Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review : The Elephant Thief

The Elephant Thief begins in the slums of Edinburg with a street urchin, who comes to be known as Danny. He is given the opportunity of a new life when he is drawn into a plan to walk an elephant from Edinburgh to Manchester.

The book is based on a true story which happened in April 1872. In the endnotes the author, Jane Kerr, acknowledges that in reality the walk was fairly uneventful however, in the story she has created, it is very eventful. The author does a good job of combining drama, mystery and suspense as the elephant, his trainer, the owners, a vet and his daughter, plus Danny make the long journey.

There are many problems along the way which hinder their progress. Due to a bet, they only have a week to complete the journey or the owners will, not only lose possession of the elephant, but also their other animals. This adds significant tension to the story.

The relationship between the elephant, Maharajah and Danny develops into an important part of the story as Danny becomes emotionally attached to Maharajah. The relationship becomes pivotal in Danny’s life and is a source of healing and comfort to him. The other members of the travelling party also become valuable to Danny and ultimately change the course of his life.

For young readers, please be aware there is some mild violence, references to past violence and the threat of menace. There is also a significant climatic fight scene, other altercations and an incident of animal cruelty.

Overall, it is a well-told, exciting adventure.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Devotional Thought : 1 Chronicles 29:22

They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the Lord that day. 1 Chronicles 29:22

Such joy in this chapter and David wanted it to go on forever – he prayed: “Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided” (v. 18-19)

David prayed that God would keep the people’s hearts loyal to himself, but it didn’t happen. He prayed that Solomon would have wholehearted devotion to keep God’s commands but that didn’t happen either.

God doesn’t override free will. We choose the desires and thoughts we keep in our hearts, we choose to be loyal or not, and we choose our level of devotion. God doesn’t take our choices from us.

Perhaps Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-11 is a better model. He prays for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in order to live a life pleasing to him, to grow in the knowledge of God and to be strengthened so they may have great endurance and patience. Paul saw the Colossians’ greatest necessity as continually growing in understanding God and his ways, and to have perseverance.

Even then, the Colossians would still have to choose. Christian leaders can provide opportunities for growth and recommend spiritual disciplines to encourage growth, but ultimately it’s our decision if we engage in these practices.

Perseverance is part of the growth process, and seems to be sadly lacking in David’s time. However, the ability to keep going when things get difficult will greatly enhance our spiritual lives.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review : The Case for Grace

Lee Strobel is better known for writing apologetic books and his other titles, “The Case for …” are based on historical and scientific evidence. The Case for Grace is a series of testimonies, including his own, which show how God has transformed people’s lives. There is also an extensive discussion guide at the back of the book.

It’s natural when putting a book like this together that you would choose people whose lives have been radically impacted by God’s grace: An abandoned child who experienced much abuse becomes a conduit for grace, an addict who becomes a pastor of a large church, an agnostic scientist becomes a professor at an evangelical university, a terrorist and executioner starts a church, a pastor commits adultery but saves his marriage and others, a pastor’s son highly involved in the nightclub culture becomes an evangelist.

These are huge turn arounds and only possible because of God. Through the book Strobel is making the point that God’s grace can reach anyone, no matter what they have done or how far from God they seem to be. Together they provide compelling evidence for the legitimacy of Christian faith.

Lee Strobel is an excellent writer, so this is an easy to read book. It is also a brave book as he shares his own struggles with his father.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Devotional Thought : 1 Chronicles 21:8

Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” 1 Chronicles 21:8

David is the only person described as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). What was it about David that was so special? He was hardly sinless, having committed both adultery and murder. In this incident he ordered the counting of the fighting men, which indicates his reliance on his own resources, rather than on God. So I wondering, is it because he was good at repenting?

In the episode with Bathsheba, David simply said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). There was no rationalization or justification.

In this episode again he fully acknowledges his sin—and his alone. As well as saying, “I have sinned greatly” and “I have done a very foolish thing”. He also says to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

David also had great faith in God’s mercy saying, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great” (v. 13). David was right. The Lord called a premature halt to the plague at Araunah’s threshing floor (v. 15).

God’s promise for future restoration is, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).

Let’s be the kind of shepherd who is good at repenting and have great faith in God’s mercy.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quotes from Seth Haines

These three quotes are from Coming Clean by Seth Haines. My book review is here. I found these quotes insightful and come at the point in the book where he begins to come to terms with his drinking problem.
And here is my precarious position: instead of facing pain with faith in the Christ who promises rest, I have learned to avoid it all by way of substitution. I’ve traded the abiding rest of Christ…for the temporary rest of liquor. Pg. 64

The therapist has told me to turn in to the pain, to see that it is a normal part of the human experience. “Face the grief you have over Titus’s sickness and allow yourself to heal.” It seems ridiculous that fear and grief could be so crippling, seeing that my son is alive, drinking juice and laughing at Elmo. pg. 65

The bottle is not the thing. The addiction is not the thing. The pain is the thing. Pg. 71

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Book Review : Coming Clean

Coming Clean is a worthwhile, but not an easy read. It is the journal of Seth Haines’ first ninety days of sobriety from alcohol.

