Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Lord's Yearly Ruth Johnson

For I know the plans  I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Jer 29:11

We live in exciting, but tumultuous days, as did Jeremiah.  How good it is to know God has a plan for us, and He desires to reveal Himself to us in greater measure.  I see my life as a training ground, my hope is based in Him and the knowledge that I am being prepared for an eternal future with Him. However, the Lord often speaks to me through earthly things.

Eighteen months ago my daughter gave me an adult colouring book and pens for my birthday.  Within weeks newspapers were reporting that this was the latest trend started by Johanna Basford whose sketching attracted a friend to ask if she’d do copies for her to colour.  Since the first “An Inky Adventure and Colouring Book” was published there have been two further beautifully soft bound books released making her probably thousands, if not millions, of pounds.  It has been said that such a pastime will relax the body and mind and help break off anxiety and stress.  This Christmas there were dozens of adult colouring books in huge piles for sale.

Hebrews  4:10 “For he that has entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. 11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall according to the same example of unbelief.”  The best rest is obviously God's, but so often our lives feel like ‘inky adventures'.  We’ve a sketch of His plan, it's our characters and personalities that colour them in, and I suspect we often feel we could have done better!   Above is the same sketched pattern completed twenty years ago by my daughter and I. It reminds me that we all start out with God’s pattern for life, and He gives us the freedom to be unique along with the ability to grow in our response to what we see and hear.

To add to that a fortnight ago I came across perhaps the next phase or craze!  An adult 'dot to dot' book with several hundred numbers to join before the sketch was formed to colour in!   It caused me to consider if we sometimes see our lives so fragmented that there are seemingly hundreds of dots to join before we begin to grasp the bare outline of God’s plan for us.  But I remembered the Bible tells us circumstances, difficulties, troubles, produce character and shape our personalities.  It is in those times I know I need to press through in the belief that the Lord's desire is to love and bless me.  When I put my hand in His I begin to see the intricacies of His sketch as He guides, teaches and shows me how to form and bring colour to my life.  It is my hope through that to reflect the richness and beauty of He who lives within me.    

Friday, 20 January 2017

A struggling scribbler from Kent... by Sue Russell

A favourite quotation of mine comes from the composer Gustav Holst. 'If nobody likes your work, you have to go on for the sake of the work. And you're in no danger of letting the public make you repeat yourself.'
In the early years of his career Holst couldn't earn a living from his composing and instead played the trombone professionally. It may have been his failure to attract an enthusiastic following initially (rather a common experience!) that made him particularly aware of the dangers of taking oneself too seriously, and perhaps we should be too. In fact as Christians we should be less prone to this peccadillo than most artistic navel-gazers; we believe, don't we? that God has equipped us with certain gifts and we are to use them for his glory and the benefit of others, leaving the outcome to him. If we can put this into practice, it's quite a relief. I'm as susceptible to worrying about reviews (or the lack of them), who likes what I write, who doesn't, and all the rest of it, as anyone. But how wonderful to realise it's not ultimately my problem!
So in pursuit of a little light-heartedness I thought I would tell you about a small celebration coming up, as it happens on the same day as this post is published. I belong to two writers' groups, the ACW one and a secular group which I have been attending on and off for several years. Instead of a Christmas party or meal one of our group has invited us to her house for dinner - and something which has become a tradition: a limerick competition. She and her husband have recently moved house, and none of us has seen the new place yet, so the subject of the limericks is 'Moving.' Each of us has been asked to submit a limerick ( or two), and since my husband is not literarily inclined (apart from being a discerning reader, and supporting my efforts) it falls to me to compose one for him. I did a tiny bit of research about limericks and found that the form has been around for  centuries, usually as a vehicle for smut and scurrility, but was popularised by the multi-talented Edward Lear, whose limericks, while silly, were at least clean. I freely admit I find cooking up idiotic limericks a lot easier than blog posts.

Here's the one I'm thinking of submitting on my husband's behalf, and I make no apology for frivolity.
A lonely young lady from Leicester
Whose life, she decided, depressed her
Got fed up with waiting
And tried online dating.
Now she lives with a wrestler in Chester.

Let's hope and pray that the coming year gives us the opportunities we seek to move forward ourselves, to advance God's kingdom and glory rather than our own, and have a little fun at the same time.
Happy New Year!

Sue Russell writes as S.L.Russell and has five novels available in the usual places. Leviathan with a Fish-hook, The Monster Behemoth, and The Land of Nimrod are a trilogy, then there are two stand-alones, A Shed in a Cucumber Field and An Iron Yoke. A sixth should be making an appearance early in 2017.

Sue lives in Kent with her husband, currently one grown-up daughter, and Rosie the dog. She is an amateur singer and a church organist, and blogs at

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Unexpected will Happen, by Wendy H. Jones

Today, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, I found my self unexpectedly writing a blog post. Having not thought about this in advance I spent some time wondering what to write about. I had a busy day planned and writing a blog wasn't part of that plan. However, it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It has given me an opportunity to think abut how I react when the unexpected happens and throws my best laid plans into chaos.

