ACW

ACW

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Would You Like to be a Gargoyle? by janet Wilson


I have a question for you; who do you write for?

Yourself
Some of us write for ourselves. For years I wrote a five-year diary, then progressed to a journal, which was enormously helpful, but only to me. In fact, those journals were/are strictly for my eyes only. Strictly! In fact I should burn some of the old ones . . .

A Small Circle
If you feel called to write letters to prisoners, stories for your niece, events for your church newsletter, or your family history for posterity, do not say, “I only write . . .” Uh-uh! No, if this is what you are called to, fling your shoulders back, smile broadly and say, “I write short stories for my niece!” or whatever. In fact, why not do it now? (Unless you're reading this on a train and your fellow-passengers don't really care. Or just go for it anyway  . . . if you do, write and let us know how it goes. :-))

A Wider Circle
Maybe you write a blog, or features for magazines. Perhaps you write articles for trade journals, jokes for crackers, devotionals, Sunday School plays – great! Keep encouraging those people!

The World
If your writing goes all over the world, you might not have had time to read this far. You might be busy talking to your publisher or working on the self-publishing thing, marketing on all your platforms, getting on with your next Big Work. Wonderful!

Who Are You Really Writing For?
You know this. You know you know this . . . you are writing for your God. You are writing because the Lord gave you a gift, and gave you a purpose. Can I make a suggestion? Take a few minutes, right now, to write down the purpose you think he has for your writing. Are you on the right track?

Be Happy!
Whatever you are called to write, whether it's just for you or you have a wider audience, be a good and faithful servant. Don't be afraid to be unique, because nobody can do 'you' like – well, like you. Each one of us is a brick in the wall. Don't let's get tied up with other people's bricks or what the world, your neighbour or even (gosh) what other writers consider to be success. We can't all be gargoyles. :-)

True success, for us as Christians, has nothing to do with fame, fortune, the number of books/articles we have published or sold, how many languages our works are translated into, or how many 'likes' our posts get on facebook. We are successful if we are in the process of achieving our purpose. Are you in the process of achieving yours?

With thanks for reading,
Janet



Janet is a writer, and founder of Dernier Publishing (www.dernierpublishing.com). She runs Write for a Reason (www.write-for-a-reason.com) for Christians who write fiction for children and young adults, and is rubbish at writing brief biographies. :-)

Monday, 28 September 2015

by Vivienne Tuffnell



There are those who would declare that a Christian should not (or even cannot) suffer with depression. They would maintain that a prayerful relationship with God and a well-disciplined life make depression either impossible or else, evidence of hidden sins.

In answer to that I would disagree, as would many of the well-honoured mystics throughout the long history of the Christian faith. St John of the Cross would answer that not only is the deep, dark depression he dubbed the dark night of the soul, an inevitable consequence of a deepening and maturing faith, it may also be one of the most profound and difficult gifts that God can give us. It doesn't come with bright wrapping paper, ribbons, bows or glitter, and you can't take it back to John Lewis for a refund if you don't like it. But it's still a pearl beyond price, even if it didn't arrive in a Tiffany box.

The dark night of the soul is hard to explain. I believe that many forms of clinical depression are versions of this spiritual experience. There are both degrees and shades of the darkness that comes and perhaps the hardest thing for a person of faith to understand is that the darkness itself is not evil. It's neutral. It's simply the absence of the light and the warmth we are used to. Nor is the dark night an absence of God. God does not turn his face from you, or stop loving you, any more than my mother stopped loving me when she left me at the school gates on my first day of infants' school. It was an essential part of my development as a child – to be able to move forward in life without a parent holding my hand the whole time. Becoming independent of your parents never means you no longer need them. It means you are an adult in your own right.

The process of the dark night can be short and hideously intense, or it can go on for years. While not all depressive episodes fall into this category, I believe that for me, they are related. God never withdraws entirely, but He does stand back out of sight. It feels like a complete loss of faith, yet in some ways, the process is potentially the most strengthening one. Just as I, as a five year old, knew my mother would return for me at half past three, I have learned that my awareness of the divine presence will also return. Until it does, I know that I must continue to act “as if” that awareness were fully intact. This does not preclude doing a good deal of thinking and exploring during that dark time, and what we discover about ourselves and the world beyond this known one, are a vital part of the process. At the end, you go back to exactly how you were before, and yet it has radically changed you at some level. You will never be the same, and this is a good thing. Whatever some mothers may feel, trying to keep your children as helpless babies their whole lives is a dreadful, damaging thing.

