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Friday, 30 October 2015

Ask not what Chiasmus can do For You by Lucy Robinson

  Chi

What makes your writing memorable?

You know, I’d been hoping to write something about literary devices. Something helpful. Something encouraging. Something beyond just the Rule of Three.

Perhaps that is where my story begins, because I love rhetoric and close readings of texts. (Somewhere I made some notes on it, once upon a time.)

Finding my notes is part of my rounded routine of procrastination. That is, when I find the time to start looking for the right notes.

With the children home from school, much of this summer has been spent absorbed in their greater and lesser needs. They do keep wanting to eat.

Which demands having food in; and clean plates.

But they keep producing mess. And eating up the food.

(And still wanting more to eat…)

Their needs have grown greater and lesser as the days draw on and the evenings draw in and they have each absorbed so much and I will miss them when they return to school, but I really look forward to having just a little more time.

Time to procrastinate squarely on my own terms. To find my notes.

And, finding them, to peer closely at the end.

Closely, to find riches scrawled unbeautifully, there and back again like some unwieldy chiasmus, and closer still, to present some hope that the practise and purpose in writing to bless others who are also living real lives might do just that.


A post on chiasmus needs an image with a Chi – the Greek letter c - to illustrate the connection between the two elements crossing over. See image at the top of the page. Remember this quote?

                                          Ask not what your country can do for you;
                                             ask what you can do for your country.

                                                                                                       John F. Kennedy

Of course, it is also possible to extend the pattern further:

A           No one can serve two masters;
B                       for either he will hate the one and
C                                     love the other, or
C’                                    he will be devoted to the one and
B’           despise the other.
A’           You cannot serve God and wealth.

                                                                                        Jesus Christ

The Bible is actually full of examples of chiasmus and other very deliberate rhetorical stylistic devices and as a student of the Old Testament I am fascinated by them. Short pithy proverbs. Repeated ideas, reinforced and strengthened. Central pivot points and play on words. Alliteration and rhythm. I believe much of the oldest material (and indeed many of the sayings of Jesus which we have recorded) survived because they were memorable, and chiasmus is one good way to do that.

If you think of the stories you can remember from childhood, the chances are that the structure was also memorable. Chiasmus works structurally too. Maybe you have seen how certain parts of the Bible can be described like this, including parts of Genesis and Revelation and possibly even the entire book of Ruth, although I would caution against finding these meta-structures too readily.

The process of writing a chiastic structure is not always easy, but it can be a helpful exercise to create a there-and-back-again piece of writing which embraces repetition, and to remind ourselves of some of the clever rhetorical devices which have held stories together for centuries.

About the Author



Lucy Robinson is currently working on a historical fiction manuscript. A trained teacher with two Theology degrees, her writing stems from a passion for the Old Testament and for those on the edges. She lives with her husband, two children and a brace of guinea pigs in Cambridgeshire. Her blog www.jamandgiraffes.com is mostly associated with the family giraffe bread story which went viral in 2012, but she recently started creating a writer platform at www.lucymarfleet.com.












Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Christian Adventure in Morocco by Ann Phillips





(A leap into writing poetry.)

Many years ago, almost it seems like a different life, I was studying at a Bible College in Cambridge and hoping to go to India as a missionary.

At the end of one summer term our Principle and her husband planned to drive through France, cross into Morocco and visit missionary friends, five students joined them; we set off early one morning in their camper van armed with our Bibles,suncream, notebooks, pencils and high expectations!

Our Head of college was a vibrant, creative lady who not only taught Theology, Church history, Hebrew and Greek but also enjoyed writing poetry, and her delight in crafting words was communicated to us.

We drove through France crossing over into Morocco; Arriving at Tangiers, we were so glad to find hot showers and comfy beds! Our hosts were the St John family, medical missionaries who worked at a clinic in the city.

Encouraged by my friends I wrote my first poem, about my enduring memory from camping in France.

Normandy.

Poppies, red as blood, stand in serried ranks

Wind blown, row on row

Soldiers; our countries life,

It's youth, it's aspirations, dreams

Are fallen now.

Row on row, crossed tragedies....

My first attempt, as you can see, is not great, however I press on!

We travelled from Tangiers to Marrakesh camping in the official site, situated in the heart of Marrakesh where we spent several days wandering through the narrow passageways soaking up the atmosphere.

