Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

This will be my last post for 2015 as I will be taking next week off from blogging and be back on 5th January.

I'd like to wish everyone who passes by here a happy Christmas and hope to see you early in the new year.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On being creative part 2

Earlier this month I quoted John Cleese in his autobiography, So Anyway talking about research which had shown that constant relocation in childhood is often associated with creativity. Cleese writes: "your mind becomes more flexible and capable of combining thoughts and ideas in new and fresh ways".

In a similar vein, I came across this article written a couple of years ago by Neil Gaiman where he talks about the importance of reading and how imagination encourages innovation.
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It's simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 13:19

Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, "Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!" 1 Samuel 13:19

In ancient cultures it was common practice, when oppressing an enemy, to deprive them of the means to make weaponry. We see this in later times when the Babylonians made sure they captured all the skilled workers and artisans so the remaining Israelites couldn't rearm themselves (2 Kings 24:14).

However it is a little strange after Samuel's success in subduing the Philistines at Mizpah (7:13), that the Israelites didn't start training blacksmiths and making iron implements especially as they were using them for farming (v. 20-21). Though it is not clear whether they originally made these implements or traded for them.

Did the Israelites lack skill or motivation to make iron tools? While it is hard to say it certainly clear that the Philistines were more skilled in the technique and were able to restrict Israel's production of weaponry.

Yet this didn't stop God's enabling, giving Saul success over the Amorites (11:11) or Samuel's victory over the Philistines. There were other weapons available to them – bows and arrows, clubs, slings. Yet what they most needed was God's intervention (7:10).

In earlier times Deborah successful routed the Canaanites and their nine hundred chariots fitted with iron (Judges 4:3) without even a spear or shield (5:8). God sent a thunderstorm, so perhaps the chariots were bogged (Judges 5:4)!

Regardless of how poorly resourced we are God is still able to give us victory. This doesn't excuse apathy. We need to prepare as best we can for the tasks God calls us to. The Israelites still needed blacksmiths even if just for farming, yet it reminds us that we are not dependent on human resources.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review : Echoes in the Valley

Echoes in the Valley by Meredith Resce is set in Australia during the Great Depression. It is the story of the unlikely relationship between Alex and Grace who have both been hurt in previous relationships and are committed to the single life. Yet dire circumstances bring them together and makes them confront their histories. The story is a believable account of people who make mistakes and must live with the consequences. It is part of the Green Valley series, but I have not read the others, apart from a couple of comments about Grace's brother's past, I didn't notice.

Meredith has created a situation that portrays the attitudes of the church and the public from this time period. Through the story we see how rash decisions can have long term consequences, how forgiveness is a difficult process and how judgmental attitudes can hamper compassion.

About half way through I was wondering how the situation was ever going to be happily resolved yet Meredith does so without being convenient. She writes with keen insight into the human condition making this an engaging narrative.

It is easy to think that the difficulties in this book wouldn't happen today. Yet many of the attitudes still exist. People still make rash decisions without proper regard of the consequences; forgiveness is still a difficult process; and judgmental attitudes still exist in the church as well as in the community. The book teaches us the need for compassion.

A great read.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

God doesn't keep attendance records

Sometimes you hear the most surprising insights in the least expected places. This line is spoken by the character Amy Farrah Fowler in the Big Bang Theory after Sheldon has told her that his mother expects him to go to church once a year.

"I don't object to the concept of a deity, but I'm baffled by the notion of one that take attendance."

Amy makes a good point, after all God doesn't keep church attendance records and we baffle those outside the church when we give the impression he does. God is far more interested in people's character than in their outward observance to rituals. Jesus made this perfect clear in his dealings with the Pharisees (Matthew 23).

Many persist with the notion that we can impress God with our traditions and ceremonies rather than with a heart attitude that seeks God.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 10:26

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. 1 Samuel 10:26

God went to extraordinary lengthens to provide Saul with all the resources he needed to be an excellence king. First there was the prophetic word from Samuel, "The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person" (v. 6) which accompanied numerous signs (vs. 2-5).

Then there was the confirmation by lot (v. 21) and the public acceptance (v. 24). In the above verse we see that God supported Saul with valiant men who would provide fellowship for Saul. God knows leadership is a lonely business.

Saul's kingship starts well with a successful routing of the Ammonites in chapter 11 and Saul's acknowledgment of the Lord, "… for this day the Lord has rescued Israel" (11:13).

But there is never any reaction from Saul regarding his kingly appointment – no shock, no surprise, no prayer. Such a significant privilege since Saul was the first king of Israel but there is no response to God – no gratitude, no commitment to God's commands, no amazement that God chose him. Whereas David was keenly aware of all God had provided for him (2 Samuel 7:18-29).

How easy it is to take God's provision for granted and how dangerous it becomes when we do. Saul became presumptuous (1 Samuel 13:9) which ultimately lead to his downfall.

God has provided communion (the Lord's Supper/the Eucharist) as a regular opportunity for us to remember all God has done for us. As we partake in eating and drinking, we remember that our forgiveness, our freedom from sin, our renewal of relationship, cost God dearly – his only son.

