Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Hope For America

My country is bleeding right now. Divided into two separate sides. At least that's what a lot of people are thinking, that the other half of the population has no understanding of how their feeling, that they're belief system is twisted and wrong.
I've seen the evidence of this belief on both sides of the argument.
What scares me the most though, is how black and white we think the issue is, when really it's a lot more muddy and grey.
Lessons from Harry Potter
I was talking with a friend this morning, who was telling me how nervous he is for the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He has a strong dislike for the director, David Yates, because Yates focuses more on style than on character.
When I asked him what he meant, he started describing the differences Yates made to the last few Harry Potter movies to what actually happened in the books.
The best example he gave me was when in the book, Harry tells an enemy, Peter Pettigrew, that he forgives him and if his parents were alive, they'd forgive him too. Peter is so moved by this astonishing forgiveness; he knows he's so completely unworthy of it - being the one who helped murder Harry's parents - but he's eager to live up to this incredible forgiveness and decides to help Harry and his friends escape.
In the movie version, Harry and his friends just knock Peter out and escape and the story suffers as a consequence. The message of forgiveness is lost completely.
My friend kept talking about how the characters are not black and white, they are a mix and I can't help think of the correlation to what I see happening in the US.
We've become a people so fixed on blaming the other side for the splinter in their eye that we've forgotten to take the log out of our own eye first (Matthew chapter 7, verse 5). There is no side that is all right and no side that is all wrong.
The more we point the finger, the more divided we'll become.
Lessons from The Project
The night of the election, I watched Channel TEN's The Project. I've always liked their more laid back way of sharing the news, but I was surprised with a rather heated segment.
Steve Price and Jamila Rizvi exchanged, what I felt, was an uncharacteristically tense conversation.
Jamila was asked a question, and Steve Price started sharing his opinion. He didn't get far into his opinion when Jamila started to explain what she felt about what he was saying. What followed was an awkward few moments of both trying to say their piece, until Price went quiet. Jamila finished what she had to say and Price came back with, "This is why Donald Trump won..."
What I noticed was that both parties were in the wrong, but only one was called out on their tone. My point is not to place blame on one or the other. In fact, I've strived to be as non-biased as possible with even my word choice in describing the situation, because what I want to focus on is that both made wrong choices. Both of them fought to be heard over the other. BUT, both of them are human beings, fallible and prone to make mistakes.
What I'm getting at, is that we all make mistakes.
The majority of people on both sides of the vote were not "out to get" the other side, but that's what we're all believing now.
I have friends tell me, "The other side may have meant well, but now I'm living in fear of what will happen to me." And what may surprise you, is that I hear that from Hilary supporters AND Trump supporters.
Half of my country is scared that the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation are going to be ridiculed and bullied. The other half are scared that they're going to be ridiculed and bullied because they voted for Trump and therefore must be bigots and rednecks.
We've stereotyped BOTH sides and it's killing us. It has to stop.
The only way I see it stopping is for us to be more like Harry Potter. To recognise that once, Peter Pettigrew was a close friend of his parents' and the only way to end the "war" is to extend his hand in forgiveness.
My country will continue to bleed until every American chooses the higher road of forgiveness. Until we can look at the other side and stop seeing it as the "other side" and recognise them as people. Neighbours, friends, even family.
In his acceptance speech, President-elect Donald Trump said, "Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division... to all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."
I don't know if he really meant those words or if he was pandering to a crowd. But the people of the US have the opportunity to choose to be united or not. No one man can change us, or unite us - no president ever has - it's going to take every single one of us to make the choice.
Can we do it?
Can we choose to lay aside our differences and hurt and be the bigger person and forgive? Can we focus on what we have in common and really choose love for one another over pointed fingers and hatred? I truly hope so and this is what I will continue to pray for.

This is my hope for my country.

Originally published on Christian Today

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Daystar: The Days are Numbered by Anne Hamilton - A Review

Daystar: The Days Are NumberedDaystar: The Days Are Numbered by Anne Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Daystar: The Days are Numbered is a children's fantasy novel I recently read. The story follows young prince Ansey as he and his new friends go on an adventure that could change their lives and if they're successful, save the ancient principality of Auberon-Zamberg.

The world Anne Hamilton created for her characters is full of fascinating creatures and cultures. There are frost giants, dwarves and knights. Talking foxes and magical Powers that hint to more than meets the eye. There were a few times I found myself getting lost in the story and wanting to see just around the corner.

One of the things I appreciated most about the story was what it was encouraging in the reader. It's a story of teamwork and perseverance. Of finding identity and discovering the armor of God. And ultimately it's a story of trusting the Ancient of Days.