We moved on, driving over the Atlas mountain range, dropping down onto the edge of the sandy Sahara. We came at last to Ouzarzate, the focus and aim of our trip.

Here the missioaries were quite isolated and valued visitors who brought news and fellowship to them and to the few local christians.(Remember this was the 1970's. Now Ouzarzate is a tourist destination!)

We stayed a week, enjoying traditional Moroccan hospitality. We visited the nearest oasis following one of the few rivers, seeing the fertility the waters brought to the Bedouin; and visited some spectacular rocky outcrops shaped by wind and sand. We experienced our first and only sand storm, not pleasant even within the shelter of a mud brick house, let alone a tent!

A poem from that visit:

Contrasts.

Shimmering heat strikes sparks off bare rock,

Road winds on and merges with horizon

Red-hot, time moves on to its zenith

While sweating bodies cry out against flies, dehydration, apathy.

Are mirages near?

No mirage, but towering walls of rock

Bringing weird shapes and echoing voices.

A languid river, cool green, welcomes us, slakes thirst.

Shade of olive groves and feathery palms reassure

Here's cultivation, action, life.


It was a beginning. I have written many poems since then but only recently have I started taking writing seriously as I have the time to learn the craft, attending poetry workshops and experimenting with other genres. Better late than never!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

When the Pen is the Sword by Dorothy Stewart

Are you a Christian writer? Or a writer who is a Christian? For the purposes of this post, any difference doesn’t matter. What matters is the word ‘Christian’. If you claim that name, you’re going to find yourself in a warzone. Our Lord Jesus Christ won the war but the opposition hasn’t given up yet and we’re in the firing line – especially if we have the temerity to stand up for what – and Who – we believe, in what we’re writing.

So do not be surprised when the attacks come. Illness, suffering, rejection, misunderstanding, abuse, mockery, despair, wanting to give up… and my particular current bugbear, that horrid creeping apathy like a heavy blanket that gets in the way of actually getting anything done!

Name the attack, by all means, but name the enemy too. ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil’ (Ephesians 6:12)

What to do? Prevention is best, if you can, and that means making sure we spend enough time in our Lord’s company and reading His Word. The harder the attack and the heavier the workload, the more time we need with Him – not just the morning quiet time but coffee time with Jesus, an aperitif of prayer before our midday meal, another duck of the head to check in and re-connect before we get stuck in to work in the afternoon… two or three minutes only, maybe, but each keeps us firmly attached to our Divine Sherpa as we struggle up the mountain!

And of course it helps if we are properly kitted out – in the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:13-17): the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shield of faith… and that sword – the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.



Yes, we need pens and paper, printer ink and laptops – all the essential equipment of the writer – but if we are to fulfil our commission - ‘so that when the day of evil [of trial] comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand’ (Ephesians 6:13), the Christian writer needs to be rooted in Christ and kitted out properly.

Paul ends his section of his letter to the Ephesians with a couple of comments about prayer. This is something ACW members are brilliant at. What a weapon against the evil one! Let’s keep having the humility to ask for prayer when we need it (as Paul does- Ephesians 6:19) and making time to keep praying for one another – that we may go on fearlessly, as we should!



Dorothy Stewart’s second novel will be out on 20th November. The Mizpah Ring is a historical Christian novel, the first in a trilogy. Dorothy is a lay preacher in the United Reformed Church and is based in Halesworth, Suffolk.
  


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Know Yourself, by Lucy Mills

ON MY 'DAY OFF' THIS WEEK, I lay slumped on the sofa, exhausted and past caring. About anything. Everything seemed pointless - not in a morbid fashion, simply that I was too exhausted to assign meaning to anything.

I've learned, after dreary experience, that I need to allow myself these moments. To allow myself recovery time, not to fret at the lack of meaning I feel, not to judge my life on a moment when I'm temporarily 'used up'.

Sometimes, or even often, this happens when it's not my 'day off' and I have to go through the motions, forcing myself to care even though the rebellious, shattered part of me sees no reason to care.

We all have things about ourselves that we (hopefully) learn to recognise.  I recognise that just because I feel this way today, doesn't mean I'll feel that way tomorrow.  Just because I can't imagine, in this moment, ever writing anything again - let alone anything of worth - doesn't mean I won't. Just because I don't see the point, doesn't mean I don't have a point.

