“Jesus Talked to me Today” Book-Review

“Jesus Talked to me Today” is a collection of over 40 short accounts of God moving powerfully in children’s lives. I was very glad to review this for Bethany House; there are some lovely stories in here. My favourites are the ones about the giant angels and the pink vanity set, but if I read it again, I would probably change my mind!

You’ll like this if you’re the sort of person who’s uplifted by other people’s stories of what God’s done for them. As you read, you could feel one of two things: Thankful and encouraged to ask God for similar displays of His power in your own life, or sad and discouraged about your situation. This book leaves the impression that even at your most broken, God is willing to come in at the eleventh hour and turn things around.

A Book About Men Written by a Man: “I Wish he had Come with Instructions” Book-Review

You don’t have to be married to enjoy reading books on marriage. I’ve always liked and found them helpful. Sometimes you’ll see titles on how to please your husband or how best to pray for him, but Mike Bechtle’s “I Wish he had Come with Instructions” is different. It’s a book about men written by a man, so you can be fairly sure he knows what he’s talking about. I appreciated his clarification at the beginning that it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all book. Every man is unique, and this ‘Understanding manual’ was written as a starting-point. I liked Mike’s use of storytelling to connect readers with his message.

I would recommend this whether you’re single, married or preparing for marriage. Perhaps like me, it’ll be a conversation-starter with your male friends and you can see who’s the exception to the rule!

a big thank you – but more help needed

I wanted to share this post with you all because Nicki’s a friend of mine, and one of the people in this world I most admire. She’s walking from a road named after her recently-retired guide-dog to one named after her new dog, and would love to raise enough money to name a guide-dog puppy in her dad’s memory:

a dog called Chelsea

I can’t believe how quick the time has gone since I last posted.
Heaps has happened since then (more in further posts)
Things are going well regarding the long walk I’m doing in September.
I’m exceedingly grateful for all the help I’ve received so far.
The Plumtree pub in Canton has allowed me to do a quiz there, and I’m hoping it will be some time in August.
I’m looking for local businesses in Cardiff to donate prizes to a raffle, so if you’d like to help me I’ll pop the details at the bottom of this blog.
I’m also looking for training partners, I’ve been walking round the Orme in Llandudno, plus numerous traipses round the local parks, but I’d like to do something a bit more adventurous before the event which starts on the 4th September from Chelsea road, Bath.
The biggest thank you has to go to…

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Playing with People’s Lives

Can anyone who voted remain tell me, with any certainty, what the EU’s going to be like in 2059? 43 years from now? They say: “Perhaps is not good enough when you’re playing with people’s lives,” but they don’t seem to see that staying in is just as much of a risk. Look how the EU has altered in the last 43 years, and think double the number of changes in the next 43. When I voted leave, I voted for freedom.

We expected some financial instability to begin with, but leaving the EU is about more than money; it’s about not being weighed down by every law they might want to impose on us. Let’s ride the storm and once we’ve come through it, I think we’ll be relieved we got out.

Louis

A curious boy – his name is Louis,
Born 1809, just east of Paris;
His father a tanner, Simon-René,
Whose workshop becomes a place to play:
Off Louis toddles as soon as he’s walking,
To the place where his father makes tack for the horses.

Quick as a flash in his three-year-old fervour,
He picks up the awl to puncture the leather;
Drives it down hard – his gaze intent,
And yelps with a sudden stab of pain:
The tool he’d played with so many times
Had struck him a blow; he was blind in one eye.

A child leaving home – his name is Louis,
His parents have far outdone their duty;
His father the tanner made canes for a change,
Walked round the village and taught him the way:
But to further expand his ten-year-old mind,
A school in Paris – the first of its kind.

Every pupil with aspirations –
All of them blind, they craved education;
The school’s founder, who saw the need,
Had a system in place to teach them to read:
He gave it his name and called it Haüy;
It talked to the fingers in the language of the eye.

Raised print on wet paper, pressed against wire –
Though helped by the books, you’d quickly tire;
What they contained was scant at best,
And how could a blind person write for themselves?
Surely a better system was plausible,
And Louis determined to make it workable.

A youth with a purpose – his name is Louis;
From his own words, we can tell he’s displeased:
“We don’t want to be patronised by condescending sighted people,
We don’t want to be reminded we’re vulnerable”;
He yearned for the blind to be treated equally
And in his mind, communication was the key.

