February 6th – Save the Date!

Nothing to do with me; I’m not getting married or anything. No, February 6th is the day that “In Bloom” is released – a second book by Kayla Aimee. I would have bought this anyway, but because I’m on Kayla’s Email list, I was invited onto her launch team, so … a book for free, + I got to read it before its release, and (an unexpected bonus) a Facebook group where we all interacted with each other. The Facebook group really made it, as Kayla took the time to post videos for us, talking through the book in sections. It’s very special to hear directly from the author, E.G. did you know when you record books for Audible, they slow your voice down so it ends up sounding nothing like you? That’s something I learnt.

So, what can I say about “In Bloom”? I looked forward to it because I so enjoyed Kayla’s first book, “Anchored”, about the birth of her premature daughter Scarlette. One positive about “Anchored” – it was a story with a beginning, middle and end. This follow-up is more teaching than a storybook, but teaching on a relevant subject – our desire to be accepted, and the insecurities so many of us grapple with. “In Bloom” looks at several of these, from outside influences to the things that go on in our own heads. Kayla’s very funny and shares intimately about her life, all with the aim of helping us discover our self-worth. You’ll love the stories throughout about Scarlette, 5 years on from when she was born.

If I was writing this review on my own, I might have recommended “In Bloom” to readers under 40 because of her references to the 1990s, but older women on the launch team have said how much they’ve loved it. (Actually, it doesn’t matter if you’re like me and have never seen “Mean Girls” or read “The Babysitters’ Club”. If Kayla’s personality and sense of humour are what drew you into her first book, you should appreciate this one.) I also would have labelled it as Christian, but some on the team aren’t practising Christians and have still given positive feedback, so I’ve been proved wrong on both counts.

“In Bloom” releases on February 6th. If you preorder a print copy from Lifeway, they’ll send you another free to give to a friend, but that may only apply if you’re in the US. It’s also available on Amazon, so whoever you are, if you’re interested, why not give it a try?

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SOUND HITS THE TRUTH OF TRAVEL

Are there audio announcements on the buses where you live? Have you ever thought of them as an annoyance?

VI Talk

This is an article that I wrote for guide dogs in early October.

A few months ago, I heard an interesting conversation on the radio about a person’s experience of riding on a bus with audio announcements.  The presenter and the caller were in agreement that it was an annoyance to them and they couldn’t see the point in having such a disturbance on a bus.  This was the prompt that I needed to get my phone out and send a message to the presenter (very politely may I add) to say that I enjoyed his show but did he realise that having such announcements on the buses meant that many visually impaired people could now get out and about, travel independently and that such a facility opened up so many opportunities to us.  He read my text out on air, said that he’d never actually thought of it that…

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How Special is Israel

Reading the words to “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” today has brought home how special the nation of Israel is to God. It’s really sad that there seems to be such a hatred of Israel in the world. Let’s consider some parts of the carol:

“O come, Thou rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
.” Who was Jesse? The father of King David; which reminds me that first and foremost, Israel was a family. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and made him a promise that his descendants would take possession of the land. Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel, which is how the nation began. Israel had twelve sons. Each of them has a story, but for the sake of this post, one was Levi and another Judah. From Levi’s family came the famous Moses. As the carol says later:

“O come, o come, Thou LORD of might
Who, to Thy tribes on Sinai’s heights
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud, and majesty and awe
.” After Moses led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, God gave him the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

Israel’s story continued. They eventually wanted to be like the nations around them and have a king. God was their King and warned them against this. But they got their way, even if it did mean trouble in the long run. King Saul came first, then King David (from the family of Judah), and then David’s son – Solomon. In Solomon’s time, the big split happened. Israel and Judah became separate – Israel the northern and Judah the southern kingdom. With the reigns of all their future kings, they gradually drifted further and further from God, until He sent them away from their land and into exile. While they did eventually return, there was no king after that. Instead, Israel waited for her Messiah:

“O come, o come, Immanuel
And rescue captive Israel,
Who mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears:
Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel
” – and I like to change the last bit of the chorus; not Immanuel shall, but Immanuel has come to thee, o Israel. Jesus has come as Israel’s Messiah; the problem is that many of the Jews don’t recognise Him, but He is all those things mentioned in the carol: The Son of God; a rod from Jesse’s family; the Lord of might; the Key of David; Immanuel (God with us).

