Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Quest for Words, by Georgie Tennant

“Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.” 
John 1 v 14 NET

Last month, my sister lost her life to cancer.  Her baby son was seven months old at the time and her daughter turned six that week.  In the days leading up to it and in those that followed, two phrases echoed, everywhere I went: “I don’t know what to say,” and “I have no words.”  These have been familiar sentiments to me over the last six months since her re-diagnosis - on social media, in the school playground, at church, at her funeral.  I suspect I’m not done with them yet.

The problem is that we live in a world of words.  We use them to define, quantify, analyse, explain, solve, comfort.  Words feel like our only currency and they trickle and roar, calm and motivate, comfort and inspire.  Well chosen, they are every bit fit for purpose.  Thoughtless, careless and wrongly judged, they hurt.

We hit hard things and they seem to us to fail, inadequate to reach in to difficult depths of tragedy and loss.  As close family and friends, we struggle to find the right ones and as writers, we long to express even the tiniest sentiment a tempest-tossed soul might find comforting and able to cling to amid their personal storms.

I have been on an unquenchable quest for words. Words to soothe my sister and give her hope in those last months.  Words from others or God that might help me find an anchor in raging seas.  Words in books and songs that somehow express, better than I could, the deep agonies of a shaken spirit and breaking heart.  Words that might signpost the way for me to be made whole again, to reposition myself on firmer ground.

Like a forensic scientist running facial recognition software, looking for a perfect 100% match, I have scoured books, articles, poems, songs, ultimately accepting that it is impossible to find the exact combination of words that will ‘hit the spot’ and express my feelings completely.  Even if I write something I believe will fit better and help people in similar situations (and I hope one day to do so), my words will still only ever be a part-match -  because we are all unique and feel facets of our unique experiences in our fully unique ways (this feels obvious, but how easily we forget).

The closest I have come to finding words that echo some of the questions and cries of my heart are one song and one book.  Danny Gokey’s ‘Tell Your Heart to Beat Again,’ jump starts mine.  Pete Grieg’s ‘God On Mute,’ is helping me develop a theology for the devastating times I am in.  I write my own words and read them back to myself because they alone can pinpoint what I am feeling, record where I have been and, eventually, remind me of how far I have come.

I end this post with a poem I wrote as my sister’s health deteriorated and I felt desperately lost for words.  I pray, as writers, at the very least, we can be signposts, directing other weary travellers towards the Living Word, who is the only 100% match for all situations, for all of time.

           No Words

The words are out of reach today.
They hang on the boughs,
Not quite ripe or right.
In a different season,
They might have tumbled
Into my basket, landed
In an order that might have made
An adequately solid sentence.

But today –
When the prayed-for miracle
Feels further off,
And the hoped-for healing
Hasn’t happened,
The words taunt me,
Hanging on the highest branches,
Just beyond the arc of my arm.

Awkward silence settles.
I wait, without words,
Willing them to come.

But instead of words falling from the trees,
A rustling in the branches,
A warm wind,
Heralds the coming
Of a different Word –
Not a word from my tongue
Or my pen or those unripe boughs,

But The Word,
The Living Word,
The Word-Made-Flesh,
Infusing the silence
With His quiet presence.
Even without words,
His life-breath in me
Makes me alive,
Awakens hope in me afresh.

The myriad words
Are too high, unripe, not right.
I rest from trying to reach them;
I no longer need them.
With fresh certainty,
I know
That The Word,
Alive in me,
Is all that’s needed
To speak volumes,
In silence,
To a hurting world.

Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 9 and 6, who keep her exceptionally busy! She feels intimidated by having to provide an author-biography, when her writing only extends, currently, to attempting to blog, writing the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local paper occasionally, and having a poem published in a book from a National Poetry Competition! Her musings about life can be found on her blog:

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The tussle By Claire Musters

In the run up to publication date for my book, I have, out of necessity, been looking to promote my product. I know that, this month especially, I'm not alone. There are quite a few ACW members with great new books about to come out!

