Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Thoughts of Thanks by Emily Owen

‘We want to make it as easy as possible for you, in a way that will suit you.'

The quote above is taken from an email I received.  I’m fortunate in that I often receive nice emails, and this one should definitely be included in that category.
The email was one in a conversation between myself and Authentic Media, who are publishing my next books.

The conversation – fear not, I shall greatly summarise it – went like this:

Them: We need to schedule a team meeting with you.

Me: OK.

Them: We usually arrange a Skype meeting, is that alright with you?

Me (thinking): Oh no.

Two reasons for this:

1)      I am pretty bad with technology.  I’ve only ever had one Skype meeting in my life, and that was just a month or so ago. With one person.  To be honest, we had enough hassle setting that up, let alone a meeting with multiple people.  I mean, how would that even work?

2)      I am deaf.  I can lip-read, but lip-reading is easier in person than from a screen.  Especially more than one person from a screen. I assume, anyway. (And how would it even work?)

Me (also thinking):  I’m making things difficult if I say no.

Me (apologetically): Well, um, a face to face meeting would be easier for me but don’t worry if not, we can give Skype a go.

Them: Ok, we’ll look into logistics of an in-person meeting, as one team member lives quite a distance away.

I was about to reply saying no don’t do that - let’s skype, I’ll manage - when I received an email.

Them: Right, it’s all sorted.  Let’s meet at our offices on X date. We want to make it as easy as possible for you, in a way that will suit you.

So, someone made a three hour plus journey just to make an hour-long meeting as easy as possible for me.

The reason I am mentioning this is to simply say thank you.

The meeting was to talk about my next books, which will be out on September 1st.  If you’d like to have a look, here’s the link.

But the main point of this blog is the reminder that it’s such a privilege to have reason to say thank you.
And it’s a privilege that belongs to all of us...

What are you thankful for today?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Our national heritage

The Lord will watch over 
your coming and going 
both now and for evermore.  
                            Psalm 121:8 


This month friends from the US stayed for a week their first time in the UK.  As we live in Bristol they visited the SS Great Britain and wandered down the river to the city centre.  On Sunday they joined us at Bath City Church, after which we visited the Abbey, walked around the sights, had a late lunch in an old pub by the canal, and returned to visit the Roman Baths which became the highlight of their visit.

With all the rain this August I felt like saying “Woe to be in England now that summer is here,” but we found the Lord carefully orchestrated the days that if we were inside, be it in the car, or a building, it would pour with rain, but when walking around a village, castle, garden the sun came out its warmth and splendour making wonderful photo opportunities.

From the outset we joined the National Trust, and realized what an extraordinary history we have, and we were grateful they have preserved so many places.  David before leaving the US asked, as a fan of Agatha Christie’s stories, to visit her house in Brixham.  As we drove to Devon I realized just how much of a green and pleasant land we have, helped by hedges which have grown so thick and high you can’t see the houses behind them!

It was fascinating to hear Agatha’s very refined voice on a radio interview. And discover that on archaeological digs with her second husband she’d think up plots and when back in Devon she'd write them and we saw the very small typewriter she used.  Her typing speed couldn’t have been over 60 wpm, unlike today typing errors weren’t automatically adjusted, and cutting, pasting and editing would mean retyping a whole page.   It was no mean feat to write a book in those days, and she did one a year! 

A glassed door bookcase had several rows of her first edition books along with the film script of ‘Dead Man’s Folly’ signed by David Suchet who plays Poirot. When we returned home after the traditional fish and chips in Brixham Harbour we watched that film made at her house.  We saw again the extensive gardens and the boat house where the murder took place, and spotted that her house had been interchanged with another! 

Our friends also enjoyed Lacock where the ‘Cranford’ period drama was filmed, along with the Abbey which was used for Harry Potter.  I preferred Castle Combe as a preserved village, and they were thrilled to know “War Horse” was filmed there.   Cardiff Castle was preferred to Dunster as more how they imagined one to be.   They took hundreds of photos including my traditional offerings of  roast beef with Yorkshire pudding; sherry trifle; Cornish pasties; strawberry cream tea; 'Toad in the Hole' and apricot crumble. 

