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Yielded Captive is a great title for this book: it took me captive! What a page turner, I just couldn’t put it down. I started reading it on the bus, having no idea how emotionally involved I would get with the characters (please don’t let me cry, Lord!). Dalaina May jumps right into the story, grabs the reader’s interest, and away you go with her on a dramatic journey deep into the Peruvian jungles.
The main character is a young woman called Allison who, with her husband Eric, has dedicated her life to reaching the Shampiri tribe for Jesus. The story opens with Shampiri warriers shooting Eric and the small missionary team with arrows, while capturing Allison and their toddler son Isaac. After a long, exhausting trek through the jungle with the warriers, Allison is dismayed at being given to the Shampiri chief as his wife.
Grieving for the loss of her husband, raped repeatedly by the man she is forced to live with, and unable to communicate with those around her, Allison contemplates ending her life. How could God put her in such an awful situation? What purpose could He possibly have in allowing this to happen?
You will have to read the book for yourself to discover the wonderful – and unexpected – things God accomplishes through Allison living with this tribe, and the gracious way in which He grows spiritual fruit in her life. There are twists and turns along the way to keep the reader on her toes.
I loved this book, in fact I read it twice in three weeks! I’ve even bought a copy for a friend’s birthday (ssshh, don’t tell). It’s got everything in it: drama, love, adventure, romance, suspense. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I hope Dalaina May keeps writing books because I would love to read them.
I’m grateful to BottomLine Media for giving me a free ecopy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.
Adrian and I saw Ludovic Einaudi at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham yesterday evening. It was excellent. I’d surprised Adrian with tickets for his birthday but, to be honest, I was expecting to be a little bit bored. I enjoy listening to music, but prefer it to be in the background while I’m doing something else like reading or writing. But to hear such great music live was a good experience. The small orchestra was multi-talented with different instruments and the symphony and harmonies (forgive me if I get the terms wrong, I enjoy music but am not particularly musical!) were exquisite. The music was relaxing, uplifting, exciting and dramatic in turn. I got completely lost in it and found my heart full of worship to God as I listened.
Einaudi bowed at the end of the concert, along with his orchestra, and they disappeared off stage. The audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation. Some whistled and shouted to show their appreciation. But, on the whole, we remained very British and simply clapped. Loudly.
We kept clapping and the stage remained empty. Adrian leaned down to me and whispered: ‘Do you think he’s going to come back?’ I replied: ‘Surely, he can’t resist the pressure!’ because the several hundred-strong audience was clapping in unison. The clapping got quicker and quicker, louder and louder. Still no sign of Einaudi. I wondered if, like Beethoven, he might be deaf and couldn’t hear how much we wanted him to come back and delight us with his music.
At that point, I sensed God asking me: ‘How much do you want this?’ He wasn’t asking me how much I wanted to hear Einaudi again. He was looking into my heart, asking how much I wanted Him to answer a particular prayer request (well, two actually) for which I had been praying all the way through the concert. How much did I really want Him to work? Was I prepared to persevere until there is breakthrough?
Even while I pondered these things, a great roar went up. Einaudi and his orchestra came back on stage. We all settled back down in our seats and enjoyed more beautiful music.
Jesus taught that when it comes to prayer, the Father yearns to bless us with good things. His ears are open to our cries. He is generous and compassionate and concerned to give us the very best. Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek and knock in our praying. He promises that for those who ask, it will be given. For those who seek, we will find. For those who knock, it will be opened to us. God isn’t interested in being (indeed, He isn’t!) a heavenly slot machine whereby we recite a prayer and blessing immediately comes out. Oh no. Often when we pray for things, God is interested in changing and sanctifying our hearts through our prayers. His desire for us is that we delight ourselves in Him so that He can give us the desires of our hearts, because it’s when we delight ourselves in Him that our desires change to be more in line with His.
The Father also wants us to learn persistence and perseverence in our praying. Jesus told a parable about a persistent widow, to show that God isn’t hard-hearted and tight-fisted but that He longs that we develop faith in Him. A faith that says no matter how long it takes or how things turn out, we will trust Him. When Jesus met a Canaanite woman during His time as a man on earth, He gently tested her faith. She cried after Him, asking Him to have mercy on her daughter who was severely oppressed by an evil spirit. He questioned her, testing her: how much did she really want what He dearly wanted to give? The end result was that Jesus praised her great faith, granted her desires and healed her daughter.
