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.

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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.

Books It’s Taking me Ages to Finish

Since about May or June, my Goodreads total has been stuck at 22 books, because there are some I’m in the middle of that just won’t go away!

“Meeting God at Every Turn”

I liked the sound of this and it’s not available on Kindle, so when I found I could borrow it in Braille, I was excited. A famous Christian author (Catherine Marshall) writing about lessons she learnt in life, including the loss of her husband and how she coped – I looked forward to it, but such a disappointment. Really heavy-going. You’d expect it to be a bit old-fashioned with her being a wife in the 1930s, but when she wrote each chapter, she should have imagined having somebody with her who could only stay five minutes!

“She Reads Truth”

Every chapter I’ve read of this has been good, but I’ve only read three so far. It’s not the sort of book where you wonder what’s coming next, and perhaps they could have made it that way. As it’s the stories of two women, starting when they were small and ordering the chapters chronologically might have helped.

“No Compromise”

I’m rereading the life-story of songwriter Keith Green along-with my American friends, but the chapters are lengthy. Voiceover on my phone reads my Kindle books at a fair speed, and I still have to set aside over an hour to get through a whole one. It’s a good book though, and there are things about it I don’t remember from first time around.

“Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional”

I really like this and would recommend it to any Christian, however long they’ve followed Jesus. The names are in English and Hebrew, with the author taking three days to focus on each one – how it relates to God, ourselves, and others. I wanted to do a name per day, so I’d get through it in four months as opposed to a year, but that really hasn’t worked. I try to follow the Deeper Waters Bible-reading plan too and it’s hard to keep up with both, so this has been put to one side.

* * *

I really hoped to finish these before moving on to anything else, but on Sunday I started yet another book. Any advice on how I can plough through them all?

Sharing the Adventure: My First-Ever Traveleyes Holiday

In short, Traveleyes take blind people on holiday, and those who can see pay less because they’re the ones who guide us around. A recent radio-programme featuring one of their trips was inspirational. I had been too nervous to attempt a holiday with them in the past, but this year, I booked onto my first one: Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

The information pack came 4 weeks prior to the trip with timings of ferries, fellow-travellers’ names, etc. For months I had envisaged returning to England and going home the same day, but the ferry wasn’t due in until 21:10, making it impossible to travel back by train. I struggled at that late stage to find somewhere to stay; nearly everywhere was full, except for one place, and that was all I needed.

Day 1 got off to a good start. The trains were on-time and I arrived at our hotel in Bournemouth, where the group met. Our tour manager (Liz) explained how it all worked. We each had a ‘Room partner’ to show us our hotel-rooms (everyone needs to know where to find the kettle and how to work the shower), and they’d also take us to breakfast/dinner. These stayed the same throughout the holiday, so I’m pleased to say I got on well with mine. During the day, we were always guided by a different person, allowing us to get to know everybody in the group (one guide commented that we had gelled really quickly).

There were 17 of us altogether – a lovely, varied group; the tour manager, 8 sighted, and 8 VIs (I’m not used to being called a VI, but I didn’t mind it, and it saved having to differentiate between blind and partially-sighted). Some were professionals; some unemployed; some retired … Considering the holidays are expensive if you’re visually-impaired, I assumed most would be in paid work and wondered if they’d look down on me because I wasn’t. I also wondered if I’d be competent enough. We were told in one of our first Emails the sighted guides were just that – guides; they weren’t there to be carers, cut up food, etc. I live on my own and manage fairly well, but some things are more difficult in unfamiliar surroundings. I hoped I’d get the help I needed … and everyone was very helpful. They’d pour for us when the big pots of tea/coffee came at breakfast, offer to debone a fish, or anything we needed. They even volunteered to pick the red chilies out of the curry that was making my eyes water, but I recovered from the initial shock and enjoyed it!

One tip we were given at the beginning was to say how we liked to be guided. I soon learnt how important this was! At the bottom of a flight of steep stairs, my guide told me: “Just follow the stairs up,” so instead of asking her to go in front, I did as she said – and ploughed straight into the edge of the metal door at the top! That gave me quite a headache, but after a good night’s sleep, I had recovered enough to join in the rest of the holiday.

