Sunday 31 May 2015


But trust is a difficult thing.
It's one thing to say "I will follow" and another to do it.

And when God says you will not lack, it is one thing to accept that at heart level, and another to stop worrying needless about how that lack of lacking will come about. It's one thing to set out your plans and to work out a budget, and to put into place the pieces that need to be placed, and it's another to keep worrying about whether it will work.

Yet it's not the lack of finances that fills my head and heart. It's the lack of the other. And as hard as it is not to feel desperate, it's hard not to feel that void. It's hard not to doubt the goodness of God even though He has been good in every other way.

It's easy to say wait.
But waiting has been long.
And waiting has been hard.
And even more, the waiting is harder when people assume you do not have because you do not want.

And you wonder why it seems so simple for other people when it's so confusing for you. When you struggle with a heart that still desires even though your reason says it won't work, and your spirit says wait and trust; so your heart, mind and soul are at odds with each other and you don't know what God is saying anymore, except


Friday 29 May 2015

#Fridayflash: Madeira Red

Max was good at twiddling his thumbs. He had nothing to do that sweltering afternoon after lunch, so he sat in Nando's Gurney Plaza twiddling them, watching the world pass him by. A hundred frantic shoppers later, he'd drifted off into a bit of a stupor, so when he looked up and saw a tall, long-haired guy approaching his table, he fairly jumped out of his skin. He eyed his Madeira Red suspiciously, wondering if there had been alcohol in it. They wouldn't. They'd lose their halal license. But he couldn't quite wrap his head around the fact that a very much younger version of himself had just plonked his extremely thin derriere on the chair in front of him and was grinning at him like a maniac.
"Crazy, isn't it?" Young Max said as he beckoned a waiter.
"How - who -"
"What, why, when?" That cocksure grin again. "Ice lemon tea, please." The waiter nodded and walked away.
Max finished gaping. "Are you really me? How is this possible?" He cast another dubious glance at his drink.
Young Max followed his gaze. "It's just pomegranate juice and Sprite. And sugar."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm quite sure that I'm real and that you're not drunk. You stopped drinking a long time ago, remember?"
"Yes - but if you're a younger version of me, how would you know?"
"Because I'm not."
"Not me?"
"Not a younger version of you. I'm a different version of you."

Fifteen minutes later, Time Travelling Max leaned back in his chair, nibbling at his straw as Max leaned his forehead on his open palms and groaned.
"I have no idea how to understand what you just said."
"That's okay. It's not important. You just have to remember what I'm here to tell you."
"Why are you here?"
"You haven't been listening, have you?"
"I've been trying!" Max barely stopped himself from pounding the table.
"Temper, temper. I know how it is. That's where those scars came from, right?"
"Oh how much you know, but how little you understand!"
Time Travelling Max fell silent, contemplating his remark. "That is true. I've only studied what you've been through. I do not think I will understand." He shook his head as if to rouse himself. "It doesn't matter. The only thing of importance here is the message."
"Which is?"
"Things are not as they seem."
Max scowled. "What's that supposed to mean?" He watched as his other self opened his mouth, lifted a finger and then froze.
"Apparently not supposed to tell you. Just remember that. Things are not as they seem. I have to go now. Thanks for the drink."
Max gaped as he got up and rushed away.

Seconds later, Max went back to twiddling his thumbs, solemnly swearing to himself that he would never drink Madeira Red ever again. Wasn't worth the price and the (he was quite sure) hallucinations.


This is a Max story, written under duress.
Maximillian Chan (Max) is a long-haired, tattooed, gangster/biker type dude that first appeared in my 2003 NaNoWriMo. AND THEN SOMEONE GREW AN UNHEALTHY OBSESSION WITH HIM.
I don't know if that's 700 words. It's probably round about the 200 range.
But that's too bad.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

#bookreview: The Blasphemer by John Ling

I have to admit that I took a very long time to getting round to reading this book.
I first received an e-copy when it came out (way back when) as part of a giveaway on my friend's blog. It was always - "I must read it", but it got buried under more urgent reads, more enticing blurbs. I do read thrillers, but not as often. And then he offered free copies (again) as part of, I think, NoiseTrade so I decided it was probably time to get to it.

Well anyway, here it is.