Some seem to excel at living.  Some seem to be naturally buoyant - all the time! Some people seem to exude compassion and I am tempted to despair at my lack of care. But then, I don't see them when they are slumped on the sofa, all used up.

I need to remember how 'I' work.  No point in comparing myself to others.  To understand what 'I' need, and how I need to go about things - and not be forced into a template I was never designed for.

I need to remember that I need to ride out these off-moments in order to reach something new and different, in order to stretch myself. To allow space for the Spirit of God to whisper (or sometime shout) into my carelessness.

I ebb - and sometimes it feels a long time ebbing - but then I flow.

And words which felt like gravel on my tongue spill over it like delicious liquid.

What do you know about yourself?  How do you handle it?  How does it affect your writing life?


***
 

Lucy Mills

Lucy's first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 by Darton, Longman and Todd (DLT). She's written articles, poetry and prayers for various publications and is an editor at magnet magazine. www.lucy-mills.com

Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills
Lucy's Facebook page




Previous More than Writer posts:



Monday, 26 October 2015

Strings, bows and hats



The ‘about me’ section on my website and Amazon author page declares: Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. She is best known though for her novels and children's picturebooks. Her 'Young David Picturebook' series (SPCK, illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) are based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy. 'The Jazz Files'(Lion Fiction) is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in the 1920s. Her standalone novel, 'The Peace Garden'(Crafty Publishing), is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet - preferably not at the same time!

Now the reason I have re-printed this is to show you that there are many strings to my bow – but that’s only half of it! It doesn’t mention my devotional writing for CWR nor my ghostwriting of adult memoirs and children’s picturebooks; nor my editing, sub-editing, editorial consultancy, workshop leading or copywriting … in my fifteen years as a freelance writer I have pretty much done every kind of writing you can think of - and most of the time I've been paid for it.

People ask if I planned to write across so many genre and media and my answer is: no, I’d have been mad to do so. But that’s just the way it happened. When I left my full-time job as journalist 15 years ago I had the goal of making a living as a freelance writer. I did not aim to be an author. But all these years later that’s what I’ve become simply by the process of elimination. And you know what? I like this hat. I think I’ll continue wearing it. And I think God knew I’d like it too. But at the beginning I didn’t know what kind of writer I wanted to be, simply that I wanted to write (and get paid for it). What I didn't realise is that I'd have to do an awful lot of writing, across and awful lot of media, to cobble together even the semblance of a living.

Me playing a suffragette for a book trailer.
There are pros to having so many strings to one’s bow. For instance, I’ve recently written, directed and acted in a book trailer for The Jazz Files. I’ve also written feature articles to promote it. In addition I’ve recently written advertising copy for my Young David Books for SPCK. These are all things I can readily turn my hand to – and the publishers like it because they don’t have to pay me extra!

But there is also a downside. When journalists are doing research before interviewing me they aren’t sure what kind of writer I am. I once went on a radio show to promote a theatre play (for adults) that was being produced. But when I got to the studio, the DJ thought I was a children’s book writer and spent all his time asking about that! I had to try to redirect the interview on the hoof. It didn’t go well.

It’s also exhausting wearing so many hats. I need to cut down. I want to cut down. And that’s what I’m asking God to help me do now. I hope that in a few years I will be known primarily as an author who has ‘dabbled’ in a few other things. But I also thank God for the many paths He has led me on. He had a plan in all of it; of that I’m sure.

So my advise to new writers would be: just follow God and don’t be scared to try new kinds of writing. You never know where it might lead.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Counting Down the Days by Fiona Lloyd

            It’s that time of year again: already it seems like people have been talking about it for weeks. I promised myself that this year I would be more organised and start my preparations well in advance, but it still looks like I’ll be doing stuff at the last minute. Now that I can count down in days, it’s beginning to feel real.

It's far too early to be thinking about this...
            And no, I’m not talking about Christmas. At the moment, my thoughts are full of NaNoWriMo, which runs for the whole month of November. I took part for the first time last year, and was amazed at how beneficial I found it (although I need to be honest at this point and explain that I didn’t get anywhere close to their suggested target of 50,000 words).

            What was most helpful for me was simply the fact that I had given myself permission to prioritise my writing. Some days, I wrote before work, or sat with my laptop in the car while waiting for an after school club to start. I realised it was easier to avoid settling down to an evening of watching rubbish on the telly when I knew that my online word-count needed a boost.