They went on to cruise the Norwegian Ffords, had two days in London and as you read this they are on the plane with many memories to take home.  
                                                                          Ruth Johnson

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Clearing the clutter by Sue Russell

I've been cogitating on the subject dear to all our hearts (or maybe not): editing.
The gardening analogy is an obvious one, but might bear reiterating. We humans, compared to a grapevine, are told we are in need of pruning in John's Gospel, chapter 15, verse 2, with the express purpose of becoming more fruitful. I don't know anything about viticulture, apart from the delights of the end product, but I have a vague notion that some plants need pruning, whether delicately or more stringently, and I guess there are few among us who would deny we need that sometimes painful discipline.
Just lately we've been doing some drastic clearance in our UK garden. Used as we are to macro-gardening in France, we wanted to make our English garden as low-maintenance as possible. So the ugly, overgrown and already-ringbarked-and-therefore-dead Leylandii between us and our neighbours  - planted many years ago, and not by us - had to go. A dozen or so trees, ranging from spindly to massive, had been taken over by a rampant, tangled and inaccessibly-high growth of climbers whose woody stems had entwined themselves in and out of the chain-link fencing put in by us and our neighbours to prevent mutual dog incursion, and had been taken over by undesirables such as brambles and ivy. So it was a huge job.

Down comes the overgrowth...

 ...and  a little over a week later the new fence is partly up, after a great deal of hard work. I  am aiming not only for practicality but also for a more harmonious array of plants and a great deal more light. Which is where destruction begins to turn into reconstruction, and we see the (perhaps flimsy) analogy with editing. 

I wouldn't suggest that every work of ours needs quite such treatment, but I don't suppose that many of us can produce a perfect first draft - as Mozart is reputed to have done, so I am told. Editing, especially by a sharp-eyed professional, is surely essential, whatever we have written. Often we are too close to our great work to see its flaws of construction or gaping plot-holes. And proof-reading is also vital; how easy it is to miss the repeated word or misplaced speech mark. I don't know about you, but anachronisms, typos, spelling and grammar errors, inconsistencies and the like will very soon deter me from continuing to read. Such carelessness seems to indicate a lack of regard for the reader, and ignorance is no excuse.
No one is immune, though. I try very hard to eliminate mistakes,  but I once allowed 'bothers and sisters' to go to print!

Sue writes as S.L.Russell and has written six novels from a Christian viewpoint, available in the usual places. The sixth, 'A Vision of Locusts', published by Instant Apostle, is available to pre-order now on Amazon (yes I know, shameless plug.)

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Making your mark, by Veronica Zundel

How do you write? I don't mean, how do you begin, do you plan or just pitch in, do you use lots of adjectives or conversation or authorial comment, do you do research? I mean physically, do you tap on a tablet or doodle on a desktop, or are you one of those supposedly old-fashioned writers who have to start with a pad and pen, or even a fountain pen on fancy thick cream paper?

I can write straight to screen if it's prose (like this),  but with poetry I have to have the physical feel of pen on paper, the muscle memory of inscribed words, even in the middle of the night when all I have is a nearly finished reporter's notepad and a run-out biro by the side of the bed (and yes, last night I had to go to the home office twice since the first ballpen I picked out there was just as run-out as the one by the bed, but at least I got the draft poem down). I gave up 'proper' fountain pens decades ago, in spite of being the generation that started with desk inkwells and dip-in nips with marbled tapered wooden handles (remember those? And the way they picked up fibres on sub-standard exercise books and dragged them across the page smearing everything?).

There's something about the bodily act of making marks on paper that just helps the flow of poetic inspiration - and maybe it's also the fact that most of my poems turn out shortish, which means I can stop well short of writer's cramp. For millenia, making real marks on a real surface, whether cuneiform on clay, heiroglyphics on stele or illegible scribble on a prescription pad (my dad was a doctor, which is why I haven't yet deciphered his roughly 40 years of tiny Letts diaries), was the only way to preserve and share your profound and priceless thoughts. Digital is a mere Johnny-come-lately, and for all its convenience (and I think every schoolchild should be taught to touch type), is somehow at one remove from the sensory experience of moving something long and thin around a surface (which reminds me of a wonderful video I just saw of a pre-schooler painting using her dog's tail as a brush!).

