31 August, 2015

Winter Collection

Well, technically, winter has come to an end. It’s been a short three months, and in some ways I’m sad to see it go. But then it will be nice to have warmer days, and who doesn’t like it when the grass gets greener, and the trees bud and leaf up, and flowers start to bloom? Actually, the last two days have been very spring-like; bright and sunny, and we had a snap of warm weather last week - so it's coming.

My reading this winter has been a little sparse. I’ve only scraped in a maximum of five books a month. My favourite of them all though, would have to be Between Shades of Gray, (which I reviewed here). Paperboy, Treasures of the Snow, and Seven Little Australians were also good. (See, I like reading books below my age.)

This blog, Small Things, has been inspiring me lately. I only discovered it recently (and don’t ask me how), but her photos are really good. I like how they’re of home life, animals, and scenery – the simple things in life, which most often, end up being the greatest. 

This quote, especially the last sentence:
The price paid for our redemption, the infinite sacrifice of our heavenly Father in giving His Son to die for us, should give us exalted conceptions of what we may become through Christ. As the inspired apostle John beheld the height, the depth, the breadth of the Father’s love toward the perishing race, he was filled with adoration and reverence; and, failing to find suitable words to express the greatness and tenderness of this love, he called upon the world to behold it. “Behold what manner of love hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” 1 John 3:1 What a value this places on man! Through transgression the sons of man become the subjects of Satan. Through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ the sons of Adam may become the sons of God. By assuming human nature, Christ elevates humanity. Fallen men are placed where, through connection with Christ, they may indeed become worthy of the name “sons of God.”  Steps to Christ 15.1

One of the highlights of this winter was going to the Eastward Music Camp. It was a really amazing experience; musically, socially, and spiritually. We learned, recorded, and filmed five different songs, and so far three of them are released! Here’s my favourite, Into the Woods:

There’s also All for Christ and A Tender Heart. And, hopefully the last two will be released soon!

Other than that, it’s been a fairly quiet winter. We went away for a couple of weekends, we had a pet lamb for a few days (until it died :(), and we’ve had lots of rain. My brother and I had our birthdays; he got his license, and I got officially old. My family and friends made me feel much loved. I started having piano lessons, and committed to doing a piano exam. I finished the course in Creative Writing I was doing, and made little progress in maths. And, as usual, time went very fast. 

So, how was your winter? Or summer, if you live on the other side of the world? What inspired or encouraged you? What are you looking forward to most about spring/autumn? For me, I’m looking forward to warmer sunshine-y days where I can go for morning walks without freezing; flowers and buds; more opportunities; new life and growth.

25 August, 2015

Jabez' Prayer

I was reading a couple of chapters in early 1 Chronicles, and to be honest, I wasn’t taking much of it in. The fact that the sons of Shemaiah were Hattush, Igeal, Bariah, Neariah and Shaphat didn’t really have any meaning to me. But then I came across these verses:

“And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast. And that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

In the middle of the genealogies of the sons of Judah are these verses about a guy called Jabez. It doesn’t even say who his father was, or who his sons were. And, this is the only time he’s mentioned in the whole Bible. Yet look what it says about Jabez: he called on God, and asked God to bless him, and be with him. God heard his prayer, and answered it. 

Maybe these verses are in the Bible to remind us that God is there for us. He does hear and answer our prayers. He will bless us, and be with us, and protect us. We only have to call on God, like Jabez did.

“Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence?” STC 94.2

17 August, 2015

Between Shades of Gray - Book Review

 It's been a while since I've read a really good book. I borrowed Between Shades of Gray from the library almost two months ago, and it happily resided on my bedside table. That is, until last week, when I realized that I couldn't renew it again, and I was going to have to return it to the library this week. So I read it. And then, of course, I wondered why on earth I had taken so long to get around to reading such a good book.

Between Shades of Gray is the story of a Lithuanian girl and her family during early World War II, when Stalin and the Soviet Union were 'purging' their territory, particularly the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Lina and her family are evicted from their home by the Soviet police, and sent in cattle cars to Siberia, where they faced more hardships.

It is historical fiction, but the author's family are Lithuanian. Her father escaped, but not all his family did. Ruta Septys did a lot of research, visited Lithuania and interviewed survivors, historians and others. This personal link adds depth to the story.

It was a side of history and World War II I hadn't read about before, and didn't even realize it happened. As it says in the author's note: “Caught between the Soviet and Nazi empires and forgotten by the world, the Baltic states simply disappeared from the maps.” (page 339) She also adds that the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – “lost more than a third of their population during the Soviet annihilation.” (page 341) The saddest thing about it for me, was when I read that their war didn't end with freedom and victory in 1945, like other war stories I've read. When these exiles returned to their countries again, they were still under Soviet control, and they were forced to live in restricted areas, under supervision from the Soviet police. They were not allowed to speak of their experiences. This didn't end until 1991. 

The author's note was really touching:
“Some wars are about bombing. For the people of the Baltics, this war was about believing. In 1991, after fifty years of brutal occupation, the three Baltic countries regained their independence, peacefully, and with dignity. They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light. Please research it. Tell someone. These three tiny nations have taught us that love is the most powerful army. Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy – love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.” (page 341)

It's very well written, and easy to read.It's not a pleasant, light book about sweet times, but it's still good, and enjoyable because even despite the terrible situations Lina and her family go through, this book is full of hope. It shows us an accurate, yet horrific, picture of what thousands of people had to endure – and some didn't make it. Yet, even through such terrible times, there was still hope, and there was still love, and there was still selfless men and women, boys and girls, who can teach us, that in our peaceful, easy age, we have a lot to learn.

In short, it's really good, and I think you should read it. :)