Five Minute Friday is where bloggers from around the world write for five minutes flat on a topic chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker without stopping to edit or self-critique our work. The topic for this week is: Tree.
I was very ill for the whole of 2010 with cerebellar ataxia caused by severe migraines and ME/chronic fatigue syndrome. I saw several specialists including two neurologists who arranged tests and tried different treatments, but nothing seemed to work. I may as well have been popping Smarties in my mouth for all the good the tablets did me. One Sunday evening that autumn, my pastor prayed for me along with the church elders and some good friends. Breakthrough! The excessive weakness, paralysis and constant vertigo lifted and never returned. But there was still a way to go and over the coming weeks, I had to keep pressing in for complete healing.
One thing that encouraged me to keep going in prayer was a promise God gave me one morning in November of that year. I had just received a letter from my employer confirming that they were letting me go because of the illness. It wasn’t unexpected, but seeing it in black and white hit me hard.
‘Come upstairs,’ I sensed the quiet voice of God speaking to me. ‘I’ve got something to show you.’
I needed to go upstairs anyway, because I had a basket full of washing that needed drying. As I got to the top of the stairs, I sensed that small voice again. ‘Come into the study.’ I walked into the study, still holding my basket of washing.
‘Look out of the window.’ I stepped closer to the window, gazing out over the garden. It was winter, nothing much to see. Then that quiet, reassuring voice again.
‘Look at the lilac tree. Do you see how it has no leaves on its branches? It looks dead, as though nothing would ever blossom there again. But come spring, buds will appear and then leaves and flowers will blossom and birds will be able to build their nests in it again. That’s like you. It’s winter for you now, but spring is on its way.’
That word from God kept me going through some difficult weeks, until the next big breakthrough in February 2011 when He healed me from ME/chronic fatigue.
(Picture of the tree added in after the time limit!)
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A Hope Deferred by J Stephen Yuille tells of his and Alison’s twenty two year journey of struggling with infertility and of their eventual adoption of a little girl from China. Through their experiences, they have gained a deeper appreciation of the biblical doctrine of adoption. This book beautifully combines the sharing of their heartaches and joys with looking at the ‘six blessings of adoption’ from Romans 8. The chapters regarding the blessings of adoption are headed:
- Cleansed Sins.
- Renewed Affections.
- Satisfied Longings.
- Answered Prayers.
- Sanctified Afflictions.
- Defeated Enemies.
It reminded me a little of Colin Urquhart’s excellent book In Christ Jesus in the way Stephen seeks to ground the reader in the gospel as he unpacks what Romans 8 says about adoption. He writes: ‘[God] doesn’t need to love us, nor does he need us to love him. Simply put, he doesn’t gain anything from loving us…. it should comfort us, because that’s the kind of love we need. We need someone to love us who doesn’t actually need us.’
‘Adoption is rooted in God’s sovereign grace. By definition, grace is undeserved and unmerited. By forgiving us our debt and lavishing his inheritance upon us, God puts the immeasurable glory of his grace on display for all eternity. In the plan of redemption, his main purpose is the glorifying of himself. The means he has designed for achieving that end is our adoption.’
I was blessed by reading A Hope Deferred. It is packed full of biblical truth, written in an accessible style. I think it would be ideal for a Christian at any level of spiritual maturity, but would be particularly helpful to a new believer or one struggling with their identity in Christ.
My grateful thanks to Shepherd Press and Christian Focus Publications for providing me with a free ecopy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.
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It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Five Minute Friday. This is where bloggers from all over the world write for five minutes, without stopping to edit, on a subject chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker. The topic this week is Ordinary.
Most of us consider ourselves ordinary. We want to fit in, be accepted, and not stand out for the wrong reasons. Can our lives be significant?
Let’s think of an ordinary, everyday object: a pen. Costs as little as a few pence (especially the blue Bic biro which is what I favour), but it can be used to do extraordinary things. A mere pen can be used to write an encouraging note, send a card letting someone know you’ve remembered them, or write a masterpiece. The way an ordinary tool is used can make it significant.
God doesn’t see us as ordinary. He loves us so much – and that includes you – that He sent His Son to die for us. We were cut off from a relationship with Him, which is a terrible position to be in. But the Father wanted that relationship restored and so He paid the only price that could buy us freedom and put us in the extraordinary position of being adopted by the Father: Jesus’s death was that price. The worth of an object is determined by its cost. Your worth is that someone who loves you more than you can ever imagine died for you.