If you are longing for God to act in your life, in the life of someone you love, or in a particular situation, may I encourage you to persevere in prayer until you see a breakthrough. It may not be what you expect – God delights in surprising us and doing over and above our expectations – but He will answer. Keep asking, seeking and knocking.
What a book! When it arrived in the post, I was surprised to discover it was all about modern-day slavery. Huh? But I was intrigued because it was written by two normal-sounding, ordinary mums. Right from the Foreward, Refuse to do Nothing is gripping reading. Sometimes I was horrified by what I read; there were times it made me feel nauseous, there were lots of tears, and sometimes I had to take a breather between chapters so that I could process the issues raised. But I was compelled to keep turning the pages.
In the initial chapters Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim introduce themselves and their families, and share how human trafficking/slavery first came to their attention. Throughout, their mantra is that we shouldn’t just read the book, cry, and then move on. Oh no, they are passionate that we each do our bit – no matter how small – to end the suffering of modern-day slaves. In almost every chapter they give the US National Human Trafficking Hotline number (888 373 7888) – it’s 0114 252 3891 for the UK – and urge readers to keep this number in their phones so that they have it to hand when they come across a victim of human trafficking.
The early chapters cover the fact that human trafficking exists – even on your own doorstep – and reveals some useful tips for how to spot it. There are more slaves now than there have ever been.
The later chapters deal with particular issues:
* Do you know all the components that make up your smart phone? Where do those components come from? How are they mined and by whom? Are the working conditions fair? * What about chocolate? Is your favourite company’s brand guilty of using slave labour and exploitation of children? Which supermarkets make a point of stocking fair trade chocolate? And which are out for the cheapest price? * That bargain blouse I saw, why is it cheap? Is it because the high street store is having a sale? Or was it manufactured in shocking conditions by slaves?
Shayne and Kimberly are keen that we are not just shocked, but that we take action. They clearly point to actions individuals can take that will make a difference. There are useful websites to check which companies and stores stock fair trade goods and who stand against using slave labour. At the close of each chapter there are reflection questions as well as suggestions of how to take action.
As I read of the awful misery and suffering that human trafficking causes – and remembering an Asian expatriate working in Abu Dhabi who told my friends with tears in his eyes that they were the first people who had spoken kindly to him in months – I had to make some changes. The UK national hotline for human trafficking is now on my iPhone, just in case. I find myself looking at people (door-to-door salesmen, cleaners, etc) with different eyes – are they doing this because they have chosen to do it or because they are being forced to do it? My husband and I are becoming much more selective about what we buy. You see, once we know about human trafficking, we have a responsibility to act.
Refuse to do Nothing is changing my life. Some of the horrific stories contained within its pages haunt me. I can make small changes: I can pray for an end to human trafficking. And I can be responsible about what I purchase. But I cannot sit back and refuse to do nothing….
Thank you to IVP for providing me with a free copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.
I had the perfect big brother. If I fell over and hurt my knee or if any of the neighbourhood kids picked on me, he was there, ready to give me a hug and dry my tears. He always knew what to do and I looked up to him no end. But he could be really annoying. He always did what mum and dad said. The rest of us (I have a big family) got into trouble and once I was grounded for two weeks. But never him. He was the good one. Dad had no trouble teaching him the family trade.
We got a shock when he was older because he gave up the family business to become an evangelist. I suppose, looking back, it shouldn’t have been such a big surprise because he always knew the answers in Sunday school, sometimes even surprising the church leaders with his insights into the scriptures.
He left town and made new friends who happily followed him around the country. It was like he was some kind of celebrity, with huge crowds following him everywhere. There were some spectacular rumours about healings and even demons being cast out of people. I wondered what on earth was happening. I mean, this was my big brother! And the demons were blurting out that he was God’s Son before he silenced them. It was all so confusing for us, his family. We met at mum’s house (dad had died) and had several family discussions. We agreed that the best thing was for us to travel to where he was staying and bring him home. We honestly thought he must be mentally ill, and wanted to protect him. When we got there, he was indoors teaching. The place was packed. People had travelled miles to hear him. Someone went inside and told him we were there. Everyone expected that he would come and greet us, but he didn’t – he said that anyone who did God’s will was his family. How offended and hurt we were!
