This is the start of a new booklist. The observant will have noticed that I have had a few weeks off from recording what I have read. Time and energy are limited resources and recording what I have read was just one task too many, whilst making maximum use of the beautiful sunny weather that we have had in South west Scotland over the last few weeks.
So we will start this new list with a book that I have read before, as I now have the second book in the trilogy to read. This is book one of the “Wide World Trilogy”. When I read this book the first time I was a little disappointed with the ending as I had not fully realised that the book was part of a trilogy and was very rather shocked that the book just ended in a cliff hanger. It was as if the publisher decided that the book would be split into three to maximise income.
Coming back to it for a second time I am aware that I have the next installment waiting to be read, so will just carry on and read that having finished this book. The story is set in 1919 and the conference that is going on in Paris to discuss how the world will be split up following on from World War one. Sir Henery Maxted has been murdered, and his son James 'Max' takes it upon himself to investigate the murder, much to the rest of his families displeasure.
The story then progresses as peeling an onion, as each layer is removed then another one appears. The story is fast paced, complex and exciting. (This was why I was so upset the first time round when I cam to the end). It paints a very realistic detailed portrayal of the characters, and all is not what it seems. Secret agents, double agents and spies are everywhere. About the only thing that one can predict is that if a character seems to be 'A' then in fact they will be 'B'
Gradually Max thinks he knows what might have happened to his father and then starts out on the long progress of trying to avenge his murder. You will have noticed that I have avoided revealing too much of the plot because it is a really good book and I do not want to spoil it in any way. The Times has called it I believe 'An intelligent escapist delight' and I agree.
A really great book to start this new booklist. So this is book 1 week 1 fiction 1 (audio books 0) non fiction 0
As you may have noticed there has been a slight gap in my blog, partially due to fine weather, lots of work, holidays and preparing my talk for last Sundays Church Service. The talk was on 2 Kings 6 8-23, and a draft is given below.
As a child I enjoyed playing with magnets. My father was an electrical engineer so I was encouraged to experiment. And it is amazing what one can do with a bit of guttering downpipe, some Dinky cars as they were then, a bar magnet, some tape and an electromagnet. Put the electromagnet at the end of the guttering, attach the magnet to the car, roll the car up against the electromagnet, and attach the battery. So long as I got the polarity right on the battery the car used to shoot out right down the guttering, across the hall floor and into the room at the end. As a child this was an amazing force, that I could not see but would suddenly seemingly push the car with enormous power out of the pipe. This was a hidden force of great power, and it took a few more years before I understood how they worked. The hidden forces being revealed with iron fillings. Our reading that we are looking at today is all about Gods power and how he reveals it to us, but before we look at this lets pray.
Before we look at the details of the story lets put the reading in context. It is some where between 850 to 800 BC. We have three key players in the drama The King Aram, The King of Israel and Elisha the man of God.
Things are not going well with The King Aram in his battles and he thinks he has a spy in his midst, as the King of Israel is being told what is happening. When the King Aram starts to investigate, one of the King's officers tell the king that it is not a spy but it is Elisha. Elisha, Gods prophet, is getting information from God about the King Arams movements and telling the King of Israel what is going on. The King Aram is pretty angry about this so he sends a company of men to capture and probably kill Elisha and his assistant Gehazi. They seemingly get trapped at Dothan about 12 miles north of Samaria.
Ok, so we have put the story into context so lets think a little about what it is saying to us. Around five weeks ago, a couple of days after I was asked to do this talk I woke up at 5 am, with an idea as to what to talk about. I was able to cover a sheet of A4 with the key points. I am sure God was prompting me as to what I should be saying, not quite sure what I think about the fact that He can only get through to me early in the morning but that is my problem! So we will follow the outline I was given and I hope it is helpful.
I don't know how you walk around. Some people tend to look downwards to see where their feet are going others look at the distance to see what is coming up. There are problems with both ways, either tending to wander off course, or tripping on a hazard that they had not noticed under their feet. Ideally one should do a mixture of both. I am sure not intentionally, but we get sucked into the perspective of our culture. So often in films and on TV a religious minister is portrayed as an object of comedy, and a Christian as either a person of weakness or just an interfering do gooder. God and church are for Sunday and we have to live in the real world for the rest of the week.
Well I would say that that is totally wrong. God is for the real world and the real world is a 7 days a week 24/7 activity which happens to include Sundays and church. Are we so indoctrinated with the material world that we have forget the Spiritual world?