The Blasphemer: The Complete NovelThe Blasphemer: The Complete Novel by John Ling
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Abraham Khan is attacked by a Muslim fundamentalist for releasing a book condemning radical Islam, Maya Raines is put on the job to keep Khan and his wife safe. Maya's ex-partner, Adam Larsen, is tasked to keep his ear on the ground and find out who else might be after Khan.

One good thing about The Blasphemer is the diversity Ling brings into the book. It's more complex than the generic white American Christian vs Fundamentalist Muslim thriller, bringing up the all too real tension that exists between progressive Islam and radical, fundamentalist Islam. The cast is also varied, taken from a wide spectrum of ethnicities, reflecting the growing globalisation and multiculturalism of city centres.

I quite enjoyed The Blasphemer as a short-ish, fairly light read. Not as heavy as the Le Carre I'm currently reading.

Ling, however, has a tendency to either turn a little didactic in his narrative, especially when talking about Islam. Perhaps he feels that people need to know more about the religion and the tensions that exist within the community, to show the world that Islam isn't all bad. That's not a bad thing to bring up. It's just that he often comes across as a little preachy.

The writing also tends to get excessively choppy in certain parts of the book, as if Ling is trying to up the pace and tension, or maybe to sound a little more... conversational? For some reason, this didn't really work for me. It just grated. Maybe I just like long sentences.

So, while I did think The Blasphemer was a pretty okay read, I don't know if I'm enticed enough to read more of his books.

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Note: Because April was full up due to the A to Z challenge and I had several other book reviews already in line, this only got scheduled to today.
But apparently, John Ling has released a revised version of The Blasphemer. So this review is probably obsolete. Unless you have a copy of the earlier version.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

#bookreview: Meant for Greater Things by John Mickus

Meant for Greater ThingsMeant for Greater Things by John Mickus
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jasper Joyce is an adorably awkward geek who's trying to change the world. It's clear from the beginning that he doesn't quite fit into society, but it's not entirely clear why. After all, he seems like a pretty smart guy - he works with lasers and satellites and reads really difficult books about physics and solar panels. He enjoys hiking and taking pictures. Yet on the other hand, he needs to coach himself constantly to be able to interact with people properly and to pass a job interview and seems incapable of going grocery shopping. Meeting women - especially a very attractive one like Violet Downing - is a whole other challenge.

Meant for Greater Things is a bit of a draggy read - up until the middle of the book, I was still wondering where it was going. It was maybe somewhere about 2/3rds in to the book that some things started to get clarified a little. I suppose that's one of the reasons why I tend not to prefer stories written in the first person - it limits what the author can reveal at any given time, and when things take a long time to unfold, the reader is left hanging. (I'm impatient. I want the characters to TELL ME ALREADY.)

Overall though, Mickus' debut novel is an interesting soft(ish) science fiction read. It cycles a little around time travel and efficient energy systems, satellite tech and software coding, but is not too tech heavy that you get lost in details.

* I was gifted a copy of this ebook by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Sunday 17 May 2015

Redeeming the arts, not just reviling it

We had this seminar today which cued a lot of eye rolling and snide remarks from me. Because I am a horrible human being. I am not afraid to admit that. Haha. I was wondering if I should start a rant about it and then I got distracted and then I decided maybe not. But I'm here now. Typing. So.

I guess the most important thing I have to say about this whole... whole.. thing, is really this:
If your God is greater, stronger, mightier, more powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent, redeemer, higher, creator and ruler of all, don't you think that you have nothing to worry about?

Because at the root of it all, this is blatant fear-mongering. If I may be so bold, I would say that whilst it is true that symbols do have power and we should be careful about what we watch, read and listen to, going witch hunting for symbols in everything in the world is not useful in any sense. Look - if you really want to find something, you will find it. You can fit anything into your theories after the fact, but is that really what you want to do? [DUH TRIANGLES AND CIRCLES EXIST EVERYWHERE HELLO! BEE HIVES AND OWLS AND LIGHTING BOLTS WERE CREATED BY GOD DUH] If anything, it's only going to create a culture of fear whereby you might as well go live in a cave or become Amish.

You think the Chinese are superstitious? Try the Christians. *rolls eyes*

Okay - so you can point out a gazillion examples of how the media is influencing us in the wrong ways and throw out statistics like how there's only 4% of homosexuals in America vs 40% evangelicals but how they are over-represented in media (I'm just dumping numbers off the top of my head from what I remember was said - not sure if they're correct). Why is that, you ask?


