Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review : Quiet

Quiet by Susan Cain is a well researched book about the value of introversion. Cain has been very thorough in putting together a book that covers many aspects of the introvert personality. She writes in a context where the extroverted personality is highly valued in Western society and why this is not the case in other cultures, particularly Asian culture.

This book is written in a non-academic manner that is easy to understand. In this regard, I enjoyed the inclusion of short descriptions of people's appearance and comments at the different meeting Cain attended as she collected material for the book. This lightened the more scholarly sections of the book. It was also clear that Cain has a subtle sense of humour which also lightened the material.

About half way through the book I began to feel that introverts were so wonderful that they should rule the world! But Cain did balance this as the book progressed by pointing out the most productive working environments are where introverts and extroverts work together. The real value of the book comes from explaining how different personality types can work together to reach significant outcomes if they are prepared to adjust their work environments. Cain's most telling point was that group work is not productive unless the individuals involved have first thought through the issues that are going to be addressed. This is true even if the group is made up of extroverts.

Cain does not just address work environments but also schools and personal relationships.

Overall an informative and interesting book.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Movie Review : Saving Mr. Banks

Overall I enjoyed watching the movie, Savings Mr. Banks. However as a writer I was a tiny bit sad that, despite being a "consultant" on the movie and spending time with the producers, Travers had minimal input into the movie – it is a better movie because of it but it doesn't reflect the book as much as Travers would have liked. Disney gave the appearance of wanting her input but he effectively called her bluff. He knew sales of her books were in decline, she needed the money. This seems to be the way when a book is turned into a movie. The author signs over the rights and is left nervously wondering what Hollywood is going to do to their work.

As a movie goer I found it quite emotional watching Pamela Travers reliving her past as she participated as a "consultant". Travers' childhood had been quite traumatic with her alcoholic father trying to hold down a job as a bank manager and her mother suffering depression. Her story of Mary Poppins was something of a complete reversal compared to the reality of her own upbringing.

My favourite line in the movie is when Walt Disney says to Travers:
“George Banks and all he stands for will be saved. Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instil hope again and again and again.”

For Travers, the story of Mary Poppins restored order and gave her hope and now, Disney was asking her to do it for others. Likewise as a writer I feel my commission from God is to instil hope again and again and again.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Devotional Thought : Amos 2:7

They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Amos 2:7

I expect prophets to preach against spiritual issues like idolatry, apathy in worship and moral sin. Yet the prophets' complaint against God's people also includes taking advantage of underprivileged people and denying them justice when they are oppressed. God's heart goes out the poor and down trodden.

In the recent bushfires in Australia many lost their homes and some unscrupulous landlords in the area immediately increase the rent of their vacant properties. Demand had suddenly increased so they felt justified in charging excessive rent but they were taking advantage of people's hardship and denying them justice. There was a public outcry and I felt God's pain. His heart is against those who take advantage of the distress of others.

Previously Amos had written against those who "sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood" (1:9).

Taking people captive and treating them like merchandise is another thing that breaks God's heart. In our society drug dealers, porn-sellers, sex workers do the same thing. They deliberately take people captive by trapping them into addictive behaviours for their own gain. They use people like commodities. God is not impressed.

How we treat other people reveals our attitude. Are we proud, self-righteous, or arrogant? If so, we will not treat other people well. We may know those who have made bad decisions the past which has caused us to lose respect for them. However we need to separate their behaviour from their personhood. Their behaviour may be obnoxious but God still values them.

Regardless of people's behaviour, spiritual beliefs or social standing we need to treat all with respect since they are made in the image of God.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blog Tour : From Eden With Love

This month's non-fiction blog tour is for the book: From Eden With Love by Ray Hawkins. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.

17 - 21 February 2014

is introducing

Even Before Publishing


Ray Hawkins

About the Book:
Be taken on a tour of the Majesty of Marriage through 31 days of 'From Eden with Love.'

Discover the Heavenly mystery underpinning the meaning of the Christian Marriage.

About the Author:
Ray Hawkins, retired after over 40 years as a Churches of Christ minister, enjoys sharing themes from the Scriptures through Devotional writing. Married to Mary, multi-published inspirational romance author, they have three children and five grandchildren. Ray shares his insights in his first two books on Marriage and Children with more ideas to come about ministry and much more. Living in Beauty Point Tasmania Ray heads up a new Christian Fellowship as well as doing relief preaching, community work and writing.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review : From Eden With Love

From Eden With Love by Ray Hawkins 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.

