Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Time for Everything, by Fiona Lloyd

I know I don’t look a day over 36, but as of today, hubby and I have been married for 30 years. Thirty years! Naturally, we seized upon the excuse to have a party, complete with tea, cakes, and the odd glass of bubbly. 

This past week, we’ve also been celebrating our middle child’s graduation – along with her first job offer in her chosen career – so it feels like we’re caught in a time-warp between holding on to precious memories and excitement for what the future holds.

As I was thinking about this, I came across a post I wrote for my own blog a while back. It seems to fit the mood of the moment, so – with apologies to those of you who’ve seen it before – here goes:

Dear Lord, I’d like a few words. 

About this Ecclesiastes bloke…and his “time for everything” speech. 

Of course, it makes sense on one level: I get the idea of our lives running in seasons – well, mostly plodding, these days – and I understand the need for balance. 

It’s just that my life…isn’t. 

Balanced, I mean.

So: could we just go through a few things?

This first one’s okay: “a time to be born and a time to die”. I’ve no quibble with that…apart from the rather obvious one about the being born feeling much more exciting than the dying bit. Yes, I know that’s when I get to be with you forever, but eternity is such a big word that I can’t always get my head round it.

What about this? “A time to plant and a time to uproot”? Lord, you’ve seen my attempts at gardening: more like “a time to plant and a time to feed a family of slugs”. And anyway, Morrison’s is so convenient. 

Then there’s verse four: “a time to weep and a time to laugh”. Surely I’ve done enough weeping now? When does the laughing bit start, that’s what I want to know? Mourning seems inevitable as I get older…but I’ve tended to avoid dancing since my teenagers started giving me despairing looks.

“A time to keep and a time to throw away.” Hmm, I’m tempted to pin this one up in my kids’ bedrooms, although they’d only read the first part. If I’m honest, they’re a lot like me in that regard. You know I hate to get rid of anything if I think it might be useful in the future. (Which doesn’t really explain why my wedding dress is still hanging in the wardrobe, at least three sizes too small for me and hopelessly out-of-date.)

So, could I make some suggestions, Lord? A twenty-first century, middle-aged kind of list?

There’s a time to enjoy being size 10, and a time to understand that stretch-marks are a badge of honour.

There’s a time to nurture your children and a time to let them go.

A time to be their personal chauffeur and a time – gulp! – to hand over the car keys.

A time to hold their hand as they balance on a wall, and a time to wave goodbye and pretend to smile as they move into student digs.

A time to be young and full of energy and a time to realise that sitting down with a freshly-brewed cup of tea is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

There’s a time to have big ambitions and a time to recognise that not all of them will be fulfilled (and that that’s okay).

There’s a time to make plans and a time to acknowledge that your plans are always better, anyway – so maybe my plans weren’t that important to begin with.

A time for confusion and upheaval and a time to see that if I have you, then I have everything I need.

Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. Fiona blogs at and at You can find her on Twitter at @FionaJLloyd. Her novel, Diary of a (trying to be holy) mum, will be published by Instant Apostle in January 2018. Fiona is vice-chair of ACW and is married with three grown-up children.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Wannabe Writer

‘I always wanted to be a writer.’

Well, sometimes. I think there were other ideas. But being a very impressionable young person, every now and then I got excited about Writing A Book.

When I was about nine, I heard a programme on the radio about a child called Daisy Ashford who had written a novel, The Young Visiters; extracts were read from it. The idea that a child could write a perfectly respectable book from which extracts were seriously quoted on the radio was electrifying. I decided to write something myself. What I managed to produce was The Problem Solver,  a series of scenes in the life of a man called Matthew Sturrock, who tried to solve the usually ridiculous problems that people brought to his door in response to his newspaper advertisement.

I can’t remember what inspired the next thing I wrote. In it three friends travel by magic carpet to the Land of the Dead in order to resolve a disagreement which only an acquaintance who’s died and gone there can settle. The Land of the Dead is very concrete and not in the least supernatural, as far as I remember. To my huge satisfaction, a family friend typed  out all this nonsense with five carbon copies, which was almost as good as a print-out in those days (1962).