The first part was especially difficult. In the endorsements Preston Yancey writes, “Haines commands language and style so deftly the work reads like the highest literary fiction.” He writes this as a compliment but, for me, this style is not my preference. I found the writing too descriptive and not practical enough. However, as the book progressed I found it easier, perhaps his thinking became clearer as the effects of alcohol wore off.

I found it interesting that Haines was able to pinpoint the exact moment he chose to use alcohol to cope with the pain of his son’s continuing illness. As a Christian, the question then becomes why did he choose alcohol over God? Haines goes on a journey exploring the source of his pain and his reliance on other ways of coping, which is more deep-seated than he was consciously aware of.

Haines analyses his journey to sobriety very intensely and the insights he gained are valuable and beneficial. It’s complicated to particularise a healing journey. It’s often slow and difficult to explain how God works, meanwhile life happens. Haines is holding down a job as a lawyer and his son is attending medical appointments. Still, by writing this book as diary entries we gain a good understanding of his journey to sobriety. By the end of the book, he has a much closer relationship with God and is more in touch with his emotions.

Haines’ challenges his readers with their own addictions and coping mechanisms for dealing with living in a broken world. I thought this was slightly overdone, as it comes across as a way of excusing himself. However, Shauna Niequist deals with this very well in the foreword.

Although this book is heavy going at times, it is so insightful that it is worth the effort.

My next post will be three quotes from this book.

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Saturday, May 06, 2017

Devotional Thought : 1 Chronicles 16:37-38

David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the Lord to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. He also left Obed-Edom and his sixty-eight associates to minister with them. 1 Chronicles 16:37-38


We first hear about Obed-Edom when David attempts to move the ark with a cart, and Uzzah dies. We read that David, “did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had” (1 Chronicles 13:13-14).

Three months later, when the ark is successfully moved to Jerusalem, we find Obed-Edom has moved too. Obed-Edom’s desire was to be wherever the ark was, because for him this meant being in the presence of God. He had experienced the blessing of God and was determine to pursue it.

Obed-Edom was a Gittie—that is, he’s from Gath—a Philistine, yet he is also included in the lists of Levites (1 Chronicles 15:24). He was born in the wrong country, to the wrong family but in God’s economy he was in the right place, at the right time. Obed-Edom would not let go of the presence of God and raised his children to serve God. He gave his life to guarding the ark (presence) of God (1 Chronicles 26:1-19) and the blessings on his life continued through many generations (26:4-8).

Obed-Edom had a great desire to be in God’s Presence, honouring and serving him. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if we were born in the wrong place, or at the wrong time, God can turn our circumstances around if we are determine to pursue him.

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Book Review : Under Their Skin

A fast paced and cleverly written story begins when Nick and Eryn’s Mom announces she is remarrying. Nick and Eryn are twins with an apparently normal home life. While their parents are divorced, it is an amicable split. Their Mom tells the twins in order to avoid difficult step-sibling relationships, they will never meet their step brother and sister. Of course, being curious 12 year-olds, they conspire to meet them.

Under Their Skin is in the science fiction genre and built on the intriguing premise is that centuries earlier the human race had faced impending doom. Two professors had created a plan for human life to repopulate the world, when it was safe to do so. However, the mystery of what caused the human race to become extinct is not revealed until the final pages.

The author, Margaret Haddix has done a great job in creating circumstances that appear normal but after several plot twists, which are surprising and interesting, we discover that the whole future of the human race is at stake.

A reading guide with discussion questions, plus a sneak peek of book two in the series, are at the back of the book.

Overall, an intriguing read.

Thanks to Christian School Supplies for providing a free book for review.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Blog Tour : Looking Glass Lies

This blog tour is for the novel: Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance.


1 – 5 May 2017


is introducing


Waterfall Press, 2 May 2017

by

Varina Denman


About the Book:
A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.

For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.

But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.

The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.


About the Author:
Varina Denman enjoys writing fiction about women and the unique struggles they face. Her novels include the Mended Hearts trilogy: Jaded, Justified, and Jilted, as well as her latest release, Looking Glass Lies. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and her debut novel, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Contest, the BRMCWC Selah Award, and the INSPYs Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature.

Varina attended three universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. However, she can now boast sixteen years as a home educator, volunteering in her local cooperative where she has taught numerous subjects including creative writing and literature. Varina lives in North Texas where she volunteers in local marriage and family ministry. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of Kirkland Media Management.

More information: https://varinadenman.co

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