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Two books I downloaded from the authors’ websites

This post includes two book reviews

Alpha Male by Sheila Donald

and

Start Again by Sylvia Villalobos

Alpha Male

Alpha Male by Sheila Johnson aka Sheila Donald

Cover of Alpha Male With a young woman's face in the foreground and a man standing near a car behind her.

Sheila’s background in journalism is evident from the witty title and the characters from the office of a local newspaper. The story features a female protagonist and a male journalist, who attended an Alpha course in order to report on it. All the characters are well-drawn. The story has some suspense and conflict. It is suitable for teenagers and adults.

Since writing Alpha Male, which is also available as a paperback book, Sheila has gained a postgraduate Certificate in Creative and Critical Writing. We can expect her future publications to be even better.

I highly recommend the Alpha course, which is being run in many countries around the world.

Start Again

Start Again: Short stories from the author of Stranger or FriendSylvia Villalobos

The five short stories in this book all have the theme of starting again. All of them have previously been published online. An accomplished storyteller, Sylvia Villalobos was born in Romania and lives in Southern California. The two countries feature in her stories. Her Debut novel Stranger or Friend is being republished in October 2021.

I was interested to read these stories, although I am not a fan of the genre, preferring novels. Perhaps short stories ask more of the reader and I struggle to understand them.

I am acquainted with both of these authors online. Sheila Johnson belongs to ACW and Sylvia Villalobos has taken part in the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge.

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Reflecting on life, blogging and writing on International Bloggers’ Day

At the beginning of 2021 I picked the word ‘Focus’ for my word of the year. At first I kept reminding myself to focus on one thing at a time and to keep my goals in sight. Recently I realised I had forgotten about the word, but am finding that I am developing new habits. One is to eat less in an attempt to lose a little weight and help my hip and knee joints!

I am also trying to spend less time on my computer. A writing friend, Deborah Jenkins, blogged about whether life interferes with writing or writing with life. I had perhaps reached a stage during lockdown where life was put on hold, while I wrote!

Now with lockdown having eased somewhat I am doing more outside the home. There is less temptation to go online, although there is always my phone…

I have also set myself some goals in the house and garden, which will take time away from writing, but may also provide some new ideas.

The reason I missed two weekend posts on this blog was a lack of prompts. I am aware that there were more important things in Linda Kruschke’s life than setting poetry challenges. Her return to blogging resulted in a more personal poem from me.

Meanwhile there is a poetry competition I wish to enter this month. I have been working on my entries for it. I also entered a limerick competition for the Evesham Festival of Words.

The A to Z Road Trip, which I signed up for, is another project I have been neglecting. Perhaps I need to add it specifically to my to-do list. Does anyone else forget to look at their to-do lists? I make mine at times when I know I have a lot to do and at other times when I am uncertain what to do. They give me some motivation, but then I stop looking at them.

I have been enjoying working with writing friends on posts for their blog tours to promote new books.

One of my new habits is to read less. While Goodreads is encouraging everyone to read more, I have decided that I need to be more active with gardening, spring-cleaning and to read less. You may have noticed that my latest bookish posts have included a single book rather than several. I have a backlog of books to write about, though.

With arthritis affecting my thumbs I have taken a break from knitting. My sewing projects have been more masks. Even when they stop being essential, there are probably times when they will be useful in the future. I find that they help prevent my hay fever, but I cannot always wear my specs with a mask. Fortunately I can see reasonably well without them, but if it is sunny I need the light-sensitive lenses, which are also helpful for hay fever and protect my eyes.

Then there is email correspondence with friends to keep up with. While people have not been mixing socially this has been particularly important.

It is seven months since I have been more than five or six miles from home. Our walks have all been done without travelling to a starting point by car or train.

There is still uncertainty in the UK about when it will be ‘safe’ to reduce the measures put in place to prevent the spread of Covid. It makes scheduling in-person meetings for any purpose difficult. An announcement from the UK government is expected the day this post will be published.

I continue to spend time in Bible reading and prayer every morning in my quiet time before breakfast. I also try to find time to play the piano, mainly playing worship songs or classical music.

In a few weeks time I’ll have been blogging for 9 years. Blogging, and particularly reading other people’s blogs, has taught me a great deal. I have learned more history and geography, more about life in other countries, found new books to read and made new online friends, some of whom I met in person before 2020. Then there are the allocated days for so many causes!

I was alerted via Twitter to International Bloggers’ Day by an A to Z Challenge participant, Narayana Rao.

The bloggers I have mentioned in this post are in the UK, the US and India – international bloggers!

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Zeal #AtoZChallenge

This year for the Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge I have chosen a single word for each letter of the alphabet. Each of these words is important in the Bible. I am including a story in each post. Links from biblical references go to Bible Gateway.