In early teenage I started reading Evelyn Waugh. It was either Scoop or Black Mischief that inspired me to write two stories about the adventures of an incompetent carpet salesman, Arthur Pickering, and his assistant Sam Handwich (groan), as they try to sell their wares in various ruritanian countries. By this time I was fascinated by Eastern Europe, Slavonic languages, archaic military uniforms, and peculiar political systems.

But already the fateful shadow of Tolkien had fallen on my life, and things would never be the same. Two or three dire and dismal attempts were made to write sub-Tolkienian fantasies. On the plus side, they led to two interconnected fascinations: drawing quantities of maps of invented lands, and devising names and scraps of language to support them. They also led into devouring legend and mythology and history. The influence of Narnia was strong too, so a children’s story featuring a structure through which the characters went into another world filled a few pages before grinding to a halt (and before many talking animals appeared). The problem was, I liked memorable characters and ingenious situations but I couldn’t think of a decent story.

My university studies largely answered the need in my life for epic, saga, romance, mythology, and ancient languages, some of which, indeed, I started to teach. And the job I ended up in was the logical outcome of these interests, but seemed to be miles away from writing imaginative fiction. It required the careful collecting of factual evidence, paying attention to the most mundane and trivial written sources, and dealing with discourse that was sometimes neither uplifting nor inspiring.

And yet… I have spent the last forty years helping to write the colourful biographies of thousands of words that form the vocabulary of the English language: effect, rorty, first aid,  of, do-it-yourself, get, unravellable, blue moon, toilet, cheers, rapture, not, existentialism, god, sh*t. The list goes on and on. Each one has parentage to be investigated, though all too often it is untraceable. Each one develops additional meanings as it repeatedly issues from the mouths of speakers. Some words remain small shrubs, while others develop numerous branches, dominating the language like ancient forest trees. Older meanings wither and drop off unpredictably. Words get interwoven, singly or in phrases, with other words. They become fossilized, specialized, rare, or totally obsolete. But every word’s life story is different, and fascinating.

Moreover, researching these biographies takes you to all places and all times: a raging Reformation controversy, a scene from Only Fools and Horses, Apartheid, a moment in Huckleberry Finn, a very rude passage in Chaucer, a very much ruder passage in almost any modern writer, a letter from Jane Austen, an Anglo-Saxon charter, an eighteenth-century West African trader’s accounts, a surfing magazine. You get to revel with the highest literature and grovel with the lowest.

And the supporting snatches of evidence are often rich in character. ‘It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages, than to know the age of the rocks,’ said W. J. Bryan, prosecuting at the famous Scopes evolution trial in 1925. Or Dorothy Parker in 1938: The two ladies were trying to get out of a doorway at the same time. Clare [Boothe] drew back and cracked, ‘Age before beauty, Miss Parker.’ As Dotty swept out, she turned to the other guests and said, ‘Pearls before swine.’ Or P. G. Wodehouse (1923): I never know, when I'm telling a story, whether to cut the thing down to plain facts or whether to..shove in a lot of atmosphere.

Providence has been kind. My fortieth anniversary in lexicography fell on 4 July, and that is why you are getting this rather egocentric blog post.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

How do we use our Writing? By Wendy H. Jones

Psalms 45:1
My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

The title of this blog suggests that it is a blog by, and for, writers. This is the case, and I am sure you will be breathing a sigh of relief knowing you are in the right place. As a writer I am always struck by this verse. However, like many others I am sure, I usually focus on the last part of the verse.

If creativity has been given to us by God then, we should do everything in our power to ensure that we are good at what we do. We spend time learning our craft and developing it so that readers enjoy what we read. We attend courses, writing workshops and devour writing books. Quite rightly so. As writers who are Christian, like all writers, we want to present our work in its best light. 

As Christians the part we often forget is for whom we write. We are writing for ourselves, and our readers, but ultimately we are writing for God. Our hearts are certainly stirred by a theme and from this our writing grows into, articles, short stories, novels or factual books. Whatever our preferred genre or sub genre, whatever we are writing, our words should bring Glory to God. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not advocating that you suddenly write Christian books and nothing else. Heck, I write contemporary crime books, and my characters are not Christian. Some of my unsavoury characters should probably go straight to hell without passing go.  However, as I write for a crossover market I do like my book to reflect moral values.  What I am saying is give your writing to God. Allow him to guide you. Pray about your writing before you start for th day or start a writing session. God does not ask us to shy away from difficult themes or to ignore the issues which are prevalent in society. I am sure he would want us to tackle them. The bible certainly does. But always remember God is guiding your words.

