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“I give my time and energy for others, and not the roulette wheel!”

Justyn Rees Larcombe had a family, a home, a wonderful family and a prestigious City career, and then lost it all due to an all-consuming gambling addiction. In ‘Tails I Lose’ he tells the story of his addiction and loss, and of his recovery and new-found hope.

Buy ‘Tails I Lose’ for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)

Justyn Rees Larcombe

Justyn Rees Larcombe

This must have been a hard book to write – how did you feel about placing your darkest moments in print?

It wasn’t easy at all. I found myself returning to a very dark place, a place I had left far behind. When I could hardly see my computer screen through my tears, I called the editor and asked her if this was normal. She told me unless I went back and re-lived the moment, the book would feel too clinical, too removed. I had to take the reader back with me. She told me sometimes writing was like sitting down at a desk, opening up a vein and typing. That helped a lot.

How would you describe the rationalisation that must go on to justify compulsive gambling?

Like any addiction, the addict looses all rational thought; any logic goes out of the window. The things I did and the things I hear others have been capable of are quite breath taking. The compulsive gambler has a quite sensational ability to delude themselves, to override any sensible decision and that’s why there are people in prison, broken families and, tragically, people who have taken their own lives. It is the consequences of these self destructive decisions that make this form of addiction so dangerous. Many argue it is an illness.

Buy "Tails I Lose' for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)

Buy “Tails I Lose’ for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)

What is the solution for society – legislation, education or something else?

In the UK gambling is seen as a recreational activity and the huge proliferation in advertising (much of which aimed at the young) means there is a danger we might be normalising an activity for the next generation Gambling is an activity that most people responsibly participate in (74% of all adults in the UK have gambled in the last 12 months), but for some it has quite horrific consequences.

So we need to focus on some simple protection measures for the compulsive gambler (450,000 people is one conservative estimate)aimed at helping to prevent, and where necessary treat, compulsive gambling behaviour. Such as:

  • Compulsory education in schools (drug and alcohol addiction is compulsory, but not gambling)
  • Advertising should only be shown after 9pm (16 to 24 year olds are the fasted growing age group calling the helplines)
  • Independently funded research into the issue (currently the gambling industry have too much control over the research as there has been little independently funded research)
  • More adequate treatment for the issue which would also raise awareness of this little understood addiction.

Do you think that compulsive gambling is as much of a problem in the church as for the rest of society?

There has been some research into drug and alcohol addiction and other forms of addiction (such as the use of pornography) amongst our congregations and the results show similarities to other parts of society. I found that quite surprising. On that basis, I would expect there to be problems in the church in relation to gambling. It touches all parts of society, young and old, male and female, rich and poor. I have run a Christ based addiction recovery course at my church and the hardest thing I found for those in our churches is actually talking about the problem openly for the first time. But the most wonderful thing for Christians is that through Christ, we can be set free from the chains of addiction this world would like to bind us with.

What can churches do to help with this problem?

Without any hesitation I would say to be open and non-judgemental. To accept that there are probably people suffering from secret habits in our congregations and to make it somehow easier for people to talk about the issues. The Recovery Course is a wonderful course that was devised by Holy Trinity Brompton and follows the same format as the Alpha course. Course material (including DVD testimony and talks) is available from HTB at no cost. Maybe a group of churches could get together and run one, not just for Christians, but as a really effective outreach to our communities.

Do you think it is ethical for churches to use the proceeds of gambling such as lottery money?

I can only speak for myself here. Personally, I am not against gambling. I know that I will never be able to gamble again, but I have seen the destruction that it can cause at first hand and have even lost a good friend who took his own life because of it. I believe that the leadership of each church should consider carefully and wisely the sources of all their funding. One thing I am sure of, that the tide is turning in our society in relation to gambling. There is a growing problem that is beginning to be recognised and I think the lid will be lifted at some stage. When that happens, the proceeds of gambling might be viewed in a slightly different light.

How would you describe the life you now live?

I have nothing like the income I once had when I worked in the city, but my life is so much richer. I have discovered that money is not important, people and relationships are. I have a regular walk with God and my faith is everything to me. It is my rock and my foundation. I feel so very happy to have been given another chance to be a proper father and a husband. I intend to live one day at a time in all its fullness. Having spent so long taking, I now love nothing better than giving. Giving my time and my energy to others and my trust is in Christ – not the spin of a roulette wheel!

What do you hope people take away from your book?

I hope people who read it will gain a better understanding of the subject of gambling addiction and addiction in general. That it can effect us all if we let down our guard. But, ultimately I want people to know there is hope, healing and restoration through Christ.

Buy ‘Tails I Lose’ for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)

“We all have the chance to make huge changes in our life with small steps”

Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Despite being one of the foremost thinkers in the world of technology and social media – including being part of the team that set the Pope up on Twitter – it is her life-changing experience in Africa and the relationship with her African foster son (and co-author) that Claire Diaz-Ortiz writes about in her new book. ‘Hope Runs’, as she explains below.

Buy ‘Hope Runs’ for just £7.99 (£8.99)

What led you to write this book?

The book is not the book many folks expected me to write. It’s not a book about business, productivity, or technology book. Not at all!

Hope Runs is a joint memoir with my Kenyan foster son, all about the strange journey we’ve taken together. From meeting him in his orphanage in 2006, to spending a year living in his orphanage and starting a non-profit organisation, to ultimately bringing him to the United States five years ago, it’s a joint story of our now-intertwined lives. It’s a story we both felt we had to write.

