Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Review : Secrets

Secrets is a clever story with a little mystery, a little romance and a satisfying ending. It is part of the Quick Reads series.

The story focuses on two sisters who supposedly know each other well but it turns out that a secret romance has breed layers of secrets. It's quite amazing how many events have to be re-examined once this relationship comes to light. I enjoyed the way Barrett-Lee slowly leaked information as the secrets started to be disclosed plus the way she left hints along the way.

One of the interesting themes in this book is the idea that once you have genuinely grieved and mourned the end of a relationship it is very difficult to resume that relationship. (A similar idea is found in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.)

Overall an enjoyable story.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Devotional Thought : Nahum 1:13

Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away. Nahum 1:13

God wants to break and destroy those things which afflicted his people and are a bondage to them. There is a similar prophecy in Isaiah: In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat (Isaiah 10:27).

God longs to see his people free. Free from those things which are burdens and weigh them down. For the Israelites this meant freedom from their enemies so they could live in peace. For us it might be painful emotions, regrets from the past or fears for the future. Yet generally God's methods are not what we hoped. Mostly there is no magic wand or instant change but a process where the yoke is broken because we have grown spiritually fat.

For the Israelites it meant warfare, fighting against a physical enemy but knowing that God was with them. At this time farmers would yoke the oxen before they were fully grown. The yoke would break because of the increased strength and size of the oxen. Growth had been unnoticed.

For us the battle is spiritual as we confront difficulties in our workplaces, complicated relationships and various temptations. Yet it is this slow gradual growth which will break the bondages in our lives as we learn to rely on God and ask for his grace in the difficult moments of our lives. We will find issues that once seemed impossible to deal with are no longer overwhelming; situations and people we once avoided are no longer intimidating; and temptations that were once all consuming are easily avoided.

So let's press on and grow spiritual fat so the bondages in our lives are broken.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quote by Jim Carrey

I read this quote recently by Jim Carrey, "I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they would know that's not the answer." I'm not sure what Jim Carrey thinks the answer is but I suspect it would be vastly different from my answer. Nevertheless he makes a good point.

Often we think that our problems would all be solved if we had a bit more money or a bit more status or that people took a bit more notice of us. Yet when we look into the research we find that the richest people are not the happiest people on the planet, sadly they are often the most miserable. Winning the lottery does bring people the happiness they expect.

In fact, research would tell us that some of the happiest people are the poorest. Though they are poor in material goods they often rich in relationships. They feel secure in their communities, they have a sense of belonging, and they have purpose in providing for those they love.

Pursuing money is not the answer to life's problems, however, pursuing enduring relationships, particularly a relationship with God will bring a satisfaction that money can't buy.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review : Hello Mum

Hello Mum by Bernardine Evaristo is part of the Quick Reads series. It is written as a letter from a 14 year old boy to his mother to explain the circumstances that led to a street gang stabbing in London.

Evaristo skilfully describes the relationship between a mother and her son who is desperate for acceptance, belonging and security but natively makes wrong choices to achieve these things. Interweaved into the story is the nature of street gangs, the complicated lives of single mothers and siblings with different parents. Writing the story as a letter Evaristo convincingly portrays the thought processes of a 14 year old.

In some ways it is a cautionary tale for young teenage boys that shows how quickly and badly things can go desperately wrong.

An engaging story.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Christian Writers' Conference

I am one of the coordinators for the Christian Writers' Conference. In this role I wrote an update of our preparations which can be read on the Christian Writers Downunder site: christianwritersdownunder.blogspot.com.au.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Devotional Thought : Daniel 7:13-14

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

I often wondered why Jesus called himself the "son of man" but reading these verses explains why. Jesus, one like a son of man, has been given authority, glory, sovereign power and is therefore God. Jesus, of course, was very familiar with these prophesies. Ezekiel, another significant Old Testament prophet, was also called "son of man." So Jesus' contemporaries should have at least recognised Jesus as God's prophet.

However the Jews constantly overlooked passages like this one in Daniel, which would indicate Jesus claim as the "son of God" had a precedent. Yet they rejected Jesus' claim quoting Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one", without realizing the Hebrew word for "one" means "cluster," like a cluster of grapes, that is one bunch. "One" indicates a compound unity.

If Jesus had called himself "Messiah" it would have suggested to the Jews he was a political ruler who was going to overthrow the Romans and this was not the picture Jesus wanted to present at this time. Even today Jews rejected the idea of Jesus being the promised Messiah because he did not bring political peace.

Jesus mission was much bigger than bringing a superficial peace, that is, an absence of war. His mission was to bring peace to people's hearts through a restored relationship with God.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Married 72 years

I was listening to a news report on a couple who had been married 72 years. The most interesting part of their story was a couple of days after they married the husband left for war service and was gone for 4½ years.

When you consider that they were married for 72 years, four and a half years apart is not a long time but I imagine at the time it must have seemed like forever. They both would have wondered if they would ever see each other again. Would they be faithful to the vows they made? Would they ever share a domestic life together?

Eventually the husband came home from war and they set up house together. Looking back now those four years must be a blur, a mere 5% of their married life, a speck in the bigger scheme.

What a difference perspective can make!

Perspective can make a big difference to our lives too. When we consider the minor frustrations and annoyances we face we need to ask is this worth getting upset about? Will it matter in 10 years time? Am I gracious enough to let go of small inconveniences?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review : One good turn

One good turn by Chris Ryan is a well written story set during World War I. Ryan's own experiences of warfare help write a believable tale of courage and cowardice. The book describes the horrors of war and the different ways people respond in the midst of atrocious. For some, it brings out the best in them and others the worse.