John 18:36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
As the saying goes we cannot see the forest for the trees. To help us get our vision of God into perspective lets consider four aspects of God
The word Awesome is defined as inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, and I am sure Elisha was very aware of how Awesome God is.
For a long time when things were very difficult for me, one of my favourite songs was the song by Rich Mullins which says Our God is an awesome God He reigns from heaven with wisdom, power and love. Our God is an Awesome God
We read in Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
Going back to our reading, Elisha had spiritual sight and could see what was going on but his assistant Gehazi could not. How do you think Gehazi felt when Elisha asked God to show him the Fiery Chariots on the hill side and they came into view?
2 Kings 6 16-17 “Don’t be afraid,”the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Wow – it must have been a very impressive sight.
In Luke 1 v51-55 we read “How powerful is his mighty arm! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! He has torn princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry hearts and sent the rich away with empty hands. And how he has helped his servant Israel! He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful. For he promised our fathers—Abraham and his children—to be merciful to them forever.”
God is an Awesome God of Power, He loves and cares for his people. This moves us on to the second point.
God loves us. In fact God loves us so much that he sent Jesus his perfect Son down to earth, just to die as payment for mine and all our wrong – our sin. God is a bountiful loving God, but He does ask us to be honest with Him.
In Matthew 6 we have the Lords prayer. The message translates it slight differently to
the version we may be familiar with. -
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below.”
God knew what was happening to Elisha and Gehazi and he was looking after them. The fiery horses and chariots mentioned in v17 of our reading are the symbols of the protecting power of heaven. Why did God use fiery horses and chariots? From earlier times fire has been a symbol of Gods presence.
In Exodus 3 v2 we read about Moses “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up”
Also in Exodus 13 v21-22 we read how God guided the people. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.”
So here God is not only saying to Elisha and his servant that He will guide them with the fire He is also saying that He is here as an instrument of war.
But God did not just send one or two chariots. The whole hill side was covered with fiery chariots. This must have been an amazing site. It was God's bountiful provision. We read in Ephesians 3 v20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”
Here God really did that. I do just feel for Gehazi, in one minute he must have gone from quaking knees thinking that they were about to have been captured to elation. Going from the losing side to the winning one. This must have given him real confidence in God which leads us to our next point
Confidence in God
A number of years ago I had to take a family member to hospital, as they had been injured in a dispute. While they were being x-rayed and bandaged up I was being interviewed as to what had happened. Fortunately I was not there at the time so did not know. Later that evening when it was obvious that the person was in quite a lot of pain, with their arm all bandaged and strapped up, I offered to pray for them. My thoughts were that God would take away the pain and give them a good night's sleep. The next morning I was amazed to see the person with no bandages, using a their arms that they could hardly move and were severely bruised the day before to make breakfast. I asked where were the bandages, and was told “Jesus made me better”. This was way more than I had thought about in my prayer but it was an amazing answer to it. I had just lacked confidence in the first instance.
God can do more than we can imagine, all we have to do is let him. We need to be confident that He will answer. In Hebrews 11v1 we read “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Elisha has total confidence in God. The King Aram's army is just about to attack. Gods fiery chariots are on the hill as well. On the face of it it could have been a massacre, but evidently Elisha knew that, that was not Gods plan so we read from v18 “When the Arameans attacked, Elisha prayed to God, “Strike these people blind!” And God struck them blind, just as Elisha said. Then Elisha called out to them, “Not that way! Not this city! Follow me and I’ll lead you to the man you’re looking for.” And he led them into Samaria.
Elisha was just about to be attacked he prays that God will make the attacker blind, then he goes and offers them guidance. Elisha had total confidence in God, that God would answer his prayer. If he did not then Elisha would have been captured, but God did answer his prayer and Elisha was able to depend on God. This leads us to our last point.
Rulers all down through the ages do things trying to indicate that their empire, ruler-ship will last and is the best. One that I came across that amused me was in 1945 at the Yalta conference at the end of the second world war, when Stalin was boasting and asked the question “How many (army) divisions does the Pope have?” Of course the soviet empire has now collapsed.
In Berlin Cathedral (which was in East Berlin part of the soviet union), there is the following written in Gold on the wall “Our faith is the victory that has conquered the world. See I am with you always till the end of the world”
Elisha shows great faith knowing that he can depend on God. He leads the enemy right into Samaria, right up to the king of Israel's door step. Then he prays open the enemy's eyes in v20.