I thought it was a very clever way to tell children about the armor of God. I've always been a big believer that the things God has for us are much more tangible than we think. So reading Hamilton's tale of finding Powers and seeing the allegory of them being the armor of God made me smile.

It's a tale I would have loved to tell.

There were only a few parts that felt false to me. There is a character who is autistic. While I love the idea of an autistic character, it felt a bit forced. More preachy than letting me, the reader, discover more about how a person with autism acts. However, knowing this is a children's book, reminded me that it would have to be written more that way in order for children to understand.

So. While it was one thing I didn't particularly care for, it also made me realize how much I'd forgotten I was reading a kids book. My love for story had consumed me until that moment.

Daystar reminded me of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and John White's The Sword Bearer. It's rich story world and characters came to life in my mind and I for one, hope Anne Hamilton writes more adventures with Ansey and his companions.

If you have children, I encourage you to go and purchase this novel and read it with your kids.

You can purchase Daystar: The Days are Numbered on Amazon.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Ancient Paths

Life is suffering. An up-hill battle, an adventure.

A constant struggling forward.

Lately the weight of life has gotten me down. I've spent a few nights crying myself to sleep. Wondering what on earth I'm doing with my life. 

On the outside, it looks like I have it all. I'm a filmmaker. Producing my first feature film. Working in an office of wonderful people, who I get to adventure with. I'm writing a novel and part of the worship team at church. I have great friends and a loving family. I have all the creature comforts I could want and am surrounded with good things.

On paper, I've got a pretty charmed life.

But the life of a creative is a constant struggle. And that's ok.

Because without a little conflict, life would get pretty boring. I don't want a life of all highs and no lows.

It's in the lows I remember to crawl back to my Papa and cry for his help. It's then I remember, I've got an amazing God, who is using every present struggle for the working of my good.

His plans are for our good.

If there is one thing I can stress to those who are going through a difficult time. Even if it feels like that difficult time is always. On-going.

Do yourself a favor. Turn to Papa God. He's the only one who can meet you exactly where you are.

I've been listening to Bethel's new album, Have it All, and been reminded that when I focus on the struggle - I will be overwhelmed.

But if I focus on God and His phenomenal amazingness - I will overcome.

As soon as we tell God that He can, indeed, "have it all." That stress and worry. That frustration, it will lighten. I don't mean it will go away. I'm still facing a big giant, but my perspective has changed. I can't see the giant, because I'm too transfixed by the glory of my Daddy.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls."

Oh that we would turn our hearts back to God and take those ancient paths.

Think about an ancient path for a moment. What does it look like? Where would it be found?

I imagine those roads are not easy to navigate. They're probably overgrown. Full of wild things. In hard to reach locations. Where only the brave and courageous can find them.

And even then, I bet they are hidden to the naked eye.

Ah. But don't you know? It is the glory of God to conceal things, and the glory of man to seek them out!

To search something out is not going to be easy. But, He's told us not to fear, because He's redeemed us. Called us by name, and said that we are His.

If that isn't enough. He's also given us a promise.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Is. 43:2

"I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord." Is. 45:3

I don't know about you, but I want to find those ancient paths. I want to seek out the things God has hidden. To walk forward - through the struggles - and know there will come a day when the struggle will have it's work in me.

And I'll come out the other end a stronger person.

Both in faith and relationship to the One who walked me through it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What Watchman Nee taught me...

Sit, Walk, StandSit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A rare book, full of simple truths. I find it hard to believe I've never read one of Watchman Nee's books before.

That will definitely change.

Not only is his writing full of genuine sincerity, but somehow he's able to take all the complexities we Christians get distracted with and make them simple truths so easy to understand and believe.

God's word is "Stand!" "Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." The Greek verb "stand" with its following preposition "against" in verse 11 really means "hold your ground." There is a precious truth hidden in that command of God. It is not a command to invade a foreign territory. Warfare, in modern parlance, would imply a command to "march." Armies march into other countries to occupy and to subdue. God has not told us to do this. We are not to march but to stand. The word "stand" implies that the ground disputed by the enemy is really God's, and therefor ours. We need not struggle to gain a foothold on it.

The verses he's talking about here happen to be from my favorite book of the bible, Ephesians. And they happen to be from my favorite chapter, chapter 6, so you can imagine my surprise when at 32 I'm still able to learn something profound and new about a well-loved and well-read book and chapter.

But perhaps my favorite part of this book came at the end, after Watchman Nee tells a story of how God moved to show His power to an entire island.

Nee and seven others took a trip to an island and asked God to let it rain on a day that was celebrated by all the islands inhabitants to their god. Of course, God shows up and it's awesome. What brought me to tears is what followed. Nee lost touch with one of the men who'd played an integral part in God's plan and when he ran into him years later, he asked the man if he still followed God. The man's response broke my heart, but not in the way you'd think.

