Advent Day 24 – Give

Many say that giving is better than receiving. It is reported that America is the most giving country when a disaster strikes or a when a need exists anywhere around the globe. During the Christmas season, we shop till we drop, buying gifts for loved ones.

Giving comes from the heart. We love to give. It’s a good thing. If our giving alleviates troubles, lightens hearts, of just brings a smile to someones face, we feel great.

But what do we give God?

This is His birthday celebration after all. Christmas would not exist as a holiday if not for the birth of Christ.

Though many would like to consider Christmas a “secular” holiday, you can’t. Sorry. Doesn’t work like that.

One can secularize Christmas in their heart, stripping any thoughts of the celebration of our Savior’s birth…but that doesn’t cease to make December 25th a religious “holy-day” any more than declaring that the Fourth of July is not about celebrating, in the spirit of freedom, our country’s independence.

So, given that Christmas is the celebration of our Lord’s birth and we all love to give, again…

what ARE we giving to God this Christmas?

That begs the question, what does God want? After all, He has everything. He says, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 50:10 (NIV).

But…there must be one small gift we can offer the Lord on His birthday.

Though there’s no Christmas list from God, we do have Holy Scripture as a guide. I found a few verses in the Bible regarding giving:

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; Proverbs 3:9

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:17

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Malachi 3:10

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. Luke 6:38

Those verses speak about our tithe and how we should give it, but let’s look further…what does God really want from us?

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Revelation 4:11

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1

“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

Getting closer…but this one really nails what I think God wants from us: 

Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways. Proverbs 23:26

God wants our hearts! Whew! But maybe that’s a big thing, a tough thing to give. Maybe it’s too hard to consider giving our guarded hearts to God. Maybe we feel let down by God in the past, hurt, wounded. Maybe our hearts are just to fragile to give away…what if they break…what if God doesn’t love us?

Take a look at the manger scene and from there raise your eyes to the cross. God does love us. He gave His son for us, born as a baby from a virgin. Mary said yes to Angel Gabriel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, The Word Made Flesh and dwelt among us. God offered His Son as a Sacrifice for our Sin. He does love us.

This Christmas, let’s consider one specific offering…even a small one, from our hearts. Not sure what to give, specifically? Pray. Ask Him. Seek Him and what He would like from you for Christmas.

It can be anything, even giving up a bad habit, or beginning a new practice that honors Him, or whatever you feel God would like as a gift from you…maybe even taking a small step toward giving your whole heart to Him. He does promise that by doing so, we will “delight” in His ways.

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; Hebrews 12:28

Sometimes, even showing up is a gift, the beginning of giving God what He truly wants from us–our hearts.

So this Christmas, show up in His Holy Temple, in His Church and kneel before His Presence and lay down your gift at the Altar.

At St. James Anglican Church, we celebrate Christmas with Lesson and Carols at 10:30 pm and then we have the celebration of the Christ Mass at midnight. I pray that many will come..and lay their gifts before The King.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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