The enemy can now see Elisha so he has carried out what he said he would do in v18. I can just imagine his assistant Gehazi thinking what on earth is Elisha doing, but he is doing what he said he would do..
Elisha knew he could depend on God, he also knew that he should be dependable as well. He said he would show them the person they were looking for so he does. But he uses the opportunity to show Gods love in action at the same time, ordering a great feast, which results in the hostilities being stopped.
Elisha is showing Gods love in action as we read in 1 John 4 7-8 This is the living bible version“ Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love.
Going off slightly at a tangent here - but are we known for being dependable? – what a challenge. The lovely thing is that God is dependable, and we are freely able to pray to him whatever the situation. God loves us, so much so that He sent Jesus His son to die a horrible death, to wipe out all the wrong that we have done. So we can go to heaven and be with Him. Do you truly believe that?
If you do then that's great but do you pray? There are many many verses in the Bible about prayer and I don't have time to list them here, other than one in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we read “pray without ceasing”
Yes we might now say it should be a 24/7 activity. We have open access to God and if anyone feels that this is not the case by something they have done, then do talk to someone about this. I am sure anyone who has helped with the service today would be happy to talk with you.
God always listens to prayer and will act. Maybe not in the way or timescale we imagined, but He will respond. We read in James 5 v16 “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results”
God is not limited in what he can do by human or earthly constraints; he is probably more limited by our lack of prayer and faith.
We read in John 4 v24 “God is spirit“ and in John 1 v3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Wiser people than me have put forward the idea that the world has a Spiritual dimension to it and this spiritual dimension is the primary one, with the material one being derived from it. I leave you to think about that.
If I hold this piece of paper up (Sheet of paper with smiley face on it) so you are directly opposite it, all you will see is a line, you will not know that it has any depth, and certainly not make out what is on it, as you are only seeing it in two dimensions. The paper has to be turned or you have to move, so you can see what is on it the third dimension If you eyesight is a little poor then you might not even see it at all.
Is this what is happening in our world today. It is so focused on the material world (hold paper with narrow edge up) that it is missing that Spiritual dimension (turn and show cross). We read in 2 Corinthians 4 v18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Elsiha would have been able to see the spiritual dimension, Gehazi did when his eyes were opened.
As children you may have been given building blocks to play with. I was. Seeing how high a tower could be built always seems a favourite. The issue with any building is the foundations of that building. What it is based on.
I would say that we have been reminded of four fundamental aspects of God that should be key in our relationship with Him. They should guide our prayer times with God. They don't have to be long or complicated, just honest and real. It is not something that is just kept for a Sunday either. We can pray about any situation.
So my challenge for us today is Where is God in your real world?
It depends really on what are we focused on. When we leave this service this morning, can we say that our beliefs are similar to Elisha with respect to God? Will our actions reflect that God is an Awesome God; that He is a bountiful, loving and generous God? Will what we do indicate to others that we have confidence in God, and that we do depend on Him?
I used to run a support desk and jokingly our motto for a time was “there was no such thing as a problem, just an opportunity”. It does matter how we think about things. The key is - where does God fit in. Is He our first port of call or last?
Jesus said "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8 v12. We should focus our eyes Jesus the Light of the world, and not be distracted by other things.
I will end with a quote from Colin Sinclair part of SU Scotland -
“Never forget the final word lies with God – When it looks as if things can never change, they will. When it looks as if evil has triumphed, it won't When common sense says despair then don't God will win through and his Son will rule. Till then we must trust in God, wait with patience, be on our guard, show resolute courage and stick to our task. That takes daily faith and obedience. “
One of the good things of being self employed is being able to vary ones working day, but there is a downside to this work does not stop at 5 or when ever you stop work, it stops when the work that needs to be done is done. This does mean that when things get busy, there is not time for updating blogs. Also my reading went into the slow lane, as was too shattered to do much.
During the remainder of August I read a little and these three books take me up to the 52 books and I will record them as being read in 43 weeks
Book 50 Solitude Creek by Jeffery Deaver
Book 51 Simple Genius by David Baldacci
Book 52 Wars of the Roses by Conn Iggulden
I am sorry to say I do not have time to write any detailed form of review other than to record that I read them. Hopefully over the next few weeks things will get back into balance and I can spend so more time on this.