I'm not sure I've got many words left!
            It would be nice to think – having discovered all these extra snippets of time when I could put pen to paper – that I could have continued at the same rate once December arrived. This didn’t happen: however, eleven-and-a-half months later, I know that I’ve still written far more over the last year than I've done in previous years. I've completed the first draft of the novel I was working on last November, and I’m busy culling adverbs and other unnecessary / over-used words with a ruthless determination. 

            So now I’m gearing up for this year’s attempt, and wondering if I can match (or even exceed) my 2014 total of 20,527 words … would anyone care to join me?

(PS. You can find me on NaNoWriMo as Grace Foster, with a picture of a pair of flowery Doc Marten boots next to my name.)



Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship-leading team at her local church. She enjoys writing short stories, and is working on her first novel. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013, and blogs at www.fjlloyd.wordpress.com. She is married with three grown-up children. Fiona is ACW's membership secretary.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

‘A great book, the only one of his that gives me unalloyed pleasure.’

The ‘great book’ is C. S. Lewis’s English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, about which I started to tell you in my September blog. And the person who said this was none other than Lewis’s friend, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Let’s not use this remark as fuel for the debate about why Tolkien and Lewis became estranged. Instead, let’s remember that in ELISC Lewis was doing his real job, the task which his education and profession had formed him for, and not straying into disciplines in which he was, strictly speaking, an amateur. Tolkien was enjoying the mature fruit of Lewis’s lifetime study of our foundational literature.

And professional this book is. You don’t have to know much about the subject to enjoy the book, because you are in the hands of a writer who knows it inside out, loves it, and only wants to convey his excitement and fascination with it.

Let me attempt to convey this to you by plunging you into the midst of the book. In order to prepare us for his discussion of the sixteenth century, Lewis lays a foundation of literary developments in the preceding century. And because there are two English-speaking countries to deal with, he has a chapter each on England and Scotland. And Scotland gets the first chapter, because—did you know?—literature blossomed in fifteenth-century Scotland, while in England it gradually declined.

So here we are reading about a period we scarcely know in a country whose early history, unless we are Scots, we likewise scarcely know: the reign of James IV. And one of the great names in this period is Gavin Douglas, who ended up as Bishop of Dunkeld (well, actually he was ejected from the see before he died in 1522). Probably Douglas’s greatest work is his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. Are you beginning to get bored? Well, don’t be, because this apparently dry terrain brings out the very best in Lewis. It’s worth letting him be your safari leader.

One of the things he tells us is that the language Douglas uses to translate Virgil’s Latin strikes the reader, if they are reasonably versed in classical studies, as terribly homely and familiar, almost undignified and unworthy of the high poetry of Virgil. Lewis uses the translation by Dryden, 150 or so years later, as a point of comparison. So Douglas writes

her nek schane like unto the rois in May (her neck shone like the rose in May)

where Dryden has

she turned and made appear Her neck refulgent

In another place, Douglas has

in caroling the lusty ladeis went

where Dryden didn’t translate the Latin at all.

Lewis’s point is that Douglas seems to us unsuitably un-Virgilian and ‘medieval’. But in fact, the world of Douglas and the world of Virgil were much closer in spirit than we are to either. What has happened since Douglas’s time is the establishment of the concept of ‘classicism’, which was created by the fifteenth and sixteenth century ‘humanists’ of the Renaissance; ‘the spectral solemnity, the gradus epithets, the dictionary language, the decorum which avoids every contact with the senses and the soil’, as Lewis puts it.

Lewis is telling us something really important about our culture, for even if we never studied the classics, never learnt Latin or Greek, western culture has inculcated into us a completely false concept of ‘classicism’, bequeathed to us by the so-called ‘revival of learning’. One can see why Tolkien enjoyed it.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Letter to my teacher - by Helen Murray

To my teacher

I was in your class for English, and English was the first lesson of my first day at senior school.

To start with I sat at the front because I wore my eleven year old enthusiasm right out in the open and I didn't realise that my eagerness to please might be more sensibly hidden somewhere the mean kids couldn't see it. As the school years progressed I chose a seat further back, but the enthusiasm didn't wane, and my goody-goody keenness was justified.  This was my thing, and I loved your lessons. 

