Throwing off hindrances and entanglements

[Posted for CONTEMPLATION & REFLECTION, not necessarily IMITATION]

So far this year I have completely thrown off:
Sugar [to prevent fat ACCUMULATION]
Alcohol [to prevent INEBRIATION]
Smart phone [to prevent DISTRACTION]

The outcome in each case was:

Which turned to:

Due to a beautiful increase in:

It should be noted that my actions were driven more by REACTION than INSTIGATION because I am one of those dullards who learns more by the need for CONTRITION than the presence of CONVICTION.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
- Hebrews 12:1-2

66 Words on Each of My Favourite Fiction Books Of 2016

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Hardback | 1200 pages

Comprising 4 full-length novels and 56 short stories, I imagined I would read one or two here and there, perhaps finishing them all by the age of retirement. I read it in a month. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle manages to blend his droll narrative style with a kind of 'orchestral' plot that builds here, meanders there, and often climbs to a grand crescendo before the end.

Best of: The Valley of Fear

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Paperback | 544 pages

I picked this book up at a newsagent and expected as much out of it as that admission promises. But, oh my word! Brilliant. I'm not sure who Anthony Doerr is, but he writes beautifully. The story is wonderful and unique and sad and fraught, the characters are expertly constructed, but more than all that, it's just beautifully written. Like words painted by an Old Master.

Best of: Marie-Laure. Everything about her.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Paperback | 1076 pages

I read Pillars because I like Epics and was told this was one. It's not. It's just a long story. That said, it's a decent read - the first half especially, before it lags. It's hard not to think Follett has a good 500 pager on his hands - or a TV miniseries (as it turns out). I'd still recommend it if it weren't for the gratuitous sex.

Best of: The first 500 pages.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Paperback | 288 pages

I remember adoring the movie as a child, which makes it more disappointing, because I didn't love this book. Which is strange. It's got everything I need: written by a British gentleman from another era, featuring talking animals, replete with quaint olde time language... And I still didn't love it. Or even like it, much. I guess they can't all be classics, even when they are.

Best of: Graham's vivid descriptions of his beloved riverside world.

Harry Potter: The Complete Collection by J. K. Rowling

Paperback | 3422 pages

7 best-selling novels, not a word of which I had read before. Why? My loyalties lie with legends like Tolkien and Feist and Martin and Brooks (okay not Brooks.) However... it turns out these Potter books are really very good. As in almost every case, it's the combination of a self-contained world, a solid plot, and careful character development that suspends disbelief and wins the reader.

Best of: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Paperback | 496 pages

This, the fifteenth in the series, is arguably the most complex story yet, set just months after "The Heist" (#14). This is in my top 5 of 16: the scale is vast, taking in The Troubles of Ireland, featuring an ex-IRA bomber, the Russian, Israeli, and British intelligence agencies, set in virtually all the locations of previous books, this is Silva doing what he does best. 

Best of: Silva's depth of research and attention to detail.

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Paperback | 400 pages

Silva's Gabriel Allon thrillers are fantastic. Fast-pace, grand-scale, ripped-from-the-headlines plot, global setting, believable characters. I've read each of the 16 books in the series in the first month they were published. This one rates somewhere in the middle of the top 16. It's good, but there's only so much more you can get out of a (albeit brilliant) character like Gabriel Allon. He's finally looking tired.

Best of: Silva's treatment of radical Islam. 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Paperback | 384 pages

I've got this thing about not watching the movie version of any book I like. LOTR did it to me. And The Hobbit. And The Narnias. So I haven't seen The Matt Damon Martian because I enjoyed this book. It dragged it's feet a little half way through, that aside, I was hooked from the opening lines:

I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.
— Mark Watney

Best of: Watney is the true and better MacGyver.

Carpark Collisions and a Trip to the Snooze Bus

It’s called a suicide note when someone writes something before they kill themselves, right?
What’s it called when you’re writing something and you die before you finish?
What if something kills you mid-sentence?
Is that a homicide note? 

I’m just wondering because I’m sitting here writing, but there’s a good chance I’ll be gone before I’m finished. I just want to be upfront about that.

But why? I hear you ask.
It’s because I’m the proud father of a three year old who doesn’t sleep.

A three month old? You say.
No, (you’re not listening.)
A three-year-old. 
Practically an adolescent.

And does he not sleep? I hear you say.
No. He does not.

Well, that’s not strictly accurate.
He does sleep.
He sleeps between 19:14 and 22:07. 
Then he wakes. And wakes again. 

He cries.
He hollers.

He rips open the delicate fabric of our sub-consciousness and chews it up with mouthfuls of hot, salty tears.

He wails.
He vociferates.

And then, with one of us at his bedside, he settles back down for another preciously limited interval of silence.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance: The five stages I go through every time my son wakes up during the night.

As I write this I look over at my wife.
I’m almost certain she’s my wife.
She looks different.
She looks at me different.
She looks at me distant.
She’s a waif.
She’s a wraith.
She’s a sailor cast adrift in a sea of heavy fog.

Or maybe it’s just my vision.
I have lazy eyes. They just want five more minutes.
They’re the reason I crashed into another car in the Coles carpark last night.
Crashed is a bit extreme. 
It was more of a forceful rub.
A deep tissue collision.

They say driving tired is like driving drunk.

Maybe the cops should run traffic stops for tired drivers.
Have you had anything to sleep tonight, mate?
No. Nothing to sleep, officer.
Get out of the car please.
You’ll need to step into the Snooze Bus.
You’re under a rest.

I know you think I’m being silly, but the Snooze Bus idea has legs.
Get an email to the Police Chief. Let’s do this.

But before you send that email, please pray for us.
We could really do with some sleep.

Haiku the Psalms 1-5

I have to admit, I googled 'Haiku' to find out what it was. 

Then I had a go. I tried to Haiku Psalm 1.

I did it because of a conversation I had recently with Dr. Peter Adam. 

He told me how he encourages people to dwell on Scripture - to meditate on it - rather than reading something and moving on.

I figure if I #HaikuThePslams it will help me do this. It will force me to read deeply enough to formulate a feeble 5-7-5 poem. It seems to have worked, for me at least.

Here goes the first 5/150...

To have fruitful life,
Live by the stream of God’s Word.
Drink truth and beauty.
— Psalm 1
The kings of the world
Pool their hatred to mock God.
The King of Kings laughs.
— Psalm 2
Enemies will say,
You are beyond God’s reach. Stress!
God says, You’re mine. Sleep.
— Psalm 3
Food and drink are good,
But when life is difficult,
Get your joy from God.
— Psalm 4
Here’s a mystery:
God can’t abide evil men,
He hates all who sin.
Yet when I sought him,
He flung wide the door, In love
He beckoned me in.
— Psalm 5