He came home to Nazareth a couple of times. It was always great to see him, if rather awkward. You see, we knew some people thought he was an amazing miracle-worker but me and my other brothers and sisters didn’t think he was anything very special. He was just our deluded big brother. He did hardly any miracles in Nazareth; he said it was because people here didn’t believe in him. The neighbours were quite insulting actually. I heard them muttering together about him being ‘Mary’s son’, hurtfully resurrecting all those old rumours.
On the last occasion he visited, we all went to church together. He read a favourite passage from Isaiah about the Messiah coming and setting captives free and making blind people see, before electrifying us by announcing that this was being fulfilled right then. The worst bit was when he said that God’s Kingdom is not just for us Jews but for everyone in the world. People got really angry when they heard that, and dragged him outside and up to the cliff top so that they could throw him off. My heart was in my mouth as I ran after them, hoping and praying he’d be okay. Even if he did sound mad, he’s still my big brother! But he just calmly walked back through the crowd. It was as though they couldn’t get hold of him. He didn’t return again.
We continued to get news of him. I think the whole country was talking about him. The authorities were furious, and we were afraid for his life. But I remembered what had happened on the cliff top and told myself he would be safe.
The family travelled up to Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations. There were worrying undercurrents in the air. We heard of emergency meetings of the religious leaders, and then the worst news of all: my big brother had been arrested. Mum’s face went white when we heard. And the look in her eyes! I put my arms around her. But what could I say? It was the longest night of my life. One of the Psalms says that joy comes in the morning. But it didn’t for us - as dawn broke we learned that he was sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Of all of his family, only mum and our aunt went to support him as he hung on that wooden cross outside the city. I couldn’t bear to think of it. He had brought shame and dishonour on us, being crucified like a common criminal. And I didn’t believe he had done anything to deserve it. He never did anything wrong! Not even when we were children. I kept thinking of all the miracles we’d heard about: calming the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a fierce storm, healings of all kinds, changing people’s lives, even bringing dead people back to life. None of the rest of us had that kind of power, so where did his come from? He was one of us, but he was also different. I gripped my hair, trying to puzzle it out. Who was he really?
Late in the afternoon his closest friend, John, brought mum back. I could see by the blank looks in their eyes that he was dead. We hugged and cried. How would we ever get through this? John said that Jesus had asked him to look after mum. Even on the brink of death, he was thinking about others.
That awful weekend slowly passed. To say we were in turmoil put it mildly. His disciples kept to themselves, hiding away somewhere. I don’t blame them for being afraid of the authorities. I jumped at every little sound myself. The mum of two of his friends and some other women prepared spices to lay out his body properly for burial. There hadn’t been time on Friday evening.
Sunday brought surprising news that circulated quickly through Jerusalem. He had come back to life! I heard the news and saw the joy on his friends’ faces, their words tumbling over one another in excitement. Suddenly I understood who He is. Jesus isn’t only my big brother, He is the Son of God! Mum and I began meeting with His other followers. Over the next few weeks we saw Him regularly. He was definitely alive and no ghost. One by one, my other brothers and sisters joined us. We all believed in Him now! We began to understand what His death was all about – He had sacrificed Himself once and for all to take God’s wrath for all the wrong things we do. God showed that He accepted His sacrifice by bringing Him back to life.
A short time after He had gone back to heaven (He just rose up straight into the clouds after blessing John and His other close followers and disappeared – amazing), we received the Holy Spirit He’d promised to send. There was a sound like wind rushing into the house and flames of fire appeared on each of our heads, showing that the Spirit had arrived. We spoke in strange languages and such joy filled us! It was fantastic. We just wanted to tell everyone about Jesus.
As I looked round at these dear friends who’d become like brothers and sisters, I finally understood what Jesus meant when He’d said that his family are the people who do God’s will. He wasn’t saying families aren’t important, nor did He mean it as an insult. He meant that the ties of being part of God’s Family – the Church – are even stronger than the blood ties of our own families.
