God’s Panoply by Anne Hamilton, Even before Publishing, 2013

When I opened God’s Panoply, I thought I was about to read a heavy theological treatise, but as I continued, I found the book a refreshing read. The author presents a theory and uses biblical quotations, mathematics, literature and fables to prove her premise. She quotes from various translations of the Bible and relies heavily on the Hebrew Bible.
That green is the colour of fairy folk and magic was news to me, as I’d always considered it to represent hope when trees break into life once again. Upon consideration, however, hope does raise one’s spirits, as if by magic.
I’d heard of the manner geese migrate in formation, and can relate with the author’s comparison of that phenomenon with Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. So too, I have always marvelled at ‘the golden ratio’ and the way ‘this proportion appears everywhere in nature.’
The themes of forgiveness, armour, covenant and the power of words are woven together into a rich tapestry depicting God’s love for us, and, just as Our Lord often taught us in parables, the author teaches us through stories. Her thoughts are profound, yet laden with meaning. The language is lyrical.
E.g. A thousand years ago, a Jewish teaching of the first century emerged from its chrysalis and took full flight into Christendom.
and
Like a lark ascending, it fills the air with the sweet music of lifting off, lifting up, forgiveness, removal of sin, burden-bearing, helping, supporting, covenant, submission, obedience, oneness. Armour-bearing.
The theme of forgiveness rings a special note to me, and the final words of the author, So put on the armour of God. And remember to lift your face for His kiss, are particularly appealing.
I urge everyone not to be daunted by the title but to spend a few hours meditating on the mysteries revealed in God’s Panoply by Anne Hamilton.

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Holiday in the UK

A few months after our trip to Thailand, we took off for a six-week holiday in the U.K. Colin longed to see more of his English heritage and now that I had retired from teaching, we could travel during the off-peak season. We bought a Brit Rail Pass, and had a glorious time touring England.
At Kew Gardens, we stood enchanted, reluctant to leave our charming surroundings. We drank in the beauty of acres and acres of daffodils. Their fragrance wafted towards us and brought back memories of Portland, Victoria, as a child when wandering round Daffodil Farm.
We spent April Fool’s Day visiting Penzance and St. Ives on the Cornish Coast but as the tide was high at Penzance, we were unable to visit St. Michael’s Mount.
The stunning scenery of Cornwall was a hiker’s paradise with trails scaling rugged cliffs and descending to isolated sandy beaches. The silence was only broken by the roar of waves or the shrill cries of the birds.
At St. Ives we climbed steep slopes, stopping to taste Cornwall’s famed clotted cream. The plaintive cries of seagulls filled the air as we looked down at the colourful fishing boats sheltering within the harbour. Ghosts of coastguards still patrolled the area on dark stormy nights and smugglers’ caves beckoned us to explore their depths. I stood motionless and Colin recalled his misadventures at sea, shivering visibly, remembering when he and his Dad were swept out into the ocean at Portland.
The following week, at the Salisbury Plains, Stonehenge with all its hidden history and mystery left us strangely silent and speculative.
At Exeter, we boarded the train to Ivybridge, a quaint little village not far from Dartmoor National Park, where the walking tracks were well sign-posted.
As we hiked across the moors, the wind whistled through the hilly tussocks.
The bleak conditions conjured up the deep baying of the Baskerville hound in the distance. Dartmoor looked forbidding.
At Eggleston, we rambled in forests of beech and larch.
The sheds on the Liverpool dockside housed a market, filled with craft stalls. The docks were much larger than the one at Portland, where Colin used to wander about as a child. We sheltered from the cold wind and peered out at the Liver Building and the two metal birds perched on top of the twin clock towers like watchful guardians. They glinted in the sunlight—a beacon guiding ships into the harbour. Legend has it that if they flew off, the city would cease to exist. The edifice still stood, though buildings just across the river were razed to the ground by the Luftwaffe during World War II.
After wandering around the craft markets, we went on a sightseeing cruise of the Albert, Victoria and Gladstone Docks. The swell of the water rocked the boat. Seaweed clung precariously to the side of the pier, dancing to the tune of the wind that whistled past, sweeping away leaves and paper in fierce gusts. Barnacles shut their mouths against the air.
The rhythm of the rocking boat, and the sights and smells on the dockside, made us think of the war. The navy had stationed the Liverpool Escort Force at the Gladstone dock and destroyers, sloops and corvettes had docked there. Scarcely able to control our excitement, our thoughts turned to the Compass Rose, made alive by Nicholas Monsarrat in his book, The Cruel Sea. I visualised it steaming in, battle-scarred and belching smoke, still smarting from encounters with Nazi submarines and planes. It was freezing even where we sat protected from the winds. Fifty years ago without air-conditioned cabins, the cold would have been unbearable.
We disembarked, my head filled with thoughts of war. The gale drove us to the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Beatles’ Museum—a magnet to all Beatles’ fans. Anything connected with the sea attracted Colin, so we spent hours there.
Excerpt from my memoirs.

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Review of After Darkness by Christine Piper

After Darkness by Christine Piper
Author’s Blurb
It is early 1942 and Australia is in the midst of war.
While working at a Japanese hospital in the pearling port of Broome, Dr Ibaraki is arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Loveday internment camp in a remote corner of South Australia. There, he learns to live among a group of men divided by culture and allegiance.