You took my appetite for stories and fed it with rich, nourishing food. You introduced me to the big guns of literature in such a way that I was seduced, not overwhelmed. You tamed the giants with new voices, mixed poetry with theatre with prose and left me dizzy with delight.  You took away fear and replaced it with curiosity; you showed me that Shakespeare was funny, scary, inspiring, moving, but above all accessible. You told me that nothing was beyond my reach - that it was up to me to decide. 

You revelled in language and so did I. You made me believe that I could make it work for me, and showed me how to analyse, deconstruct, and build marvellous things with words. You insisted we learn poems, passages and soliloquies and I remember them to this day. Walter De La Mare, Richard Kell, Wordsworth.  Macbeth, Richard II, Julius Caesar. Treasures in my head forever. 

You encouraged, critiqued, jollied and accepted no nonsense. More often than not your eyes were crinkled into smiles but you were stern when it was warranted. Nobody took liberties in your class, and homework was done on time. We behaved. We listened. We tried hard, and we were rewarded by generous praise given in good measure.

I loved your range of voices, from John of Gaunt strident on his deathbed, Wuthering Heights' Cathy, wild with grief, or Subtle the Alchemist, sleazy and suggestive. You strode round the room with theatrical gesture and your energy fed mine; your lessons gave me life. I read everything I could lay my hands on and stored it up carefully.

I wanted to make you proud. Your advice was heeded, your criticism accepted, your encouragement wrapped up carefully and stored away. 

On the day I picked up my exam results you held my hand for a moment. The world is your oyster, you whispered, and you smiled a wonderful smile. That was a good moment, and I wanted to build on it.

A quarter of a century later, I saw you and we chatted. You'd been gardening and you had leaves in your hair. Smaller, greyer, but those eyes still smiled. You remembered me. I told you that I was writing and you clutched my arm with both hands and cried, 'Oh, good!'

That, too, was a good moment.

I hoped one day to hand you a signed copy of a book I'd written, but that won't happen. 

At your funeral there was standing room only. The place was packed with people who held a bit of you in their hearts. 

That inspiration that you gave to me? You gave it to others; you gave it away freely, and lots of people received it. People remembered the smiling eyes, the firm-but-fair, the way you threw back your head and laughed. You had many interests and brought joy to so many people. Everybody spoke of your infectious enthusiasm, your energy and your joy. You left behind many, many people who would miss you badly, but when they think of you, they smile. What a legacy.

For me, you took the raw and unformed and moulded it into a something that could grow. You saw a mixture of enthusiasm and potential and gave me the tools to make something. You told me that I could do it. You made me believe it. 

What a precious thing is a good teacher. I've been blessed with a few, and they made a huge difference to me, but none as much as you. You were exceptional. You made a real difference to my life. 

I pray that my daughters might find a teacher who sees them in the way that you saw me. Thank you. 

Rest in peace. I look forward to seeing you again. 

With love and gratitude

Helen



Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

Having spent time as a Researcher, Pastoral Worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently working on her first novel. 

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims and has more Aloe Vera plants than you can shake a stick at. 

Helen has two blogs: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith, and Badger on the Roof where readers are treated to a blow by blow account of her novel-writing progress, or lack thereof. 

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Side by Side by Sondheim

This month has been a lean one for writing as I've not been too well, and both my brain speed and inspiration have been extremely lacking (if you are interested in learning more about living with bipolar, do have a look at my blog). In the interest of just 'getting something down', I repeated to myself that old adage: write what you know. One idea loomed large: composer/lyricist/genius Stephen Sondheim.

Now I know - Sondheim is a completely different kettle of fish for ACW, but I still think he has things to teach us about writing. I've always loved Sondheim's music, but it's learning about his approach to lyrics that has made me realise just how perfect his writing advice is.

It is described thus:

               "There are only three principles necessary (that) underlie everything: 
                         Content dictates form; 
                         Less is more; 
                         God* is in the details - 
               all in the service of Clarity, without which nothing else matters."

Sondheim teaching at 80 years old

Firstly, content dictates form. For Sondheim, this relates as much to musical style as anything - you don't write a pop rock song for a show based in eighteenth century France. For me, this has meant remembering what I'm writing for. If I am writing an article, scant background is necessary - in a novel the opposite may be true. An example from my own work - in using 'real-life' examples in a non-fiction book about self-harm, my tendency was to try and write beautifully flowing stories, where what was really needed was a specific, illustrative experience. It might have been wonderful writing, but the wrong form for what the content demanded.