About the Author

Vivienne Tuffnell is a writer, a poet and a seeker who jokingly describes herself as an explorer and mystic. She currently lives in darkest Norfolk. Her most recent book is a collection of essays from her blog, exploring depression and mental health and is entitled Depression and The Art of Tightrope Walking.

Her blog can be found at: http://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com

She tweets as @guineapig66

Her books are available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vivienne-Tuffnell/e/B00766135C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1





Sunday, 27 September 2015

When a Writer Walks Down a Wall, by Lucy Mills

LAST YEAR, ON HOLY SATURDAY, I dropped from a roof .

To be more context-specific, I was abseiling down the side of the parish church. Over the past few years a fear of heights had festered in me, so I was more surprised than anyone to find myself with a ‘ticket’ in hand, queueing for a good two hours or so. All to walk down a wall.

The worst part was, as I expected, trying to get my legs over the top of the tower. It was a struggle finding the ledge for my feet, legs visibly wobbling (I’m told) and then clinging to the edge, awaiting further instructions while my friend (fellow ACW member Annie Porthouse!) was already on the move. But when I leaned back and began the descent, feeling the rope support me, the wobbliness ceased and I enjoyed my little ‘walk’.

A week or so later  I held the book launch for Forgetful Heart. The attack of a virus and a delay at the printers meant that at one point I was a little concerned I would have neither books nor voice for the event. However, the books got there (hooray!) and my voice managed, with a little help from my friends, who read out some extracts for me while I slurped down water.


As all these things were going on, I contemplated the journey that is writing a book. And abseiling down a church tower gave me a good analogy to explore in my reflections.

There are points:
  • when you’re not sure you’re even going to sign up
  • when the ‘waiting’ feels too long and too nerveracking
  • when climbing the narrow, difficult steps feels frightening and destabilising
  • when you cling to the edge, not sure whether you can do this
  • when you aren’t clear what it is you’re supposed to do next
  • when you lean back and let the momentum take you
  • when you look down (or up!) and realise - I did it.


Of course, then you have to begin all over again!

This is an adapted extract from a post written for my own blog last year (when I had longer hair!) - but I thought it might be worth sharing here.



***
 

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:



Saturday, 26 September 2015

Christian Resources Together Retreat 2015 by Adrianne Fitzpatrick


Let me say, upfront, that CRT is by no stretch of the imagination a ‘retreat’, if by that you think ‘quiet’ or ‘contemplative’ – although there’s plenty to contemplate! By a very broad definition, it’s a ‘retreat’ in the sense of people withdrawing from the world ‘to a secluded place’ in order to meet with likeminded individuals. Semantics aside, what is CRT?
CRT is a two-day conference for people within the publishing industry: publishers, wholesalers and distributors, booksellers, and writers. The venue is the lovely Hayes Conference Centre at Swanwick.

