Saturday, 30 July 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Sebu Nefar, Doctor on the Kestrel

Sebu Nefar is from Kohath and was Tofi Dathan's apprentice. Dathan joined the Kestrel as the Kohathi representative in the search for the alien intruders, and gave his life to help the mission. The Kohathi take apprentices to whom they pass on their skills and learning. The apprentices then carry on the work after them. When the Kestrel needed a doctor after the Intruders mission, Nefar volunteered in order to honour Dathan and continue his work in studying humans and their relationship with the other alien races.

In the early years of study and apprenticeship, Kohathis stay at home and have time to build their marriage relationship and have children. Only later do they begin to travel, initially for short periods, then longer if necessary as they progress. Nefar's children are grown, so he felt that he was most suited of all the apprentices to go into space away from the family.

The number of apprentices depends on the field of work. Labourers will only have one or two, to whom they will pass on their skills. Particularly in the fields of science, there will be at least three, as it is understood that research often branches into many related fields, and the apprentices can specialise in the separate branches of their mentor’s work. Kohathi do not retire, but as they get older, the apprentices take on more of the work and share their findings with their mentor.

Nefar looks like a genial be-whiskered old man, but all Kohathi males look like that. He is in fact quite young for his race, a mere one hundred and two, and much stronger than he looks, since Kohath is a heavy gravity planet. You don't argue with Doctor Nefar.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Thinking Thursday: Humility

I realised today that God has stripped me of anything which caused pride: singing, dancing, sign language, public speaking. I retired from work, so the whole prestige I got, all the gratitude from people I helped, and the pride in being the breadwinner, is gone as well.

I was already aware of the new qualities I have found through my stroke: perseverance, persistence, determination, even some patience. But he has brought me humility too. I have grieved for these things, but now I can see the blessing.

In addition, my stroke has also enabled me to get away from a stressful job, has given us funds for the mortgage, and has given me more time for writing and study.

Proverbs 15:33b … humility comes before honour.

We have felt lately that God has brought to an end one phase of our lives and will bring us into another.

Proverbs 19:21-22 Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that will prevail.

I wonder what the Lord has for us?

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Scribbling Saturday: James Tomos, Paramedic on the Kestrel

At the end of the first Kestrel story, the paramedic Sam Ryan leaves, and James Tomos comes to replace him. Tomos is a Spacer, born and raised in space on his parents' cargo ship. Consequently, although young, he knows a lot about most ship's systems, and has met many alien races, but he is not arrogant about his knowledge and is always ready to help. He also covers as navigator when needed.

Tall and slim, with sandy hair, he is proud of his Welsh heritage from Earth. He appears to be quite shy and reserved, but this is a natural result of life on a ship, where privacy is difficult. He shares a cabin with Roy Stubbs, the assistant engineer, and they get on well together, once Stubbs realises that he is not showing off, but sharing his knowledge and trying to help.

[Since I am working on the latest edit on my first Kestrel novel, this character is not yet fully developed for the second novel.]

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Thinking Thursday: Forget Not All His Benefits

Sometimes life can be hard, and as Christians we need reminding why we are Christians.

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Let us look at the benefits from God which the Psalmist lists:

1. Forgives all your iniquity
Forgiveness of sins is essential for the Christian life, it is the way we become Christians, and is the greatest gift through Jesus Christ.
Acts 13:38
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Eph 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

2. Heals all your diseases
We may not have all our diseases healed in this life, but physical ailments can never attack eternal life. One day, you will be whole, and so will the nations.
Malachi 4:2
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
Luke 9:11
When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.
Rev 22:1-2
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

3. Redeems your life from the pit
Pits are deep and dark and you can't get out unaided. Joseph was thrown into a real pit, and God brought great good from it. Our greatest problem is the pit of sin.
Gen 37:23-24
So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colours that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit.
Job 33:26-28
Then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says, "I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light."
Ps 40:1-2
I waited patiently for the Lord, he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

4. Crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
When an aircraft hits turbulence, the message comes for the passengers to sit down and fasten their seatbelts. When your life gets turbulent, fasten your seatbelt of prayer and leave it to the Pilot.
Gen 39:21
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Ps 59:16
But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.
Eph 2:4-7
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

5. Satisfies you with good
God does not just give us the minimum we need, he satisfies us, fills us, with all sorts of good things.
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Ps 91:16
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.
Isa 58:11
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

6. Your youth is renewed like eagle's
There was a belief that the eagle moults and renews its life, but also eagles fly very strong and very high. In spiritual terms, we can fly high in the spirit.
Exodus 19:4
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself.
Isa 40:31
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

God's benefits to us are not a one-off thing. He looks after us continually. We may find at times that life is hard, but there are so many blessings that we take for granted. I said to a pastor once that it did not seem as if God was blessing me at that time, and he reminded me that I woke up that morning and I was still breathing. God had given me another day to be with my family, to deal with my problems, and to serve Him.