Because the people who have gone before you, and who have put all this "information" on the net for you to "research" and "preach" about, have done a very fine job of scaring off the Christians from the entertainment industry so that there are NO PRODUCERS OF GOOD CONTENT LEFT.

And by "good" I don't just mean "quality" - I mostly mean wholesome (though if wholesome isn't very entertaining, it's also not very good).

The answer to deception and manipulation by the media is not to run away. It is not to cry foul and say "how can you produce such awful, evil things! Remove it from our sight! We are so holy we can't see this! It's a bad industry! Stay away from it!" The answer is not to pull ourselves out of the world and refuse to get involved.

The answer is to counter-produce - to flood the market with good, holy, wholesome things that will inundate the industry with good. The answer is to give the people a choice. To put God back into the culture and references of the world. They may not always choose the good - but if there is no choice, then there is no conversation, and what are you complaining about?

It's no use to only always ever be pointing people away from something. People need something to head towards. So if you're going to be warning people about how bad the entertainment industry has gotten, you had also better be able to start pointing those same people to good examples of how the entertainment industry can and has changed the world for the better.

After all, isn't that what redemption is all about?

Okay. So I ranted. Sorry, couldn't help it.

The point here is this: we need to change the narrative that says
"we pull ourselves out of this [sphere] because [all these bad things] are happening, and all the people involved act in [these certain kinds of ways that we disagree with] and we don't want to be influenced by them" 
and instead say
"despite all the [things we disagree with] that are happening, we will continue to be involved in this [sphere] in order to be able to influence them for good because we believe that God has called us to redeem His creation by our presence in this [sphere] and among these people."
Because then, and only then, can we really make a difference in the world.


Wednesday 13 May 2015

#bookreview: Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby

Spare ChangeSpare Change by Bette Lee Crosby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"The Good Lord don't do things that way. When he sees a person's flat out of hope and feeling dead broke, He slips a bit of spare change into the bottom of their pocket. Not a lot maybe, but enough for them to get by."

Spare Change is a story of hope and a future, not just for orphaned Ethan Allen, but for newly-widowed Olivia Ann.
When Olivia's husband, Charlie Doyle, dies just 22 days after their wedding, in the middle of their honeymoon, she blames it on herself for not watching the signs - the eleventh day of their honeymoon and that opal she really should have refused.
Ethan Allen is the sole witness to the brutal murder of both his parents, but he can't tell because the murderer might kill him. Running away from home, he sets off to find the grandfather he's never met, only to find himself stuck with his grieving widow.

I quite enjoyed reading Spare Change. In her charming Southern voice, Crosby interweaves the stories of these two disparate people from very different worlds and binds them in a knot of love and family that is increasingly hard to find. She fleshes out her characters so well that you feel Susanna's pain of frequently dashed dreams, even if you don't like the way she's carrying on with that Scooter Cobb, and you understand Ethan's frequent foul-mouthed outbursts grown out of habit and fear, even if you agree with Olivia that he should stop it.

I think what broke it (a little) for me was the last two chapters. It was maybe kind of necessary to tie up the story, but it felt a little forced and out of place.

* I received a free copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday 11 May 2015

#bookreview: An Infinite Loop by Dan Rix

Special delivery!
I don't usually post book reviews on Mondays, but here's one from Dan Rix.

An Infinite Loop, book 3 of Dan Rix's Timeloopers series, was launched last week. He's an awesome writer who gives me free books to review, and since I love most of his stuff, that works out well for both of us. =)

Anyway, the Timeloopers series starts with A Strange Machine, followed by The Ghost At Retreat Lake, and now An Infinite Loop. Now I just gotta wait for book 4: The Man with Two Pasts.

An Infinite Loop (Timeloopers, #3)An Infinite Loop by Dan Rix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh gosh. This book was tantalizing from start to finish. I would like to gush, but I don't gush (right).

Cory, being Cory, lands himself and Iris in big trouble when he accidentally sends her into an infinite timeloop. What that means, really, is that she's stuck in the stupid time machine and can't escape because Cory made an error in the code. Which means... she's dead.