The picture of the duck is intentional, mainly because it's a bonnie wee duck. Who can fail to be happy when faced with a yellow ball of fluff. However, it also serves as a metaphor for the various ways in which we act when the unexpected happens.

Usually the first reaction when something strays into the path of our ordered day is to panic. This can have its place but doesn't really help solve the immediate problem. Chaos ensues and nothing gets done. Except eating chocolate of course. That always gets done.

Then there's the opposite approach. Do nothing. Stay serene and sail smoothly along like our duck. Just ignore the fact that there is an extra task to be done. Again this may make us feel better in the short term but doesn't help in any way shape or form in the medium or long term. That task still needs to be done, or we can reap the consequences of ignoring it.

So what is the best plan of action. I find that it's best to act just like the bonnie wee duck. Stay calm but paddle like a viking warrior at the oars of a longship. Pray, prioritise and persevere. Put one finger in front of the other on the keyboard and before you know it all tasks will be completed.

So that's what I did and here we have the blog to prove it. My advise to you when you feel overwhelmed is to take one thing at a time. The tsunami will be diverted and you'll still be alive to tell the tale. You will also have completed one more unexpected task.

About the Author


 Wendy H. Jones is the author of the best selling DI Shona McKenzie Mystery series of crime novels set in Dundee. Killer's Crew, the fifth booking the series was released in November, 2016. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016.  She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Midnight musings from a writer's journal by Joy Lenton

It's dead of night. My body is resting but thoughts circle like restless birds. Trying not to leak black ink onto whiteness of pillow, I scribble in a notepad, needing to put pen to paper.

Here's what emerged in the midnight hours...

"Words have been rather stilled of late. Once they ran so freely I could scarce keep pace with them. Strangely, poetry often flows more easily than prose when I'm extra fatigued. It makes me wonder if we can only focus on one facet at a time: Storytelling, fiction writing, memoir, articles, functional narrative, or poetry in all its various guises.

I cannot always cajole poetry. She's capricious, wilful, shy. Her alchemy fails when I push too hard, strain for a rhyme or press to combine this word or that into magic potions of my own devising. 

When I simply let her alone, ignore my desire to pen the poetic, then she returns. Quietly at first. A line or two to get me started. A word that lingers like honey on the tongue. Eventually my poetic Muse (Holy Spirit) yields a few phrases and allows me space to create. Instead of dredging for pearls, I find they flit through my fingers, scatter their largesse. 

Instead of sitting with the sludge of frustration and settling into despondency, poetry's entry turns me into a deft weaver of words, spinner of rhythm and rhyme, with a sweeter expression than before.

She teaches me patience and the power of concentration mixed with creative imagination. Poetry reaches into my heart to prise apart soul feelings, stir the melting pot of emotions into a semblance of sensibility, which others can relate to.

In those times when we are together companionably, I am grateful for poetry's presence. When she departs briefly (or maybe for weeks), then I seek solace in writing of another kind.

Because I need to let loose. I cannot stop simply because poetry has temporarily pulled the plug on me. Allowing calm to come and refusing anxiety admittance will aid me to stay alert for her return. And when she arrives? I feign a little insouciance. But inside? I could cry with relief. Life is less than it can be when I'm missing poetry."

In order to keep the creative juices flowing in drier seasons I still try to write something each day—maybe a few words in a journal, a line or two that doesn't go anywhere yet, a poem that stalls but might be recoverable later on. 

Several notepads sit around the house, because I'm open to inspiration arriving at any time and in numerous ways. Thankfully, God knows just how and when we need to receive it!

A little bit each day

I write a little bit each day
because life's rhythm pulses
through my veinsaching to be birthed
in poetryand words find a way
to crawl slow upon the page
beating the blues, weaving through
my weariness and pain, until
they start to sing freely again

Sleep is always preferable to being woken with words buzzing in our heads, but I'm learning to listen to the small snatches that come my way and to be grateful for them. I'm also trying new things such as found/magnetic poetry and flash fiction, plus reading fiction—alongside my usual fare of memoir, Christian living and poetry booksfor future inspiration.

How about you—have you tried a new style or genre lately?
What helps you to remain creative? 

PS: If you can identify with writing/poetry being challenging, you may also like to read more here about scrambling for words and how God inspires us anew.

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'

She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs and as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Dealing with distraction by Claire Musters

Cheesecake - fuel or distraction?
We have had many a humorous moment discussing cheesecake, and our desperate need of it (or chocolate), over on the ACW Facebook page haven’t we? But, to be serious for a moment, I have found I have been severely distracted over the last few months, finding it difficult to settle down to work each day.

Not used to being distracted much, I have been questioning why it is happening. I believe part of it is due to a sense of dissatisfaction. I’m experiencing it in my walk with God, too, and I can sense Him beckoning me to go deeper and explore new things so I’m no longer satisfied by the status quo. Perhaps it is the same with my writing – although I think part of the distraction is down to the fact I am working on something so close to my heart.

