“A.D.30,” Ted Dekker

934503This is the first novel of Ted Dekker’s that could be classified as Biblical fiction. It is breathtaking in its portrayal of the times, the brutality of humans and in Maviah, the central character, someone all readers can relate to. And then we meet Yeshua, the Hebrew for Jesus. It’s hard to put into words the experience the reader has seeing Jesus through Maviah’s eyes. Sitting near Him as he shares many of the parables we’ve come to know through the Bible. I didn’t want Him to leave. I expect that was how the disciples felt as they journeyed with Him.

Maviah is a Bedouin slave who at the request of her dethroned father to seek out King Herod and secure his assistance to free her people from the Thamud. This takes her on a wild journey through the desert with her valiant aids Saba and Judah. Their journey will take them past Jerusalem. Judah who knows of Jesus, being a descendant of the kings who visited Jesus at his birth, and is desperate to meet him. Circumstances outside their control unexpectedly lead them to the house of Nicodemus where Jesus is happening to supper.

Maviah is a wonderful character. We see her courage in undertaking the journey and the many fears she will fail. It is in meeting Jesus she is able to begin to realise her destiny as Queen of the desert. The final scenes are simply extraordinary storytelling as Dekker demonstrates the power of faith when the odds appear insurmountable.

There are many other notable well developed characters; Judah and Saba in particular. It was fascinating to see Dekker present his interpretations of such people as Herod, Herodias, Aretas as well as Stephen and some of the disciples.

This is Dekker at his absolute best. In fact, he’s stepped up a level as he combines the truth and power of the gospel with a breathtaking tale of good and evil that makes me want more and more.


Everyday Grace


Photo courtesy of jannoon28/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been dithering writing this post. I’ve wanted to write something about repentance, sin and grace for a week or so. As I walk through Lent many of my readings have covered similar matters that have further stimulated my thoughts.

Further, we had a visiting Pastor speak at church the other day on the topic: “God is after my thoughts”, which added weight to some of my own ideas.

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“Fight Back with Joy,” Margaret Feinberg

book2“Joy is one of those words that has been overused, distorted into a cliche.”

I nodded in agreement as I read that statement in the first few pages of this book. I confess I’m one of those people who doesn’t really understand it and too often relates it to happiness and/or my circumstances. Besides Margaret’s brilliant Biblical teaching, I was drawn to read her latest book to better understand “joy.”

Margaret drew me into her 18 month battle with cancer. We visit her doctors, the wards at the hospital, her standing in front of the mirror to inspect the surgeon’s handiwork and the downtime spent with her husband and puppy, Hershey. My eyes were never far from tears as my heart cried out for her but always awestruck at her bravery at sharing such details of the battle.

As I read this inspirational book I was constantly reminded of Brene Brown’s words, “Numbing the pain numbs the joy” as I believe that is how I’ve lived much of my life. Margaret stepped into her battle mindful of this and sought to discover joy. “No one is immune to sorrow, and only those who learn to grieve well can recapture the healing it brings.” and “Running from sorrow will only take you to scary places.”

Embracing our pain and sorrows enables us to experience joy. The sense of being intentional about experiencing joy was a key point I took from the book. Whether it’s in choosing to be alert to how we numb our pain, to loving intentionally with simple gestures as “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” or something grander like giving everyone in the hospital ward a red balloon as Margaret did, grabbing a hold of joy is a choice we make.

Often a challenging read, this is one of the books that lingers long after you’ve read it. As you’d expect, it’s full of relevant Biblical illustrations, Margaret’s sense of whimsy and brave storytelling. It also comes with some added extras at the end including tips on what to say to people going through a battle when you don’t know what to say and from Leif, her husband, on how a caregiver should care for themselves.

Fight Back with Joy

book2Many of you will know of Margaret Feinberg, a wonderful Bible teacher and wordsmith. Some of you will also be aware that Margaret has been in a mighty battle with breast cancer over the past 18 months.

Margaret has recently released Fight Back with Joy which chronicles her journey and some of what she’s learnt along the way. Before I provide some of my thoughts on the book over the next week or two, I thought it would be useful to read some background on the book from Margaret herself.

Margaret was kind enough to share some pre-written responses to a number of questions.

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New Year, New Beginnings


Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love the anticipation of what a new year may bring. There’s something about the change in year heralding something new, fresh and vibrant in one’s life. As I only read last night in RELEVANT magazine, the new year offers a “psychological reset button.”

I make a point of taking some time out to reflect on the year past and what is ahead. I typically will set some goals across all aspects of my life. My wife and I will do likewise to ensure we understand hopes and dreams plus identify specific targets for such things as home improvements, holidays, leisure activities and such like.

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“Kept,” by Sally Bradley


Photo courtesy of SallyBradley.com

I don’t read much romantic fiction but I was drawn to “Kept” by the comments of some reviewers whom I respect dearly. What grabbed my attention in their reviews was the notion that this novel wasn’t your typical Christian romance as it grappled with some tough issues.

It didn’t take long to get absorbed in the story. It’s powerful storytelling with wonderfully believable characters (well maybe the good looks are a little exaggerated but my wife tells me that’s essential to most romance novels). I expect Miska, the drop-dead gorgeous freelance editor who has an arrangement with a married pro baseballer (whom she loves) whenever he comes to town, may create some tension amongst readers.

Next door are two brothers: Garrett, the cool soon-to-be-married lawyer and Dillan, the clumsy giant who happens to be a youth pastor. Christian men who befriend Miska and soon become aware of her arrangement.

There’s a wonderful supporting cast of characters any of whom you can meet on the street. My favourite was Tracy who demonstrated how to love someone without any judgment or preconceived notions of who or what they should be. Even when grappling with her own heartbreak she takes Miska on and simply loves her.