As tensions at the isolated camp escalate, the doctor’s long-held beliefs are thrown into question and he is forced to confront his dark past: the promise he made in Japan and its devastating consequences.
Review by Hazel Barker
After Darkness by Christine Piper is a story of conflicting loyalties and an emotion-packed novel of grief and guilt, where secrets hover like shadows over the book.
The protagonist’s actions display his inner sensibilities. This was first brought to my attention on page 45 when Dr Ibaraki hears of Japan’s bombing of Broome, while in an internment camp. He worries over his Australian friends back there. Surely they would have evacuated. The uncertainty made me feel sick, he thinks, glad for the pocket of darkness that hid his tears.
When Ibaraki worked in a laboratory in Japan, he was haunted by images of blistered skin and a child’s black fingers – the results of Japanese experiments on the Manchurians.
The author’s terse prose is honest and compelling. Chevalier describes the methods used by the Japanese in their tests on humans, and specimens are brought the Japan in jars. The description of the severed head of a human experimented upon is particularly gruesome but it depicts the evil of biological warfare.
The protagonist says, ‘I felt stained by my association with the laboratory.’ He longs to explain his actions and reveal his work to his wife but refuses to break his pledge of secrecy and continues his loyalty to his Emperor, with dire consequences.
Poignant scenes are scattered throughout the book. The theme of empathy for human sufferings and the desire to help those in need is prevalent in the book, which has been thoroughly researched.
I particularly enjoyed After Darkness because as a young child during the Japanese occupation of Burma I also suffered from their experiments on the population. I recommend this book as an eye-opener on the horrors of war – especially germ warfare.

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Holiday in Thailand

Bridge over the River KwaiA few years ago, we booked a two-week tour of Thailand and visited Kanchanaburi, where so many prisoners-of-war had lost their lives. The film, Bridge on the River Kwai, had made the place famous, and we longed to visit the museum and walk over the infamous structure. We embarked on the train to the border of Burma and back. Even though the scenery was beautiful, I could only think of the thousands of prisoners working and dying daily during the war.
In silence, we walked over the bridge, which had been re-built after it was destroyed by Allied bombs. My brother, Rupert, was taken away by the Japs as forced labour when he was only thirteen. He could’ve been among those who died here, but he escaped and returned home. His friend’s body lies buried somewhere near the railroad.

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Photos taken during our walks in National Parks.
Toowoomba Picnic Point1 0041 0231 050

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Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Author’s Blurb

The stunning new novel from the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Honor Bright is a sheltered Quaker who has rarely ventured out of 1850s Dorset when she impulsively emigrates to America. Opposed to the slavery that defines and divides the country, she finds her principles tested to the limit when a runaway slave appears at the farm of her new family. In this tough, unsentimental place, where whisky bottles sit alongside quilts, Honor befriends two spirited women who will teach her how to turn ideas into actions.

Review by Hazel Barker

The Last Runaway is a fast-paced enjoyable historical novel, and a perfect mix of page-turning plot and characters. The book imparts a succinct and informed account of the underground railway and of the lifestyle of Quakers during the 1850s. It is an emotion-packed novel of homesickness, grief and guilt, written in a taut, lucid style.

The book depicts the struggle between good and evil and reveals the weaknesses and strength of human nature.The author delves into the main characters’ minds and gives a sense of the intrigue, deep loyalties and hatred of each character. Honor Bright jeopardizes her marriage for the sake of her convictions, a milliner forgets herself to help others, and an ex-slave risks her own freedom to rescue her children from slavery. Jack Haymaker is long-suffering and patient; his patience and forgiveness are much to be admired. Even the antagonist Donovan has some redeeming points.

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Review of ‘My China Mystery’

My China Mystery by Marion Andrews


Author’s Blurb.
Frank and Ella White’s passion was to touch the people of China. They met while working for the China Inland Mission in the nineteen forties, seeking to take the Gospel to a culture steeped in idol worship.
But their work was cut short and they were forced to flee.
In later years Frank rarely spoke of his time in China. It was only when he died that his daughter, Marion Andrews, discovered a treasure-trove of photos with accounts of his time there. These photos, combined with his prayer letters, uncovered the mystery of her parents’ work in pre-Communist China.
My China Mystery will take you on a journey into another time and culture, as Frank and Ella White take the name of Jesus to a people in need. As Marion discovers her history in China and receives the honours of a war hero for his work in China, the mystery is revealed.

Review by Hazel Barker

The author uses her journalistic skills to produce an interesting book on her parents, based on family photographs, diaries and correspondence between her father and his family, and his colleagues.
My China Mystery describes her father’s work in China – in God’s army of disciples as well as in the British army. The book interested me particularly as I’ve been researching my uncle’s life, during World War Two. He served as a member of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, during the London blitz and in Yunnan, China in the final spasm of the war.
Marion Andrews has done extensive research and weaves it seamlessly into the story. The only flaw I found in the book was an error in the map, showing the position of Mandalay. That town is in the centre of Burma and not where indicated. Despite this, I would recommend My China Mystery to all those interested in broadening their knowledge of other countries and learning about the hardships and sufferings endured by missionaries while promoting the Lord’s Word.

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