From Eden With Love is a collection of devotional thoughts about marriage by Ray Hawkins. I found that together they create a lovely picture of marriage as God intended. They are very much Biblical focussed and seek to teach God's perspective on marriage. Ray writes about cultivating the right attitudes by developing the fruit of the Spirit within marriage; how marriage can bring out the best in people; how to deal with negative emotions and the symbolism of marriage as a picture of Christ and his church. Ray makes it clear that good marriages don't just happen but both parties need to continually make the effort to adopt the right mind-set. Once we have a high view of marriage we understand why God hates divorce.

I do have one small complaint in the devotion regarding Ephesians 5:22 "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands." The same emphasises wasn't given to v.25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Women generally don't have a problem submitting to a man who is prepared to sacrifice his desires for her sake. Whereas sacrificing to a man who insists on having his own way is difficult. However to be fair Ray did mention later in the book the need for husbands and wives to make sacrifices for each other.

Overall this book presents a beautiful picture of Christian marriage and would be a great gift for an engaged or newly married couple.

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

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Devotional Thought : Zechariah 14:16

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16

Constable in his Commentary on Zechariah writes: "…the Jews in Jesus' day associated the feast of Booths with the beginning of Messiah's kingdom, the same connection that Zechariah made here."

On the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, Peter said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (Matthew 17:4). The reason Peter suggested building three shelters or booths was that was how Jews celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles. Peter thought Jesus was about to commence his reign. He had made the connection between the Messiah's kingdom beginning and the Festival of Tabernacles.

Peter had the right idea. Jesus was the Messiah and one day he will reign. Peter knew the Scriptures and the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, but his timing was completely off. God doesn't rebuke him but simply interrupts: "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (17:5). I suspect God loved Peter's enthusiasm and his desire to see God's kingdom come but he had to learn God's timing.

This is not easy, like Peter we can have the right idea and understand what God wants to do in a situation but our timing may be off. Sometimes the reality is that God is simply preparing us for a future time. Before rushing into a plan of action we need to take some time to listen to Jesus.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book Review : Heidi's October

I especially enjoyed Heidi's October by Penelope McCowen. I found the resolution and conclusion particularly satisfying. It was not simplistic or trite, but a realistic assessment of the issues. I enjoyed the dialogue which had a real flow to it. At times, it was slightly humorous which lighten the otherwise heavy nature of the story.

The story begins at the start of October with Heidi making a tragic mistake borne of jealousy and a drunken state of mind. Her actions have permanent repercussions for her best friend Anna and fiancé Ben and also for Anna's parents. The process of forgiveness is difficult when dreams have been permanently shattered. Furthermore Heidi must also learn to forgive herself and live with the consequences of her actions.

Forgiveness is a difficult subject to deal with, even in a fictional setting. Yet I found Penelope McCowen handled it particularly well. There is a strong element of Christian thought in the story which is necessary to deal with the challenging nature of the topic and bring it to a hope filled conclusion.

A tough subject, well handled.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Film Review : The Book Thief

The first thing that struck me in the movie was how quickly Liesel learnt to read. Perhaps because when I was reading the book I had the opposite reaction and wondered why it took her so long.

I did find it a little disappointing that they slightly adjust the storyline chronologically and made other minor alterations. Mostly I understood why they did this. After all the book is 554 pages long and the movie is 130 minutes. In a movie there is limited time to develop all the relationships that existed in the book so they understandably zeroed in on the important ones. The one change I really didn't understand was why Rudy's father was conscripted into the army before Rudy was chosen to go to the elite school. Rather than his conscription being a result of Rudy's parents not allowing Rudy to go. However in the end this was a minor point.

I was pleased they toned down some of the bad language and violence. In this, Hollywood surprised me! In the book children were regularly severely punished for minor misdemeanours but maybe it was because they were aiming at a young teenager audience and needed it to be rated PG.

Overall I felt the movie covered all the important parts of the book. It is a great story of overcoming adversity, valuing relationships and developing you own uniqueness – regardless of whether you read the book or see the movie.

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Devotional Thought : Zechariah 9:12

"Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." Zechariah 9:12

The book of Job opens with an announcement of his worldly possessions: "He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys" (Job 1:3) and closes with another asset inventory. "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys" (Job 42:12).