Writing is a physical activity, and though it sadly doesn't burn many calories, it can still be viewed as a sort of exercise, linked  to walking or running (as Georgina pointed out in Thursday's blog) which are both activities that can stimulate inspiration - literally, an intake of air. It demands good posture and a comfortable position - I still don't know how my husband can work with a laptop literally on his lap, or my son sprawled on the floor with his in front of him. I'd be wriggling like an eel within minutes, which is why chemotherapy, which involves long periods of sitting, has been such an ordeal.

So tell me, do you pick up a pen or sneak a stylus, tap on a typewriter or  tickle a keyboard?

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for BRF's New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at

Friday, 18 August 2017

What do running and writing have in common? By Georgina Tennant

My two sons love telling jokes.  They have, in fact, become a headline act in our church's yearly talent show.  Andy Murray's favourite number?  Ten is.  His bedtime?  Ten-ish.  Such is the quality of quip featured in their annual performance.  

'What do running and writing have in common?'  sounds, initially, like a question so absurd that it wouldn't be out of place in their next recital.  Running and writing?  Surely these two verbs are from such far-flung ends of the 'verbial' spectrum (sorry, a neologism was necessary there!) that they can only co-exist in a comedy line-up?

Think again!  I have long thought that running contains a limitless supply of metaphors for our spiritual lives.  It was only recently that I began to discern its countless connections to writing too.  As I set out running, a few weeks ago, for the first time in a while, after weeks of holidays, parties and indulgences, I observed a few things about running that we would do well to heed in our writing. 

One, I reflected, was that it's really hard to get started again after a long break - but you have to start somewhere!  I could have put it off for another week, but it would have been just as hard - harder - if I had let another week elapse before I leapt into my lycra (okay, crawled into my kit is more accurate).  When we haven't written for a while,  picking up a pen and starting out again feels hard - but as we do it,  we suddenly find ourselves in the flow again and, a few pages in, we wonder why we left it so long. 

Secondly, if we compare ourselves to others and try to keep up with them, it is tempting to give up when we've barely begun.  This is a real battle for a beginner runner - and writer - like me.  Though my two running friends declared themselves unfit and out of practice too, they soon sped ahead, leaving me pounding the pavements at my own sorrowful speed!  Beetroot red in the face, I was tempted to take a short-cut home.  But my eyes were on the end game; if I wanted to get fit, lose weight and be healthy, the painful beginning had to be endured, however far behind others I lagged.  Likewise with writing.  If I look enviously at the impressive CVs of other writers and compare them to my beginner's ramblings - this would be the last thing I ever wrote!  But we all have to start somewhere and it's only with patient and disciplined practice that our running and writing 'fitness levels' improve. 
Finally, we need encouragement - so much encouragement - to keep on keeping on.  Despite my tortoise pace and my bright red face, my friends congratulated me on getting back out there, arranged another run for another week.  Our writing needs this too - someone to spur us on, encourage us to keep doing it, even when progress is slow.  If you haven't uttered any encouragement to a fellow writer recently, make it a priority this week!  It is oxygen to a discouraged soul and may just be the nudge they need to have the courage to keep honing their God-given gift, instead of hurling their tentative scribblings onto the nearest log burner. 

So starting is hard.  Re-starting is hard. But in writing, as in running, rewards await those who set themselves in for the long haul.  So get out there!  Start writing.  Keep writing.  Stay focused on what God has given you to write, not what others are up to.  Most importantly, be an encourager, especially cheering on those flagging at the back! Type that comment, send that text - you may be the catalyst someone needs to keep training, keep trying.  Ultimately, your five seconds of encouragement could help to keep a plodding beginner from veering off and collapsing on the side of what could be an exciting road ahead, as God anoints small beginnings and transforms them into great things for His kingdom.

Georgina 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:

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Writing from a place of rest By Claire Musters

During the summer our church has been doing a preaching series on rest. Last Sunday my husband Steve and I spoke, focusing on working from a place of rest, which is something that God has been talking to me about a lot this year.

