Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review : Best Forgotten

Best Forgotten by Paula Vince is a mystery with an unusual twist. While running away from something or someone, Courtney Lockwood is hit by a car and loses his memory. He can’t even remember his own name; let alone what he was running from. It creates other unanswered questions – what’s happened to his best friend, Joel and how did Jasmine become his girlfriend? Is it only his lack of memory that is causing her to act strangely?

The temporary amnesia gives Courtney the opportunity to re-evaluate his life, but is this wise when there is so much he doesn’t remember? Nevertheless without the memory of the underlying pressures of peers and families, and without the need to rebel against authority figures, Courtney starts making better decisions. I found this aspect of the story particularly thought provoking. Memory loss operates like forgiveness in that it allows Courtney to let go of the past. Furthermore it creates the opportunity for him to look at his life through the eyes of an apparent stranger. Subtly the story shows us how much our decisions are affected by our need for significance and acceptance as well as how damaging unforgiveness can be.

I enjoyed this story very much. I liked the way Courtney reassesses his life and finds resolution. It is a well paced novel with just enough information being revealed to keep the story moving without becoming frustrating or getting bogged down.

A great read.

Thanks to Paula Vince for providing a free book for review.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

My new job

Last week I commenced work at a small library about 20 minutes from where I live. I was very excited to be appointed to this position as I have been trying to get a job for some time. The position is just 12 hours a week which is just enough for me at present as I am still doing some theological studies. The library also does a few local council duties. I haven’t done a lot of this type of work before but I have worked in several libraries alongside council staff so I am familiar with the processes.

I am very pleased to be managing a library again.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blog Tour : An Heiress at Heart

This month's fiction blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance is for: An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer DeLamere.

22-26 July

is introducing

(Grand Central Publishing)


Jennifer DeLamere

2013 Rita nominee

About the Author:
The youngest child of a Navy pilot and a journalist, Jennifer acquired a love of adventure and an excitement for learning that continues to this day. She’s lived in three countries and travelled throughout the United States. An avid reader of classics and historical fiction, she also enjoys biographies and histories, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the characters and places in her books. Her debut novel An Heiress at Heart was chosen by Grand Central Publishing to be the first inspirational romance for their Forever imprint. She resides with her husband in the south eastern United States--where, when not writing or dreaming up romantic adventures for her characters, she can be found fantasizing about her next ski trip or international vacation.

Website: www. jenniferdelamere.com

About the Book:
A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she's finally returning home, but she's still living a secret life. Her best friend Ria's dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .

A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville's world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he's invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother's young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her fa├žade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Devotional Thought : Job 2:3

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Job 2:3

If you read this verse without reading the first chapter of Job you would think it was God who brought all the destruction into Job’s life. It sounds like God was angry with Job and ruined him, yet we know it was actually Satan who caused Job’s demise. However, God is accepting responsibility for Job’s suffering.

In the Genesis 3 we find a similar situation. Satan entices Adam and Eve to sin but it is God who sets about resolving the situation. Firstly he promises a Saviour, one who would crush the Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15) and secondly he sacrifices animals so Adam and Eve could be clothed (Genesis 3:21). While God did not cause Adam and Eve to sin, he is one who accepts responsibility for solving the problem.

Old Testament Jewish thinking saw everything as coming from the hand of God. So they would think sin is God’s problem because he gave us free will. If he had made robots, instead of people, sin would never have been a problem; but I think it is harsh to blame God for the results of our free will.

Ultimately God would send Jesus to fix the sin problem for good. He did not have to do this. God was not at fault and under no obligation to do anything. Yet he initiates the action which would redeem us.

In Jesus’ death on the cross, we see God accepting responsibility for sin and suffering being in the world.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

On writing New Testament devotions

I wrote devotional thoughts intermittently for this blog when I began blogging in 2005. Over time these have become more of a focus and I have now reached the point where I have written a devotional thought for every chapter of the New Testament. Check it out here.

This actually wasn’t my goal when I began but rather it was something that just grew. When I was first asked to write a devotional thought once a fortnight for a church newsletter back in 1994 I didn’t think I would be able to think of enough things to write! But God is able. (By the way these original thoughts are still available on FaithWriters - check out the sidebar.)

The devotional thoughts I post on this blog are free to share provided such action is not for sale or commercial gain. Please include the following: © Susan Barnes. Used with permission. If you could also include my web address www.susanbarneswriter.com it would be much appreciated.

Moving on my focus now will be to write devotional thoughts on Old Testament verses. With this in mind my next thoughts will be from the book of Job which I have been studying on my other blog: The Bible Study Place.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 16:2-3

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Mark 16:2-3

These women went to the tomb not knowing how they were going to roll away the stone. They came prepared with spices to anoint Jesus’ body but had no idea how they were going to do this.

Sometimes we are called to go into a situation where it seems we are facing a wall of difficulty and we wonder who is going to roll away the stone? We prepare ourselves as best we can. We may even take books or sermons that we think will help the people involved but what we need is a supernatural act of God to roll away the unbelief, the deception and the stubbornness of the human heart.