Secondly, Less is More. Some of the best advice I've ever had when writing memoir/fiction is to take a passage and cut the word count by half. It's a hugely difficult task, but it brings into focus what is important - and what isn't. Do we need to talk about big, blue, glistening, close-set eyes, or is it enough to say 'wistful'? Let's no write for the sake of boosting a word count. Write what is important to say, no more.**

The third rule exists in some tension with the second: God is in the details. Good writing is always pleasing to read, but it is those tiny things that can make a piece of writing zing. Writing that leaves a lasting impression on me nearly always revolves around the details. I'm sure I've read of many breakups in numerous books, but the one that sticks is the one describing the fading imprints of coffee steam on a window. The details are what builds the picture in our mind, and when we have a picture, we have emotion.

Which brings us to Clarity. If we aren't writing what we are intending to say, something is wrong. The rules are important, but, above all, writing has to speak, conveying the message we are so desperate to share that we write about it.

I hope you've enjoyed my self-indulgent foray into musical theatre! Sondheim, as well as being a musical genius, is an incredible teacher. I'm looking forward to sharing more of his wisdom next month....

* probably unnecessary to clarify, but the 'god' referred to here is not our Almighty, triune God.
** A good example of less is more: my original first paragraph of this blog was three times as long!




Abbie Robson
Abbie has been writing every since she could hold a pencil - her first self-published work was a short story about a magic key, which was displayed on the fridge. After struggling with self harm and eating disorders for a number of years she went on to write a memoir ‘Secret Scars’ published by Authentic in 2007, and later ‘Insight Into Self-Harm’ published by CWR in 2014. In 2007 she launched Adullam Ministries, an information and support website and forum on self-harm and related issues. She blogs at Pink and Blue Mummyland, tweets as @AbbieRobson and @AdullamSelfHarm, and is currently working on a book about mental health and the church. She lives in Rugby with husband John, two demanding children, and two even more demanding cats.




    Cover of book: Secret Scars by Abbie RobsonBook cover: Insight into Self-Harm by Helena Wilkinson and Abbie Robson

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The view from the Potting Shed by Ruth Johnson



"Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, 
your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven."  Matt.6:9-10

As I sit in a comfortable chair outside my ‘spiritual’ potting shed to enjoy the last rays of the summer sun the Lord continues my contemplation of the walled kitchen garden, the emptiness of the beds, and after one fallow year to wonder what seeds will germinate in this one.  

I see that if I want to ensure the seeds that germinate are of the Lord there is a need to discipline myself to always think, speak and act positively.   

What has God seeded in our lives over the years which we are still waiting to come into being?   What deep truths have we forgotten, or hopes we feel have been lost?  I suspect has God put within us many things we either didn't understand at the time, or have no recollection of receiving.  Spoken or read these words are seeds that have entered our brain through our ear or eye gate. Seeds of the Lord’s truth He is wanting to germinate for a time such as this.  He promises nothing is wasted or lost and promises that His Word never returns void.  What about those times when we know things we didn’t know we knew?  Or we see or hear something that gives us a glimpse that God is on our case.  Be encouraged for He has planted and will germinate at the right time the dreams and aspirations that will bring glory to His name.

I’m in one corner of a very large kitchen garden.  Yet despite the shining sun, the peace that pervades the place, it’s empty except for a smattering of tired crops.  Have people given up, forgetting all His benefits, and that He has the ability to use the little we have to create a harvest that will feed a multitude.  

Jesus gave us a prayer to pray.  Surely then it is possible, if we walk in the culture of His Kingdom on a daily basis His Kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven. This of course involves regular and quality time alone in His Presence, living in His peace and rest, and in joining with His people in a commitment of love, respect, praise, worship and giving thanks, believing when we draw near to Him He draws near to us.

If we create a Kingdom culture in our personal lives, not only do we change, but can change the atmosphere around us.  When that happens collectively the church can become a micro-climate on earth of the Kingdom of heaven, and in our diversity when we are able to work in unity,and He promises to command the blessing.  Thus comes the germination and release of  the abilities, skills and the gifts He ordained within us from the beginning of time.      