It is an honour to be part of an organisation such as The Association of Christian Writers, who is the owner of this blog. The help, support and networking I have gained, has been invaluable to my writing life. If you would like to know more about the organisation you can do so through their website 

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning author 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 and won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016 and is currently shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers Choice Award 2017. She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017

Shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers Choice Award 2017

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning author 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 and won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016 and is currently shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers Choice Award 2017. She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Happy Birthday, Grandma! By Emily Owen

Today, maybe even as you read this, I will be at a tenpin bowling party.
At the beginning of this year, there began to be talk in my family: ‘What shall we do for Grandma’s 90th birthday in July?’  Eventually we decided to ask her and I was duly deputed to do so. One day in April, after having lunch with my Grandma, I broached the question: “What would you like to do for your birthday, Grandma?  We could book a weekend away, or go out for a meal, or…”

My flow of ideas (such as it was) was interrupted.

“Nothing. I don’t want to do anything for my birthday.  I might not be alive by then anyway.”

Stumped, I chickened out and suggested we turn our attention to the crossword.

A month or so later I mentioned ‘the birthday’ again and, this time, Grandma was a bit more forthcoming: “I don’t want gifts and, whatever we do, the only thing I want is for my family to all be there.”

Once more, I reported this back to the family and we all co-ordinated diaries to be free on 22nd July.

We discussed what to do on the day and it came down to two alternatives:

1 (me): Take Grandma out somewhere nice for lunch.

2 (everyone else): Have a tenpin bowling party.

I put these ideas to Grandma in reverse order – I didn’t want to seem to prioritise my own – and determinedly refused to let my doubts about the tenpin bowling idea show.  I was quietly confident she’d prefer my idea anyway.  Anyone I’d told about the bowling possibility had basically said, “bowling? For a 90th birthday?  Are you mad?”

In the event, I didn’t even get to mention my lunch idea.  As soon as I mentioned the bowling, Grandma’s face lit up: “Oh yes, that’s what I’d like to do!”

So that’s what we’ll do; maybe even are doing. All 15 of us, aged between 1 and 90. And we’ll be having a great time, I know.

But you’d be forgiven for wondering why on earth I am waffling on about bowling on the ACW blog.

Well, it strikes (sorry!) me that there are similarities between tenpin bowling and writing. 

The thing about bowling is that it’s not essential to be an expert, you just have to give it a go; from my one-year old niece being helped to push her ball slowly down the ramp to my brother-in-law hurling his ball down the lane so fast it blurs.

People often ask me how they can get started in writing. My reply?  Start writing.  As with bowling, it’s not essential to be an expert (I should know); just give it a go.

And maybe there’ll be others who churn out books so fast that the words blur, and maybe there’ll be others who need help getting started, and maybe there’ll be others who…..but maybe you’ll be different, and maybe that’s ok.

The last time I went bowling, my nephew, who was about 2 or 3 at the time, would take ages when it was his turn.  He stood there, inwardly debating whether or not to release his ball. In the end, he did.  And sometimes the ball missed its target completely.  But sometimes it knocked some pins down.

Anyone watching us congratulating him would have been forgiven for thinking we were congratulating my brother in law for getting a strike.  There was no difference in celebration of the two. Yes, the results were different but that didn’t matter, because the people we were celebrating were different.  And that was absolutely fine.

Keep going.  Wherever you are with your writing – or anything else, for that matter – if you do what you can do, that’s great….

Friday, 21 July 2017

Now is the time.......................Ruth Johnson

 "And the Lord answered me and said, 
'Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets 
that everyone who passes may (be able to) read 
(it easily and quickly) as he hastens by.  

 For the vision is yet for an appointed time

 and it hastens to the end (fullfillment); 
it will not deceive or disappoint.  
Though it tarry wait (earnestly) for it, 
because it will surely come; 
it will not be behindhand on its appointed day."