When an ordinary person has been adopted by God, they become extraordinary. Life has significance and meaning. You can know genuine peace and security.
Don’t settle for ordinary – get to know God and be extraordinary.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading Red Like Blood by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington. There are eighteen chapters in the book, each considering a different aspect of grace. In every chapter, the co-authors share their own stories of how God has touched and changed them through grace. Bob’s story of his extra-marital affair and subsequent divorce is the backdrop for the book. When God went after Bob, the result was an explosion of grace which touched not just Bob’s life but many others, including that of his ex-wife. Joe is the pastor who demonstrated grace by unreservedly accepting Bob back into the church.
Red Like Blood has a very conversational, easy-to-read style. I know I’ve said it before in my book reviews but you really do feel as though you are listening to these stories from old friends over steaming mugs of tea and chocolate biscuits. At times I laughed, sometimes I cried. Above all, hope and faith grew in me that God can change even me by His wonderful grace. The best thing I can do now is to share the notes I made while reading it, along with a few quotes from the book itself to hopefully show you how good it is!
I loved chapter 4 ‘The Appearance of the Unseen God’ because it reminded me of how much God loves me and the fact that He initiates ‘exquisite’ moments with me. ‘…if Jesus was here on earth it struck him that Jesus would want to hang out with him.’
From chapter 6 ‘Independence and a Toothpick Cross’ where Joe considers a tiny model of Jerusalem: ‘…a god who will come down and die on a toothpick cross in the middle of an obscure town, in the middle of an obscure country, in the middle of an obscure planet, in the middle of an obscure galaxy is exactly the kind of God I need.’
The title of chapter 9 ‘The Math of God’ could have been off-putting to a mathematical dunce like me, but it turned out to be a fantastic read, reminding me that Jesus is my treasure and the way to get to know God better is through suffering. Bob quotes part of a talk by Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic since a diving accident in her teens): ’God happily shares his gladness, his joy flooding over heaven’s walls, filling your heart in a waterfall of delight which then streams out to others in a flood of encouragement and then erupts back to God in an ecstatic fountain of praise. He imparts a new way of looking at your hardships. He puts a song in your heart.’
I think chapter 10 on ‘Eating Work and the Search for Satisfaction’ was my favourite in the whole book and has stayed with me since reading it. Joe states: ‘Everyone needs to feel loved and everyone needs to feel important. Let’s call it security and significance.’ Using red and green M&Ms - candy-covered chocolate sweets - to represent love (red) and feeling important (green), he challenges you to ponder where your priorities truly lie and what you are really living for. Are you stingy with your red M&Ms? Do you try to get as many green M&Ms as possible? ‘Jesus claimed he came to provide us with life and that life was going to be abundant. This life would flow out of us in a river of red and green. And then he went and died on a cross to give us that life.’
Bob shares honestly about being addicted to porn since his early teens, and how he found freedom by discovering that God is infinitely more satisfying than giving in to temptation. ‘Porn addiction is a ball and chain. Neuroscience has demonstrated it has the same effect on the human mind as heroin and is equally difficult to break away from.’
Red Like Blood is summed up: ’This is a book about brokenness and grace and redemption. There are a thousand ways to be broken and only one way to be made whole. There are two amazing things about Christianity. The first is the power and magnificence of grace and what it does as it sinks deeper and deeper into a soul. The second is the plan of God to allow us to participate in his plan to heal the world.’
I unreservedly recommend this book, which is suitable for anyone to read since it doesn’t contain any religious jargon. Thank you to Cross-Focused Reviews and Shepherd Press for providing me with a free ecopy for the purpose of writing a review.
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We all want to be seen. No one enjoys being invisible. Even if you are an introvert, I guarantee you want to be noticed by someone. When you do a good job at work, it’s nice if a manager praises you. When you visit the doctor, it’s important that they listen to you instead of giving you scant attention with their mind already on the next patient. We girlies appreciate it when someone compliments us on a new hairdo. (When I was walking through the city centre a few months ago, on my way to meet friends, a complete stranger stopped me and told me how much she liked my hair. She followed it up with an apology and explained that she wasn’t weird or anything. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside!)