Israel’s so special to God that He sent His Son to be their Messiah, and that’s what we celebrate at Christmas.

November News

I like Emily Freeman’s idea of highlighting things we’ve discovered during the month, so these are some of mine for November.

Song: I’ve always loved “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card, but haven’t found a similar one from Mary’s point-of-view that grabbed me emotionally … until this year. On a Christmas radio-station, I heard Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here”, and the words are lovely. If I took part in a musical nativity, I’d love to sing that.

Books: I’ve been getting into Song of Solomon lately – a book in the Bible about King Solomon’s marriage to a peasant woman, which makes me think of the church – the bride of King Jesus. Two books about the song have really helped my understanding of it. I heard about Dee Brestin’s “He Calls you Beautiful” in a Bible Gateway Email and knew straightaway I wanted to read it. It looks at the bride and takes her love in stages: The euphoric first-love; the wedding; the honeymoon … It’s excellent and well worth the money. In the book, Dee talks about James Hudson-Taylor – a man I had heard of at church, who founded a missionary organisation in China in the 1800s. She said Hudson-Taylor had only written one book – and yes, it’s a book on the Song of Solomon. “Intimacy with Jesus” is only short, with six sections and a study guide at the back, but it’s very good. I’ve read a section per day.

Podcast: This month one of my favourite authors, Annie Downs, interviewed Mark Lee – the guitarist from Third Day. You might remember I reviewed his book here awhile back. From reading the book I was impressed with his personality, and he came across just as well talking to Annie. This could also come under ‘Books’ because they discussed several. I’ve never read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, but their conversation made me want to read some of her memoirs, particularly the Genesis Trilogy, where she intersperses her own life-experiences with stories from the book of Genesis.

Films: You get Internet radio-stations now that play Christmas music all year round. I wish there was a TV-channel that did the same with Christmas movies, because I love them. I know; they’re very predictable. As someone said on Facebook, you get a love twist, some sort of misunderstanding and a happy ending, but they make me smile. My favourite of the modern films is still “The Twelve Trees of Christmas”, which from the title doesn’t sound at all like the kind of film I would enjoy, but it’s amazing. “Christmas in the City” is another sweet one I like to watch.

Quote: In my previous post, I mentioned a friend’s dad. Sadly, he had another setback with his health and is no longer on this earth. Jeff’s special and will be very much-missed. I’m glad for him that he’s with Jesus. I don’t understand why he had to go so soon, but a tweet from Lysa TerKeurst this last week has stuck with me. It said this: “We don’t have to have all the answers; we just have to stay connected to the One who does.”

As Advent and Christmas approach, let’s keep making that connection with Jesus, whose birth we’re remembering; who came into the world to show us what love looked like, and to give us hope of a future with Him.

Tips on Being Grateful

An author who really encourages me, Holley Gerth, wrote a blog-post about preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. I know this time of year leads up to Thanksgiving in America and it’s not really celebrated here in the UK, but gratitude is important to me as a Christian, so I guess her advice could be applicable all year round. I thought I’d write down her questions with my answers:

1. Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of one person.
Colin came immediately to mind, which won’t be any surprise to those who know me!

2. What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it.
There were 3 memories I thought of straightaway: The afternoon I spent with Colin’s sister and brother-in-law (they flew over from Spain and I was honoured that rather than spend time exclusively with his family, Colin invited me over to meet them), when I met Damon Hill (I can see how good God was in that I had the money to buy the tickets, and Mum drove us; getting there by train would have been tricky and would have meant paying for an overnight stay), and the time I met Brian May (I wasn’t a Christian then, but God shines out through the kindness of Brian and of my mum, who arranged it as an 18th-birthday present).