Through the news or in person we can’t be sure,
But Louis learned of an officer
Whose ranks of soldiers, there on the ground,
Could talk to each other without light or sound:
Just dots and dashes indented on paper,
That’s all it took to share information.

From that time on, the idea was sparked;
Now he had something to make a start:
Twelve dots became six, and he worked on the shapes –
Ten different ones, from A to J;
Add an extra dot for the following set,
And another to end the alphabet.

A Catholic by profession – his name is Louis;
I see the Bible there in his story:
All works for good to those who love their God;
The same tool that blinded him was used to make those dots:
In 1824, at just fifteen,
His very first prototype came on the scene.

A Frenchman with a legacy – his name was Louis …
Louis Braille.

Something New from Something Old

Have you ever done something because you thought it was the right thing to do, but soon discovered it wasn’t workable?

I love the Bible, and as a young Christian, I thought the best thing to do with that love of God’s Word was to go to Bible-college. As a blind person, I was relatively slow on the technology front; I hadn’t even graduated to Email or the Internet. There were no eBooks, and no accessible devices enabling blind people to read them. I needed my books in Braille or audio. My Disabled Students Allowance got me a laptop, and a Braille embosser (a large machine that converts text from the PC into Braille) for the college to keep.

The college had never enrolled a student who was visually-impaired, so they misunderstood what Braille was. Braille comprises 6 dots. Different combinations of those dots make up the letters of the alphabet. Brailing a book requires someone to type or scan text into a computer, and send it to the Braille embosser (like you would send a document to a printer). However many times I tried to explain, staff saw Braille as akin to another language. They weren’t happy with non-Christians brailing any part of a textbook, in case something got lost in translation. This meant no one from outside of the college could come in and do the work, so it would fall to staff or students.

While we waited for the Braille embosser, some students spent a couple of hours a week reading textbooks onto cassette. Mum did some reading too, back at home, and sent tapes through the post. In my first lectures, we were told how to write an essay. I would have to cite the page-number for every quotation I wanted to use. There were none on the cassettes which had already been made, and from that point on, whomever read aloud would have to remember to say the number every time they turned the page! I had to listen to everything and couldn’t scan-read as a sighted person would, so the college agreed to a more specific reading-list for each essay, but lecturers would promise said list and never actually come up with the goods. I realise lecturers have their own commitments aside from Bible-college, but that doesn’t help the student. After a couple of months, the logistical nightmare proved too much. It wasn’t just doing the course; it was getting the support I needed in order to do it. Some people are far better at banging the table to get what they want than I am!

More recently, I thought about going to a different Bible-college nearer home and trying again. Because of my previous experience, I had a far better idea of what I needed. The college were very gracious and said it was possible to do the first year of a degree course online, but in order to do the entire degree, I would need access to books that were only available in print. Having that information first time around would have saved a lot of heartache. It’s only thanks to God that I can say I don’t have any regrets.

While I was at that Bible-college far away from home, representatives from the charity CSW came to talk to us about the persecuted church. Their words about North Korea stayed with me. A year later I wrote this song, which ended up on my first album. God never wastes anything. I was a mess; everything seemed to have crumbled, but out of that came such a special song – one that made me think: “I want this to be heard. I want to raise awareness of what these people are going through.” If it wasn’t for “North Korea”, I wouldn’t have made one album, let alone two and one-on-the-way. Aren’t you glad God can take something old and unusable, to bring out of it something new and worthwhile?

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Compassion’s partnership with CardFunder inspired this post. Click here to see how they can use the leftover money from your old gift cards to meet the needs of children in poverty.

“Finding God in the Hard Times” Book-Review

Bethany House gave me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but it didn’t have as much oomph as I expected it to. I respect Matt Redman for his song-writing and I love to hear his shouts of worship to God, but a good songwriter doesn’t always make for a good author.

Matt and Beth Redman look at how we relate to God in times of suffering, but I found it a bit longwinded. My favourite parts were the personal stories – how Beth coped with miscarriage, or how the couple met. These could definitely have been expanded on, but maybe they’re just private people.