No one is invisible or unimportant to God. He notices us. In the first book of the Bible (Genesis), a pregnant servant ran away from a harsh mistress into the desert. Miserable, hopeless and desperate, she was sitting by a spring of water when God appeared to her. He called her by name, talked with her, and gave her a wonderful prophecy about the illegitimate son she was carrying. Hagar’s life was transformed by this encounter with God and she called Him: ‘God-who-sees-me’ (El Roi). Her testimony was so powerful that from then on, everyone called that spring: ’The-well-of-the-Living-One-who-sees-me’ (Beer Lahai Roi).
Hundreds of years later, Jesus looked up and saw a short man sitting in a tree. This man was a tax collector, much-despised because of his dishonesty and thievery. Yet he wanted to see Jesus, which is why he had climbed the tree. Maybe he was curious. Maybe he was desperate because he was realising more-and-more that a successful career and being rich didn’t give lasting satisfaction or bring true happiness. But more importantly, Jesus saw Zacchaeus. They had a meal together. The tax collector’s life was transformed through that encounter with the Son of God. He joyfully paid back everything he had stolen and then some. Old Testament laws said thieves should pay back four times the amount they had stolen (restitution) and this is what Zacchaeus did, as well as giving away half of his possessions to the poor.
Another person who Jesus encountered in first century Palestine was a woman with constant vaginal bleeding. She’d had the condition for twelve long years. During that time, she was classed as ‘unclean’ by society. She was part of a large, jostling crowd around Jesus. There was an air of anticipated excitement: the ruler of the synagogue had asked Jesus to come and heal his dying daughter, and they were on their way to Jairus’ house. This woman was certain that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ robe she would be healed, and then she could slip away through the crowd, unnoticed. The medics of her day had tried lots of painful treatments, none of which had helped. As soon as she touched His robe He knew healing power had left Him. Despite the urgency of Jairus’ request, Jesus stopped the crowd and made enquiries. Trembling, the woman confessed what she had done. Jesus reassured her and spoke peace over her. Jairus might well be hopping from foot-to-foot, the crowd impatient at the hold-up, but Jesus took time to see a woman who dared to come to Him for help.
During the summer, I have had my own encounters with Jesus. I’ve been a Christian for thirty-one years but God saw things in my life He didn’t like. He wanted to change some of my thought-patterns and attitudes so that I would better reflect His Son’s loving, gracious nature. It isn’t an easy or pleasant process, but I’m so thankful that God is determined to pursue and change me, bringing to completion the work He is doing in me because He loves me so much. Praying and counselling me through this period were two wise friends from church. As I was walking to meet them for my second prayer counselling appointment, I saw a Big Issue seller. To my amazement, I found myself crossing the road and rummaging in my purse for change to buy a newspaper. I must have walked past Big Issue sellers hundreds of times, but I had never seen them before; they weren’t on my radar. But one encounter with God has changed that for good. I now find myself making sure I have extra coins in my purse when I go into the city centre in order to buy a copy of the Big Issue.
Jesus is the God who sees me. And as His Spirit transforms my life to make me more like Jesus, I am beginning to see individuals too. How about you? Do you believe God sees and cares about you – just because you are you? And are you ready to let Him use you to show His love to others?
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Three Decades of Fertility: Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life was a fascinating read. Each chapter is written by a different woman sharing her story of how she and her husband decided to stop using contraception and to give their fertility over to God’s control. They are all open and honest about their plans and dreams for their lives. Some, like Natalie and Stacy, embraced the idea of children and being full-time mums, while others, like Sue, were feministic in their views and had no intention of ever having children. Indeed, Molly, who planned to go to the mission-field, firmly believed that she and her husband ‘would be most effective for God’s kingdom if [they] were unencumbered with children’.
While each woman’s story is unique, they all have one thing in common: at some point in their lives, they decided to trust God with their fertility and welcome the results. These couples recognised that children are gifts from God, and believe that it is not up to us to say: no thanks God, we’ll decide how many children we want and when. Because if children are gifts, it is up to the Gift-Giver to decide when they arrive, how many are given, and how long we may keep them.