Adrianne Fitzpatrick and author Eleanor Watkins
(photograph by Merrilyn Williams)
This year was my second time attending: last year as part of the ACW team and this year representing Books to Treasure. The basic format was the same both times, starting out at 10.00 am on Day 1 with delegates visiting the exhibition hall, where they could explore the offerings from the trade. Many publishers were represented, including Tyndale House, Lion Hudson, Hodder Faith, Authentic, and Dernier Publishing. There were also a number of people, such as Biblekiosk and the Printing Charity, offering services to writers and publishers, as well as suppliers of cards and gifts.
Amy Boucher Pye, Fiona Veitch Smith and
Wendy Jones with some of their goodies
The exhibition hall was open twice a day. This gave delegates plenty of time to check out the various stalls, and to help themselves to the many freebies on offer, without having to miss out on any of the seminars. Limiting the exhibition opening times also meant that exhibitors were able to attend most of the seminars if they chose to – or take a well-earned rest!
The seminars themselves included fiction for the Christian market, the future of Christian publishing, the Bible (and translation), and a time for reflection and prayer.
CRT isn’t a writers’ conference, although it does include seminars relevant to writers, but the benefit of attending goes well beyond that. Where else can you talk to booksellers and find out what’s selling and what isn’t and what you can do to help promote your book? Where else can you also meet with publishers and find out what they’re looking for, discuss your project and perhaps gain an invitation to submit? Where else can you see how your writing fits into the grand scheme of publishing and book selling, whether for the Christian market or the secular?
The ACW had a strong presence at CRT, with a table in the exhibition hall showcasing the work of many of our members, as well as hosting one of the seminars. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with ACW members I met for the first time last year as well as meeting new (to me) people who attended this year. It’s amazing how meeting someone in the flesh can really enrich our online interactions. 
The ACW display

Adrianne Fitzpatrick, Wendy H Jones, and Merrilyn Williams
(Mel Menzies) at the Awards Dinner

I heartily recommend CRT as a wonderful place to engage with our industry.

Adrianne Fitzpatrick has around 25 years’ experience in the publishing industry as a writer (for adults and children), editor, teacher (of writing and editing), photographer, book designer and bookseller (both new and secondhand books). She has had numerous short stories and articles published; and her first novel, Champion of the Chalet School, was published by Girls Gone By Publishers in 2014. Adrianne has worked with many authors to see their dreams of publication come true, so it’s not surprising that she has started her own publishing house, Books to Treasure, specialising in books for children.


Friday, 25 September 2015

A Season for Everything by Fiona Lloyd



Those of you with too much time on your hands might notice a slight difference between this month's bio and all my previous ones.


How are you supposed to walk in these?
For the benefit of the rest of you, I'll explain: Last week my youngest turned 18, so I now have three grown-up children. This makes me feel (a) old and decrepit; and (b) nostalgic for the days when they were all tucked up in bed by seven o'clock, instead of lolloping around the house till way past my bedtime, leaving half-empty glasses and vertigo-inducing sandals in their wake.

All this for one small child?
If I'm honest, though, it wasn't all cuddly stories on the sofa and sun-drenched days in the park when they were younger. There were lots of good bits, but I don't miss the screaming fits at two in the morning, or the fact that the simplest of outings required military planning and an accompanying pantechnicon of equipment.


The writer of Ecclesiastes (a cheerful soul, if ever there was one) wrote about viewing our lives in seasons. If we try and cling onto a season that is past, we risk missing the potential blessings of a new one. God calls each one of us to move on to new situations at various points in our lives.


As writers, this may mean trying a new genre, or producing material for a different audience. Maybe we need to brave that local writers’ group, or decide to submit that manuscript we’ve been polishing to the point where we now need prescription-strength sunglasses to read it. So I'm challenging myself to look forward to - and rejoice in - the new things God has in store for me ... what about you?


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.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

New Learning and New Ignorance


‘Name C. S. Lewis’s greatest book.’ ‘English Literature in the Sixteenth Century.’ ‘Come again?’

Well, don’t forget that Literary Criticism was Lewis’s real job. If we are too dazzled by his string of apologetics and children’s books we are in danger of being like those hobbits who only knew Gandalf, the Opponent of Sauron, as a maker of wonderful fireworks.

Chez nous, we have just finished reading the introductory chapter: ‘New Learning and New Ignorance’ (I say reading but I mean one of us reading out loud to the other—the test of good writing, which Lewis’s prose passes with honours.)

This chapter has 64 pages. It would make a book in itself, especially if the names of people, books, places, and events which Lewis assumes that we know were all expanded or footnoted. It is an outstanding study of the cultural history of the sixteenth century.

That century was very important for the history of ideas. But how many of us know the real story, as opposed to the superficial narratives which interested parties on all sides hand out? Lewis shows us that the truth, as ever, is more complicated. If you like history to support your prejudices and your knowledge to remain shallow, don’t read this book.