But what stirred me most about this story is how Bradley demonstrates the power of Christ’s pursuit of individuals and how His love transforms. Miska reflects all of us; her life is complicated and messy. Sure her particular situation may be extreme compared to the “stuff” we grapple with but it all reflects our fallen natures.

Oh, and there’s a very sweet love story.

We need more Sally Bradley’s to write such novels that portray the rawness of life and the transformative power of Christ’s love.

Erin Healy discusses her latest novel, “Motherless.”


Photo courtesy of Erin Healy

Erin Healy’s latest novel, “Motherless”, was released a few weeks ago. Being a keen supporter of Erin and her work I was delighted she was willing to respond to a few questions I posed her.

There is also the opportunity for two readers to win a copy of Motherless. More on that at the end of this post.

Introducing Motherless

The tale of two young adults trying to solve the mystery of their mother’s seventeen-year-old suicide.

A whispering voice at the back of my mind reminds me that I’ve been this way for some time. Dead, that is.

The dead have a very broad view of the living, of actions performed out of sight, of thoughts believed to be private. I would know. Losing both parents is a trial no child should endure, and Marina and Dylan have endured enough. They deserve the one thing I could never give them: a mother’s love.

A mother’s love, and the truth.

My children have believed a lie about me for years and years. After all this time I can still feel their hurt in my heart. But the tether holding me to them is frayed from years of neglect . . . and I have to find a way to make my confession before it snaps.

But when the truth comes out, what other beasts will I unleash?

“Why do we lie to the children?” someone asked me once.

“To protect them,” I answered.

How terrible it is that they need protection from me.

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“Motherless,” Erin Healy


Photo courtesy of Erin Healy

“This is truth: we all tell the stories that we want to believe. We tell them for so long that we forget what we really know. Occasionally we convince others to believe them too.”

Motherless is the story of brother and sister, Marina and Dylan, who are coming to terms with the anticipated death of their father (he’s in an induced coma) having lost their mother many years earlier from an apparent suicide.

Marina, even though only a few years older than 16-year-old Dylan, has taken on many of the responsibilities of being a mother. She is especially protective of him as he suffers from agoraphobia, which can be tremendously debilitating.

Their story is told through the eyes of a first person narrator who has a particular interest in their welfare. This individual takes on a far greater role in their story and especially the key themes as it unfolds.

Healy uses vivid imagery in describing her characters, the Californian coast and the delicacies created by Sara, another key character. At any moment Healy is able to transport the reader into being a cocktail party guest, harvesting grapes in a vineyard or sitting on a surfboard waiting for the next set to roll in.

I particularly appreciated how Healy took me into Dylan’s mind, the young poet who was at his happiest surfing the break outside his home even though stepping out the front door to pop down to the shops crippled him with fear. I know what that feels like.

Lies, deception, grace and forgiveness. Key themes at the heart of most families as they reflect the darkness and light we all must navigate through life.

This is what makes this story so compelling: it could be any of our families that Healy has captured on the page.

Highly recommended.


The Belt of Truth


Photo Source: Biblecartoons.co.uk

We’re all familiar with the spiritual armour passage in Ephesians 6 where Paul’s exhorts us to put on the armour and stand against the enemy’s schemes. As you might expect, as an author of speculative fiction, it is a passage I reflect on often, as I create my stories.

Putting the armour on is a practice that I observe frequently. Perhaps, not frequently enough, but I have it written on one of the notes attached to the base of my Mac desktop that I stare at for many hours each day: “Put the armour on!”

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“The Legend of Sheba,” Tosca Lee


Photo courtesy of Tosca Lee

There is little mention of the Queen of Sheba in the Bible other than that she paid King Solomon a visit having heard of his great wisdom and he worshipped an unseen God. (1 Kings 10:1-13)

This novel greatly expands on the little we know and introduces us to an enchanting, complex Queen who is powerful, fiercely independent, intelligent and very beautiful. We meet her as a child and then retrace her period of exile before becoming Queen. She soon asserts her authority by utilising Saba’s natural wealth to build a greater kingdom. Her council continually badger her to marry and produce an heir, however, she only wants to marry for love.

One of Saba’s trader’s shares his meetings with the King of the northern tribes of Israel who is becoming increasingly powerful in the region. She is soon intrigued and infatuated as the two begin corresponding by letter. He with his songs and proverbs, she in riddles. But a greater need arises as Solomon begins to build a fleet of ships and ports that will negate Saba’s trading capabilities. Sheba takes it into her own hands and sets off on the 6 month journey to pay the King a visit to negotiate access to his ships and ports.

It is on arriving in Jerusalem that this novel takes off as we get to witness a most passionate love affair between the two. The tension simmers for many pages as they seek to understand and be understood by the other. Solomon, tired of his wealth and his huge number of wives, meets his equal. A woman who can inspire, motivate and lift him from his boredom. He is captivated by her.

Sheba resists her feelings for him not wanting to be another conquest. But the more time they spend together the more she sees of the heart of this man. Having grown up worshipping Almaqah, a god of the sun and moon, she begins to realise it’s folly. It is in seeing Solomon’s struggle between his faith and his riches she comes to realise the unseen one is the one true God.

Lee writes beautifully as she always does taking us back in time as observant bystanders to the sounds, smells, and sights of the era. Her authorial skill makes this a most charming and fascinating read. Frankly, I was so disappointed when it ended.

There is an informative appendix that outlines some of the key findings from Lee’s exhaustive research which helped answer many of the questions I had as I read the novel. But one must always remember this is a piece of fiction.