A brave step to take, especially in today’s society where children are not always seen as precious or valued, where abortion and child abuse are common-place. These couples had to deal with other people passing judgment on them and their larger-than-average families. They have been perceived as ‘irresponsible’ in having babies into their forties. But, for all the couples in the book, it has grown their faith in God – in His promised provision as creator and Father. These are just ordinary couples who do not have huge incomes, but who have seen God provide for all of their needs. Some did not stop at having their own children but reached out and adopted others.
For someone who has never been pregnant and is infertile, this book provided an intriguing insight into that mysterious world of pregnancy and labour. I admired the women’s honesty in sharing their aches and pains and battles with morning sickness. Some of the women ended up spending the second half of their pregnancies on enforced bed rest while others seem to breeze through the whole nine months. Those who suffered miscarriage share about it honestly, explaining not only how they dealt with it individually but as a family.
Some of the women have had periods of infertility while others have now reached the end of their child-bearing years, and they discuss their feelings of grief and the need to accept each new stage in their lives. I realised that the grief over not being able to get pregnant is as real for infertile couples as it is for those who already have a family yet long for another baby.
At the end of each chapter, the women answer various (very personal and searching) questions such as: how do you deal with the fear of increased miscarriage, infant loss, or birth defects? How do you balance life with older kids and babies? Is it being greedy to want more babies at the risk of not being able to meet the needs of the rest of the family? How do I deal with extended family members, friends, and even the medical community who disapprove of our continuing to want more babies as we get older?
The last couple of chapters are contributed by professionals who look at maintaining good health during pregnancy – physically, mentally and emotionally – and the role nutrition plays in aiding fertility and supporting the body during pregnancy, post-fertility and the menopause.
I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It’s radical and compelling. What these women advocate makes sense. But they do not push their biblical conclusions on the reader, they just share their journey with God. I have already ordered a second copy of the book as a present for a friend. I think one of the most important things this book says is: it’s okay to have a large family, so enjoy your gifts from God whether they arrive through pregnancy or adoption.
I believe that each of the women who has contributed her story to this book also writes at Visionary Womanhood.
I am grateful to Cross Focussed Reviews for providing me with a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of writing an unbiassed review.
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When I first heard about the opportunity of joining this blog tour and reading Compassionate Jesus by Christopher W Bogosh, I was excited at the prospect of learning how Jesus’s compassion can be put into practice in modern healthcare. While this book did consider that to a certain extent, I was left with a general feeling of disappointment and confusion.
Using Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, the author unpacks seven elements of biblical compassion: 1) putting other people’s needs before our own, 2) not discriminating against race, colour, creed, etc, 3) taking risks in order to help, 4) tending wounds and alleviating pain and suffering, 5) providing comfort and safety, 6) providing for extended care needs, 7) following up.
The author then argues that for many people (Christians included), health is their god. When ill or in pain, they live as if this life is all there is and will pursue seeking a cure at all costs. He writes: ‘…when hope in healing is the focus of a person’s life, then Jesus will be less important, and when this happens, idolatry prevails.’
He also discusses the difference between when the medical profession consider a person to be dead and when the Bible says a person is dead. Out of this, he looks at living wills and how these can be used for good, including ensuring that the individual’s organs are not harvested before their lungs and heart cease to function (the author’s experience is based in the US, I don’t know at what stage a patient’s organs would be harvested in the UK).
He provides wise and helpful advice regarding the sometimes agonising decision relatives face when switching off a patient’s life support: ‘Whether the person lives or dies rests in the hands of God.’
I was, however, puzzled by the author’s attitude to praying for physical healing. He states several times that ‘it is not wrong to pray for physical healing’, which seems rather a negative statement.
The last chapter is dedicated to the hospice movement, which in the US is heavily influenced by Kubler-Ross’s reincarnation beliefs. The author encourages churches to minister alongside hospices.
I struggled with this book. At times, the author comes across as a little narrow-minded, so focussed on the spiritual that he seems to disregard physical suffering, and biased against praying for miraculous physical healing. He frequently makes very strong, somewhat insensitive statements which he then unpacks; I suspect this is a way of getting the reader’s attention, much as preachers use hyperbole.
I was provided with a free copy of this ebook by Heritage Reformation Books and Cross Focussed Reviews for the purpose of writing a review.
