EXCERPT 1: Book 1 Victori Song
Kia knew the instant the classroom door opened that this woman was here to collect her. She seemed to know a lot of things that she wasn’t supposed to know. She’d once seen a boy trip over and snap one of his front teeth in half. Seconds before it had happened, she’d tried to warn him by crying, “You’re going to trip!” but it had already been too late. She knew that one of the girls in her class, the one who smelled funny, had nightmares every night that made her wet the bed, but she’d never been told that. She knew that there were invisible creatures all around that other people couldn’t sense; not fairies and gnomes, but something dark and something light. And she knew, somehow, that Loraine was not actually her mother.
She also knew, just by looking at this lady, that they had something in common—maybe this gift of knowledge. Kia had always been smart for her age, even though she was the smallest person in her class. She always kept to herself and no one ever picked on her, because if they did, they knew she would somehow get revenge, like she had with the boy who she’d predicted would trip and the smelly girl she’d blackmailed.
When the woman winked at her, Kia felt her body start to move. She picked up her books, walked over to her school bag which sat on a shelf full of other school bags, and put the books inside. When her teacher, Miss Miller, asked if this was her Aunt Nancy, the word yes came flying out of her mouth, though Kia knew intuitively that the woman’s name was not Nancy Stewart at all.
EXCERPT 2: Book 2 Rebequah Victori
She had learned to stop feeling a long time ago. After being rescued from a near death experience at the hands of three witches, she had lost her identity. Was she Kia or was she Kelta? It was too difficult a question to face, so instead she asked her aunt to change her name to Kelly. She declined to take Daniel’s surname on the basis that Kelly Vella was a tongue twister. In reality, she did not want to be associated with him since he was no relation of hers; so she took the name Kelly Stewart. Counselors also agreed it was a good idea. They said Kelly could create a new identity for herself. But instead Kelly decided to become no one and to feel nothing. It seemed safer.
EXCERPT 3: Book 2 Rebequah Victori
It was just a test in her mind. A test to confirm to herself for once-and-for-all, that she was in fact a witch. She had avoided the truth for so long; it was about time she faced it. She was born into a family of witches and her destiny to become one of them, die for them–or both–was imprinted on her soul.
EXCERPT 4: Book 3 Samantha Song
It was only a few weeks after returning to Paradise Church that Kia met Gavin. What she did not know was that Gavin had asked to meet her. He noticed her sitting with Beq and Jesse on Sunday mornings and making a quick dash for the back door after the service. He approached the Davies to learn more about Kia. By the following week Beq had Kia convinced that if she really wanted to overcome her insecurities she needed to come out for lunch after church and meet new people.
So Kia, Beq, Jesse, Aaron, Beth, Gavin, Gavin’s brother David, David’s wife Michelle and a couple of Beq and Michelle’s mutual friends Trent and Amy, went out for lunch at a buffet after church one Sunday afternoon in May 2010. Funnily enough, Kia and Gavin were the only single adults in the group.
Kia remembered how Gavin had asked her what seemed like hundreds of questions that day. Before too long she became impatient and began glaring at him for prying too deeply. Then she realized that she was using immature coping mechanisms and that she had determined to try to let people in–female and male. So she continued to answer his questions, fighting her own urges to respond with haughty indifference.
Much later in their relationship, Gavin told her that she had failed miserably and had come across as a complete snob. He quickly added, however, that it had not discouraged him. If anything, he had seen through her mask and felt convinced that she was someone in desperate need of love.
Their relationship had moved very slowly in the beginning. Gavin asked Kia to be his girlfriend four times before she finally agreed. Then she broke up with him six times in the first ten months of their relationship. She spent weeks here and there ignoring and avoiding him. She called him names, and constantly pushed him away emotionally and physically.
When she was finally able to admit to him the things that had been done to her, what she had experienced and felt, and how close she had come to murdering her own family, he told her that it didn’t change the way he felt about her. His love for her was deepening because he could see that she was blossoming into an authentic, vulnerable, beautiful woman.
That was one year ago. Kia had finally let Gavin into her heart, where he belonged. Three months later they had become engaged, and today, two years after they had met, they were getting married.
I began reading through the Quran (Koran) for a Bible college project toward the end of last year and finished reading it in February 2015. I wanted to learn more about Islam and what it is that Muslims believe about God. The thing that intrigued me most about the Quran was Muhammed’s depiction of hell. The similarities between Islam’s understanding of hell and Western Christianity’s are quite striking.