Let's never take his provision for granted.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review : Star! Stable! Saviour!

This book is currently being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

Star! Stable! Saviour! : the Christmas story in S by Cameron Semmens is a fun look at the Christmas story with lots of alliteration of the letter S. Cameron Semmens has done a great job of telling the Christmas story in a fresh and interesting way. Cameron's book focuses on the shepherds and the wise men visiting the stable (Strictly speaking the wise men didn't come to the stable nevertheless they are an important part of the events surrounding Jesus' birth).

Through the story Cameron conveys the unexpectedness and wonder of a Saviour being born in a stable. The book lends itself to being read over and over as children will enjoy the sound of the story as well as the message.

Rod Allen has done a great job of creating illustrations to fit the message and style of the book.

Thanks to Wombat Books for providing a free book for review.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Blog Tour : Star! Stable! Saviour!

This blog tour is for the children's book: Star! Stable! Saviour! by Cameron Semmens. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review is here.

6 – 10 December 2015

is introducing

(Wombat Books, 1 December 2015)


Cameron Semmens

About the Book:
"Forget the kids! It was me who loved this in our house. OK the kids did too!" – Sally Smith,

The traditional Christmas story has been told and re-told for nearly two thousand years – but never quite like this. Poet Cameron Semmens’s quirky and alliterated re-telling of it in Star! Stable! Savior! brings a totally fresh perspective on the ancient Christmas story.

Originally published in 2007 under the title The Story of The Star, The Stable and The Saviour, the book sold out after only a few years. Now it’s back with a fresh, punchy new title.

About the Author: Cameron Semmens is a poet, entertainer and poetry educator with 15 books to his name. He makes his living through words: performing, running workshops and book design. He lives in the Dandenong Rangers with his wife and two children.

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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 4:18

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years. 1 Samuel 4:18

In the Message we read, "Eli was an old man, and very fat." The reason Eli was fat is found in the Lord's words in 1 Samuel 2:29: "Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?" Eli's sons were eating far more of the sacrifice than they were entitled to, as they were eating the meat before the fat was burnt away (v. 13-16). It seems Eli shared in this as well.

Eli was more interested in himself than honouring the Lord. His sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them (3:13). In Eli's role as a priest his weight gain must have made it obvious that he was a glutton. Actions speak louder than words.

God didn't act immediately but gave Eli and his sons time to repent but they mistook God's patience for indulgence. God sent a prophet to warn them (2:27-36) but the punishments didn't seem real. They expected life to continue as it had always done.

Likewise today many have heard God's word but it doesn't seem real to them. Even as Christians, we are more influenced by our senses – what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch as theses seems more enduring than an invisible kingdom in an unspecified time frame.

Paul would exhort us to: "…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Book Review : Ehvah After

Ehvah After is an unlikely romance between an American teen pop star who is past her use-by date and an Australian body guard. Ehvah and David meet in an idyllic location but under hazardous circumstances. Although from two completely different backgrounds, it turns out they have more in common than would be expected. It's a bumpy journey as Ehvah and David navigate their pasts, their ambitions and their differences to find common ground.

Rose Dee creates surprising but believable contexts for her characters and therefore the obstacles they confronted are all the more interesting. Some of the issues raised in this book are post-traumatic stress, early childhood losses, and the inadequacy of wealth to solve problems. These are common issues in today's society.

I enjoy Rose's books because they are realistic portrayals of ordinary flawed people who make mistakes and have to live with the consequences. Also there is always more than just a romance happening and this one contains a good deal of mystery and drama. I like Rose's Australian settings and encounters with the wildlife which adds appeal to the story.

Ehvah After has more spiritual content than Rose's other books and this develops slowly through the book. This content explores the relevancy of faith to everyday life making it relatable and integral to the story.

Ehvah After is a good read – engaging and original.

With thanks to Rose for providing a free book for review.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

On Being Creative

My husband is reading John Cleese's autobiography, So Anyway. He suggested I read these couple of paragraphs which I found very interesting. Particularly because we moved our children a lot in their childhoods and you do wondering about the long term impact – but, perhaps it's not all bad.

Research has shown that constant relocation in childhood is often associated with creativity. It seems that the creative impulse is sparked by the need to reconcile contrasting views of the world. If you move home, you start living a slightly different life, so you compare it with your previous life, note the divergences and the similarities, see what you like better and what you miss, and as you do so, your mind becomes more flexible and capable of combining thoughts and ideas in new and fresh ways. There's also another way creativity can develop: if important people in your life, especially parents, have different ways of viewing the world, you find yourself trying to understand what they have in common, and how they contrast, in an attempt to make sense of their conflicting views. On the other hand, if your parents have a harmonious relationship and you grow up in one place where people share the same attitudes as those around them, you are unlikely to be innovative, or even to want to be.

So, creatively, I was doubly blessed: constant relocation and parental disharmony. Add to these two gifts the well-established fact that many of the world's greatest geniuses, both artistic and scientific, have been the product of serious maternal deprivation, and I am forced to the conclusion that if only my mother had been just a little more emotionally inadequate, I could have been HUGE. (So Anyway by John Cleese Pg. 17).

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