A quick search online shows a wealth of articles from ‘writing experts’ telling us how to beat all writing distractions. But, I wonder, whether distraction is always an enemy – or whether it can open us up to new possibilities.

I totally understand that writing takes discipline, grit, determination, focus and routine. As a task-orientated person, I’ve always had a checklist of what writing needs to be done each day, and have enjoyed being able to tick each item off once done.

However, I was interested by this quote from Stephen King in On Writing: “In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways.”

Do distractions ever lead you to new and interesting ideas that you would have never otherwise have thought of for your writing? Or perhaps a distraction has given you an unexpected break, which you found you had really needed as you then went back to your writing with fresh vigour?

God has been talking to me recently about loosening my grip on my working day. I am very disciplined about keeping it to the hours my kids are at school, but that does mean I tend to be rigidly chained to my desk during the school day. But God has asked me to leave my schedule slightly more open, so that I can meet a friend in need when necessary, or grab another unplanned positive opportunity that may come up.

I have begun to do this, and have found that it has opened up all sorts of experiences that have challenged and stretched me as a person. It has also provided a wealth of writing ideas I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought of while sat at my desk staring at the screen.

I’m currently still working on the art of distraction, battling through the tension of its good and bad elements. I would love to hear your own stories of when becoming distracted has provided you with an unexpected lift or driven you, literally, to distraction!

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on authenticity, marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Into Managing Conflict and Insight Into Self-acceptance, Cover to Cover: David A man after God’s own heart and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today as well as Bible study notes, and her next co-written book, Insight Into Burnout, is due out in February 2017. She is currently working on her next book, Taking off the mask: learning to live authentically. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Am I bored enough yet by Lynda Alsford

"Don't it always seem to go. That you don't know what you've got till it's gone". I realised the truth of these words from Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi over Christmas. On Christmas Eve I got in my car and drove to Essex, some 90 miles away, to spend Christmas with friends. I thought I had everything with me. I stopped at a service station on route. I put my hand in my bag to get out my phone, so I could tell my friends there was not much traffic and I may arrive sooner than I had said. But there was a big empty space where my phone should be. I had left it at home. 

My first thought was 'Oh no'!  This was quickly followed by a sense of peace and relief that I was not tied to the phone. I would have a true break, with no-one being able to contact me. I relished the experience. 

Photo by Anete Lusina via Unsplash
I arrived at my friends' house half an hour earlier than I had told them and they were not in. I couldn't ring them to tell them where I was. I didn't know if they were OK and delayed or had had an accident. They were ringing me to tell me they were delayed and getting no response from me. They were anxious about me too. I didn't have their number written down anywhere and didn't know it off by heart so  couldn't ring them from another phone. 

Apart from this initial worry I found my phone-less Christmas enjoyable. I was more present with what was going on. I could only focus on where I was at the time, who I was with at the time and what I was doing at the time. I could really be with them. I wasn't looking at my phone every 5 minutes. I didn't realise how often I looked at my phone until I didn't have it with me. 

This experience has made me decide to try to use my phone less over the coming year. I want to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time. I want to be more present with what is going on around me, whether that be silence, conversation with friends or a TV programme. I may find I observe more of what is going on around me, which I hope will improve my writing. 

Photo by Mohammad Bagher Adib Behrooz via Unsplash
My experience has also made me realise that I don't often stop and just spend time truly relaxing. I am always doing something. I'm looking at my phone, the TV, my laptop or a book. Even when watching the TV I often have the phone in my hand playing scrabble or doing a jigsaw on it. It's constant stimulation. I often end up not giving any one thing my entire concentration.  I am rarely bored. I think it may contribute to increased stress levels and decreased creativity. Perhaps we need some time to be bored in order to increase creativity. 

I am reminded of the poem by William Henry Davies

    What is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

    No time to stand beneath the boughs
    And stare as long as sheep or cows.

    No time to see, when woods we pass,
    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

    No time to see, in broad daylight,
    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

    No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
    And watch her feet, how they can dance.

    No time to wait till her mouth can
    Enrich that smile her eyes began.

    A poor life this if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare.

What do you think?

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The ACW 2017 reading challenge!

A reading challenge doing the rounds at the beginning of the month suggested reading 26 books in 2017 - one book every fortnight.  The meme provided categories of books across a broad range of genres.  Well, after a few tweaks to those categories (such as taking out 'a book over 100 years old' and adding in a couple of explicitly Christian categories) I give you the ACW 2017 reading challenge!

The suggestions I've provided are not even slightly comprehensive - I think I could have published an encyclopaedia-length list - and the authors here are all, to my knowledge, members of ACW, or connected in some way through the local groups, as well as having been recommended by members of the ACW Facebook community.  What a diverse and accomplished lot we are! 

So, this year, why not broaden your reading and support fellow writers at the same time by attempting to read at least one book from each category?  Don't just stick to my list - use the comments section to add your own reads, reviews and recommendations - and don't forget to share far and wide and get others involved as well!

(Just click on a book to see more details.  All links open in a new window)