                                           Habakkuk 2:2-3. (AMP)

I’ve written three books averaging 175,000 words each and published over a five year period, and yet the fourth book, having started in 2013 a continuation of the third, still isn’t finished. I know the beginning and the end of all six books in the series, but weaving the storyline together is always a mystery, and one I really enjoy.  Last August I put time aside to write the final five chapters and prayed for inspiration. I awoke one morning with an extraordinary idea, discovered it would fit with the area and previous book, but needed research and help from the fire brigade.  The Lord then fulfilled a Jer.33:3 “When you call I will answer…” for within minutes a friend told me she was in contact with a man who in the 70s was a fireman!   

Little did I know how difficult it would be to write several scenes at the same time, and had to consider timings, where each group was, what they knew, heard or saw.  I’d one character making a suggestion, only to realize he’d left the scene earlier!! 

The Lord knows our beginning and end, and in writing I’m seeing the complexity of being a creator as I work out the plans and purposes for people with diverse characters and personalities. I have had to invent backgrounds for the main characters, a family tree of names, dates of birth, marriage, death, and remember their particular speaking nuances, personalities and past experiences.

Then I ask, who will read my books?  Why do I put aside hours to create?  Publicity is difficult or expensive.  Opportunities to sell books seem to shrink.  Yet this month I have been drawn to the above verses Habukkuk 2.  And the aim of my books is to take ordinary lives and show through difficult times our loving heavenly Father is always with us.  Through an easy and quick read my desire is to reveal He loves us, and, in retrospect, we will see how ‘all things work together for good for those in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8).   

I am sure as Christians our writing desire is to touch peoples' hearts and see lives changed by the knowledge of God.  For many of us that vision has indeed tarried.  So I was greatly encouraged when a friend sent me this excerpt from a prophetic word written in Charisma Magazine on 13th July.

 "I saw angels scavenging through trash cans, old filing cabinets and  dusty warehouses, picking up rejected manuscripts of books, songs, screenplays  and artwork, and then declaring, "These have been written and created ahead of  their time—but their time is now!  I saw "publishing angels" sitting on stacks of books, but these angels are now arising! These authors were strongly anointed as those who were seemingly born out of season, and their divine projects were ahead of their time, but their time has now come to be  published and to be heard abroad.  Some writings will ultimately end up in kings' palaces as well as the prisons and rescue missions of the earth, for kings sit in both  places. World leaders will find these divine writings in their laps delivered by the hands of "dignitary angels."

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The bells, the bells...!

You may remember that in 2013 eight new bells were installed at Notre Dame de Paris, and they were rung for the first time on 23 March, the eve of Palm Sunday. No doubt they cost a fortune, but it was deemed worth it to celebrate that iconic cathedral's 850th birthday. Apart from one - Emmanuel, the great tenor - the original bells had been melted down to make cannons during the French Revolution, and four substitutes installed in the nineteenth century were of poor quality metal and couldn't be harmonised with the remaining tenor bell.
I happened to be watching the news when the bells appeared on my TV screen, lined up in gleaming splendour all down Notre Dame's nave, and I leapt up exclaiming loudly. I felt a positively proprietorial pride because these eight bells had been made in the foundry at Villedieu-les-Poeles (literally, God's town of the pans), which is about a fifteen minute drive from our place in France, and somewhere we know well and have visited often.
Recently we went with friends on a tour of the bell foundry (there are two in France, but the other one, at Annecy, is not open to the public) and were once more struck by the emergence of huge, heavy, brilliant and loud bells from an old technology that includes goat hair, mud and horse manure.

I got to thinking about the use of church bells, and wondered if I could make some connection with writing, and of course there is one that comes to mind: if not exactly calling the faithful to prayer, it could be argued that our writing is a call of some kind, whether we write overtly Christian works or not; our Christian worldview leaks on to the page in any number of ways, some of them unconscious. And bells have traditionally been rung for purposes other than that of announcing the imminence of a service: the joyful sound of wedding bells, the muted dong for a funeral, and national rejoicing at the end of wars, for example.