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The Button Legacy by Ginger Marcinowski is a thoroughly enjoyable story covering three family generations. Set in New Brunswick, the story begins in the mid-1950s. The whole book revolves around an old decorated tin box in which buttons are kept. Each button tells a tale, and successive generations of children love to plunge their hand into the box on wintery or stormy evenings, pull out a button and settle down to hear the story. Some are poignant and some are tragic, while others are downright laugh-out-loud funny. Like when Grandma Ellen discovers a mouse in her dress and races onto the driveway, shrieking and tearing off her dress (literally) before throwing it away from her… seconds before visitors arrive to witness their hostess standing there in nothing but her undies. Or Aunt Amy unwittingly showing off her muddy bloomers to the vicar one stormy night.
There is a secret hidden inside the button box that not everyone finds straightaway, yet it’s a secret that, once discovered, is life-changing.
The Button Legacy is fast-paced without being rushed. It is just long enough to satisfy and short enough to read in a couple of sittings. The characters are interesting and lovable, and it is through them that the reader sees tragedy and heartbreak, and can understand why Grandpa John is so concerned. Yet there is hope and satisfying love to be found through the stories in the button box.
I really enjoyed this book and can happily recommend it. Ginger’s earlier book Run, River Currents is also available on Amazon and is now on my wish list….
I am grateful to Cross Focussed Reviews for providing me with a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of writing an unbiassed review.
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I love well-written Christian suspense thrillers – and Dog Tags by Heidi Glick did not disappoint. The story opens with the Knight, a serial killer brooding over his latest victim and planning the next woman to ‘rescue’. Throughout the story, we are gradually shown more of this man’s character, thought life and his past. Aside from the Knight, one of the other main characters is Mark Graham, a lecturer at a local college. He was previously a corporal in the military but retired after he was injured in an attack that killed his best friend. Mark is now confined to a wheelchair and in addition to his lecturing, he runs Fishy Business – a fishing tackle shop – with a couple of friends from the military. Mark is learning to cope again when Beth Martindale erupts into his life. She seems familiar but he can’t quite place her…. and then he realises that she is the kid sister of his best friend.
Mark fights against getting too close to Beth, afraid she will trigger off some of his PTSD symptoms, and fearful that she will learn what really happened that fateful night when her brother was killed.
Beth, too, has her secrets to hide and tries to keep her distance from Mark. Why is she so determined to keep a certain high school year book from him? Who was her secret admirer?
All this time, the Knight is in the background, keeping a watchful eye on Beth, determined to rescue her from the man in the wheelchair. Who is this mysterious Knight? Why has he chosen Beth? And how does he know so much about Mark and Beth? Could he be someone that they both know and trust…?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which kept me avidly turning the pages. I was a little disappointed by the ending which I felt could have perhaps been stronger. But, overall, it was a great read and I hope that Heidi Glick will write more books because I would definitely buy them.
I am grateful to Heidi Glick for providing me with a free copy of Dog Tags for the purpose of writing this unbiassed review.
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Every week I join with other writers around the world for #FiveMinuteFriday. This is where we write non-stop for five minutes on a topic chosen by Lisa-Jo Baker. We ignore our inner editor and don’t pause to think too much, we just write. It’s strangely liberating and lots of fun. So here goes on today’s topic: Present.
What do I have right now in the present? Most importantly, I have peace. This is something I suspect I’ve lived without for most of my life. Peace – real peace – is a beautiful thing. For me, it means not having to strive to get God’s attention or try to manipulate Him into doing what I think He should do, but to sit back and trust Him to be in control because He is God and He knows what He’s doing without unnecessary input from me. Peace for me also means not getting stressed by the neighbourhood dogs barking. After my thoughtful hubby prayed for me to be ‘normal’ recently, barking has mercifully been relegated into background ‘white noise’.
What else do I have in the present? I’m enjoying sunshine and summer warmth, while sitting at my laptop writing this. An hour ago, my ‘present’ was lunch with an online-but-new-in-the-real-world friend. We enjoyed macaroni cheese and garlic bread (yum) followed by cake (chocolate and banana for me, carrot for her) and a latte each. We talked non-stop before wandering around arty craft and gift shops, pausing to examine scarves while debating whether or not to treat ourselves (we didn’t). But that’s now in the past of course. My recent past, but my past.
My present now is the alarm on my iPhone erupting; guess my five minutes is up. And my immediate future which will shortly become my present is to save this piece of hurried writing and post it to my blog.
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