God allowed Job's material possessions to be taken and then he restored to Job twice as much as he lost. It reminds me of Exodus 22 (v.4, 7 & 9) where God commands his people who steal to pay back double. Not that I'm suggesting God stole from Job – how can God steal when he owns everything – however, God likes to play by his own rules. He allowed Job to be robbed of his possessions so he restored double.

In Isaiah we read the prophesies stating that God's people will be taken into exile and lose their inheritance yet on their return God promises them a double blessing: "Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours" (Isaiah 61:7).

Interestingly, the very next verse reads. "For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing" (Isaiah 61:8).

Justice is such a strong attribute of God that if we are faithful he will repay double regardless of how the lost happened. Whether like Job it was through no fault of our own or whether it was through disobedience like the Israelites.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Book Review : The Book Thief

The Book Thief is the exact opposite of the Quick Reads that I have been reading lately. It is 554 pages and full of the descriptions and details that I find so tedious. Yet I have to say that it is beautiful written and the metaphors are original and striking. The pictures Zusak crates with words are amazing.

It is a poignantly sad tale, set in German during World War II and gives an interesting insight in the lives and times of the ordinary German people. People who were struggling to make ends meet; people with hopes of a better future; people who were distressed by what was happening in German, yet were powerless to do anything about it. Zusak has written a great story which unwittingly contrasts pride and cruelty with humility and kindness.

I read this book because the movie has recently premiered in Australia and I'm hoping to see it soon. In some ways I often like movie adaptations more than the actual book. The brevity of the medium means movie makers have to "cut to the chase" and thus leave out many of the details that I find unnecessary.

On the other hand, I like to read the book before I see the movie because the book gives a clearer picture of what the characters were actually thinking. Plus movies do sometimes leave out things or change details that I think are important.

I plan to see the movie on the weekend, so I'll let you know how I find it.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Blog Tour : Shadowed in Silk

This month's fiction blog tour is for: Shadowed in Silk by Christine Lindsay. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

3 – 7 February 2014

is introducing

WhiteFire Publishing Sept 2011


Christine Lindsay

About the Book:
She was invisible to those who should have loved her.

After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.

Major Geoff Richards, broken over the loss of so many of his men in the trenches of France, returns to his cavalry post in Amritsar. But his faith does little to help him understand the ruthlessness of his British peers toward the Indian people he loves. Nor does it explain how he is to protect Abby Fraser and her child from the husband who mistreats them.

Amid political unrest, inhospitable deserts, and Russian spies, tensions rise in India as the people cry for the freedom espoused by Gandhi. Caught between their own ideals and duty, Geoff and Abby stumble into sinister secrets . . . secrets that will thrust them out of the shadows and straight into the fire of revolution.

About the Author:
Christine Lindsay writes historical inspirational novels with strong love stories, and she takes pride in her Irish roots. Her great grandfather and grandfather worked as riveters in the Belfast shipyard, one of those ships her ancestors helped build was the Titanic. On her mother’s side it was stories of ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in India that seeded Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj and became the stimulus for her Twilight of the British Raj series.

The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home where she lives with her husband, David, and they enjoy the visits from their adult children and grandchildren. Like a lot of authors, Christine’s chief editor is her cat

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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Devotional Thought : Zechariah 7:5

“Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? ’” Zechariah 7:5

Is the spiritual activity we undertake really for God? It is so easy to think we are doing something for God when in fact we are doing it to make ourselves feel better – perhaps to impress others, to boost our own self esteem or enhance our image. We can look spiritual but what is our heart attitude? We can engage in all the right outward signs of being spiritual, much like the Pharisees in Jesus' day (Matthew 23), but looks can be deceiving.

From time to time we need to ask ourselves exactly why we are undertaking a spiritual discipline. Has it just become a mindless ritual, a meaningless tradition or something that is expected of us because of the position we hold in a Christian organization? Is our heart still engaged and focussed on God?

Philosophers have long debated whether it is possible to do something truly altruistic, something which is for the benefit of another without any thought of gain for oneself. Yet even God doesn't expect us to be completely selfless. In Hebrews 11:6 we read: 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.

Faith in God means that we believe that he not only exists but that there is something in it for us, because we believe that God will reward us as we earnestly seek him. This is why our spiritual activity needs to reflect our desire to seek God, not merely to impress others or even ourselves.

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