Lamentations 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Hobbit Films

I am really excited about Peter Jackson's new films of The Hobbit, after his triumph with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are to be two films, An Unexpected Journey and There And Back Again. I have been looking up the casting details, and thought I would share them. Click on a name to see the actor's entry in the Internet Movie Database.

Where the same character appears in The Hobbit as in The Lord of the Rings, the same actors have been secured. So there will be continuity:
Bilbo Baggins (old) – Ian Holm
Elrond - Hugo Weaving 
Frodo Baggins - Elijah Wood 
Gandalf - Sir Ian McKellen 
Galadriel - Cate Blanchett 
Gollum - Andy Serkis
Legolas - Orlando Bloom 
Saruman - Sir Christopher Lee 

Bilbo goes off on an awfully big adventure with thirteen dwarves:
Bilbo Baggins - Martin Freeman 
Thorin Oakenshield - Richard Armitage 
Bifur - William Kircher 
Bofur - James Nesbitt 
Bombur - Steven Hunter 
Balin - Ken Stott 
Dwalin - Graham McTavish 
Dori - Mark Hadlow 
Nori - Jed Brophy 
Ori - Adam Brown 
Fili - Dean O’Gorman 
Kili - Aidan Turner
Gloin - Peter Hambleton 
Oin - John Callen 

And here are some other cast members:
Azog - Conan Stevens
Alfrid - Ryan Gage 
Bard - Luke Evans 
Beorn - Mikael Persbrandt 
King Dain – (rumored) Brian Blessed 
Galion – (rumored) Dominic Keating 
Goblin King - Barry Humphries 
Lindir - Bret McKenzie
Master of Laketown - Stephen Fry 
Radagast -Sylvester McCoy 
Smaug/ Necromancer - Benedict Cumberbatch 
Tauriel – Evangeline Lilly
King Thrain - Mike Mizrahi
Thranduil - Lee Pace
King Thror - Jeffrey Thomas

An Unexpected Journey will be released on 14th December 2012.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Tobi Enns, Trainee on the Kestrel

Tobi Enns is a young man from the first Earth colony, Alpha. The gravity there is twice that of Earth, so the first colonists had to wear powered exo-skeletons, but over the generations the people have adapted by becoming short and stocky. This means they are fast and strong in Earth-normal gravity. Over the years the colony has become insular, having little to do with other humans or alien races.

Enns grew up in a rough area and learned to fight out of necessity. He always wanted to see the rest of the galaxy, but it took a long time to persuade his father to let him apply to PACT. He joined the PACT Training School on Alpha and his enthusiasm quickly took him to the top of the class. He was about to transfer to the main training facility on Earth to do his last year of advanced training, when the Kestrel arrived at Alpha looking for a top student as an emergency replacement crewman.

Before he knew it, he was on board, excited but scared stiff he would do something wrong. Andrew Chambers took him under his wing, and apart from an initial bout of space sickness caused by lack of acclimatisation training, he settled in very well and proved to be a useful addition to the crew. Instead of dropping him off, Captain Martin allowed him to stay, and arranged for him to complete his training on board. He even had a remarkable skill which would prove useful in the future.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Thinking Thursday: Pedometer

Health experts say we should walk ten thousand steps a day to be fit, so I bought a pedometer. You wear it clipped to your waist and it counts your steps. It is clever enough to know the difference between times you jiggle it doing other things and what are real steps. Then it works out how far you have walked, how many calories you have burned, and how much time you have spent walking.

I was quite shocked at the end of the first day to find that although I had walked over four thousand steps, I had only spent 22 minutes walking – out of a whole day! We take many steps in little ways, but need to spend dedicated time going for a walk to get anything like the right number of steps.

It is the same with prayer. If our thoughts turn to God occasionally during the day, we may feel that we have spent quite some time with Him. But if we had a spiritual pedometer – how much time would it actually add up to?