#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter Z

Zeal appears in the Bible fewer than 40 times depending on the translation searched. This includes zealous and Zealot. Zeal is defined in the Collins Scrabble Dictionary as great enthusiasm or eagerness. Zealot is a political enthusiast (in the New Testament it refers to a member of a particular political group). Zeal is a word connected both with God, whose zeal for justice and righteousness leads to anger, and with his enthusiastic (zealous) servants. It is perhaps worth mentioning that the word enthusiasm is derived from Greek words meaning inspired by or possessed by a god. In the case of believers in the God of the Bible, this is the Holy Spirit.

Two people, who stand out for their zeal have appeared previously in these posts for the A to Z challenge. Elijah, whose story is told in this post and the post for Letter Q and Paul, Letter E and Letter Y.

To jump to the story Elijah’s Zeal for the Lord click here.

Phinehas, a priest who was the great-nephew of Moses, was zealous for God’s honour. Numbers 25:11 This led to a promise from God that his descendants would have a lasting priesthood. Numbers 25:13

In Deuteronomy 29, when the covenant was renewed, verse 20 states that God’s wrath and zeal will burn against anyone, who worships foreign gods (idols of wood, stone or metal). He will not forgive them.

King Saul’s zeal for eradicating the Gibeonites led to trouble, which King David had to deal with. 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Isaiah prophesied to King Hezekiah that the zeal of the Lord would accomplish the prophecies regarding Sennacherib’s fall.

The zeal of the Lord is a recurring theme in the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

Baruch zealously repaired a section of the wall of Jerusalem Nehemiah 3: 20

Psalm 69:9 was quoted in John 2:17 when Jesus cleared the temple because of zeal for God’s house.

Advice from Proverbs is to have zeal for the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 23:17 Fear is more like awe and respect in this context.

In the New Testament zeal is mentioned in the context of being zealous for a good reason (the fear of the Lord) or for bad motives.

Elijah’s zeal for the Lord

Elijah lived in the time of the wicked King Ahab of Israel, who served Baal, a foreign god worshipped by Ahab’s foreign wife, Jezebel.

Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, told Ahab that there would be no rain and no dew for the next few years except at Elijah’s word.

The Lord told Elijah what he must do next. Elijah obeyed, going to hide in the Kerith Ravine, where ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day and he drank from the brook.

When the brook dried up, because of the drought, The Lord spoke to Elijah again. Again Elijah obeyed, going to Zarephath of Sidon and staying with a widow, who had obeyed Elijah’s instructions, gaining a miraculous supply of food.

Some time later the widow’s son became ill and died. She was angry with Elijah, but he took her son, laid him on his own bed and prayed to the Lord that the boy would live. The Lord heard Elijah’s cry and restored the boy to life. Elijah restored him to his mother, who said, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of God from your mouth is the truth.’ (Letter Y tells a similar story from the New Testament.)

After more than two years the Lord told Elijah to present himself to Ahab, and the Lord would send rain on the land.

Ahab’s wife Jezebel had been killing the prophets of the Lord, but Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace, had hidden one hundred of them in two groups of fifty in separate caves. He had supplied them with food and water.

Ahab had been sending people everywhere to look for Elijah in order to kill him.

Obadiah reluctantly took Elijah to Ahab. What happened next is a very well-known story involving a show of strength between one prophet of the Lord (Elijah) and 450 prophets of Baal. The people were convinced by what happened that Elijah’s God was Lord. Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed. The Lord sent rain as Elijah foretold.

Jezebel was furious that her prophets had been killed. She wanted Elijah dead.

Elijah had already very energetically run faster than Ahab’s chariot to avoid the rainstorm. Now he fled with a servant to Beersheba in Judah. Then he went on alone into the desert. He had lost the will to live, but an angel visited him twice with bread and water. After eating and drinking this he travelled for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

The Lord asked him, ‘What are you doing here Elisha?’

Elisha claimed to have been very zealous for the Lord. The Lord told Elijah to stand on the mountain, while the presence of the Lord passed by. Then there was a destructive wind, next an earthquake followed by a fire. The Lord was not in any of those. After the fire there was a gentle whisper. ‘What are you doing here Elisha?’

Elijah came to the mouth of the cave and again told the Lord how zealous he had been and how his life was in danger. The Lord commissioned him to go back to the Desert of Damascus and anoint a king of Israel, a king of Aram and Elisha as a prophet to succeed Elijah. Elijah felt that he was alone, but God had seven thousand in Israel, who had not worshipped Baal. The next part of the story can be found in Letter Q: Elijah and Elisha.


The story abridged here may be found in 1 Kings 17-19:18