We may be tempted not to go at all. These women must have wondered about the value of going. Who will roll away the stone? Certainly not the Roman soldiers who were under orders to guard the body to make sure it was not stolen. Certainly not the Jewish leaders who asked for the guard to be placed (Matthew 27:63-65). Convincing one of the disciples would be unlikely since they were hiding behind locked doors (John 20:19). Yet they went anyway. Likewise we are called to go into situations where we do not have answers.

When the women arrived at the tomb, they looked up and saw that the stone was gone. Their faith and devotion was rewarded. They see an angel who brings the most remarkable news: “He has risen!” (v.6).

If we are faithful we will also become witnesses to God’s remarkable power to transform lives.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blog Tour : All in 2 Night

This month's non-fiction blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance is for: All in 2 Night by Lynne Burgess.

My book review can be found here.

15 - 19 July

is introducing

(Even Before Publishing March 2013)


Lynne Burgess

About the Author:
Lynne and Chris have raised five children who are now adults. Lynne's practical experience comes from the quality time spent with her own children. She successfully implemented her All-In Night for over 16 years using simple yet productive activities that included the whole family. She now shares these ideas at speaking events and through her book.

About the Book:
All-In Night is a family routine. For one night of the week everyone stays home. By spending ten to twenty minutes together, you can learn and talk about the things that matter. Following on from Lynne's original book this set of new activities is designed especially with Christian families in mind. An activity or discussion point each week. The book includes 40 weeks of activities, designed as 1 per week of the school year.Activities include love languages, listening for God, self-esteem, the fruits of the spirit and many more. These fun and simple family activities provide an opportunity to grow values, goals, hopes, feelings and the foundation for a Christ led life. All-in Night works with two kids or ten. Let it become the heart of your family's life.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review : All in 2 night

All in 2 night 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.

This is the second of Lynne Burgess’ books in the All in Night series and another useful resource for young families. It is designed for parents who want to be intentional about their parenting skills and create opportunities to discuss values and life-style issues. There are 40 topics which covers the number of weeks in a school year. There are many excellent ideas and valuable tools to help parents teach their children life skills. Many of the topics need to be explored during the week and require a sizable commitment from the parents to keep the children engaged.

I felt a tinge of guilt as I read this book as I was not purposeful about discussing many of the topics in this book with my own children (who are now adults). I also wondered if I would have been able to implement an "all in night" if I had had the resource back then. It certainly would have been challenging as one of our children in particular had a very short attention span and his younger brother was inclined to copy his behaviour. There is not a lot of discussion in the book about children who refuse to cooperate. Having a special dessert is a good incentive but a heavy sugar intake may be counter productive for some children and perhaps other treats need to be considered. Nevertheless I would encourage parents to implement the concept but be prepared to be flexible to see what works with their family.

The ideas in the book have more uses than just in families. Some of the ideas would work well in an after school program or even as part of a Sunday School curriculum.

A useful resource.

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

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Who switched off my brain? by Dr. Caroline Leaf

Over the last few days I’ve been watching the DVD series: Who switched off my brain? Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf.

Dr. Leaf researches and lectures about the human brain. Her work covers such issues as: how memories are created, how our thoughts are formed, the effects of stress on our minds and bodies, how to control our thoughts, how male and female brains differ, our unique giftedness and related subjects.

One of the topics I found particularly interesting was how memories are formed. If we want to remember something we need to mediate on it, think about it, ask, question, discuss. If we don’t we will lose the information after about 24-48 hours. This explains why cramming is ineffective as a study technique (unless it is done very close to exam time).

Dr. Leaf discusses the right side and left side of the brain. It has been said that the right side of the brain is artistic side and the left side logical. However Dr. Leaf believes the right side of the brain works from “big picture to detail” and the left side works from “detail to big picture” so that both sides of the brain work together.

A key point of the DVD was the 13 steps to detoxing our brain which are as follows: capture our thoughts; be careful with our words; express our emotions; take responsibility for our own actions; consider our dreams; forgive; love; our need for physical touch; play and laugh; exercise; diet; address our spiritual needs; and relax.

An informative and interesting DVD series.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 15:38

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:38

This sentence describes what must be one of the most underrated events in all of Scripture. The curtain in the temple was made of heavy material and thought to be 30 feet high. No human hand could have torn it at all, let alone from top to the bottom. What were the priests thinking when the curtain suddenly tore completely in two?

The curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary. Only one of the priests could enter and then only once a year with a blood offering. God intended the curtain would picture for us how sin separates us from God and when Jesus died the curtain tearing illustrates that the way is opened for us to come into the very presence of God.

In my mind's eye I see the priests frantically rushing around trying to sew the curtain back together again, thinking they were going to die because they had seen inside the Holy of Holies. I wonder if they ever stopped to consider what God was trying to say? Jesus’ sacrifice was the only sacrifice that was sufficient for all sins "for all time" (Hebrews 10:12).

The curtain being torn gives us confidence that Jesus' death was accepted as punishment for our sins. We are forgiven! And as forgiven people we can draw near to God. "Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus... let us draw near to God" (Hebrews 10:19-22).

