23 March 2020

Glory


Where is the glory? I loved times in the past when God's presence could be tangibly felt, when a mere whiff of His glory filled a room and knocked me off my feet.

Life was good then, it was easy to have faith in God, to believe that He was good and loved me and was all-powerful.

But, where is the glory now?

Mental health issues, other significant life events I could do without, and now the coronavirus. The UK is (finally) on something of a lockdown, suddenly my weekly online shop at Asda has gone out of the window because everyone else now wants to shop online, and life feels very uncertain.

I've seen other people suffering on the television: Syria, Yemen, Iraq, UK flooding victims, people who've lost everything. But somehow it was far away and couldn't touch me, it would never happen to me.

Today life feels overwhelming with mental and physical ill health, job insecurity and now the danger of coronavirus when I'm suddenly one of the vulnerable.

I don't like it. I'm scared. Where is the glory now? I want God to come striding in and sort it all out, to make the virus go away, and bring peace and stability back into my life again.

But maybe this path for now needs to be stony and harsh. It's tough and I don't like it.

The path to glory always goes through suffering. Even Jesus couldn't have the glory without suffering first. He's promised not to abandon me and to provide for my needs. Do I have faith for this? I hope so; a tiny bit will do.

Glory follows suffering as surely as sunshine follows rain and spring follows winter.

So come on, girl, trust Him. Glory is just around the corner.

08 March 2020

God on Mute

I imagine there aren't many books dealing authentically with the pain and crushing disappointment of unanswered prayer.

God on Mute by Pete Greig is necessary.

I first read it a few months after my life changed abruptly following the re-emergence of long-buried traumatic childhood memories. I'd suffered through a year of mental health issues, grief, anger, huge loss and loneliness. I was raging at God and wondered if I'd lost my faith, indeed whether it was even worth having faith in Him.

Then I got hold of this book.

When you feel you're broken into a thousand pieces and fragile, this is a safe book to read. Pete doesn't gloss over pain with well-meaning platitudes. He knows how it feels. He goes to dark places and looks at the difficult questions.

I found this book so helpful and healing. It's one I keep coming back to and each time I get more out of it.

It is split into four sections, based on the traumatic events at the end of Jesus' life:

  • Maundy Thursday: How Am I Going To Get Through This?
  • Good Friday: Why Aren't My Prayers Being Answered?
  • Holy Saturday: Where Is God When Heaven Is Silent?
  • Easter Sunday: When Every Prayer Is Answered.

Pete writes in a balanced, gentle, real way. He believes in miracles; he's seen God do some truly amazing things within and through the 24/7 prayer movement. But he also knows there are times when God is silent and the much-needed, longed-for miracle doesn't happen. What then?

If you are struggling with horrible circumstances, angry with God for being silent and not coming through for you, I highly recommend this book.

I've awarded it 5* though it's easily worth twice that.



05 February 2020

A Stranger on the Beach

Once again, I loved Michele Campbell's (third) psychological thriller.

It is written in two narratives: alternating the points of view of characters Caroline Stark and Aidan Callahan. One narrative can be trusted, the other is lies. But which is which?

Caroline is a rich woman with a beautiful showy mansion on the beach. Her husband Jason is successful and well-respected in a good job. They have a daughter in college. Their lives appear perfect.

But then Jason turns up at Caroline's big house-warming party with an attractive younger woman. Everyone, including Caroline, presumes she is his mistress.

Divorce proceedings begin.

Caroline is heartbroken and seeks solace in the arms of handsome young stranger Aidan who is a bartender. But after one night of passion, Caroline becomes convinced that Aidan is stalking her and her family.

Aidan, however, is trying to convince Caroline that it is Jason who is dangerous and that he is simply trying to protect her and her daughter.

Everything comes to a head one night at the beach mansion during a category four storm. Terror in the dark, a knife, gun shots, lots of blood and an arrest for murder.

Another 5* from me. I can't wait to read more from Michele Campbell.


03 February 2020

The Murder at the Vicarage

This is Agatha Christie's first Miss Marple mystery and is set in St Mary Mead.