I know that many of us fit our writing around other jobs – and even if writing is your main job it can still seem like there is never enough time in the day for it.

Here is what God has been teaching me about resting in Him as I start each day rather than rushing on with my ‘to do’ list…

The importance of ordering my day
I try to remember to ask him to order my day before I hit the to do list. I have found when I do this it really makes a difference – and I think part of that is heart attitude, as I’m giving the control over to God before I start running away with it myself.

Starting the day in silence with Him
I am someone who can’t sit down and relax until all the jobs are done. God challenged me, saying that He knew I did give Him time as soon as dropping the kids off but I always seemed to be racing against the clock while they were at school. He asked me to take time out with Him in silence, and concentrate simply on connecting with Him.

Sometimes I say a simple prayer such as ‘come Lord Jesus’; at other times I concentrate on breathing more deeply and slowly as that helps tension to go, and say a phrase as I do so, such as ‘Be still’ (‘be’ when I breathe in and ‘still’ when I breathe out. Or ‘Come, rest’).

I know in our world that silence is quite alien but, more and more, I am learning that it is in the silence that we connect more deeply with God.

As I learned in the book study group I help run, when we studied Having a Mary Heart in Martha world, it is about establishing the centre (connecting ours with His), and allowing everything to work out from that place (like the centre of a wheel and the spokes coming off of it).

The importance of prayerful prioritising
Rather than simply working out the priorities of the day myself I bring them before God. Sometimes this simply means reading my ‘to do’ list out, offering it to Him and asking for His perspective, to point out the things that I can simply drop for that day.

Sometimes I pray for God to show me the ‘one thing’ that He wants me to do, and I purposefully leave all the rest (which is so against my nature!). It is interesting to see how the things I thought were so important are simply no longer necessary once I’ve let them go for a little while…

Be open to the unexpected
When we give our work over to God He can sometimes bring things or people into our days that hadn’t been on our horizons at all. When that would happen before I would get stressed and sometimes tell God I couldn’t deal with it because I was working.

I’m learning to prayerfully consider whether an interruption is something that God has brought into my day – and when it is my life has certainly been enriched. I’ve also seen God enlarge my capacity in order for this to happen.

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.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Making Difficult Decisions by Lynda Alsford

 How do you make difficult decisions? As a Christian it is not just myself and others I need to take into account. I also want to make sure I am doing what God would want me to do.

I have realised recently that I am trying to focus my attention and energy on too many things. Unfortunately that has meant my energy levels have been rather affected. I also have not got any writing done. I wanted to evaluate whether I can make more time for it. I thought I would be better once I stopped being administrator for ACW last autumn but the busyness and tiredness has continued. I find myself having to look through my diary and commitments to see what else I could stop doing. But that is so hard. What do I stop? How do I choose? I hope what I share will assist others in making hard decisions.

The good thing about this is that it is throwing me back onto God again. I am spending time in prayer and simply time being with the Lord, seeking to find out what he wants me to do. What should I give up and what should I keep doing?

Having prayed, and continuing to pray, I imagined what I would say to a friend if she were me. I thought this would help me to look at my life more objectively. I think I would tell someone else to go through all activities and look at them systematically.  

Being a writer at heart I decided to get out my journal and do this on paper. Having made a list of everything I do, I worked through it noting which brought me joy and which dragged me down. Obviously I can't stop everything I don't like - we all have to do things we don't like sometimes but it gave me a starting place.

I then asked myself why I was doing each thing. Some things have to be done - like my job. No job, no money. That is an easy one. Some things I am doing because it is expected of me, and others simply because I really enjoy them – they are life giving.

Other questions I asked myself about each thing on my list were...

  • Who would be affected by my decision? 
  • Is it a permanent decision or temporary one? Can I stop this thing for a season and pick it up later?
  • Is it in line with God’s word?

Some things on my list of activities have already been culled as I get to this point. I stopped going to my book group because although I enjoyed reading and discussing books with others, I no longer had time to read the book club book and read my own choice of book each month.

Others decisions are not so easy, so I am allowing myself time to make these decisions. I am not rushing. I am waiting on God, spending time with him while I decide.

What about you? How do you make difficult decisions? 

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