This is my review of the book Ashton Kirk Investigator by John Thomas McIntyre which I listened to as a librivox recording. https://librivox.org/ashton-kirk-investigator-by-john-thomas-mcintyre/
I enjoy librivox as I come across writers and stories that I have never heard of. Ashton Kirk is one such story. A sort of wealthy CSI from 100 years ago with his own team of helpers come investigators. It is a really good story and I will quote what is said about the book
“Ashton-Kirk, who has solved so many mysteries, is himself something of a problem even to those who know him best. Although young, wealthy, and of high social position, he is nevertheless an indefatigable worker in his chosen field. He smiles when men call him a detective. "No; only an investigator," he says. He has never courted notoriety; indeed, his life has been more or less secluded. However, let a man do remarkable work in any line and, as Emerson has observed, "the world will make a beaten path to his door." Those who have found their way to Ashton-Kirk's door have been of many races and interests. Men of science have often been surprised to find him in touch with the latest discoveries, scholars searching among strange tongues and dialects, and others deep in tattered scrolls, ancient tablets and forgotten books have been his frequent visitors. But among them come many who seek his help in solving problems in crime. "I'm more curious than some other fellows, that's all," is the way he accounts for himself. "If a puzzle is put in front of me I can't rest till I know the answer." At any rate his natural bent has always been to make plain the mysterious; each well hidden step in the perpetration of a crime has always been for him an exciting lure; and to follow a thread, snarled by circumstances or by another intelligence has been, he admits, his chief delight. There are many strange things to be written of this remarkable man--but this, the case of the numismatist Hume, has been selected as the first because it is one of the simplest, and yet clearly illustrates Ashton-Kirk's peculiar talents. It will also throw some light on the question, often asked, as to how his cases come to him.”
I enjoyed listening to this so much that I am now listening to the next one in the series, but that is for another day. I will record it as book 49 week 40 fiction 44 (audio books 8) non fiction 5
This is my review of the book Rip Tide by Stella Rimington which I actually read a few weeks ago, but it somehow got missed off. Though this is not the first of Stella books I have read it is the first that is being recorded in my book-list. The book is a Liz Carlyle novel and so it continues the saga of her life in MI5 as an intelligence officer.
This time the story is focused on the very real and current problem of pirates at sea. Here it is off the Somalian coast, but when one of the pirates is captured by the French authorities and turns out to be a British born Pakistani then MI5 is called in to investigate.
How do they explain how a lad has gone from a well to do family in Birmingham to being found on a pirate skiff in the Indian Ocean off Somalia. Also how do the pirates just seem to know which boats are worth attacking.
The story then moves to an NGO's which is shipping out goods in the ships. This is being carried out by the Athens office. An operative is sent to the office to investigate but quickly is found dead. There must be a link somewhere. Can Liz and her colleagues find it out and solve the mystery.
This is a very plausible story and plot line presumably because Stella is using her inside knowledge of covert spy operations.
It was an enjoyable read and I will record it as book 48 week 40 fiction 43 (audio books 7) non fiction 5
This is my review of the book Code to Zero by Ken Follett which I have read recently. I wanted a book that moved along at a reasonable pace following on from Ivanhoe, and this book certainly did not disappoint.
The book goes back to America in the late 1950's and the space race with the Russians. A man wakes up in a railway station, and he cannot remember who he is, or what he is doing there. He cannot even remember his own name.
All he can think is that he is a drunken down and out, but then gradually though a fast moving series of events he gradually discovers who he is, including his name Luke Lucas.
He is tied up in uncovering a Russian spy ring and finds that he has been labelled the spy. So not only discovering the truth he also needs to avoid the CIA and other secret services who are trying to capture him as a spy.
It is a clever book as alongside the main plot line the story goes back to the main characters university days and how they formed relationships. Now having lost his mind the relationships need to be re-born, but will they come back in the same way as they did the first time. Well of course not.
This was a very enjoyable read and kept one turning the pages right to the end and I will record it as book book 47 week 39 fiction 42 (audio books 7) non fiction 5
This is my brief review of the book Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott which I listened to recently as a librivox recording https://librivox.org/ivanhoe-by-sir-walter-scott/
This is a very very very long book and not one to read/listen to if one wants an action story. A whole chapter can pass by with almost no action, lots and lots of description about 12th century England, but not much action. I can see that it has become the basis on which many subsequent novels have been written about these times including probably a very large number of stories about Robin Hood and his Merry men, who feature quite considerably in the story.
The librivox summary for the book says the following :- Follows the fortunes of the son of a noble Saxon family in Norman England as he woos his lady, disobeys his father, and is loved by another. Set in late 12C England and in Palestine with Richard Cœur-de-Lion at the Crusades.