What results is a heartbreaking story of a Cory trying to make amends, and trying to figure out how to save the girl he finally realises that he doesn't actually hate. (Ah, I guess I'm a little more okay with this now than I was when reading The Ghost At Retreat Lake)

Rix is getting better at this alternate timeline stuff too. Where in The Ghost At Retreat Lake it felt like there were dual story lines that didn't jive (whether on purpose or not, it just felt jarring), it just seems to flow one after another in this book. There's still the inevitable repeating timelines, told from past and future Cory/Iris, but it seems to pick up seamlessly from where the other story line let off.

And seriously, I'm glad that Cory isn't as annoying a jerk as he used to be. Though what's with all the annoying girls? I'd like to slap Sam, Anneliese and Pris and tell them to grow up. I'd also sometimes like to slap Iris as well, though I kind of get where she's coming from with Cory being an idiot.

*I received a pre-release copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Though to be honest I just like his stuff. Lol.

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Sunday 10 May 2015

To all artists: You are called

Exodus 31 (NASB)The Skilled Craftsmen
Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship (workmanship), 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. 6 And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful (wise of heart) I have put skill (wisdom), that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, 8 the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.”*
I love the fact that NASB puts it as "I have called by name" and "I Myself have appointed" as compared to the very vanilla "I have chosen" and "I have appointed" in the NIV. Does it make a difference? Probably not. (Mr. Exact Translations would probably disagree. Bwahahaha)

But the fact remains that in the narratives of our lives, the knowledge that God has chosen you - not just simply any "you", but called you by name and appointed you personally - is incredibly important. It's the difference between receiving, say, a generic employment letter, and being personally called by the CEO of a large multinational to be told, "hey, [your name], you're hired!" And then he doesn't stop there. He goes on to say "I've also given you everything you need to make sure you do the job well." 
(Maybe not a very exact analogy.)

The most beautiful part of this passage (for me) is that these two guys, Bezalel and Oholiab, as well as "all who are skillful" aren't being called into some holy-type job, such as the priesthood - though there's another whole passage about those who are - but they're called into doing craftsmanship. 

It's a clear difference to the normal narrative of today, where you're usually "called" into missions or "called" into ministry. Here, they're called into being artisans... or artists. We don't really work in gold, silver and bronze anymore. Jewellery making and wood carving are also not that common. But if you really want to translate what they do into modern terms, what they did was build the tabernacle, and all the beautiful things in it: 
- The tabernacle needed these curtains of so-and-so sizes and such-and-such design? Sure, we know how to make that. 
- You need a gold design on that there sacred item? Yeah, that's the kind of thing I know how to do.  
It's kind of like saying, you're called to be an interior designer so that the church can look beautiful. You're called to do flower arrangements so people can enjoy the flowers we put up every week. You're called to graphic design and web design because that's what the church needs at this point of time. It's the everyday, mundane stuff, which doesn't seem so very important in the grand scheme of things.  

I'm finding it difficult to say what I have in mind because in someways it seems just so trivial. But the thing is that the physical beauty of the tabernacle, the temple, and the churches of old was very important because that was the outward, physical representation of God to the world. And buildings was their primary way of representation because it's there - it's big, it's large, it looms in your sight and it was a place that people gathered.

In our very tech-driven, digital world, it isn't the physical beauty that is paramount. It's the way God is represented in our online world. Why? Because where buildings was where one generation used to live and gather and build community, a large bulk of that has moved over into the digital world. And though buildings and physical things cannot be eliminated, I would dare to say that our digital, online presence is our primary way of representation because it's there - it's big, it's large, it looms in your sight and it is a place that people gather. 

So we don't do "artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood" anymore, but we do "artistic designs for work in websites, forums, and blogs, and in the making of videos and in graphic design." Or something like that. And the Spirit of God is equally in you, as it is in the pastor of your church.

As this commentator says:
It is definitely notable that a very obscure craftsman like Bezalel is just as filled with the spirit as the much better known Joseph son of Jacob, who is responsible for saving his entire family from the famine.  Just as Moses is told all of the divine plans for the construction of these various articles, it means nothing to have a divine plan without having a divinely skilled craftsman to carry them out, and that is what we find here.

* Emphasis mine. 

