Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review : Next of Kin

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.

I always find the context of Carol Preston's books very interesting and this is likewise the case with Next of Kin.

The book is set around Grafton in the late 1800's at a time when the descendants of German immigrants and others were experiencing the prejudices of the white Australian community. The story reveals the many of the problems that were prevalent at this time in history, some of which are still with us. For example the reluctance of older immigrants to embrace a new culture – or at least allow their children to do so, the prejudice of the original settlers in welcoming new people into the community and the mistrust of people whose lifestyle is different to ours. The book also deals with the age old problem of overcoming bitterness through forgiveness.

Carol weaves an engaging story against this back drop. Fanny Franks grows up in a loving family but others have not been so fortunate. As much as Fanny would like to help, she finds herself with difficulties of her own and comes across prejudices that run deeper than culture.

One thing I would have liked in this book is a family tree diagram which have made it easier to remember who was related to whom. Being true to the era, people had large families so it was sometimes difficult to keep track of everyone. However as the main drama focussed on a select few it wasn't unwieldy.

An enjoyable read.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Blog Tour : Next of Kin

This blog tour is for the novel: Next of Kin by Carol Preston. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.

7 – 11 February

is introducing

Rhiza Press, May 2015


Carol Preston

About the Book:
Fanny Franks was raised to believe in honesty, equality and acceptance, regardless of background or circumstances. When she meets brothers Jack and Jim, she is drawm to them by the alienation and injustice which seems to pervade their lives. She is determined to intervene and help them find happiness, until a trauma in her own life brings discrimination and shame for which she is ill prepared. While she deals with her own struggle she comes to understand what Jim and Jack are going through - and they find where they truly belong.

About the Author:
Carol lives in Wollongong with her husband, Neil. She is a psychologist and has a part time private counselling practice, as well as being an author and speaker. Carol enjoys spending time with her children and four grandchildren, as well as bushwalking, gardening and holidaying overseas with her husband. One of her hobbies over many years has been family history research.

It was this research which started Carol on the journey of writing novels. Her first trilogy is about the Oakes Family; Suzannah’s Gold, Rebecca’s Dream and The Price of Peace, which takes the reader from 1838 when her great great grandmother, Suzannah Casey was transported from Ireland, through to the end of the First World War. Carol’s fourth novel, The Face of Forgiveness, is about two young women who are transported to Australia in 1839.

Carol has also written the Turning the Tide Series, based on her mother’s family, which begins with the First Fleet of convicts to Australia in 1788. These include Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets, and Truly Free. Next of Kin is her ninth novel. For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website: on her Facebook author page: or her Amazon author page: .

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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 12:7-8

I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. 2 Samuel 12:7-8

This was part of the rebuke that Nathan the prophet delivered to David following his sexual liaison with Bathsheba. David had become presumptuous and took God's blessings for granted. God, through Nathan, reminds David that he had protected him from Saul, made him king, provided him with wives and given him a position of leadership over all Israel and Judah.

But by his actions David said to God, "It's not enough, I want more!" So he sent for Bathsheba and slept with her (11:4).

In God's reprimand he goes on to say, "And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more" (v. 8). God doesn't rebuke David for wanting more but rather for not asking for more!

David had stopped pursuing all God had for him. Perhaps David believed that since God had given him so much already he couldn't expect more. Perhaps he thought there were limits on God's blessings or that he wasn't worthy to receive any more or that he would have to use his own initiative to gain more.

Yet throughout the Bible we see God's desire to bless his people.

In Malachi 3:10 God wants to open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing.

In Isaiah 61:7 God wants to give "a double portion."

In Ephesians 3:20 God wants "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."

In John 2:1-10 Jesus provides an overabundance of wine.

God always has more for us – more to give us, teach us and show us. But are we prepared to humble ourselves and ask?

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Book Review : The Writing Life

I first came across Annie Dillard when I discovered a quote which I liked very much. I wrote about it here. Then at Christmas I was given, The Writing Life as a present.

The book is a series of vignettes describing an author's writing life. By giving biographical glimpses, as well as including the experiences of other authors and friends, readers can find validation to pursue their own writing journey. Dillard outlines how she writes and edits but you don't feel compelled to duplicate her pattern. Although I imagine she finds it organized, I found it unwieldly and inefficient. She doesn't even suggest you do follow her method but rather you feel encouraged to find what works best for you. There's a sense there is no right formula for writing as different things work for different people at different times.