It could be that I have sat out in the Son too long, but I feel quite excited by these revelations.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A joint venture by Sue Russell

This is not a plug, shameless or otherwise, I promise.

A few months ago our redoubtable webmaster Wendy posted on the idea of contributing to anthologies, and I thought people might be interested and encouraged to hear my own recent experience.

I belong to two writers' groups: an ACW regional one and another, secular, group to which I have belonged for a dozen years or more. I have seen people come and go during that time but there remains a core of long-standing members, and this year has seen the preparation of an anthology of stories and poems with eight contributors from this second group, some who have been members for years and others who have come along more recently.

The anthology saw the light of day last month, following  a great deal of of work: by individual members choosing and honing their respective pieces, by myself proof-reading the whole text, but principally by one member who has the relevant experience and therefore the complex tasks involved in self-publishing. I am in awe of her skills and bottomless patience.

For three of those eight people, this is the first time they'd seen their work in print, and it was an exciting moment. One person (exaggerating rather, but then she's a writer) said, 'From newbie to published author in two hours - I call that a result!' (Two hours is the length of our meetings.) Two of the contributors are gentlemen in their late eighties, so clearly age is no barrier to aspiration and achievement.



Of course the contents of our tome vary greatly - in subject-matter, in sources of inspiration, in levels of competence, among other things. It's taken us many months and a lot of work, but as a celebration of what these very different writers can do it's been well worth it.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Live a bit - by Veronica Zundel

Here’s a confession. Since my mother died, I’ve been swearing more and drinking more alcohol. And here’s another: I’m rather enjoying it. Now you’re shocked. I know you are. They are both things Christians aren’t meant to do. Because we may be saved by grace but after we’ve gotten saved, woe betide us if we ever do anything remotely naughty. We are the Galatians: we started with the Spirit, but by Heligoland,  we are going to go on with the law.

Let me tell you something. The teaching that baptism washes away our sins but any sin after baptism is unforgivable, is Jehovah’s Witness teaching. It’s not remotely Christian. And anyway, whoever said swearing and drinking are sins? When Jesus talked about not swearing by anything in earth or heaven, he didn’t mean using words beginning with ‘b’ or ‘f’ (pick your favourite) but about swearing an oath to prove you were telling the truth, in court or out. Christians are meant to be truth-tellers at all times. That’s why we Mennonites, and Quakers, won’t swear oaths in court but only affirm that we are telling truth - as we always do.

What about the drink then? I'll come clean. After one glass of wine or beer (or maybe
sloe gin) that’s me finished. I really can’t drink any more. I just do it a bit more often than I used to. No, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the taste.Or it may be that lovely mellow feeling... And what did Jesus drink at the Last Supper? I'm betting ( another sin) it wasn't Ribena.

Does any of this, I hear you ask, have anything to do with writing? Well yes, I think it does. I’m not suggesting we should ‘sin so that grace may abound’, but I do sometimes wonder if the reason some writing by Christians can be so insipid, is that we haven’t actually done much living to write about. I know some of us have struggled with illness, physical and mental, or bereavement, or violence. These things, which life throws at many of us, tend to make our writing more authentic. Look at the Bible, which is full of murder, rape, incest and all kinds of disturbing things. I’m sure that if it were published today, some religious people would want to ban it. But it isn’t half well written.

I don’t believe in seeking out suffering, or sin, in order to improve our writing. That would be silly, if not actually morbid. But are we simply too good to write well? Not real goodness, which gets its hands dirty and somehow still comes out smelling of roses, but a careful, self-protective virtue which keeps us away from anything that might contaminate or compromise us? Might we write better if we took a few more risks? Do we really believe in God’s forgiveness, if we are so mortally terrified of accidentally sinning? I don’t know the answer, but I’m off to pour a glass of wine and let out a few choice epithets to find out.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Read, respond, write by Joy Lenton

Do you have a tendency to get involved with things you never intended to? I do.

And I'm not talking about gazing out the window while munching chocolate biscuits instead of pressing on with the 'work in progress'.

Unless that is, window gazing people watching, coffee drinking and biscuit eating are your necessary research aids, in which case please carry on.

No, this is when you see an idea on-line, seize it by the throat and run with it.

Your mind full of 'why don't I do that?' - why not, indeed. Impulsive, moi?

It happened to me recently as I read the given prompts for 31 days of five-minute-free-writing (helpfully provided well in advance) while linking up a five-minute-friday post.