"Mr. Nee!" he said, "do you mean to say that after all we went through I could ever forsake him?"

There is an incredible love and devotion behind those words. An unwavering, no-nonsense and no-room-for-doubt kind of faith that I want in my life and that I am pursuing like a pearl of great price or buried treasure.

If you haven't read this book and you call yourself a Christian, please, go buy it and read it now. Let this man's life be an example to you.

Read it!

View all my reviews

Friday, February 19, 2016

Review of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly, I had a hard time getting into this story. There were elements I liked, and a few chapters I couldn't put down, but over all, I never became attached to the characters like I normally do. I suspect however, that this is a failing on my part and not the author. I think there were too many times I became distracted and just read the words without understanding the sentences.

I will say the end shocked me. I literally made a noise when I read the last sentence because it ended in such a way that I was not ready for it to end.

I think I'll need to re-read this someday to fully understand some of the artsy and poetic stuff I missed.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Glimpses of Light, the contining tour

You can purchase your copy on amazon
It's my turn to promote Glimpses of Light on this wonderful Blog Tour.

I hope you've enjoyed all the stops so far & if you've missed them, then you should start at the very beginning, someone once told me it's the very best place to start.

 So, if you fall into that category & you want all the juicy details of this tour de force then head over to Nola's post and follow the yellow brick road until you come back to this one.

Now, for you more serious tourists who've been following all along, you'll know I have the honor of continuing this lovely tour after the incomparable Adam Collings. Fellow author of speculative fiction, who hails from the great land of Tasmanian Devils, aka Tasmania. If you missed his post, please check it out, it's quite cool to hear how he came up with his amazing short story for Glimpses of Light and be sure to leave a comment on his post about what you most appreciate about light for your chance to win one of his great giveaways!

Where to begin?
It's an honor to be a part of this unique anthology.

When Jeanette O'Hagan & Nola L. Passmore were looking for entries for their anthology themed around the idea of 'glimpses of light', I couldn't sign up fast enough.

This is the first time I've done something like this.

In fact this is the very first story I've had published & I learned a lot about myself through the experience.

Specifically, I learned I've been hiding my art behind fear. I was living with the same question I've written in bold above. Where was I to begin?

I knew I wanted to be an author, but how does one go from wanting something to actually being something?

By taking risks.

So, gathering all my nervous energy, I sat in my slate winged chair, placed my laptop in front of me & began to dream up a story to submit.

What to write?

As my fingers hit the keys a story began to unfold & my dystopian speculative short story, The Last Blood Moon, came into existence.

The story follows Merillya, who is on the verge of adulthood. She's been given a unique gift that could change the world, but is Society ready to change? Is she?

The inspiration came from the theme itself & what could go wrong.

Conflict is the best friend an author can have.

And I was definitely feeling conflicted about submitting my story. All those nasty "what if's" started to bounce around my mind & I almost backed out, but then even the characters in my story began to threaten violence if I didn't follow through.

Ultimately, I realized the theme of my story would become a think of hypocrisy if I backed out.

How to move forward?

I submitted my piece & waited on the edge of my seat to find out if my story had been selected. It felt like it took an eternity & I kept telling myself not to get my hopes up. Then finally, an email came.

And, well, you know the result.

What I've learned from this process is that I do, indeed, really love to write & create. I even love the editing process & getting constructive criticism on my work.

It wakes something in me to hear what's working & what's not.

But the biggest thing I learned came when I received my own printed copy of Glimpses of Light Anthology.

I realized I'm part of something bigger.

Not only do I have the privilege of having my little short story compiled together with other amazing authors & their stories, but my creativity was helping someone else.

All the proceeds of this anthology are going to CBM Australia (formerly known as Christian Blind Mission) who are giving sight to the blind among other things.

My creative talents are helping the blind.

Pretty surreal.

Pretty mind-boggling.

And super humbling.

Where to finish? Or, how you can win!

Well, if you've stuck with me this far, then I've got a challenge for you.

What God-given talent is fear holding back in your life?

Leave a comment below answering this question for your chance to win a copy of Glimpses of Light. This competition is open to everyone, except the contributors of Glimpses of Light Anthology.

*Hint - The better plan you've got to stop fear, the better your chance to win and be inspired by all the stories of light and hope.

Stay tuned!

Be sure to check in next week, 19th of January, to hear from Lynne Stringer. She's been a professional journalist & editor. Has written screenplays & novels. Her debut novel, The Heir, was released in 2013 & is the first book in her Verindon trilogy which was completed in 2014. She's an amazing author & I for one am looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

I hope you're inspired to use your gifts and talents.  You never know who it's going to help.

Live fully.