For the protagonists of ‘progressive thinking’, this was when the New Learning sprang up to banish the ignorance of the Dark Ages. For art historians, it was the pinnacle of the ‘Renaissance’ (Lewis puts the word in quotes when he can’t avoid using it). For scientific humanists, it was when Science began to shape people’s thinking. It was an age of geographical discovery. And of course, it was when Protestantism first emerged.

Around these cherished landmarks, lots of potted, stereotyped ideas have gathered. Lewis, one of the twentieth century’s champions of clear and honest thinking, deconstructs many of our simplistic notions.

The so-called ‘rebirth’ or renascentia, which has given rise to our multivalent word Renaissance, was originally coined to describe the revival of Augustan Classical Latin and the rediscovery of ancient Greek and its literature. The men (and they were probably all male) responsible for this are known as ‘humanists’. They are not to be confused with our present-day friends of secular outlook—though it is arguable that a tenuous historical thread connects them.

Lewis’s first paradox (of many) is to declare that he cannot see any causal connection between the humanists of the renascentia and the remarkable and unprecedented flowering of English literature in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, in which Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, and Sidney starred. The temper of the humanists was so nitpicking that some of them would not use an inflected form of a Latin word if that particular form had not been used by Cicero. This was not exactly the spirit to power the unfettered soaring of Shakespeare’s dramatic and linguistic inventiveness.


But I have hardly begun to unpack the treasures of ELISC. More to come in another blog.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A word fitly spoken - by Helen Murray

I really like the ACW. 

I like that there's an organisation that is there to bring together Christian writers, whether they're writers who are Christians, or those who produce Christian material. I have learned so much, laughed often and made some really good friends, and even met some of them, though knowing each other in real, three-dimensional life isn't a pre-requisite for real connection and trust. 

It's a thoroughly encouraging place to be. 

Encouragement means to inspire with courage, spirit or confidence – to help someone needing courage to find some. You can do it. I believe in you.

It means to stimulate by assistance, approval – to boost someone, to give them something that they can use to find more inside themselves. To let them know that you’re on their side, that you’re cheering for them. To lift someone up, to take them higher, to remind them of how far they’ve come, how well they’re doing. To embolden, hearten, reassure, urge, support, help.

Aren’t they wonderful words? And don't we love words, in this neck of the woods?

Words are endlessly powerful, and a personal word of encouragement in the right place can have a huge effect.

It can make the difference between someone giving up or carrying on. The difference between winning and losing, hoping and despairing.  

Something you say might be just the confirmation someone needs to make a decision, or try something new, or make a change. It could simply make them feel a little better.

Encouragement comes in all shapes and sizes, and we shouldn’t dismiss the things that seem insignificant. Something that seems quite small can be quite powerful in God’s hands. 

A while ago I was walking up the road behind a lady. It was one of those awkward situations where you find yourself walking at just the same speed as someone in front and so it looks a bit as if you’re a stalker. You have this dilemma - do you speed up and overtake, thus having to continue to walk at a faster than normal pace all the way up a straight road, or do you hang back and dawdle, only to catch up again… or maybe that sort of thing only happens to me.

Anyway, I was walking behind this lady, and I admired her haircut.  Have you ever done that? You stand in a queue at the post office, and think how nice someone looks, or you're in church and you realise that the person in front has a beautiful singing voice? You never say anything for fear of being thought odd or invading personal space. Well, I was walking up the road staring at this lady’s hair, and it came into my head that on this occasion I should tell her how nice it looked. 

Cue: startled internal dialogue.

Seriously?

If she turns right up Quarry Lane, I won't say anything.

She didn’t. 

If she turns right up Vincent Crescent, I won't say anything. 

She didn't. 

Clearly action was required. How hard could it be?

So, as we approached my turn, I took a deep breath, drew alongside and said to her, ‘This might sound a bit silly, but I’ve been walking up the road behind you, and I’ve been thinking how nice your hair looks.’

I smiled at her apologetically and made to scurry off, but she stopped me.

‘Do you really think so? Oh, thank you so much. I’ve just had it done at a different hairdresser, and I wasn’t too sure if it suited me. I’ve been worrying. I don’t think my daughter will like it. She liked it how it was, but I fancied a change. Thank you so much.’