Just like incidental walking, there is scriptural encouragement to pray all the time, whatever we are doing. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess.5:17), and this links to what he wrote to the Corinthians: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor.10:31). But Jesus himself said, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret." (Matt.6:6)

Just as it is vital to your health to do some dedicated walking, it is vital to your spiritual health to do some dedicated praying. What are the results of your spiritual pedometer?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Sam Ryan, Paramedic on the Kestrel

Sam Ryan grew up on Orion 3, an Earth colony world with little technology. The original colonists wanted to return to a simpler way of life. They were mostly farmers and miners, working the old way, with their hands. Later on they were too poor to be able to afford modern equipment. Sam saw much unnecessary suffering because of the poor medical facilities. When the colony doctor died, no one could be persuaded to take the post in that backwater, and they managed with a paramedic and a nurse.

Sam's brother Jacob was injured in a mining accident and lost his leg. He saw traders with prosthetic limbs leading normal lives, but the colony did not have the technology, and his family had no way to pay for it. Jacob died a bitter man, and he wasn't the only one. Sam became determined to be trained as a doctor and return to help his people, so he left Orion 3 and went to Earth for medical training.

On Earth he had his eyes opened to what was available, not just technology, but the attractions of a modern lifestyle. He completed enough of his training to work as a paramedic and when the opportunity arose to be part of PACT and go into space, he grabbed it. For someone from a backwoods colony everything was is new and exciting, and presents him with a dilemma: he doesn't want to go back. How that dilemma is solved is revealed at the end of the first Kestrel story.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thinking Thursday: Charismatic Pitfalls

The charismatic experience can bring worship alive and can bring a new depth and meaning to the Christian’s experience of God. It introduces the dimension of the ecstatic, arousing deep emotions and a very real sense of the presence of God. However, there are two pitfalls into which many Christians and congregations fall.

The first is the idea that ecstatic worship is the only valid form of worship. Worship leaders fall into the temptation of using emotionally charged songs and words of encouragement to “whip up” the congregation. There is a feeling that the meeting has not been a success unless the majority of the congregation has had some ecstatic experience. Individual members of the congregation can feel guilty or inadequate if they don’t “feel it”. I have seen individuals in distress, not because of some conviction of the Holy Spirit, but because they do not feel able to enter into the atmosphere of the meeting, and assume there is something wrong with them.

It needs a sensitive hand both from worship and meeting leaders and from those who may be offering ministry, to recognise that there is more than one way to worship, and to communicate that and accommodate it. Those who are happy to stay in their seats must feel just as accepted as those raising their hands, kneeling, or lying in worship.

The second pitfall flows from the first. There are those who communicate, often non-verbally, the impression that the ecstatic state is the goal for the whole of our lives. That we should always feel that glow, that warmth, that uplift, that we come to associate with the presence of God. For all that God says against it, legalism seems to be built into our bones, and we are always looking for rules and blueprints. Once we adopt them we also adopt the guilt that goes with failure and the misdirection of our efforts into keeping the rules rather than serving God.

God has promised he is always with us and when we are born again the Spirit lives in us. That is true whether we feel it or not. Our lives are in God’s hands even when we are not aware of his guidance. While every Christian should be growing into a deeper relationship with God, there is no one way to define it. Like being in love, there are some common characteristics, but lots of different ways that it shows. Some go dreamy eyed and distracted, some are bubbling with life, some become very serious and committed. Many of us go through all these states at different times. So it is with God.

When I first became a Christian, verses like “pray continually” (1 Thess.5:17) and “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor.10:31), really stumped me. How can you pray while you are working? How can you change a dirty nappy for the glory of God? This is resolved when we stop putting our lives into compartments and realise that our whole life belongs to God. Whether we are ecstatically worshipping in a meeting or washing dishes, God is involved. We are multi-faceted individuals with a whole range of emotions. It is unnatural to try to always be the same.

Let go of your preconceptions and be honest with God however you feel, and let him meet you where you are. Then you can worship him with your whole heart, however you feel and whatever you are doing.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Scribbling Saturday: Roy Stubbs, Assistant Engineer of the Kestrel

Roy Stubbs joined PACT to escape from the poverty in which he grew up on an Earth colony planet. His mechanical skills were put to good use, and he trained as an engineer. He is slim and rough-looking, but he has a good heart. He has been working on the Kestrel with Blackie for two years, and looks on him as a father-figure. Blackie took him under his wing and helped him to learn some of the social graces that he lacked.

He proved himself to be a very useful member of the crew, often helping in little ways unbidden. He was not afraid of hard work, but was nervous of responsibility. His tough upbringing had left him with little self esteem, though he blossomed when praised by Blackie. Blackie was sure that in time, he would make a good career for himself and be a credit to the service.