I paused, pondered and prayed. So far, so good.

Ideas flowed. Inspiration came, and I began to put aside a few posts in draft form ready for the writing month to come.

It began with a 'here's-one-I-made-earlier' poem, then new ones appeared alongside prayer whispers, prayers and reflections. 

Before long, I was reading (the prompts), responding (the thinking stage) and writing like a seasoned 31 day pro, although my only prior experience was in writing '31 days of poetry for the soul'. With no pre-planning then, I found myself nearly drifting into Advent in my drive to produce new poems.

This time, a warm happy glow came over me after the first two weeks, as if I'd completed a marathon, and in a way I had, even while missing some days.

As a non-fiction writer, I haven't yet participated in the NANOWRIMO writing marathon, and would have great difficulty in achieving the daily word count.

Because I type slowly and have uncooperative arthritic hands and joints which seize up if too much is required of them. Not to mention brain fog and chronic fatigue problems.

But scribbling fast into a notepad for 5 (ish) minutes is doable, even if it takes much longer to decipher my scrawl, type it up, edit and add images. 

Sometimes a blank screen/piece of paper can be daunting. And that's why this daily prompt has been such a gift, as well as a huge act of faith that words will come.

Our minds can often falter plucking words out of the ether but give them a word to chew on and the creative juices start flowing. At least, that's how mine seems to be wired after a few years of joining in with word prompts on a regular basis.

This year I didn't announce my intentions beforehand on the blog, just dived straight in with a splash. No promises or heavy expectations. No fancy theme button.

If you're liking the sound of the 31 day writing challenge, then you could always join in now (who's counting?) on an occasional basis as I am, or carefully and prayerfully consider what to write and plan ahead for next year. 

The joy of it is the flexibility because you get to choose your main theme, style and length of posts to suit you.

And I love the supportive community too. I'm actively trying to read and respond to some writing friends' posts and others do the same for me.


Hope this taster has whet your appetite. 

Click here to find out more about 31 days of five-minute-free-writes and how to link up your blog there. 

Or to discover how it all began and how to officially link up in community, click here. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a notepad and pen. Happy writing, friends! 

Joy is a grateful grace dweller who finds community among the weak and the broken, the edge-dwellers and truth-tellers.

She enjoys having fellowship with poets, writers, mystics and contemplatives as she seeks after God's heart.

You can find her raking for beauty out of ashes at poetryjoy.com and wordsofjoy.me where she writes to encourage others on their journey of life and faith.


She would love to connect with you on her blogs, or on Twitter, Facebook or Google +

Saturday, 17 October 2015

God uses us through our circumstances by Claire Musters


I recently read a book that really challenged me in various different ways. One of the things that particularly got me thinking was when the author challenged the phrase so many of us use ‘God has used me despite my circumstances’. She said that this simply isn’t true, and yet it has become an accepted explanation in Christian circles. The truth is He uses us through our circumstances. That’s the mystery of difficulties and suffering – while I don’t understand much about it, and certainly have a lot of questions for God about why my mum has had to suffer so much, I can’t deny that God’s ways are higher and too lofty for us to understand.

As I pondered the fact that He uses all the things we go through, it made me think about my writing. What does that mean for those of us who write? I have felt God prompt me to write about my own difficulties in the past and am persevering even though it feels raw and too hard at times because I can sense Him working through it.

If God works through all our circumstances, should we be being more transparently about our lives in our writing? As a non-fiction writer I can understand how that can work. There have been times when I’ve weaved in my own examples of what God has done even in the midst of pain, or my own mistakes, into books, Bible study notes or articles. And many of my regular articles reflect the subjects that I’m dealing with in my own life at the time.

The problem with being more open about our personal lives in our writing is that, at times, it feels like it makes us too vulnerable – and too open to misinterpretation and criticism (should those things be considerations or not?). I know there is that fine line between sharing too much and protecting ourselves by being too closed. I ask my husband to read everything I write before it is published in order to make sure he is happy I’m not going too far one way or the other.


But what about fiction writers? How do you reflect yourself and what God has done through you and in you through your life’s ups and downs within your writing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below, to learn more about how you reflect your life and faith in your writing.

Claire is a freelance writer 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 marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today. To find out more about her, please visit www.clairemusters.com and @CMusters on Twitter.