Let me show you:
Is the expression “burn in hell” from the Bible? The exact phrase “burn in hell” never appears in the Bible, but it does appear in the Quran:
Quran 38:55-58 But the arrogant will have the worst return: they will burn, in Hell, an evil resting place – all this will be theirs; let them taste it – a scalding, dark, foul fluid, and other such torments.
Quran 56:92-96 But if he is one of those who rejected the truth and went astray, he will be welcomed with boiling water. He will burn in Hell. This is indeed the indubitable truth. So glorify the name of your Lord, the Supreme.
A lot of Christians describe hell as “eternal conscious torment.” I do not deny that the Bible connects hell to unquenchable fire, worms, salt, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and that the word eternal is also used in conjunction with hell. But I see all of these things as double-edged (both negative and positive). Fire burns off impurities (purifies), worms enrich soil, salt heals wounds, weeping and gnashing of teeth go hand-in-hand with repentance. As for the word eternal, my husband says that the fire and results of the fire are eternal, but once a person has come to repentance, the same experiences that were once perceived as hellish, now become heavenly i.e. what was once perceived as burning, torment, being eaten by worms etc., can be transformed into an experience of refinement, cleansing, enriching, and healing.
The hell of the Quran is way more specific in connecting hell to a torment that never ends and does not move from being a negative experience to being a positive one.
Quran 4:56 We shall send those who reject our revelations to the Fire. When their skins are burnt up, we shall replace them with new ones so that they may continue to taste the punishment. God is mighty and wise.
Quran 7:40-41 The gates of Heaven shall not be opened for those who rejected our signs and arrogantly spurned them; nor shall they enter Paradise until a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle. That is how we repay the evildoers – Hell shall be their bed, and over them will be coverings of fire – thus shall we reward the wrongdoers.
[The Bible directly contradicts this by declaring the gate of heaven never to be shut, Revelation 21:25-26. Also the “eye of a needle” reference in the Bible refers to the rich entering the Kingdom of heaven and says in the same passage “BUT with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:24-26.]
Quran 18:29 & 53 For the wrongdoers we have prepared a fire which will cover them like a canopy, and if they beg for water, they will be given water as hot as molten lead, which will scald their faces: how dreadful a drink, and how evil a resting place! … (53) The guilty shall see the fire and realize that they are going to fall into it: they shall find no way of escape from it.
Quran 40:71-72 when, with iron collars and chains around their necks, they are dragged (72) into the boiling water and then are thrown into the Fire
Quran 43:74-77 As for the evil-doers, they shall endure forever the torment of Hell, from which there is no relief: they will remain there in utter despair. We have not wronged them; it was they who were the wrongdoers. They will cry, ‘Master, if only your Lord would put an end to us!’ But he [the angel] will answer, ‘No! You are here to stay.’
Quran 73:12-13 We have in store for them heavy fetters and a blazing fire, food that chokes and painful punishment.
Quran 85:10 Those who persecute the believing men and believing women, and then do not repent will surely suffer the punishment of Hell, and the torment of burning.
If you ask a Christian: “who goes to hell?” you will likely hear answers like: “unrepentant sinners,” “evildoers,” “non-believers.” Again, to be fair, the Bible does say: “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:15. However, we have all done things on this list, whether it be telling lies, acts of sexually immorality or committing murder (Jesus equated hatred and murder). So we are either all “outside,” or this list is really just trying to tell us that certain people have not yet washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and are still identified as murderers etc. As soon as they wash their robes, they can come in as seen in the previous verse: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city [heaven],” Revelation 22:14.
Jesus called the Pharisees sons of hell. He also warned his own disciples (whether you want to call them Jewish or Christian) that they were in danger of the fire of hell because of how they behaved in their relationships, Mark 9. So hell is applicable to religious people, including me: a Christian “believer.” It seems to me that hell is for everyone at different times in their lives – both in this earth-age and the age to come.
Yet what the Quran says about who goes to hell sounds like the kind of thing a lot of Christians would say:
Quran 4:56 We shall send those who reject our revelations to the fire.
Quran 20:74 Indeed, he who comes to his Lord a sinner shall be consigned to Hell.