It made a difference to her. I don’t kid myself that I did anything profound, but I believe that God nudged me to tell that lady that she had nice hair. He knew she was feeling anxious and insecure and through my words He helped her with that. She walked off a little straighter. 

I hope it helped her face her daughter with a bit of confidence, but even if her daughter didn’t like it, at least she knew that there was a strange woman stalker who did.

God is in the business of encouraging. He cares about details like angst over haircuts, and He cares about the big whopping life choices that won't grow out in four weeks. He doesn’t want us to be closed off solitary individuals struggling alone in a crowd with our own neuroses and problems. He never meant it to be that way. He told us that we’re family, and we should be caring for one another. Helping each other with battles. Cheering for each other. 

 Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Proverbs 12:25

Small encouragements are all about the pleasure of being noticed, thought about. Someone cared enough to consider me.  We all long to be approved of, affirmed. 

There are big things, too.  Just now and again we get an opportunity to speak powerful words into a person’s life, even if we might never know that that’s what we did. I think that God often gives opportunities to speak words that find a home deep inside someone’s heart.

A few people did this for me: they spoke into the dreams that I have for my life, and I have never forgotten their words.  When I was nine, a teacher at junior school wrote in my autograph book, 

To the Daphne Du Maurier of tomorrow: keep on writing!’ 

There are people in the ACW too who have no idea how precious their words have been to me. I have filed things away in my heart and they comfort and motivate and inspire me.  These encouragements keep me going when the little voices in my head tell me that I can't do it; I should just give up and open a packet of custard creams.

It's a raw thing to reveal your dream to someone, and finding a safe place of encouragement is precious. Dreams can be fragile. I confided this same writing dream to a girl in school when I was about fifteen. She laughed mockingly,  saying, ‘Dream on, Helen.’ It hurt, but that's exactly what I did. I dreamed on. Because on that occasion the positive words of my teacher were more powerful than her bitter ones. Without that specific encouragement like a stake holding steady a vulnerable sapling, she might have flattened my dream. 

 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Proverbs 16:24

Someone believed in me. Some days I feel able to take on the world, others completely defeated, but those words stay solid for me. When my teacher wrote that lovely line in my autograph book, I bet he had no idea of the impact it would have. When I finally publish my bestseller, I shall send him a signed copy. 

Best get on with it, then. 

So here's the thing: we have no way of knowing what God might do in the future to join up the dots and make our innocuous comment into something huge and powerful for someone.  The thing we say, the little tiny dot that we add – might be just one in a long chain that God is adding to a person’s life that will one day join up and become something amazing.

 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Proverbs 25:11

Someone once said that we are like buckets and life punches holes all over and our self-esteem pours out of the holes. When we encourage each other, we fix some of those holes, and we refill a little of the self-esteem that leaked out.

I think we’re doing a vital part of God’s work in encouraging each other. Encouragement is listed by St Paul in Romans 12 as one of the separate gifts in the Body of Christ.  Maybe it’s true that some people have a particular ability to encourage, but I think there can be no doubt that each one of us is able to do it. It's what God told us to do.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11



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

Having spent time as a researcher, church worker, OT 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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A Measure of Success

During this past month, in response to World Suicide Prevention Day, I shared a blog post that some of you may have read (if you haven't, it's here). 

tape measure of successMy blog isn't huge. I don't have an enormous following - out of sixty odd followers I have probably thirty who read regularly. This one post was read over 200 times, shared on Facebook and Twitter by people I don't even know, and garnered a response much larger than I expected. I guess you would call it successful.

Whatever our chosen field, the idea of success is something that attracts all of us. I often find myself striving for it, and yet I'm unsure of what it actually looks like.

And so my lingering thought this past couple of weeks has been, how do I define success?

Maybe it’s all in the numbers. Two hundred people is big for me. I know some people have a following of thousands, and don't even look at how much their posts have been read, but I admit that on a day when I publish something my eye sneaks back more often than it should to the number of people who've read it. There is a thrill in watching those numbers climb.