That all-important question of how much profile an author has is always at the back of my mind, especially as it was the reason some publishers felt they couldn’t take my book. I know, too, that we each have that tussle between doing what we do because we feel called to, and having to promote ourselves out of necessity.

I was beginning to get swallowed up into the marketing frenzy, when a Bible study caught my attention. It was looking at Acts 18, when the seven sons of Sceva were overwhelmed by a demon, whereas Paul was able to cast out many evil spirits. The writer brought out the point that Paul was not focused on himself, and the amazing things he could do – rather he was simply focused on being obedient to the call from God on his life.

And that, I think, is a great reminder to us as writers. When we start being most concerned about how many radio and magazine interviews we’ve done, how many reviews we’ve got and how much our books and/or our faces have featured on social media, then I think we may have lost our way a little. But if we focus on doing what we believe God has called us to, simply telling our story (as Glen and Emma encouraged us to do so beautifully at the Writers’ Day), then I think those other elements that come our way can be dealt with in the right way, without them distracting or overwhelming us.

I was challenged yet again by another writer’s blog, in which she talked about the need to stop trying to get others to notice us, and point them to Jesus. I know we all write in different genres, and often our books are not explicitly about our faith, but surely our whole lives, and therefore our work, should be about making the name of Jesus known and sharing His Good News? That certainly left me with a lot of food for thought about how much of my own tussle is born out of self-interest rather than genuine humility and concern… Checking our motives regularly is certainly a good habit to get into.

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. She is currently Premier Christianity magazine’s freelance news and features journalist. 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, Insight Into Self-acceptance, Cover to Cover: David A man after God’s own heart, Insight Into Burnout and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes Bible study notes. She has two books being published in November: Taking off the mask: daring to be the person God created you to be, with Authentic Media, and Cover to Cover: 1–3 John Walking in the truth, with CWR. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Titles by Lynda Alsford

Recently, while standing in a queue at Valencia airport in Spain, I noticed that the man in front of me held a book in his hand. It was called Does anything eat wasps? I was too far away to read the subtitle or the author’s name, but the title made me want to find out more about the book. I decided as soon as I was back at home again I would google the book to find out more. The title leaped of the page and grabbed me. In fact I was so inspired by the title that as soon as I had boarded the plane I got out my notebook and wrote this post.

What makes a good book title?
I started wondering about titles. As far as I am concerned Does anything eat wasps? is a great title. Some of my other favourite book titles include; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared and To kill mockingbird. These titles make me wonder about the story. They entice me into the book, making me want to know more. So, how do we choose our own titles? When we have finished that article, poem, short story or book how do we choose a title for it? Or do you have the title in your head first and then write around it? Do you find it easy to come up with a title? Or is it something that takes a lot of thought and effort?

Giving my book a name
I have limited experience of this. For my first book, I didn’t know what to call it for quite some time, so at first I just concentrated on writing the book. It was a very cathartic experience getting the words down on paper. I was an evangelist who stopped believing in God and had to evangelise myself back to faith. Writing the book helped me make sense of my story. My book spoke of God’s faithfulness in the face of my faithlessness. One day at church we were singing the Matt Redman song You Never Let Go. The words of the song spoke to me powerfully and I realised God had never let go of me no matter how far I tried to get away from him. ‘He never let go’, I mused to myself. Light bulbs immediately flashed in my head. That was the title of my book - He Never Let Go. There was no work on my part in coming up with a title. It was divine inspiration. My second book, Being Known, took more thought and the title didn’t come as easily.

What about you? How do you come up with titles for your work? Is there a set process you go through? What is your favourite book title? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about Does Anything Eat Wasps it is a book written by the New Scientist magazine and the full title with subtitle is Does Anything Eat Wasps And 101 Other Questions. It is a compilation of the best questions that get submitted to the New Scientist every week. Actually I think it may be quite interesting and will probably buy it one day.