Quran 67:6-8 Those who are bent on blaspheming against their Lord will have the punishment of Hell: an evil destination. When they are cast into it, they will hear its roaring as it boils up, as though bursting with rage.
How many people go to hell? Everyone who is not a Christian? Not a believer? Not a Muslim? Most Christians I have asked say that the majority of human beings will go to hell. This means hell is a pretty full place right?
Quran 7:38 & 179 God will say, ‘Enter the fire and join the bands of jinn [like demons] and men that have gone before you.’ … (179) We created many of the jinn and mankind for Hell. They have hearts they do not understand with; they have eyes they do not see with; and they have ears they do not hear with. Such people are like cattle – no, they are even more misguided.
Quran 32:13 But My word shall come true: ‘I will fill Hell with jinn and men all together.’
Quran 38:85 I will fill up Hell with you [Satan] and every one of them who follows you.’
Quran 39:71 Those who rejected the truth will be led to Hell in throngs.
Christians who believe in hell as a place that cannot ever be exited seem to assume that they will be happy in heaven without all these other people, some of whom could be their mothers, fathers, siblings, children, favourite school teacher, neighbour etc. Perhaps we will forget those in hell. Once again this idea of forgetting is not found in the Bible, but is found in the Quran:
Quran 7:51 On that day we shall forget them, as they forgot their meeting of that day with us, for they denied our revelations.
Quran 32:14 We too will forget you – taste the chastisement of eternity for your evil deeds!’
Are the people in hell loved by God? This one is debated amongst Christians, even though the bible clearly says that God IS love and that we should love our enemies (and therefore so should he). Yet we seem to think it’ll be so easy, not only for those in heaven to forget those in hell, but for God to forget them and feel no more compassion or desire to save those in hell. The Quran testifies to the ease with which God rejects or hates those he sends to hell:
Quran 2:284 He will forgive whom He will and punish whom He pleases: He has power over all things.
Quran 28:68 Your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses whomsoever He pleases. They have no choice.
Quran 30:45 He does not love those who reject the truth.
Quran 59:20 The people of the fire and the people of paradise are not equal.
What we believe about hell is a dangerous thing. Often we don’t see how much the society, including religions around us, shape our ideas. Did you know that of the 6,236 verses in the Quran approximately 500 speak about hell? That is about 8% of the entire book. Yet of the 23,145 verses in the Bible the word hell only appears in an average of 12-14 verses and a maximum of 54 in the KJV. This amounts to less than a quarter of a percent (0.25%) of the book in every single English translation of the Bible.
The Bible never once says that Jesus was sent to earth to save us from hell and yet most gospel presentations preach that this as the central point of the gospel. Salvation from hell. I don’t see this in the Bible. I see warnings about a hell that we all experience called the refiners fire.
Here is my favourite verse in the Quran:
Quran 3:23-24 Have you not seen those who received a portion of the Book [the Bible]? … they say “The fire will touch us only for a limited number of days.”
The Quran was written around 600 A.D. Look what else was written not that much earlier:
“There are very many in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments” Augustine, 354-430 A.D.
“For it is evident that God will in truth be all in all when there shall be no evil in existence, when every created being is at harmony with itself and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature shall have been made one body.” Gregory of Nyssa, 335-390 A.D.
“The nations are gathered to the Judgment, that on them may be poured out the wrath of the fury of the Lord, and this in pity and with a design to heal, in order that every one may return to the confession of the Lord, that in Jesus’ Name every knee may bow, and every tongue may confess that He is Lord. All God’s enemies shall perish, not that they cease to exist, but cease to be enemies.” Jerome, 340-420 A.D.
It seems to me that in actual fact, the Quran was written in part as a reaction against Universalist-Christians who preached hell as the refiner’s fire. Furthermore, the Quran has had an influence on Western Christianity’s understanding of hell and unfortunately a lot of Christians have gone the way of the Quran, believing in a hell of eternal conscious torment. Study the hell of the Bible. Study the Jewish concept of hell. Study the root words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna that are being translated to hell in our English bibles.
As much as I respect Islam and Muslims, I reject the hell of the Quran, just as much as I reject the hell of traditional Western Christianity today, and I pray for a day when Muslims and Christians alike will come to understand that the concept of hell as “eternal conscious torment,” would never even enter God’s mind:
Jeremiah 19:5 (& 7:31) “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offering to Baal – something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.”
