Digital Nature Photography- Book Review

I love nature and there are some really beautiful places all over the world.  Pictures are one of the ways we can remember these beautiful places and take them with us when we’re someplace else.  Pictures can also transport us to places we’ve never been and show us things we otherwise would never see.  While in Australia Ryan and I took a lot of pictures but we also just tried to absorb where we were in the moment.  Once we get back to Australia, we (mostly Ryan:-) are looking forward to taking more pictures and sharing them with family, friends and supporters.

DigitalNaturePhotography

With Australia in mind I pick up this book called John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography.  John Shaw put his experience with nature photography into words but he didn’t forget to include pictures.  This book includes lots of beautiful images that are all labeled where and how (lens, shutter speed, etc) they were taken.  The chapters are practical, easy to read and run the gamut from getting started to types of gear to image composition.  Just looking through the book is interesting and I look forward to seeing how Ryan puts the information to good use in the future.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Caught Up in a Book- The Dead Key

I get caught up in books all the time.  Recently I’ve gotten better at reading a chapter or two before bed or while waiting for an appointment and slowly savoring the storyline.  However, after reading a book for awhile, the characters seem to become my friends.  I care about them and what happens to them so as the book progresses, my ability to stop after just one or two chapters becomes inhibited.  Especially with mystery novels, I read faster and faster just to find out what happens next.  I use to be able to gauge how much story I had left with novels because I could see where I was in the book and make an educated guess, now I just rely on the handy dandy time estimates provided by my kindle.

Last night was one of those nights where I just couldn’t put the book down.  I read late into the night, my kindle light glowing while my husband slept soundly.  I kept thinking, just one more chapter but there was always something else to discover and I couldn’t imagine falling asleep without knowing.  I’m now suffering the consequences of giving up two hours of sleep but it was worth it.  I know the book’s ending, my curiosity has been satiated and my angst has been tamed.

thedeadkey

The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley caught my attention because of the way it was written.  There are two storylines that waltz and weave throughout the book.  One is a modern mystery, the other a mystery from 20 years earlier.  However, both are connected and the author intermingles the stories in order to feed the reader the pertinent information in small doses.  At the beginning each layer unveiled just adds to the intrigue.  But by the end (the reason I couldn’t put it down last night) all those layers start to peal back and everything is revealed with just enough twists to keep you guessing.  I love a good mystery where something happens and I think “Wait, what!?” just to think a little more and smack myself in the forehead because I suspected the character was more than they seemed but I didn’t see that one coming.

If you like mysteries and non-linear stories then The Dead Key is worth a read.  I didn’t understand or even really like the characters at first so be patient with the stories as they develop.   But your patience will be rewarded and by the end you might just have to stay up an extra couple of hours to find out how it all ends.

The History of Religion- Books and Beliefs (Part 1)

I love reading for many reasons but one main reason is that it introduces me to new corners of our world.  Fact or fiction, reading can give us insight into different people, cultures and time periods.  I’ve recently read two interesting but very different books.  They both had to do with religion and they both gave me a lot of food for thought.

HeirstoForgottenKingdomsHeirs to Forgotten Kingdoms by Gerard Russell lived up to it’s subtitle Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East.  This book was a look into 7 middle eastern religious people groups; the Mandaeans, the Yazidis, the Zoroastrians, the Druze, the Samaritans, the Copts and the Kalasha.  I appreciated the in depth look into the culture, history and practice of these people and their religion.  It was very interesting to read about them while thinking about the current struggles in the Middle East because it shed light on some of the structural and historical reasons behind bits and pieces of these conflicts.

Christianity, Islam and these other much smaller religions have all existed in the same space for many many years.  These smaller religions have influenced, been influenced by and sometimes even mistaken for Islam and/or Christianity.  Here is an example of this influence, “Early Christians often depicted the Three Wise Men who were said to have visited Jesus as Persian Zoroastrians; although this is never specified in the account in the Gospel of Matthew itself, it was a lucky choice.  When the Persian armies conquered Bethlehem in AD 614, it is said that they spared the Church of the Nativity from the destruction they visited on the rest of the town, because they saw a depiction of three Magi at the church’s entrance.” pg. 77

And another example of the influence, “I [the book’s author] mused on the ways that belief in reincarnation may have helped them to win converts.  To a Christian I imagined the early Druze saying, “By accepting Mohammad as a prophet you are not rejecting Jesus: for Mohammed is Jesus reborn.” To a pagan who revered the Greek philosophers, they could argue that the Druze leader Hamza bin Ali was Pythagoras returned to life.  In later centuries, the famous Druze Characteristic of courage in battle was fortified by the belief that death would lead quickly to rebirth.  Going into battle, Druze soldiers would shout, “Who wants to sleep in their mother’s womb tonight?” pg. 141

I personally think that my Christian, American worldview also provides me with an interesting perspective. Here are two quotes that have me contemplating the relationship of these religions with Christianity as well as the question of Truth (not relative truth but Truth with a capital T).