I was disappointed however, with the ending and therefore did not grade this book (on Goodreads) as highly as it deserved. Ryan had the opportunity to conclude the story with hope and a small triumph over the injustices of war. Instead he opted for a brutally realistic ending. Probably Ryan believes fiction should not sugar coat the cruelty of war but I can read about these cruelties in history books, in fiction I want to come away with a sense of hope which Ryan denied me.

Nevertheless it was an engaging story.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Devotional Thought : Daniel 5:29-30

Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain. Daniel 5:29-30

Daniel had already told the king that he was not interested in his gifts, "You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else" (v.17). However the king was true to his word and rewarded Daniel for interpreting the writing on the wall, even though it predicted the end of his reign.

Daniel's blessings were short lived. He was proclaimed third in the kingdom but hours later the king died, calling in to question this appointment since a foreign power took over the Babylonian kingdom. And who knows if he got to keep the purple clothes or the gold chain?

Some spend their whole lives pursuing worldly gain without considering how short term these gains can be. Daniel's promotion only lasted a matter of hours. Some pursue promotions that last years but will it be worth it?

Fortunately Daniel knew how fragile and fading earthly rewards were and was not dependant on the king's favour. He had spent most of his life in the king's service and saw the king promote and dispose of those who pleased or displeased him. Daniel knew his true reward was with God. The last recorded word to Daniel was, "You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance" (Daniel 12:13).

Likewise we have an inheritance, "you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward" (Colossians 3:24). Our inheritance is not dependant on worldly promotions and achievements but rather on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Tour : Rocky Mountain Romance

This fiction blog tour is for the book: Rocky Mountain Romance by Lesley Ann McDaniel. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

7th - 11th April 2014

is introducing

About the Book:

But they haven't spoken since his sister Courtney's wedding last summer. Now that they're back together again on Courtney's Montana ranch, Sheila's wondering if she only imagined that Ben cared for her—and their time together was just a beautiful dream.

Ben's crazy about Sheila, but he's too shy to tell her, and he's praying for another chance to win her affections. Can this sweet computer expert overcome his shyness and show her that sometimes dreams really do come true?

About the Author:
While earning a degree in acting, Lesley Ann McDaniel fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of women’s and young adult fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Book Review : The Little One

The Little One is part of the Quick Reads series. It is a clever and well constructed story by Lynda La Plante.

La Plante initially creates a believable scenario to develop a relationship between Barbara, a struggling journalist and Margaret, a former soap opera star. Gradually they reveal to each other more and more of their histories thus preparing the reader for the bizarre twist at the end.

There was something absurdly satisfying about this story. Barbara's new circumstances actually suit her life style and her acceptance of an unorthodox situation leaves the reader with a feeling of hope. Whatever strange events life throws at us there is a way to make peace with it.

An interesting read.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Devotional Thought : Daniel 3:12

But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3:12

When astrologers, possibly fortune tellers, (v.8) wanted to discredit Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego they referred to their past life as Jews. Later when the king's officials wanted to discredit Daniel they referred to him as "one of the exiles from Judah" (6:13) even though at the time Daniel held a high position in the palace. It seems the opponents of Daniel and his friend's sought to present them in a derogatory way even though Nebuchadnezzar found none to be their equal. "In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom" (1:20).

Possibly the astrologers and other officials were jealous of Daniel and his companions and this may have been their motivation for drawing Nebuchadnezzar's attention to their lack of compliance regarding the worship of the idol. But their plan back fired and instead of being rid of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to even more prominent positions (v.30). Initially Daniel had arranged for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be in positions of authority (2:49) and probably these positions were strategic in God's economy with more Jewish exiles soon to arrive.

Those who opposed God's plans wanted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of the way but God turned it into a blessing for his faithful followers. God's plans can not be thwarted; what the enemy plans for evil, God turns around for good and the blessing of others (see also Genesis 50:20).

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Friday, April 04, 2014

Fifteen authors

Today I am posting over at Iola's Christian Reads about fifteen authors who have influenced my life and writing. Click here.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Blog Tour : Dave the Donkey

This blog tour is for the children’s book: Dave the Donkey by Andrew McDonough. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.

My book review can be found here.

31 March - 4 April 2014

is introducing


Andrew McDonough

About the Book:
Jerusalem. A lone rider approaches. The cheering crowd swarm to greet him. The King has come, mounted upon his mighty steed Dave the Donkey! Join Dave, his Grandpa and Jesus in this epic Easter tale of power, courage, death and resurrection. If you like Black Beauty you will love Dave the Donkey.

About the Author:
Andrew McDonough is the creator of the popular Lost Sheep resources. He has written and illustrated 21 children's stories that are used in schools and churches around the world. Based in South Australia, Andrew belongs to the WestCare community, an inner city mission working amongst the homeless, supporting people struggling with addictions and advocating for refugees. He regularly visits schools & churches to tell stories, conduct workshops, preach and lead all-age worship services. He and the Lost Sheep team have a passion to provide high quality Biblical storytelling resources to children’s workers, pastors and parents. Andrew’s stories including Cecil the Lost Sheep, Jesus and the Children, Echidnas on Everest and his latest book, Tina the Tree.


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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Book Review : Dave the Donkey

Dave the Donkey by Andrew McDonough 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.

McDonough in his book, Dave the Donkey, tells the Easter story from the point of view of the donkey that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. This novel point of view creates the opportunity to relate the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection. McDonough cleverly uses this perspective to point out the reversal of events that happened at Easter and the unexpected outcome.

The illustrations are simple yet bright and colourful. Some parts of the story are told solely pictorially which makes it a good introduction for young children to the Easter story as parents, if they would like to, can add explanation appropriate for the age of their child.

I'm sure children will enjoy this version of the Easter story.

Thanks to Andrew for providing a free copy for review.

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