I imagine each of us writes for many different reasons and with many different purposes: to entertain, to amuse, to inform, to provoke, to challenge, maybe, but perhaps above all to communicate. For myself, I hope to write stories that in some manner resonate, even harmonise, or to stretch the musical analogy to its limits, strike a chord, in another human soul. In the words of Frances Ridley Havergal in the rather pious Victorian hymn, '...and wing my words, that they may reach The hidden depths of many a heart.' Which rather makes the point that we may strive to do our best, but the outcome is God's.

Sue Russell writing as S.L.Russell has published five novels from a Christian viewpoint: Leviathan with a Fish-hook (2009), The Monster Behemoth (2010), The Land of Nimrod (2011), A Shed in a Cucumber Field (2014), and An Iron Yoke (2016.)  A sixth, A Vision of Locusts, published by Instant Apostle, is due out in September 2017.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Writing as a sacred journey By Claire Musters

I have recently started re-reading Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. Having had it (and the other books in the series) really impact me already, I am excited that our women’s book study group at church is now going through it, as well as the accompanying companion guide.

I was really struck this morning at how we as writers can be so disciplined and focused with our writing tasks but God can use writing to lure us into deeper moments with Him – either through our ‘work’ writing or when we write outside of work.

For example, I’ve been writing another Bible study guide recently, which has been particularly challenging. And yet everything I have been pulling together has spoken to me personally (isn’t that often the way?!)

I have also loved having writing tasks ‘set’ for me by Sharon’s companion guide. While I write in my journal regularly, having a spiritual director suggest I write on certain subjects, and write directly to God about things I haven’t previously, has opened up fresh avenues to me. I particularly liked her specific questions about how I related to the characters in the book, and what my responses to the way they handled circumstances showed me about myself.

Through her questions and suggestions, over the last few months Sharon has got me to think deeply and then write about: my life’s desert wastelands; what I hunger and thirst for; what my secret heartaches are; where God is pruning me; how I feel about discipline; where I have gained my sense of self from over the years; what particular things help me to take notice of my spiritual journey; what encourages me to go deeper and what discourages me. In fact, all of those questions came out of the first chapter of the companion guide!

How about you? Are you inspired to ponder and write about any of the above? And what writing, outside of the parameters of work, aids you in your spiritual walk?

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, 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: learning to live authentically, 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.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Power of Storytelling by Lynda Alsford

I love the way Jesus spoke in parables. There is something about story telling that makes information come alive. Most young people seem to love hearing stories being read to them. I remember my younger sister knew all the Mister Men stories off by heart by the age of three. I can remember reading her one of them one night. I paraphrased one page rather than reading exactly what was written on the page. She corrected me immediately even though she had not learned to read by then.  She remembered every word exactly as it was written. She loved having people read the stories to her. Stories are easy to remember. People remember stories.

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash
Jesus used story telling to speak to the crowds. He used illustrations from everyday life, speaking in Aramaic, the language of the people. He was the master of story telling.  I have never written fiction, only autobiographical books. I would love to be able to write a novel one day. A well told story is very powerful in communicating information.  
One thing that puzzled me is Jesus’ reply to a question he was asked about why he used parables to speak to the people.  In Matthew 13:10-15

“Jesus’ disciples came and said to him, “Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?”
11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven’t received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have. 12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don’t have, even the little they have will be taken away from them. 13 This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand.14 What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them:
You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; 
        and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeing.
15     For this people’s senses have become calloused, 
        and they’ve become hard of hearing, 
        and they’ve shut their eyes 
            so that they won’t see with their eyes 
            or hear with their ears 
            or understand with their minds, 
                and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them.

For years, I couldn’t understand why he spoke in parables rather than being direct. The quote from Isaiah implied to me that he didn’t want them to understand. But I know now that is not why. By using storytelling the onus is on us, the listeners, to hear the message. If we really want to hear from God we will listen with open ears, asking God to help us understand. But if someone doesn’t really want to know God the story will pass over them without them understanding it. We listen to stories with our hearts. Maybe that is another reason why Jesus used story. Those whose hearts are turned to Him will hear what Jesus is saying.  Praise God for the power of story telling.

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