knowing this. It takes the pressure off knowing I don’t have to be perfect...and also thankful that I am not a brain surgeon!

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review : Quenarden Prophecies

Last week I posted about Paula Vince's adult fiction novel, Picking up the pieces. Today I am reviewing another of Paula's books: Quenarden Prophecies, which is completely different. It is a fantasy novel for teenagers and book one of the Quenarden trilogy.

The story begins when three teenagers, Beth, Troy and Nathan, follow an unusual little girl through a crack in some rocks into another land where, it seems, they are expected to save the country from an evil dragon.

This is an enjoyable tale of teenagers using their youthful enthusiasm and resourcefulness to solve a life threatening situation. In the process they learn their parent’s secrets and have to confront their own prejudices and fears.

While the book reaches a satisfactory conclusion, I dislike the fact that I need to read the other two books to reach the final outcome. However, for younger readers this may not be a drawback, but rather an incentive to stir their curiosity and engage their imagination.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 9:20

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Mark 9:20

The first thing that happened when they brought the boy to Jesus was that he got worse. Have you ever prayed for a situation and the first thing that happened was it got worse? In fact even after Jesus prayed we read, ‘The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead”’ (v.26).

Sometimes we feel that our prayers have been useless, the situation has deteriorate so much it seems pointless to continue praying. Yet this is the very time we need to persist in prayer. The devil realises his time is short and is doing everything he can to discourage us. Yet we are possibly on the verge of a break through. Jesus can bring life out of a potentially dead situation, if we keep praying.

At the end of the story the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting]” (v.29). Some situations can only be solved through concentrated, focussed prayer.

James writes, “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available” (James 5:16 AMP). Our prayers are not to be one-off, wishy washy or half hearted. Sometimes answers to prayer are delayed to test our resolve, strengthen our convictions and to teach us steadfastness in prayer. We look for quick fit solutions but God is looking for perseverance.

This story encourages me to keep praying in the face of disappointment even if my prayer is nothing more than, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v.24).

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Friday, June 07, 2013

With Paula Vince

As part of this week's blog tour, I had the opportunity of asking Paula about her willingness to write about difficult topics (like rape, the death of a young person, etc.). This is her response:

Christians may be reluctant to admit when we or our loved ones are grappling with problems out of some misguided delusion of falling short. We may fear the judgment of people whose lives appear more together than ours. As God’s followers, we feel guilty to admit our struggles and find ourselves dealing with self-imposed shame on top of whatever the issue may be. This, I believe, is where sharing the journeys of fictional characters may be as helpful as a dose of medicine.

It is easy to find secular works of fiction in which characters deal with difficult personal issues. Sadly, I’ve spoken to many people who don’t believe Christian fiction can do the same. I’m sure we can all cite a few examples of sweet Christian stories, which are light and pleasant, like froth and bubbles. I enjoy reading these when I want a quick mood-enhancer, but it saddens me whenever I come across people who think they are all Christian fiction has to offer. There is another type of Christian fiction out there. It is healing, in its depth and scope. Its characters tend to experience a gamut of emotions and come through learning to approach sensitive issues in a sound, God-focused way. As well as simply entertaining, they minister to the deep inner needs of hurting people. That’s the type of book I try to write.

The world we live in is full of all types of pain and heartache. I like my books to finish on a positive note because I believe that seemingly hopeless situations can be turned around. There is a lot of human need out there to address and not all of us are called to get out in the front lines and do physical helps. That’s where a story can help too. Another beautiful thing about fiction is that it may become timeless in its power to minister. For all we know, a book written now may impact, touch or help readers fifty, or even one hundred years in the future. That’s what I hope will be the case with the Australian Christian fiction stories many of us are writing now.


Thanks Paula for sharing these thoughts with us. I love the way your writing is God-focussed and unflinching in the face of pain.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Blog Tour : Picking up the pieces

This month's fiction blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance is for: Picking up the pieces by Paula Vince.

Read my book review here.


3 - 7 June


is introducing


(Even Before Publishing 2010)

by

Paula Vince

Available at Amazon

&

Light the Dark


About the Author:
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.

Website is www.paulavince.com


About the Book:
One terrible decision leads to another and the Parker and Quinlan families find out what it means to be in total despair. In a moment of recklessness, Blake Quinlan does something he never should. The bitter consequences of his impulse will reverberate through the rest of his life unless he learns to deal with his past. Without warning, Claire Parker’s life shatters. One horrific event leads to a choice that she can never forget. She must find a source of strength and forgiveness to help her recover or she will never again be the happy person she once was. Moving forward, there is still a ray of hope. A triumphant story about forgiveness, new beginnings and the power of love.”

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Book Review : Picking up the pieces

Picking up the pieces 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.

Picking up the pieces is a very brave book, tackling the subject of rape in a Christian context takes a great deal of courage. There are also many other issues this book raises – the dysfunctionality of families, the effects of alcohol, what does forgiveness mean, to mention a few. Yet Paula Vince handles all these and more with a great deal of skill and insightfulness.

The story begins with Claire being raped and left to literally pick up the pieces of her life. She moves to Melbourne to stay with relatives and recover from the ordeal. Yet time does not necessarily heal all wounds. Meanwhile Blake is consumed with guilt and remorse. His self-imposed punishments do little to relieve his conscience and then there is Sean’s terrible accident. What else could possibly go wrong?

After reading about a third of the book, I was intrigued as to how Paula was going to bring a ‘happily ever after’ end to such a difficult and complex situation. Yet she managed it with ease, without being predictable or overly convenient. There was a high Christian content which is to be expected if there was going to be healing and restoration and I felt Paula handled this well.

It seems odd to say that I enjoyed a book about rape, yet I did. It was an immensely encouraging read.

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

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