3. How have you seen God answer your prayers this year?
God’s put me back in-touch with a friend after several years. I’ve missed her and I’m happy we’ve reconnected. I’ve also prayed for another friend’s dad whose health hasn’t been good, and it’s great to hear his kidneys are functioning and his blood-results are normalising.

4. When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day.
I feel the most joy on Fridays when lunching at a local café, or when talking over the phone with friends I can’t see face-to-face. It’s a Friday as I write, and today I’m due to do both.

5. Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you.
I’m so thankful that with the changeover in benefits, I haven’t ended up worse-off, but better-off! I feel like Paul, who said to the church at Philippi: “I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12).

6. Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love.
Jesus came because every one of us falls short of God’s awesome glory. Without Jesus choosing to take our imperfections on Himself, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy closeness with God, and I couldn’t have just answered all those questions.

7. Give thanks for all of the above.

God’s Perfect Plan will blow your mind!

500I want to show you that you were born into one of the most incredible seasons in global history. I also want to show you how to release the blessing God has for you in this remarkable era. Hold on to your hat….. this may blow your mind a little!

Numbers are incredibly important in the Bible.

Three is the number of resurrection. Seven The number of perfection or completion. Forty is a powerful number of transition in the Bible.  God does a lot of stuff in 40’s!

The Number 500

Did you know the number 500 is important too? And most importantly, the number 500 affects you today, if you live within a few decades of 2017.

Throughout known biblical history, approximately every 500 years some radical change takes place between God and how He interacts with mankind. Let me take you back 8 groups of 500 to show you that…

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More from James Stuart Bell: “Life-Changing Miracles” Book-Review

I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a review copy of this book – another offering from James Stuart Bell. His compilations of stories are always encouraging. I particularly liked this one because it isn’t a constant stream of health-problems and God coming in at the eleventh hour to heal people. Instead there are a great variety of modern-day miracles, from God directing a lifeguard to Him supernaturally stopping the rain.

“Life-Changing Miracles” is a book full of different people and their experiences with God. On the whole, I’d recommend it.

The Bible – Chapter and Verse

I was reading a devotional today about how Ezra was someone who determined to study God’s Law, to obey it, and to teach it (Ezra 7:10). Are you the same? And do chapter and verse-numbers help or hinder your study? I knew they weren’t part of the Bible until later on, so for instance, I’ve often wondered why John 7 has a verse 53. Why isn’t it the beginning of chapter 8? There’s a post on Bible Gateway I want to share with you, about where chapter and verse-numbers came from. It tells you how to go onto Bible Gateway, take them out and see how it affects your reading. If you try this, I’d be interested to know how you get on.

A Story of Two Cultures: “All Saints” Book-Review

When people have asked me: “What’s the book about?” I’ve said: “It’s about a struggling church who helped refugees from Burma”, except now that I’ve read it, I realise I got it completely upside-down. Imagine your church is on the point of closing, you’ve prayed for pews to be full and that you might have an impact in the community, and suddenly a group of refugees double the size of your congregation come looking for a church to call home. This is a story of two cultures coming together. There are some of the issues you might expect, and some adjustments that surprised me. So many times, God’s hand in the situation is obvious – His keen interest in everything, down to the smallest detail.

I think you’ll appreciate “All Saints” if you care about social justice and communities working together. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it. In fact, a man who’d made no commitment to Christ read a news-article about them and was so impressed, he turned their story into a film while this book was being written. I wish it was in cinemas here in the UK. It sounds like it would be very inspiring.

Reviewing “Hurt Road”, by the Guitarist from Third Day

Apparently Third Day have 13 albums. I’ve really only heard a few of their songs, but I love the lead singer’s voice and that’s why I signed up to review “Hurt Road” by their guitarist, Mark Lee. In the book, he talks about the Behind the Music series he would watch, to see the stories behind various rock bands, and that’s what this book is – the story behind Mark Lee and how he got to where he is now.

“Hurt Road” is the best book I’ve read in months. It really gripped me. The chapters are short and it’s very personal. I loved the parts about his family, his faith, and the founding of Third Day. I feel very privileged to have already read it because I just looked on Amazon, and it’s not released here in the UK until September 5th.