I admire my dad because he is hardworking. He persists through monotonous jobs. He was the breadwinner in our family for a long time. And even though he often told us “we have no money,” we were never without food or a roof over our heads.
He took the family on holidays every single year – actually a couple of times (not most holidays but some) – he worked so that mum could take us on holidays by herself or with a friend. I’m pretty sure all four kids loved family holidays, although there was one trip where Dad lost control of a 4 wheel motorbike on a farm and drove through a barbed-wire fence, cutting his throat! That was terrifying for all of us and no doubt very painful for dad. We are so lucky you are still here!!
My dad’s an early riser, up before the crack of dawn, reading his bible and praying. Every day of my life without fail he has done this – I even remember the one time he forgot to bring his bible on a weekend trip and was very upset to miss his daily reading plan. Despite the fact that I sometimes judged this to be a strict religious habit, I wouldn’t be who I am if my dad hadn’t “religiously” spent time in worship.
My dad could out-quote every Christian I knew when I was a kid and my current Pastor is the only person that I think might be able to out-quote him now. I watched my dad and I modelled him. I read my bible most days throughout my teen years. I memorised tonnes of scriptures. Now I can find the reference to most verses as fast as he can. I learned from the best.
I admire my dad’s spirituality a hell of a lot, despite any theological differences. It was my dad who first suggested to me “Once saved always saved.” And when I was still learning to memorise verses he was the one I would turn to and ask “where is the verse that says…” I love the fact that my dad prays for me every day. And I love the way he loves God for himself.
I love the way he loves his family – not perfectly, but he was always there at school functions, training my brothers’ football teams, and driving me to piano lessons. My dad did his best to be present and I never doubted that he was proud of me. My fondest memory was the time he called out in front of the whole school auditorium “that’s my girl” when I played piano at a concert.
My dad is my hero and though we don’t hear much in churches these days about fathers being the “head” of the family, I have always known that I could turn to my dad if I were in need, even though I often act like I’m totally independent! I look forward to having my dad walk me down the aisle and hand that authority over to my husband. And even then, I will never forget where and who I come from.
I LOVE YOU DAD!
<3 <3 <3
5th May 2014
It’s been three years today since Mum passed away and the waves of grief have adapted over the years. The first year was incredibly difficult. I think I cried nearly every Thursday on the way to work, because she died on a Thursday. The second year I experienced a lot of change in my personal life and felt very lonely. The third year has been this odd mixture of aching over some of the things she is missing–like watching me fall in love–and desiring to be Mum’s legacy in this world. So I have been pondering the question: would my mum be proud of me?
I once asked her that question when I was about thirteen, because truthfully, I wasn’t sure. I said it in the car on the way home from a school concert where I had just sung and played on piano, a song I had written. I really needed to hear it that day. I nearly cried when she said yes–it was a relief. I wanted to feel her pride.
Now that I am in my thirties, I no longer need the approval or pride of my parents, but it is still nice to have. I sat my dad down a couple of years ago and asked him if he would forgive me if I had sex before I was married. I wasn’t asking for his permission or approval, I was actually daring myself to be honest with him about where I was at: that I was lonely and tired of being single and living a celibate life. But when he said yes (he would forgive me) it was liberating for me. It actually gave me the grace–the freedom–to choose NOT to have sex at that point in time.
I also told my Dad when I became a universalist. He doesn’t have the same belief system and we disagree on our interpretation of the Bible, but he doesn’t love me any less or have a problem with me, as far as I am aware. If he did have a problem with me, or does in the future, it would be his problem and it wouldn’t be for lack of my being honest with him about who I am and what I believe. I would never stop loving him or pursuing a relationship with him, but any disapproval would not change my beliefs.
So I have thought about what it would be like if Mum were here and she knew that I was a universalist–if she read my facebook statuses and saw my determination to write books and verbalise what I believe. My mum read my novel “Victori Song” before it was published and she compared it to a series we had both recently read, and told me she thought my writing was more interesting! That was high praise coming from my mother to me. If you knew my mum the way I did, you would know that she tended to be more of an under-exaggerator than an over-exaggerator. This wasn’t a biased encouragement, she was being genuine.
If she were still alive and had the exact same personality right now, it is possible she would be uncomfortable with my boldness. I think that she would worry about me–about how criticism was going to hurt me and how that might reflect on her and our whole family may be hurt. I think there would be times she would think I was going too far, and times when she would scold my name “Elissa!” for discussing topics like sexuality on facebook.