On page 53 Dillard claims to hate writing which seems rather odd since she spends so much time doing it. I suspect she means she hates how difficult it is to write in a clear but engaging way.

The book is written in a conversational style which at times seems to ramble along interesting diversions which are somehow connected with Dillard's love of the written word. She also loves and is inspired by the environment so animals and nature often find their way into her writing.

While the book didn't contain any practical advice that I could use, it was nevertheless an interesting insight into an author's world.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Unobtainable expectations

One of the expectations we have about our church services is it has to be good enough to invite those who are not believers. Once I asked someone who felt like this: Can you imagine a church service where you would feel comfortable inviting a friend who wasn’t a Christian? They couldn’t, which makes me think we have created an unobtainable expectation. I don’t think a church service has to be anywhere near perfect to do the basics, provide instruction in the Word of God, give expression for the worship of God and create opportunity to connect with other Christians.

When I first became a Christian, I was so thankful to be saved it didn’t matter to me what the church service was like. I just wanted to be with other Christians who could teach me more about God. I found the words of the songs inspired me, the words of the prayers taught me how to pray, the sermon instructed me. Christians fascinated me because I knew so few, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know about their faith, their relationship to God, how they prayed, how they heard from God. Our church services don’t need to be perfect. Authenticity and responsiveness to God go a long way and makes a deep impression.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 11:4

Then David sent messengers to get her. She [Bathsheba] came to him, and he slept with her. 2 Samuel 11:4

At this time David was already married to Michal (who had been returned to him), Ahinoam and Abigail. Plus 2 Samuel 5:13 tells us, "After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him." There is a partial list in 1 Chronicles 3:1-9.

Constable quotes Swindoll in his commentary, he writes: "The king who took another man's wife already had a harem full of women. The simple fact is that the passion of sex is not satisfied by a full harem of women: it is increased. Having many women does not reduce a man's libido it excites it … it stimulates it."

This is an interesting insight into human nature. No matter how much we have of something we always want more. Whether it is sex, money, power or something else. The desire is not satisfied by getting what we want. Actually it is stimulated. This explains how addictions start. People's desire only increases the more they try to satisfy it.

How do we overcome such desires? By learning contentment. Paul writes, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation" he then goes on to say, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-13).

The way to overcome the desire of the flesh that continually wants more is to learn to be content. With Christ's help and strength we can be content with our lives and not focussed on what we want.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Reflection : When We Were On Fire

Last week I posted a book review on, When we were on fire by Addie Zierman. I'd now like to add a few other thoughts.

My two oldest children are about the same age as Addie and lived through a similar time period, though my children were in Australia. However they lived through the 'Meet you at the pole', 'WWJD' (What Would Jesus Do), 'I kissed dating good-bye', and the 'True Love Waits' era. They also regularly attended Youth Alive rallies which sound similar to the youth events Addie went to. Yet they didn't experience the trauma that Addie writes about and I expect there were many others in Addie's church who also did not. Why not? I wondered. Perhaps the answer is in the story Addie tells in the prologue.

It's the annual "Meet you at the pole day" where Christians gather at their school's flag pole to pray. Addie arrives in the rain to find no one there but she insists on staying all alone to pray. What she didn't realize was that the meeting place had been moved because of the bad weather. The revealing comments she makes is: "I wanted this. I wanted the empty courtyard, the chance to be a solitary figure at the pole. To be the only one bold enough, brave enough, passionate enough to stand in the rain for Jesus…I thought I was choosing something extraordinary. I thought this would all turn out differently."

Addie wanted to be extraordinary, special and unique in other people's eyes. I feel it was this need that caused to her be vulnerable to someone like Chris who led her to believe that to be extraordinary meant you had to be a "super-Christian." Someone who would change the world by being a missionary on doing something significant.

The disillusionment really set in for Addie when she found herself married, working a regular job and living an ordinary life (not an extraordinary life) in the suburbs. However to her credit she works through her hurt and pain with the help of a therapist, a very supportive husband and some close friends. God is also gracious to her and protects her from long term harm when she makes some very poor decisions during a time of "rebellion."

Addie has a lot of difficulty finding a church and this certainly isn't easy wherever you live. Churches all have their own idiosyncrasies. Over time her expectations mellow and she finds a church community where she can be real. In the end Addie comes to the place where she understands that being a Christian means you're unique and special in God's eyes and that is enough.

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