The Mandaeans-

“Ours is the oldest religion in the world, ” said Sheikh Sattar.  “It dates back to Adam.”  He traced its history back to Babylon, though he said it might have some connection to the Jews of Jerusalem.  The Mandaeans believed in Adam, he said, who was the first man, and they accepted some other prophets who featured in the Hebrew Bible, such as Seth and Noah.  Above all, they revealed John the Baptist.  But they rejected Abraham and had their own holy books that were quite separate from the Bible or the Koran.” pg. 9-10

The Samaritans-

“The Samaritans rejects Jewish religious texts such as the books of Daniel and Isaiah: for them, the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, sometimes also called the Torah) stands alone.  The Samaritan Torah is slightly different from the Jewish one…it’s version of the Ten Commandments does not include any ban on using the Lord’s name in vain, but it does include a commandment to build an altar on Mount Gerizim.  Benny* argues that the Samaritan Torah is the more authentic version.  His people preserved the text better over the centuries, as he sees it, because they stayed in one place, scrupulously copying the precious scriptures from old ones to new ones.” pg. 165

*Benny who “was something of a spokesman for the Samaritans.” pg. 164

It is these quotes and other similar ones that were in the back of my mind as I read the second book.  I’ll write more about Eternity in their Hearts in another post.  But for now I would recommend Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms to anyone who is interested in history and how it relates to our world today.  Read it to learn about the Middle East and it’s history, religion and people.

The Alarm Clock Rang

Do you remember the book “The Doorbell Rang” by Pat Hutchins?  It’s a fun book about a batch of tasty chocolate chip cookies that has to be shared by more and more people every time the doorbell rings.  This book actually has nothing to do with this post other than the title “The Doorbell Rang” inspired the title ‘The Alarm Clock Rang’.  So I’ll put in a plug for this fun book.  Check it out!

IMG_0670Now back to alarm clocks.  We all have different relationships with our alarm clocks.  I’ve had this white one since high school and maybe even junior high.  I was in charge of getting myself up and ready for school.  And I was pretty good about making it happen but I was thankful for a reliable alarm clock, especially for those early morning swim practices.

Fast forward to Papua New Guinea.  I often used an alarm for days when I needed to be on western people’s time.  But many days I just woke up with the sun and the rest of the village.  It’s easier to wake up early when you go to bed when it gets dark and are able to get a good night’s sleep.

I now have a very different schedule and do my best to not use an alarm clock unless I have to.  On days when I wake up early to teach online, Ryan is my alarm clock.  Since he’s up at 4:10 anyway, he makes sure I get up too.  But since we often go to bed early, many days I find my eyelids fluttering around 4am.  However, on the days I don’t have to get up, I happily roll over and go back to sleep.  Other than Ryan waking me up, I generally don’t use an alarm clock.  Even on days when I teach at the school, I only set an alarm just in case.  But i’m usually up and moving before it ever makes a peep.

Whether it’s an actually alarm clock, a setting on our phones, a crying child or something else, many of us have a love/dislike relationship with this noise that usually gets us up and out of bed in the morning.  Mornings are often a struggle for me but recently i’ve been trying to think about my mornings differently.  I want to look forward to each day and the possibilities that it brings.  Some days are more difficult than others but each day can be the start of something new.

So I’d love to hear from you.  What gets you out of bed in the morning?  What do you think when your alarm clock rings?

Moving towards Australia in 2015

Part of me wishes I could say that Ryan and I will be moving to Australia in 2015.  But a larger part of me is thankful that there is a time for everything and this year is for preparation.  Stay tuned for more details and tentative timeline to come.  It’s very exciting to be anticipating all the changes that this year could have in store for us.