This is one of those times I wish I could add photos/audio to my blog. I’m sorry you don’t get to see me paddle in the sea at Herm, or hear the firing of the gun at Castle Cornet. I wish I could introduce you to the one who never failed to make us laugh, the lady in her 90s who negotiated steps and steep hills or climbed up into a carriage without complaining, the oldest visually-impaired female cricketer … and those are just a few. I hadn’t expected to be so inspired by the people I met, or to have such a great time.

If you’re reading this and you’re sighted, Traveleyes go all over the world and are always grateful for more sighted guides. If you’re reading this as a VI, I’d really recommend one of their holidays. And if you’re reading with birthday or Christmas in mind, gift vouchers are available! Traveleyes’ slogan is ‘Share the adventure’, and I hope there’ll be plenty more.

“You’re Spiritually Immature”

Has this ever been said to you? I certainly don’t like to hear it said of my Christian friends, and yet this is Paul’s verdict on the church in Corinth. “My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That’s why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned” (1 Corinthians 3:1). “You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

Paul was an apostle. This means ‘Sent one’. He was sent out and planted several churches, including this one in Corinth he was writing to, so he’s like the head of the organisation – the one they would go to with any queries or concerns, and it’s Paul (not just anyone, but a person they respect) who’s calling them spiritual babies. How do they respond? Do they walk away from the church, never to return again? If you read 2 Corinthians, you’ll discover the reasons for Paul’s first letter. “I also wrote because I wanted to test you and find out if you would follow my instructions” (2 Corinthians 2:9). After receiving it, they confronted the wrong in the church and dealt with it. His letter resulted in their spiritual growth.

So, what will we do if someone calls us spiritually immature? Will we dismiss it, or will we take an honest look at ourselves because they meant it for our good?

“Never Give Up” Book-Review

If you’re considering this book because you’re looking for motivation to persevere with something, I’m sure it’ll help with that, but it’s really a book on how to navigate the whole of life – short chapters with themes such as perseverance, avoiding procrastination, and building on truth. With a title like “Never Give Up”, you might wonder whether it’ll make you feel condemned over past failures. I don’t think it does. On the contrary, it encourages you to move on from your past in order to embrace your future. I especially liked the chapters where the author gave examples from his own life. He says his style is to write short chunks with humour added in. He does this very well; some of his illustrations made me laugh out-loud.

I was looking forward to this book by John Mason because I reviewed (and enjoyed) his previous one – “Proverbs Prayers”. This is similar, in that it would be beneficial to have in your Kindle library to refer back to. I think my mum would like this book because she loves quotations, and this is packed full of them. A couple of my favourites? “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”, and: “Too much analysis always equals paralysis”.

If you Love the Bible Like Me

I signed up to review “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible” for Bethany House because I love the Bible. I didn’t know what standpoint the author would come from – whether I’d be passionately agreeing or wanting to argue with him. As it turned out, I particularly liked the part at the beginning where he writes that we’re all students of the Bible, and we may want to argue certain of his points. It takes humility to say that.

On the whole, I thought the book was very good. He helps you to think deeply about the stories and what they teach, and there are some great principles on interpreting the Bible in his conclusion. The author says he’s the type of person who likes a debate; well, the chapter I’d want to debate most with him would be chapter 11, but he seems a very genuine man who wouldn’t mind that.

I’d recommend this book if you love the Bible, too. I’d quite like to read another of his, “Love That Rescues”, but sadly it’s not available on Kindle.

Thorn Thursday

A few years ago, a friend sent me a very good talk by Hal Lindsey called “The Week that Changed the World”. What Hal basically says is that rather than Jesus dying on Friday, He actually died on Thursday because there were two Sabbaths in a row that week – the Passover Sabbath and the regular, weekly Sabbath. I’ve been reading Mark’s gospel recently where we have an account of Palm Sunday, Monday, and up to Tuesday night, then it jumps to the Passover meal Jesus eats with His friends. Why shouldn’t that have taken place on Wednesday, followed the next day by His crucifixion?

There’s another reason I believe this – because Jesus Himself said: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Three days and three nights? Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and on Sunday He rose again. It all makes sense, but we can witness to His death any time we like. The important thing is that we remember it. I have no problem doing that with other Christians on the Friday, even though I think it’s a day too late.

Because He wore that crown of thorns for us, maybe instead of Good Friday, we could have ‘Thorn Thursday’.