Being Jesus’s blood relative could never make me good enough for God. Only by receiving His salvation through His death, resurrection and ascension could open the way for me to have a relationship with God and be a part of His Family. Jesus isn’t just my big brother – He’s my Saviour and Lord!
Did you see Penguins - Spy in the Huddleon BBC1 recently? For three consecutive Monday evenings, I was mesmerised by these entertaining creatures. The documentary put spy cameras disguised as penguins into the middle of three colonies: stately emporer penguins in Antarctica, funny rockhopper penguins in the Falkland Islands, and shy humboldt penguins in Peru. I have to admit to a bias towards emporer penguins.
Both mum and dad are committed to hatching their precious chick. Mum must pass the egg to dad before she can return to the sea to feed. The parents practice this tricky maneouvre a few times so that the egg is not exposed to the freezing cold air for too long. (It’s easy to tell the old hands from the new parents at this stage, and my heart was in my mouth while I watched.) With egg safely tucked in dad’s pouch, it’s time for mum to return to the sea so she can feast on fish. The dads stay behind, huddling together for warmth against the bitter Antarctic winds. I mused on the fact that we can learn a lot from the animal kingdom at times. No chance among penguins of the male getting the female pregnant and then disappearing without any sign of commitment….
Dad is in charge of hatching the chick, which he feeds from his own meagre resources. He is literally starving by the time mum returns, looking plump and well-fed. For all that he is desperate to get to the sea and a good feed himself, he is most reluctant to leave his chick. In some cases, mum had to resort to pecking him to force him to go. Such is the emporer dad’s commitment. There I go again with that word ‘commitment’!
Mum cares for the chick, feeding it on regurgitated fish (yuck!) and endeavouring to shelter it from the ferocious storms for the next few weeks until dad returns from the sea to share the task of bringing up their little one.
The chicks in the colony become more and more independent as they grow bigger and stronger, until one day the majority of the parents leave for the sea for the last time. After a while the chicks sense the call of the sea themselves, and start the long journey over the ice.
In the process, the chicks find areas where the ice has melted into piles of slush. They have never before encountered a non-solid surface and falling into the icy water takes them by surprise. They flap in a flustered sort of way, trying to get back onto solid snow. It’s a shock to them, but it’s a good thing because it teaches them to swim so that when they finally reach the sea itself, they can confidently throw themselves into it.
Life is a bit like that. When things are going well, we can feel all cosy and settled. But then something happens that takes us by surprise, stretching us. It can feel like we’ve just fallen into icy water sometimes and it’s not pleasant. Like when Adrian was made redundant a few years ago. I remember that cold feeling gripping my stomach as we sat in the lounge in complete silence, just looking at each other. Or like when we were informed we could never – humanly-speaking – have children of our own, the day after my dad had died. Or when my neighbour drives me mad with her loud television! But these are vital growing times in our lives. Without the tough episodes, we would end up pretty spineless and pathetic. Redundancy taught us more than we’d ever known before of trusting God, comprehending a little more of His sovereignty, and experiencing His provision. Losing my dad and being unable to have children has enabled me to experience at a deeper level God’s emotional healing and comfort – and now I can comfort others in the same position, understanding what they’re going through because I’ve been there. And I’m painfully learning some patience through the trial of the television….
With God’s help, it’s possible to accept the trials (even though we don’t enjoy them at the time because they’re painful and hard) and to grow through the experience. God is able to turn our sorrow into joy (Isaiah 61, Psalm 126, James 1, 2 Corinthians 1).
I commited to reading To Walk or Stay by Lara Williams because of signing up for a blog tour; it’s not necessarily the kind of book I would choose to read. However, I found myself hooked from the very first words of the Introduction and struggled to put it down. I forced myself to read it in two or three sittings, but I could have devoured it in one go. Lara has such a readable writing style – you really do feel as if you’re sitting cosily with her, mug of tea in hand, chatting confidentially about stuff. She has a real gift for drawing in her reader and keeping you turning the pages.