Friday 8 May 2015

#fridayflash: Rest

She stood on the edge, her arms spread wide. The wind lifted her hair off the nape of her neck, tying it in tangles. She tilted her head back, the sunlight falling on her eyelids, glinting off the tears on her head that belied the smile on her lips.
She didn't know how she could be so certain and yet so unsure; so wild and yet so steady. Like she was two different people, warring with each other and yet inexplicably at peace.
It was conflicting. Confusing.
And yet strangely clear.
He came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, enveloping her with the smell of earth. Grass. Freshness. Life.
"Ready. Are you?"
She smiled nervously in reply.
"It's okay."
She dropped her hands to his, nails digging into the back of his hands, drawing strength from his warmth, from his grip. "I don't know if I'll ever be ready. But I guess that this is the best that I can do for now."
"I love you," he whispered into her ear.

Thursday 7 May 2015

#AtoZChallenge: Reflection

Eh. I suppose I should do my reflections post, though there isn't much for me to reflect on.

A to Z this year was mostly on autopilot. I was able to schedule most of my posts by the end of March, with a few done in April itself. Actually, past the first week, I hardly even visited other bloggers, partly because I was trying to concentrate on my editing (hah) and also partly because I was out a lot.

Not the best of participants. Sorry. Just too much going on in my life right now.

The only thing I can add to this was that the page view stats for April blew my mind. Highest ever in the history of my blog.

I suppose I did something right.

Thanks y'all. Hope to see you around!

Wednesday 6 May 2015

#bookreview: The Atlantis Deception by Nick Thacker

The Atlantis DeceptionThe Atlantis Deception by Nick Thacker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A summary of my reaction to this book in simple terms:

What? Whaaaatt.... What? What! What. WHAT?!

In more comprehensive terms:
I was a little confused at the beginning of the book. Maybe if I had read the original book it's based on, I might have a little more clue as to what was happening. Or maybe not. Well, the premise itself wasn't very confusing, but the repeatedly annoying allusion as to some major "decision" they made that was affecting them got a little confusing when no one wanted to actually say WHAT that decision was until midway through the book. I hate that.

Once they got that little detail out of the way, things got better, though I couldn't really see the relevance of that seemingly stupid decision.

Until I did. And then I went, huh, really? But why?

More revelations abound and things are starting to fall into place. I did get a little engrossed in the book although it really IS a very short book (I think I started reading at about 7.30pm whilst eating dinner and finished it at about 9.30pm, during which time I also cleared up the dinner table and washed the dishes and lazed about a little, so really, actual reading time is only a little over an hour. SO SHORT.)

Okay. Plot twist that I didn't expect, but seems somewhat plausible. I'm not sure exactly what to think about it. But it moves the story along, so I guess it's fine.

And then I get to like 97% of the book, and the final denouement is about to take place and my head is going "nonononononono. I know what's going to happen, and it's going to be so expected but so tragic and also so...[insert feeling that I don't know how to express]"
And yeah, it happened.

I think I read too much.

* Also, disclaimer that I was "gifted" this book by the author in exchange for an honest review as part of his review drive and giveaway.

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Saturday 2 May 2015

Book recommendations

Just dropping by to say that I read these 2 books over the last 2 days and I highly recommend them (Also, they're available for free).


Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis (The Swans Are Not Silent #6)Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis by John Piper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully, John Piper explores the work of George Herbert, George Whitefield and CS Lewis and their impact, not only on the lives of their audience, but on their own lives and the furtherance of the Gospel.

I have to admit that this is the first I've heard of George Herbert (not being a poetry buff) and of George Whitefield. But I guess it's never too late to learn :)

I think it's affirming to know that the effort we make with our words, both written and spoken, and the way that it is spoken (Whitefield appears to be a dramatist in his own right) is a wonderfully powerful thing that should be harnessed and used, rather than disregarded.

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I recommend this for Christian writers. Powerfully affirming, and also rather directional. Pick up a free copy from Desiring God. (Or buy it from Amazon)


The Real FaithThe Real Faith by Charles S. Price
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think in certain ways, this answers some of my questions about faith healings. And also affirms that you really can't *faith yourself* until it happens.

I have to think about this more.

But to really sum this book up in its core message (for me, at least) is that faith (for something specific to happen) isn't something that you work up and you try to make yourself believe. It's something that's deposited in by God and you will feel that affirmation in your spirit that tells you "it may be impossible, but since God is in it, He will do it."

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I got this in a bundle that I bought from Destiny Conference, but it's available online here. (Or just Google it. You'll find it.)

I just found the capitalisations and exclamation marks a little annoying at times. BECAUSE WHY YOU SHOUT SO MUCH! lol :)