There are numerous detailed summaries of the plot lines available elsewhere, which are much better than mine. I did not really enjoy it and felt that it must get better so listened to the end. The fact that I listened to it as driving around meant that I did not really waste any time doing this as the driving was the primary activity, but I could not say it was enjoyable.
The level of detail of the description of the events being described was amazing. Walter Scott's imagination was incredible. All the more so in that it is obvious that his work and imagination has been used as the basis of much of our cultures view of the 12 Century today.
I am pleased I did endure it to the end as looking back it was worth it, and I will record it as book book 46 week 38 fiction 41 (audio books 7) non fiction 5
This is my review of the book The Jewel Garden by Monty and Sarah Don which I have read recently. This book is a mixture of autobiography, come history of how Monty and Sarah created their garden, that is now so famous as the home of gardeners world.
But that is not really the whole story, the main driving force of the book is how Monty and Sarah rebuilt their lives following on from financial disaster, when their Jewellery business went belly up. They lost everything and the book gives a very honest traumatic account of this period in their lives.
Though it was brought about by different circumstances I could relate to their account, having to rebuild my life from a very large negative. Similar I restored a derelict house, though it was considerably smaller than described in this book. It has then taken me a further 20 years before I got a garden of similar size, which we are now working on to restore back to it's original glory.
When feeling disheartened by the weeds, rabbits and deer all doing their best, this book is a great inspiration as to what can be achieved by hard work, good inspiration and a little bit of compost.
The after the first 60 or so pages, which recount how Monty and Sarah get to the point of having the garden the book then goes through the year covering all the major highlights of the Jewel Garden. It explains how they got to that point and how the garden has evolved over time.
Of course it details the finer plants, and the text is accompanied by some fantastic pictures. Which is very useful to someone dyslexic like me who cant remember a plants name.
This is a lovely book which highlights the humanity of a star and his family that I see regularly on the TV. Every time I watch Gardeners World now when Monty is presenting it I will have a much greater insight into what I am seeing
I will record this as book 45 week 37 fiction 40 (audio books 6) non fiction 5
This is my review of the book Traitor by Rory Clements which I have read recently. This story is part of the ongoing saga of the Elizabethan special agent the intelligencer John Shakespeare. Time has moved along a little since the last book, but England is still at war with Spain. The navy has a new secret weapon. An optical instrument that can help one see long distances. (An early telescope).
John is tasked with the job of protecting Dr Dee who has invented this new optical instrument. But of course things do not run smoothly, and he uncovers a much more sinister plot to overthrow Elizabeth. The plot moves from the north of England down to Oxford and then finally to the coast of Brittany.
At the end of the book Rory gives a detailed historical account of the events that surround the story, especially the Hesketh affair and battle of Fort El Leon in 1594, and the death of 394 Spanish defenders, the 6 remaining alive were spared, sent back to Spain, where they were subsequently executed for cowardice.
So the events around which the story has been woven were itself a fascinating and exciting story without having to add the lives of our heroes and their famines. These are just the cream on the cake.
This is a book that is hard to put down, as it is an exciting enthralling story about life in Elizabethan England. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
This was book 44 week 36 fiction 40 (audio books 6) non fiction 4
This is my review of the book A Loyal Spy by Simon Conway, which I have read recently. (Well I did half read it on a long flight back from Melbourne, and then started again a few weeks ago, as mislaid it when unpacking.) This is an interesting story as it explores the boundaries between right and wrong, friend and foe, loyalty and betrayal.
The stars of our story are British secret operatives in Afghanistan, who ambush a top CIA convoy, thinking they were the enemy. Then they have to face the consequences of the action, become the hunted themselves. Double and triple agents come into the play. Just whose side is anyone one is not clear. The one thing that is clear is greed and the love of money. It is a very clever twisting plot, that leads to the potential of London being devastated by a bomb. Just who is masterminding the operation is a key mystery, and it leaves one guessing to the very end.
This is a really good and enjoyable story. If I said much more about the plot lines it be spoilt. Sadly it does not reflect that well on either the British or the American secret service in so much as the cover up and kill the evidence is the call of the day.
The multiple story lines go from the Scottish Isles to Pakistan, via most places in between, and the story does give the impression that we are there with the characters, managing to bringing the whole story to life.
A very enjoyable read as book 43 week 35 fiction 39 (audio books 6) non fiction 4
Dyslexic doodles on photography, food (growing, cooking & of course eating), faith and other fascinating things. This is a personal blog expressing my views.