Feedback is alluring too. "That was a beautifully written post"; "Thanks for sharing,"; “Such an important message." These were among the fifty something responses I had to sharing the article. It was so encouraging to read them, especially because it was quite a personal post, and sharing it was really quite nerve wracking. Positive comments make me feel good about my work, but I’m not sure they point to a ‘successful’ post.

I’ve also had the experience of people knowing my name. When Secret Scars first came out I had a smattering of speaking engagements which once led to a stranger pointing at me and saying “You’re that self-harm girl!” As much as it wasn’t exactly a moniker I was keen to keep, there was something very satisfying about being ‘recognised’, and, when doing book plug in front of 3000 people, I certainly felt like I’d ‘made it.’

Not that my blog has (or ever will) make me any money, but there is also the appeal of being able to say I’m a ‘professional’ writer, and basing my view of success on my bank statements each month. I’ve written two books, both of which have sold moderately well in the niche Christian market. In some ways they are successful, but the money I’ve made from writing them certainly doesn’t suggest that in any standard way.

Whilst ruminating on this idea of success, I found a statement made on Twitter by Nicky Gumbel over two years ago: 
Talent is God-given - be humble. Fame is man-given - be grateful. Conceit is self-given - be careful.
This really struck me. I sometimes get way too caught up in the numbers, money, or being well known. I forget that whatever I have comes from Him who gives good gifts, and my only job is to be thankful and to use what I've been given. 

I got an email a couple of days after sharing my suicide post. One email, with just a few words that hit me like a battering ram: "I never realised there was hope until today." And so I make this resolution: touching people will be my measure of success. And as for the honour of being a messenger of hope - well I can't ask for anything more.







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

Monday, 21 September 2015

Pottering in the Garden by Ruth Johnson

The view from our bedroom window

"...God created man in His own image….male and female He created them.” Gen.1:27   

 “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”  Gen.3:8
 


We were created to have a relationship with the Father God, He's the gardener of my heart and continues to speak to me on that theme! 

Two weeks ago we stayed at a resort near Paris modeled on different villages in France.  Our town house was in Giverny where three houses were joined to replicate Monet’s house and garden.  A day at Versailles astounded us by the sheer number, extent and magnificence of the beautifully manicured formal gardens.  At Monet’s house and gardens we admired the reality of his paintings that so vividly captured the overflowing flower beds and the incredible array of different sized plants that interweaved bringing a riot of colour and size.  

Both gardens were a joy to behold despite being so opposite.  I reflected on the lives of those who had enjoyed them.  Versailles with its order, lives mapped with responsibility, the clear vision ruling and reigning. Monet's appeared to have little or no order, embraced freedom in a wild array of creativity, with a vision framed by the talented artist who painted it.

What does my ‘spiritual’ garden, say about me?  A walled kitchen garden, devoid of crops in a fallow 7th year according to the Biblical edict to the Jews! The first year of my husband’s retirement enjoying simple things with no planting or plans in mind. It was an extraordinary confirmation to discover the 49th year in the Jewish calendar was just ending, and interesting that just beginning is the 50th year which God decreed should be one of Jubilee.  It was another fallow year with the need to depend on His provision and blessing, but too a time of restoration, and liberty for His people. Lev.25:8-11.

On closer inspection I've seen my 'spiritual' garden's neat and empty beds have tiny weeds. And away from the sun insidious bind weed creeps across the earth.  How quickly weeds grow.   Ps.24 speaks of clean hands and pure hearts.  Paul writes about the need to renew our minds. James about curbing our tongues. It's so easy to slip into exaggeration, gossip, even lies.  Were the weeds my words?  Knowing nothing of this a friend unexpectedly pointed out several instances where I’d not spoken the truth. Eg my declaration that a prayer meeting had been a waste of time. I may have felt that, but know God didn’t! 

Centuries ago God in the garden decreed man’s authority over the earth, Jesus said with faith the size of a mustard seed we could decree a mountain fall into the sea. If I want the crop of God's truth planted in my life to produce His harvest, to walk in His authority, speak with His integrity and write with His wisdom then I need to hand Him a rake to ensure that before the next planting no tare grows with the wheat.  