The curtain was no longer necessary. God ripped the curtain in two to demonstrate that we can draw near to him. Sometimes we just need to stop and remind ourselves of the staggering implications of Jesus’ death.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Book Review : Who is this man?

Who is this man? is a well researched and wide ranging look at the effect that Jesus’ followers have had on the world over the last 2,000 years. I found it much heavier going that John Ortberg’s other books. This was due to the content being largely historical. Some of the material is quite depressing as he relates many incidents of massacres that occurred as part of Jewish history and later by Christians.

Some of this information was already known to me. I knew that many aid agencies have Christian roots and hospitals, universities, orphanages and numerous other service organizations have Christian beginnings. Yet what was new to me was the effect Christians have had on people’s thinking. Humility has become a virtue, compassion is now valued and showing dignity and respect to all people regardless of age, status, gender, or ethnicity is now considered normal policy. Yet this was not the case before Jesus’ times.

There was one aspect of this book which didn’t work for me and that was Ortberg’s humour. Generally I enjoy the amusing anecdotes that John includes in his books, but in this one, due to its historical nature, this type of anecdote wasn’t appropriate. Instead Ortberg has sometimes included funny one-liners. However this abrupt change of pace fell flat for me, but I suspect this might just be a personal thing and may not bother other readers.

Overall Who is this man? Is a very interesting and informative read.

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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Devotional Thought : Mark 14:61-62

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:61-62

After keeping his identity secret for so long now the time has come for Jesus to acknowledge that he is the Messiah and the response from the high priest is swift. No more witnesses are required; Jesus is sentenced to death (v.63-64).

Throughout the book of Mark we find it recorded that Jesus often told his listeners to keep his identity a secret. Mark writes that he “would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was” (Mark 1:24-25, 34; 3:12; 9:25). Likewise he told many of the people he healed not to tell anyone (Mark 1:44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). Even his disciples were warned not to say anything about his identity until after the resurrection (Mark 8:30; 9:9).

There have been many studies done on why Jesus would conceal himself. Yet here it is perfectly obvious, the minute he admits who he is, he is condemn. Jesus knew the chief priests and the Sanhedrin would not be convinced. He knew their hearts. They were not even convinced when he rose from the dead, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

How sad to be so stuck in their preconceived ideas that they missed the One for whom they had waited so long. The One who fulfilled so many prophesies. The One who loved them and gave himself for them.

Would we miss Jesus if he acted in ways that did not match our preconceived ideas?

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Blog Tour : No Substitute

This month's fiction blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance is for: No Substitute by Susan Diane Johnson.

1 – 5 July

is introducing

(Pelican Book Group November 30, 2012)


Susan Diane Johnson

About the Author:
Susan Diane Johnson aka Suzie Johnson

I live on an island in Northwest Washington. A writer of Christian Fiction, my debut novel, No Substitute, is now available from Pelican Book Groups. During the day I work at my local hospital as a cancer registrar. During the evenings and on weekends, I write novels that I hope will bring joy and uplift the hearts of readers. I am married and have one grown son. I love to travel and see new places - especially by train. My favorite destinations are Victoria, B.C.; Williamsburg, Virginia; Disneyland; and Avila Beach in California. I love to read, write, go to baseball games, and ride roller coasters with my son. I am a member of American Christian Fiction Writers; Romance Writers of America; Faith, Hope and Love; National Cancer Registrars Association; and Washington State Tumor Registrars Association. You can find me on Inkwell Inspirations, a daily Christian Women's blog where I am a regular contributor. You can also find me on my personal blog, Suzie's Writing Place where I share my faith, my writing, and my love for books. I'm also on Facebook and Pinterest where I can explore my love of beautiful historical clothing, the South of France, beaches, and certain television shows.

About the Book:
Amy Welsh knew when she came back to the small Washington town of Goose Bay she'd eventually run into her high school sweetheart—the one who broke her heart seventeen years ago. Only Quentin Macmillan isn’t the boy she remembered. He could potentially be everything she's ever dreamed of. But remembering the past reminds Amy that she and Quentin aren't a pair of teenagers in the bloom of first love. Letting him into her life resurfaces all the hurt she's tried to ignore. Forgiveness isn't as simple—or easy—as it sounds, especially after Quentin and Amy discover his teenage daughter has been manipulating their feelings. If Amy can open her heart to healing, she’ll find the future God prepared for her.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The type of books I review

I am often offered free books in return for writing a book review on my blog and as an avid reader I greatly appreciate this. However I am finding that some of the books offered to me are not a genre or in a format that I enjoy so I thought it was time I wrote some guidelines:

1. I really don’t like reading ebooks or books over 350 pages, unless they are by an author I have already read and loved.

2. I like to read non-fiction Christian living books but steer away from those that are traumatic—like those about people who are terminally ill. I also steer away from books that are highly theological or not relevant to my context and culture.

3. I don't like to read fantasy.

4. I like to read Christian fiction but not those solely focussed on romance.

5. I like to read Christian children’s books especially if they are set in Australia.

6. I have a preference for Australian writers.

It seems I am becoming increasing selective about the books I read, but like everyone I have limited time.

So if you have a book you would like me to review feel free to send me a request via email but please don’t be offended if I say no.

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