Although To Walk or Stay is about marriage, the lessons Lara shares from her story and experience are much broader than that. In fact, I found I could relate well to much of what she wrote from the illness I had in 2010. I liked the way the book is set out with each chapter covering an issue that Lara has had to face in her marriage: her husband’s betrayal, her need to control, her right to be loved, to leave or not to leave, choosing forgiveness, prayer. She discusses sensitively the choice between divorce and staying in a marriage, carefully considering what the Bible has to say. I couldn’t detect any judgement or condemnation on her part, just a raw honesty of the way she chose to deal with these difficult, heart-breaking issues. What did God want for her? What was His best for her and her family?
At the end of each chapter is a short section of relevant questions along with some suggested Bible passages for use in small group discussion. This is followed by a section called ‘Digging Deeper’ in which Lara unpacks some general spiritual and biblical truths that she learned through this rocky period of her marriage.
For wives or husbands struggling with the heartbreak of adultery and betrayal, I would strongly urge them to read this book. God is able to do impossible things beyond anything we can imagine in the most unlikely of circumstances. To Walk or Stay is a book that every Christian counsellor and church pastor/elder should read, especially when giving marriage advice and ministering to hurting couples. There is much hope and strength to be drawn from someone’s personal experience coupled with biblical truths, as Lara demonstrates in her book.
In spite of feelings, and regardless of what may seem like a hopeless situation, the Lord may challenge you to stay committed in your heart, regardless of the unlove of your spouse. He may dare you to stay because he may want to do something wildly miraculous in your home.
My thanks to Christian Focus for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review. If you’d like to hear an interview with the author, click here.
I found this short interview clip with John Piper very helpful on the subject of infertility, including a precious promise that I’ve not come across before. So, whether you are a couple or a single person struggling with infertility, here is the clip so that you can be comforted and strengthened too.
‘Let not the eunuch say, “Behold I am a dry tree.“‘ For thus says the Lord: ‘To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, who choose the things that please Me and hold fast to My covenant, I will give in My house and within My walls
a monument and a name better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.’
You have taken a good long look at me, haven’t you?
You know me inside and out and back to front.
Whether I’m feet up with a glass of wine or reluctantly doing the vacuuming,
you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I’m off out for a coffee with a friend
and when I finally climb under the duvet;
Nothing gets past you.
Before I’ve even decided what I’m going to say,
you know what it’s going to be (even when I shouldn’t say anything at all).
You surround me on all sides.
You have touched me with mercy.
I can’t get my head around it;
It’s far too big for me.
There’s nowhere I can go that you aren’t already there.
How can I get away from you?
Why would I want to – and yet there are times when I do…
If I’m having a great day where everything goes my way -
If I can’t do anything right and I feel like giving up, you’re there too.
Even if I drag myself out of bed to see the sunrise.
Or if I fly to the other side of the world,
Wherever I go, you’ll show me the way.
If I say, ‘That’s it – it’s all gone wrong,
there’s no point in trying any more,’
you can bring hope in the darkest of days
and turn trouble into triumph.
Because you made the very heart of me;
You put me together just the way you wanted me.
Just look at me – I’m a masterpiece!
Yes, me, even me.
Even when I don’t feel like one, I know that you don’t make mistakes.
Your creation is flawless.
From before I was born you were watching me,
As I grew from the tiniest of cells, you took care of me.
From the earliest moments of my existence, you were full of love for me.
You had a plan for me from the very beginning;
You hold my life in the palm of your hand.
Oh, Father, if only I could grasp who you are;
you are so far beyond my imagination.
If I could get a glimpse of your glory
it would blow my mind.
Awake or asleep, you are right here next to me.
Lord, check out every last bit of me.
Look at my heart – at what I believe and what I feel,
and in my head, at what I think.
You know what I’m like.
If there is any part of me that you would change,
Show me and help me to put it right
so that I can be all I can be -
so that you can use me for all that you can -
so that I will be yours for eternity.
That’s my Psalm 139, Father. My Lord and my God. Here I am.
Good Mood, Bad Mood by Charles D Hodges MD is a useful and readable book on how to help people who feel sad or who suffer from depression. I would say it is invaluable for anyone wanting to offer help and hope to anyone suffering in this way. The book is full of godly wisdom and medical insights. As a practicing physician and Christian counsellor, Dr Hodges is well qualified to discuss these issues with wisdom, compassion and knowledge. It is not a long book, nor is it filled with medical jargan. It is easily accessible to anyone with an interest in such matters.