But here’s the funny thing. Because my mother has passed away, and is now in a state of wholeness, love and eternal bliss–all of that worry and concern over my brazenness, and all of that habitual religious-shame around human sexuality–is gone. When I picture my mum in the afterlife, she is more proud of me now than she ever would or could have been as a fallible human mother.
In fact, the memory of my mum is what so often spurs me on. Because I know she would have been afraid to say the things that I say. She was concerned about people’s judgements of her and of me. She backed down from a lot of conflict. And I feel her reminding me that I am going to do bigger and better things than she did.
She changed a lot toward the end of her life. She learned about the grace of God and she started to live it out, share it with her friends, and accept God’s approval over and above the approval or disapproval of people. She grew in bravery and boldness. And her memory encourages me every day to do the same.
“Don’t be afraid Elissa. Don’t be like me. Let go of the approval of others. Fight for what you believe in. Stand up and open your mouth. I’m so proud of you for continuing something I was only able to dip my feet into. You’re going to swim the wide ocean of it. You are my legacy.”
Someone indicated to me recently that I may have been speaking ill of the dead–like it’s rude of me to admit that my mum wasn’t perfect and we didn’t have a perfect relationship. I’m not trying to taint anyone else’s perception of my mother, but I can only speak from my own experience of her. The reason I want to share my perception of her, is to help other people accept their own imperfect mothers.
My mum was a good mum. She cooked, she cleaned, she provided for us and met our needs, she invested in music lessons and a good education. But there were times in my childhood that I wasn’t convinced my mum was proud of me. My family didn’t get into the habit of saying “I love you” on a regular basis until I was a teenager. Now we say it all the time, but we had to learn to say it. I also could have benefited from more hugs than I felt I received in my younger years. That’s some of my tainted perspective of my family and particularly my mum. But I accept and forgive all of this. I have no problem talking about it, and no hard feelings toward my parents. My perspective is just that: it’s my perspective. I give myself permission to be honest about my experiences and perspectives.
No one knows my mother the way that I do. No one got to see and experience her the way that I did. And I was blessed to be one of the closest people in her life when she died. Only my dad was arguably closer. He and I took shifts looking after her. He was the one who got up in the middle of the night–every night–to boil milk for her to drink. He took her to the appointments she asked him to be at. He washed all of her clothes, sheets, towels and took over more household chores.
But I was there too. I was living with Mum and Dad from the time she was diagnosed until the day she died. I was fortunate enough to only work casual hours and was able to spend a lot of time at home with her. I had a baby monitor in my room so that she could call out to me. I cooked her food, I shopped for her groceries, I did the never-ending dishes. I drove her to the vast majority of her appointments. I sat with her through chemotherapy, Vitamin C injections, in waiting rooms and hospital rooms. I massaged her feet with essential oils, at least as many times as a mother rubs oil on nappy rash for her multiple children. I made freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices regularly for years.
I experienced role reversal and became my mother’s mum. I gave back to her the parenting she had given to me, just as imperfectly. I was resentful, I was tired, I was grieving, I was stressed…but I did it anyway, like she did before me. No one was there when my mum admitted to me that she didn’t think she had hugged me enough as a child, and she said she was sorry–that was an amazing moment. And I was one of very few who witnessed her crying about her life, her past regrets and resentments. I was able to observe, firsthand, how she blossomed through listening to Joseph Prince sermons on television. I heard her speak of the grace of God in a new way and experience a new level of freedom.
I held her hand two days before she died when she was in agony because her morphine drip was leaking. And all I could say–through my distraught tears–was that I was sorry it hurt and that the nurse was on her way to our house…I’ll never forget that.
Maybe some of you think that my mum wouldn’t be proud of who I am today. But I feel confident that her resurrected self is for me and not against me. When I speak, I speak on her behalf–things she might have said if she’d lived long enough to come to the same conclusions as I have. And things she never said because she was too scared. The memory of her fear inspires me. I am determined to be stronger than she was. I will overcome some of the things that she wasn’t able to. I will advance and take hold of the things she started toward–like any good daughter would.
Thank you, Mum, for being exactly who you were. I am exactly who I am in light of who I perceived you to be. I will do even greater things than you did, just as Jesus says that those who come after him will do much more. You were perfectly imperfect and I love you.