IMG_0661And there are lots of ways for us to prepare even before we get to Australia.  I received a book, Why Warriors Lie Down and Die, for Christmas that I can’t wait to get into it.  We also received our very own copy of Rabbit Proof Fence.  Ryan had never seen it and now we can lend it out to anyone who wants to know more about Australian history and the Stolen Generations.  And of course we will continue expanding our Australian tastebuds.  I’ve had this cookbook for awhile and it’s fun to page through and get ideas.  Ryan and I both get to try new things and I get to try my hand at even more new recipes.  This includes meatpies, other vegemite recipes and sweet yumminess like sticky date pudding.  It’s going to be a good year.

Taking Literacy for Granted

I read everyday.  I read street signs.  I read labels.  I read my Bible.  I read other books.  And i’m sure I read a lot of other things that I don’t even notice because I can.  If you’re reading this than you’re most likely in the same boat as I am.  We can read.  But not everyone has this luxury.

Literacy has the ability to open doors and change lives.  In the United States we have a school system that allows for a very high literacy rate.  There are people who can’t read or don’t read well but it’s rare.  However, this isn’t true in many other countries.  In Papua New Guinea each language group and village has a different literacy story.  Some have had access to education for many years while others have only had access to local schools more recently and women tend to be the last to gain access to education.

Even with my background in literacy, I still take my ability to read for granted.  But I was recently reminded of the challenge in PNG when I received an email from a friend still working there.  She asked for prayer for adult women’s literacy classes that were starting in a local village.

IMG_5020When I was in PNG we had trouble finding women in the village who were strong enough readers to help us record scripture portions.  Some women had the opportunity to go to school but many did not.  And even those who were educated didn’t have many books or opportunities to practice their reading skills.  We recorded scriptures as well as some healthcare literature because of the low literacy rate.  But it’s still the desire to have as many people be able to read as possible.

The desire and need is the same in my friend’s area of PNG.  She started a couple of reading classes with a few women and sine these women didn’t have access to education when they were younger (literacy classes first began in 2008), they are very eager and motivated.  My friend’s training and work is not in literacy and she doesn’t live in the village full time so she can’t continue teaching literacy classes on a regular basis.  Despite this challenge the women have agreed to continue meeting with the help of a local woman who is eager to teach but has very little training.  However, this women is motivated and has her husband (who is educated) to support and help her.  It’s encouraging to see the possibility for literacy to grow in this group of older women.

Literacy in PNG succeeds when people are motivated and have the basic tools to help and teach each other.  But there are many obstacles to overcome.  Time will tell how these classes go but for now the village needs a lot of prayer.  So when you find yourself reading, take a moment to remember those who can’t.  Please be in prayer for literacy all over the world but specifically for PNG and for the ladies in my friend’s village.

Marriage is Worth the Wait

Weddings are wonderful.  It is wedding season so there are lots of great celebrations to enjoy. On Saturday we attended a wedding that was a beautiful picture of Christ and the church.  I love attending weddings where the focus isn’t just on the bride and groom but instead on marriage as an earthly window into the reality of eternity.  As a wedding favor, we were given a book by John Piper called This Momentary Marriage.  I haven’t finished the book yet but in reading the first few chapters and glancing through the rest, this book is a lovely Biblical picture of marriage.  Piper holds marriage up while recognizing there is a place for marriage as well as single individuals in the fabric of the church.  My favorite quote so far is Piper quoting Geoffrey Bromiley, “As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people.”  Single or married, those who are in Christ will be a part of that amazing eternal marriage.

IMG_0403At the rehearsal dinner I listened to the mother of the groom and the mother of the bride discussing their children’s relationship.  Evidently the groom had told his mother that he knew the bride was ‘the one’ early on in their relationship but she wasn’t ready.  She needed more time just to get to know him and be sure before she committed to marriage.  Listening to this reminded me of what Christ does while he is wooing us.  He is sure that we are his, he has already chosen us as his bride and once that decision is made, he does not deviate from that plan.  But God is a gentleman and he pursues without pushing, giving us time to get to know him, to prove himself trustworthy and allows us to fall in love.  This is such a beautiful example of the amazing give and take that happens in a Christ centered relationship.

IMG_0981Congratulations to the beautiful bride who found a man who is willing to step up and be a husband modeled after Christ’s example.  He has proven himself worthy by his actions as he has pursued you with honor and now he will continue, by the grace of God, to be the leader of your household and your precious husband.  Congratulations to the happy groom who patiently waited for his bride.  He has found a good wife who will love, honor and submit to him as the church submits to Christ.  May the Lord bless you and keep you in this amazing convent of marriage.