Lynda Alsford is a sea loving, cat loving GP administrator and writes in her spare time. She has written two books, He Never Let Go describes her journey through a major crisis of faith whilst working as an evangelist at a lively Church in Chiswick, West London. Being Known describes how God set her free from food addiction. Both books are available in paperback and on kindle on  and She writes a newsletter called Seeking the Healer, in which she shares the spiritual insights she has gained on her journey. When she finally starts her blog, it will also be called Seeking the Healer and you can find out more about both at

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Finding treasure in unexpected places 14th October 2017 by Susanne Irving

“Why were you coming to the conference if this is not your scene?” my friend Penny asked me as we were driving back from the women’s conference in the Antioch Church in Llanelli. She had got a point.
When I grew up, I greeted my parents with a hand-shake. The few times I went to church (I was nominally a Catholic, but did not believe in God back then), people also shook hands at a certain point in the service – actually, you would only shake hands with those you knew. That was as far as emotional expression in family and church went.
I have come a long way since then: I no longer change the subject when my husband tells me that he loves me. I have graduated to hugs and a kiss on the cheek when I see my parents. I also give hugs to friends at church, and I do raise my hands in worship or bow down when a song calls for it.
However, you won’t find me leaping in the air and dancing in the aisles (although I used to try a few dance moves in the privacy of my living-room when I was a young Christian). I don’t shout, holler or speak in tongues I cannot understand. And no, I do not actively try to enter the throne room of God or connect with the supernatural - to be honest, I avoid anything that makes me feel out of control.
I am now part of a charismatic fellowship, but many worshippers in the Llanelli church make our local church seem cerebral…
I also get easily distracted. There was plenty to distract me in Llanelli, apart from the expressive, emotional worship. In the meeting hall, we could try our hand at helping to weave a tapestry, paint stones that had been collected at the local beach or add our drawing on a huge white piece of paper on the wall. We could also rest in the “tent of meeting” where apparently the presence of God could be felt particularly clearly – when I went in, I felt the ground shake… from the worship band drums!
I tend to get my insights when I am in nature, ideally by myself, and I love silent retreats to connect with God. To be honest, when other people are around, I am often focused on what they are doing and saying (and worse, on whether it is actually OK what they are doing).
So you can see that my friend Penny had a point: What had I been doing at the conference? I have had a week to reflect on this question. Here is what I have realized so far:
1)    It is the content that counts, rather than the packaging. When I am in unknown territory, I tend to pay more attention, so it can be helpful when things are packaged differently than I am used to.
2)    Immersed in an environment that focussed on an emotional response to God, it was easier to take a step, tentative as it may have been, towards dealing with my heart. It was certainly not the first time that I was told that God loves me just as much as women who were able to have children or that I have realized that I need to repent of the belief that I am living a second best life because some of my dreams have not been fulfilled. Yet it is one thing to deal with these issues intellectually and another to engage with them at heart level.
3)    My most natural way of loving God is with my mind, but if I want to grow in wholeness and freedom, I also need to learn to love God with my heart and soul. (Incidentally, when Jesus talks about how to love God, he puts the heart and soul before the mind…)This does not mean that I need to become a carbon copy of the women in Llanelli – after all, we are also called to worship in spirit and in truth, which surely requires authenticity. However, it does mean that I need to find ways of engaging all of me.
4)    Church life is a bit like trying to weave a piece of tapestry together. We may have different tastes and different approaches. I may not like that you put pink after my red thread, and you may not like that my line looks crooked when you have tried so hard to make things look neat and tidy, but we are all called to make our contribution. Ultimately, it is not up to us to tie up all the loose ends – the Master Weaver will decide when the piece is finished and will add the final touches to pull us all together into a united whole.
Penny, I hope I have answered your question!

About the author: Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity. The German translation Wie man einen Berg bezwingt: Was der Kilimanjaro uns gelehrt hat was published in June 2017.