Having read and enjoyed Matt’s book “The Unquenchable Worshipper”, I was disappointed that a couple of the stories are repeated here. I don’t believe you should write a book unless you have something new to say, and “Finding God in the Hard Times” didn’t feel very new. The guide at the end was helpful though, and cleverly, all the chapter-titles are lines from the song “Blessed be Your Name”.

April Alerts

I’m linking with Emily Freeman, as she and others share what they’ve learnt in April.

Book: A double whammy this time because Annie Downs’ “Looking for Lovely” came out on 5 April, but on her podcast (the best episode yet, by the way), she said it was part 2 of her story. Some great marketing there because I then had to pick up its predecessor, “Let’s all be Brave” (which I’d been meaning to read for a couple of years). I’m so glad I did. Its timing in my life was just right and I absolutely loved it. The new one took longer to get into and I gave it a lower rating on Goodreads, but only because it digs deeper and the beginning felt a bit heavy. I still enjoyed it overall, particularly the chapter about the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Watch: On Easter Sunday, I stumbled across the first in a series on the Salvation Army, and I’m really enjoying it. Who knew that comedian Paul O’Grady used to be a care-worker? He really is great with people. Christians don’t always get a good press on the BBC, but “The Sally Army and Me” is respectful, combining the outworking of their faith with Paul’s quirky sense of humour. Light-hearted and easy to watch, the last episode airs on Sunday.

Song: I went to a Stuart Townend concert this month with some of my favourite people, and the chorus of this song seems to have stuck.

Bible-Verse: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15) – the idea that instead of striving, we can put quiet confidence in God for our deliverance. I like that.

Blog-Post: Are you someone who’s convinced a church should be a certain size? Perhaps you’ll appreciate my friend Becky’s post, “Big Church Versus Small Church”. A pastor’s wife from New York, she makes her points well.

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If you’re new here, I hope you’ll stay. I’m reviewing a book by Matt and Beth Redman at the moment, and I’ll look forward to sharing that with you next month. Thanks for reading.

Shamelessly Living the Adventure: “Brazen” Book-Review

I signed up to review this having wanted to read one of Leeana’s books for a while, but I must admit I found the subtitle off-putting. “Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding” sounded weird to me. I might have gone for: Shamelessly Living the Adventure. Leeana’s taught me that brazen means ‘Without shame’, and we don’t always have to follow brazen with hussy.

Do you follow authors on Twitter? If you’re reading their book, it’s a great way to send a thank-you note at the end, or if you weren’t overly impressed, find a quote that did resonate and tweet it to them. Revell Books tweeted a link to this podcast with Leeana, which will give you an idea whether you’ll like “Brazen”. It’s a book about returning to who you are deep-down inside, and unashamedly being that person. There’s good advice about recovering and finding your voice.

I appreciated Leeana’s writing style; short chapters with storytelling woven in. I might recommend “Brazen” if a person was lacking in confidence. My only major struggle was with chapter 9 where, because she grew up without a man around, Leeana talks about finding an image of God we’re comfortable with and refers to Him as a matriarch. I know Jesus wept over Jerusalem and wanted to gather her people like a hen gathers her chicks, but Jesus didn’t ever say: “Our Mother in heaven”, so I don’t think we have a license to mess with God’s gender. There are those people (a good friend of mine being one) who don’t have brilliant relationships with their earthly fathers, yet they can look at God and acknowledge Him as their perfect Father – the One they lift their eyes to and can’t help but smile. I’d rather follow their example than try to turn God into a matriarch, but on the whole, “Brazen” is an encouraging read.

First Came Rest

God seems to be teaching me about rest just lately. Today my pastor was talking at church about something Jesus said. I’ve just looked this up and it’s not the wording I’m used to, but I like it: “Come to Me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept My teachings and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives” (Matthew 11:28-29). First it struck me that in Jesus’ order of things, resting and being refreshed comes before learning; then I got to thinking it’s always been like that … ever since the beginning.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Genesis 2:2-3). God didn’t launch straight into giving Adam instructions on how to take care of the garden. First came rest, for God and all of His creation; then came the learning.

If you’re tired, maybe the best thing you can do right now is to put on your slippers and make yourself a hot drink, or turn on the electric blanket and lie down enjoying the warmth. The learning can wait for a little while; just take that time, and let the Lord refresh you from your weariness.