Buy 'Hope Runs' for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)

Buy ‘Hope Runs’ for just £7.99 (RRP £8.99)

Your book describes how your life took quite an unexpected turn in meeting Samuel – were you ready for such a change?

Absolutely not! I was not at all prepared for what happened that day in the orphanage. I went to stay for a night, stayed for a year, and experienced a life-changing experience.

You were in a position where you were able to take some incredible decisions to make a difference in someone else’s life – what parallels are there for someone living and working a regular job in the west?

We all have the chance to make huge changes in our life with small steps. Even if you can’t move to Africa, you can do something today to make your life better than you ever imagined. Your job is to find that thing.

What role does your Christian faith play in your everyday work and life?

My faith is essential to the decisions I make every day. It fuels me, energises me, and directs me on a minute-by-minute level.

What do you hope people take away with them after reading this book?

I hope that this book brings hope to others. Whether it’s seeing the hope in your own life, or the hope you can bring to others – Hope Runs aims to extend more hope to you and your community.

Buy ‘Hope Runs’ for just £7.99 (£8.99)

Increasing our awareness of God

David Adam has been a consistent voice whose writing have encourage a contemplative approach to prayer for over twenty years. His latest collection of prayers, ‘Encompassing God‘ uses a simple approach to help people become aware of the presence of the Divine around them.

Buy Encompassing God for just £7.49 (RRP £8.99)

What was your aim in writing this book?

David Adam

David Adam

Encompassing God was written with the desire to share with people a simple form of prayer which has great depth. This form of prayer has enriched my own life over many years. It affirms that God is with each of us. He waits for us to turn to him: to give him our attention. We dwell in his presence, his peace, his power, yet we fail to be aware of this abiding presence.

 

You seem to see prayer more as becoming aware of God rather than petitioning him? Is this a fair observation?

God likes us to share our needs and desires with him, yet often we talk so much and rarely listen to God. Petition without a sense of awe and awareness is often in danger of sounding like our shopping list, or a series of demands. Once we are aware of God, we become aware that he knows us and our needs. Prayer is not to make God react but rather to open our lives to allow God to be at work in them.

Buy 'Encompassing God' for just £7.49 (RRP £8.99)

Buy ‘Encompassing God’ for just £7.49 (RRP £8.99)

The contemplative form of prayer seems missing from many contemporary expressions of Christianity – why do you think this is?

Because we have been trained to think analytically and scientifically, we tend to lose sight of other ways of thinking. This is especially true in an age when we expect instant replies and results. Many of our services and acts of worship lack stillness.  We find it hard to give our undivided attention to anything for long.

How would you see the prayers in this book being used?

I would like to think people would learn the ‘prayer of seven directions’ and then apply each direction to their own lives. I have encouraged groups to act this prayer out and to dance it out. Groups can use these prayers about the presence to centre their worship on the presence of God and to reach out to others. I would hope they would discover that affirming the presence helps people to become more aware of God’s love and acceptance of us all.

Prayer seems most elusive when life is most difficult. How can this be overcome?

There are times when it is hard to pray: times when we feel God is far off. Sometimes we cannot find any words. When I come to such times I affirm the presence, even though I am not aware of God. It is such times a prayer like the prayer of seven directions is useful

What would you hope people take away from this book?

That they are loved by God and that in him they live and move and have their being. God is always with them and ready to welcome and accept them

R T Kendall: Pursuing God’s Wisdom

R T Kendall

R T Kendall

There are few contemporary thinkers who can command respect across many denominational boundaries in the way that R T Kendall has achieved in his many years as a preacher and writer. With his latest book,’In Pursuit of of His Wisdom’ he turns his attention to one of the great needs and challenges of the Christian life.

Buy ‘In Pursuit of His Wisdom’ for just £11.99 (RRP £13.99)

This books seems to have been on your mind for some time – what was your motivation for writing it now?

I am not sure I know! Some twenty years ago a lady asked me to write a book on wisdom and I always thought that perhaps one day I would.  In recent years the idea of a book on wisdom has grown until the day I started writing it.

Buy 'In Pursuit of His Wisdom' for just £11.99 (RRP £13.99)

Buy ‘In Pursuit of His Wisdom’ for just £11.99 (RRP £13.99)

How would you distinguish between wisdom as you describe it, and knowledge that can be obtained through study and reason?

Wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord – available to anybody whereas some people are not necessarily ‘intellectual’. One can be intellectual and not be intelligent; one can be clever but not wise. The wonderful thing is, wisdom is available to all who fear the Lord.

Is it possible to obtain wisdom outside of a knowledge of the work on the cross?

Very good question. I have a section in my book called ‘common grace’ – God’s goodness to all people, whether or not they are Christians. So with that in mind, a person can show amazing wisdom without being saved. I would have thought that (in my opinion) Winston Churchill is an example of this.

Is there a danger, even amongst Christians, that the idea of wisdom only revealed by God, can lead to a form of gnosticism?

No, that is, not the way I myself would define wisdom – namely, the presence of the mind of the Holy Spirit. This definition keeps one squarely within Holy Scripture.

How does someone find wisdom in the midst of busy, challenging lives with all of the many pressures that people face?

It is not easy. But if one has a steady spiritual diet of prayer and Bible reading, one has a head start in being able to cope with sudden crises or pressures.

What do you hope people will take away from this book?

Two things: (1) the knowledge that true wisdom is found only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and (2) the fact that God delights in giving wisdom to those who love Him.

Buy ‘In Pursuit of His Wisdom’ for just £11.99 (RRP £13.99)