In the first three chapters, Dr Hodges looks at the way society views depression. The next two chapters discuss the fact that the emotion of sadness is now often diagnosed as depression, leading to sadness being classed as a disease rather than a normal emotion. The second half of the book examines the hope that God offers through His Word when we struggle with problems and emotions such as sadness, anger and worry. In the final two chapters (14 and 15), Dr Hodges unpacks bipolar disorder and how sufferers can be helped.
I liked the fact that Dr Hodges uses examples from the Bible, as well as case studies from his own practice, to look at real people suffering genuine problems and emotions. He shows our sympathetic and wise God who cares deeply about us when we go through hardships and sadness by looking at Mary, Martha and Lazarus in the New Testament. He points out that sadness is a necessary emotion whose purpose is to drive us to God, as seen in the story of Hannah, Samuel’s mum, in the Old Testament. Did you know that sadness is a gift from God? The first time sorrow/sadness is mentioned in the Bible is when we have a description of the way God feels about creating mankind in the time of Noah – God was sad that He had created mankind because all we think of and do is sin (rebelling against God in one form or another).
Dr Hodges dispels various myths such as depression simply being a chemical inbalance in the brain. He backs up his statements with medical research, science and the Bible.
There is definitely a place for medication and cognitive therapy for people suffering from depression. Our problem in the West today is that all too often people are diagnosed with ‘depression’ when actually they are ‘sad’ for legitimate reasons – maybe the loss of a family member, being unable to have children, losing a job, illness. Medics are sometimes quick to prescribe medication to help but, as Dr Hodges points out, very often the medication either doesn’t help or causes horrible side effects that require more treatment. There is a definite place for Christians to listen to, pray with and learn to counsel people struggling with these problems. People suffering with sadness, anger and worry desperately need the hope offered in God’s Word; they need to compassionately be told that God knows all about their problems and that He loves and cares for them. People need the truth of the Bible spoken to them in love today.
Good Mood, Bad Mood is essential reading for anyone involved in counselling, especially in the church. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I suspect it is a book I will constantly be referring to and dipping in and out of.
In my opinion, Suffering Well by Paul Grimmond is a vital book that every Christian should read. Paul has a very readable style that is accessible to readers and non-readers alike. The book opens with looking at two scenarios: Simon is struggling with persecution for his faith and Sally is suffering with a terminal illness. Paul asks the reader: ‘If an angel appeared to you tonight in a dream and said that you had to choose between experiencing either Simon’s suffering or Sally’s suffering, which would you choose and why?’
Paul then goes on to ask and address pertinent questions. He encourages Christians to consider what the Bible says about suffering, rather than simply trying to answer the question of why there is suffering from society’s point of view. It is easy to think of God as some weak being who cannot do anything about suffering in the world, whether persecution of His own children, natural disasters, or mass shootings We can sometimes be tempted to make excuses to our non-believing friends for Him. But Paul considers what God Himself has to say about suffering.
There are different kinds of suffering. There is the suffering of persecution for being a Christian, natural suffering such as flooding or illness, and the suffering that comes with Christian maturity of longing for those around us to know God. Paul explains from the Bible that ‘suffering is at the very heart of God’s plan to create a perfect world and to glorify Himself through His Son’. It is through suffering that Christians mature and deepen their intimacy with God.
After considering the whys of suffering from a biblical perspective, Paul shows the reader – again, from the Bible – what our response to suffering should be.
I found this book to be encouraging and challenging. It is very helpful in preparing for suffering (we all go through hard seasons from time-to-time, it’s part of life). It has blessed and edified me, strengthening me to keep going in the face of adversity. In a time when the health, wealth and prosperity gospel is popular, it is invaluable to have this excellent book teaching God’s viewpoint on the issue of suffering. It is a book that every Christian should read and refer to regularly. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If I had to describe it in two words, they would be well-balanced and biblical.
If you would like to hear more from the author, listen to his interview with Shaun Tabbatt at Cross Focused Reviews.