Various people, including the vicar, wish the bumptious Colonel Protheroe dead. When he is found murdered in the vicar's study, Miss Marple reckons there are seven clear suspects.

As the police (with unsolicited help from the vicar and Miss Marple) set out to find the murderer, there is much confusion over timings, shots and letters.

A gentle, easy-reading whodunnit, good for whiling away a rainy afternoon.

I'm happy to give it 4*.

31 January 2020

Life

This week's Five Minute Friday prompt is: LIFE.

Life is a funny thing....

After a relationship ending in my early twenties a friend assured me, 'You never know what's around the corner. You could be married with a baby on the way this time next year.'

I nodded along, not really believing a word she said. All I could see was a life of singleness stretching ahead of me and that's not what I wanted.

But it wasn't long before my lovely husband came along and we have now been happily married for a couple of decades.

A little over two years ago, we were hit with a juggernaut full of heartache and pain which brought with it mental ill health among other things. Twelve months in and I felt like I'd had enough. I was sick of traumatic memories from the past returning and throwing me into fresh mental and emotional turmoil.

I angrily yelled at God, 'I hate life!' I couldn't see any way out of the dark tunnel I found myself in. I wanted God to know how much I hated life because one of Jesus's titles in the New Testament is 'Life'. There were times I hated God.

Thankfully, Jesus is steering me through the dark tunnel and there are times now that I can even see a pinprick of light at the end of it.

Still, there are some days I'm less thrilled about being alive than others. But I do know now that Jesus is the meaning of life. Without Him I can't see the point, but with Him my life does have meaning.

30 January 2020

The Reckoning

In The Reckoning, John Grisham returns to Clanton immediately after WWII, so for regular readers of his books it feels like returning home.

Pete Banning is a WWII local hero. He was captured by the Japanese and tortured but escaped and turned guerrilla. Although his family believed him to be dead, they are thrilled when he finally returns home.

But less than a year later, Pete deliberately and cold-bloodedly shoots and kills Clanton's Methodist pastor.

Why? Is the question on everyone's lips. But Pete is refusing to talk.

The book is divided into three parts: the killing, the boneyard, and the betrayal.

In the boneyard, we learn a lot about the Bataan Death March and Japanese cruelty toward their POWs.

This book - to me - feels totally different to John Grisham's other novels. The law is mentioned but it's an earlier time and culture in the late 1940s in rural Mississippi is very different to today. But a large part of the book is focused on the bravery of American and Filipino POWs and guerrillas in the Philippine jungles and Japanese prison camps during WWII.

For me it is easily on a par with his earlier novels such as A Time to Kill or The Chamber in that it's a meaty book with a gripping storyline and issues to be considered. There is no feeling of the writing being a bit rushed as with some of his shorter, later books. This is full of good stuff and I anticipate it giving more each time I read it.

This is an easy 5* to award.

28 January 2020

The Children who Lived in a Barn

It was a kind aunt years ago who introduced me to Eleanor Graham's The Children who Lived in a Barn.

When Mr and Mrs Dunnet receive a telegam saying Mrs Dunnet's mother has had a serious accident, they arrange to fly at once to her. Set pre-WWII, they have no qualms about leaving their five children to look after themselves for a few days. Thirteen-year-old Sue is more than capable of caring for her younger brothers and sister.

Only the Dunnets are gone for much longer than a few days. In order to avoid problems with the landlord as well as the village busybodies interfering with them, Sue and her 11-year-old brother Bob along with twins Sambo and Jumbo and 7-year-old Alice take refuge in a local barn.

The children quickly realise that if life in the barn is going to work for them, they must have rules.

Rule Number One is: no begging, borrowing, scrounging or stealing.

Rule Number Two is: eat fair.

On pain of homes, orphanages and adoptions.

This is the fascinating story of how the children work hard to keep their independence while avoiding their enemies the dreaded DV (District Visitor), GP's wife Mrs Legge and the vicarage. But they find unexpected friends and help in the most unlikely of places along the way.

I love this book and was delighted to find a good quality secondhand copy. This is a story I enjoy coming back to over and over. It definitely deserves 5*.