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Playing our part by Sue Russell

I seem to have a great deal of trouble thinking what to write for these blog posts - so much so that I felt obliged to bail out in August. Wendy is very forgiving and found someone else for the slot. So when I found myself once again without inspiration and with a day to go, I asked for divine help (while trudging round a wet field with my dog.) The word that came to me was 'stewardship.'

That's a big subject and one on which many of us will have heard a few sermons. My twopenny-worth will be flimsy by comparison. But...

I recently came back from a trip to Italy, soaked in Roman and Renaissance art. The majority was done as commissions from the wealthy and influential, often in churches and on Biblical themes. (I wondered what the many tourists of non-European background made of some of  those Old Testament stories.) As I gazed appreciatively at works both iconic and less familiar, I found myself thinking about motivation. Did the makers of this sculpture or that fresco consciously dedicate their art to the honour of God? Or were they more concerned with whether they'd be paid in time to keep the landlord at bay? We can't know, in most cases, and perhaps it doesn't matter; perhaps motivation is a secret between the creature and his or her Maker. What they couldn't have known was what impact their work would have on so many people - and, of course, neither can we. It's useless, if tempting, to speculate, even though, as writers, speculation is part of our daily diet.









I have been guilty of airy dreaming, of harbouring big, unrealistic ideas, and I'm probably not alone in this. But I'm sure it was not what I was called (and, I hope, equipped) to do. Having found our gifts, we are supposed to hone them and use them for the glory of God - aren't we? Not lounge around thinking about who might read our prose or verse, vainly wishing someone would post an admiring review.

For most of us God's calling is to something relatively small. Few of us can rise to the stature of a Michelangelo or a Dante. But we each have something to contribute, and it is ours alone. This is at once humbling and liberating. We are not called to do everything, just our thing. As we contemplate the works of great masters, if we have eyes to see, we may gain some new insight, some new inspiration. So it is with our more modest offerings. If we faithfully fulfil our calling, God can and will magnify it many-fold. We can leave all ideas of what we leave behind with One who has all knowledge and all wisdom.

And that leads me to remember that I have editing to do, and have procrastinated too long!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Dead on time?

Deadlines. The very word strikes fear, beginning as it does with a reminder of our mortality. And 'lines' are something we of a certain age will remember getting given for misconduct at school: 'I will not flick rolled-up blotting paper at other students' or 'I will not pass love notes around the classroom' one hundred times, in our best writing. There's something in the word that suggests if we don't have a certain number of lines by a certain date, we will be dead.

Deadlines. Do you love them or hate them? I occasionally miss them, although I always let the editor know if I'm going to. But in the last year or so I have been missing them in a different way. You see, I decided last spring to do something I haven't done in over 35 years of freelance writing: to write a book 'on spec', without having a publisher, a contract and a deadline first. Having worked in Christian publishing, I have always relied on personal contacts, or a past publishing relationship, to get my books published. When it comes to writing first and then selling my work, I am a rank beginner.

The book is a memoir of my late brother, who died 40 years ago this year, so as well as having to be a self-starter, I'm having to write some painful memories which have been long buried. From using writing to put off domestic tasks, I have switched to the other side and am now using domestic tasks to put off writing. My admin has never been so up to date.

I had a boost in the first few months, when MsLexia magazine announced they were running their first memoir competition, with a deadline of 22nd September (that's 2014, not in three days' time...). 'Aha!' I thought, 'there's my deadline.' But of course 22nd September rolled round and I wasn't even half way through...

The fact is, deadlines may be unpopular, but we need them - at least I do, and I've realized that I need them imposed from outside, not self-chosen. (Not that I was happy when my Bible notes editor suddenly announced my notes were due on Tuesday, when the previous deadline she had given me was Friday...) Just as God reproves those God loves, so a good editor will keep a writer on her toes, checking progress every now and then; and a good writer will treat deadlines, not as a suggestion, but as a boundary within which her work must be planned and tasks allocated to a specific time.

I wonder what spiritual lesson there might be from deadlines? We don't have a deadline in life, except perhaps the menopause and our own death - and we don't know precisely when either of those will happen. But we all know, though we rarely contemplate it,  that our life will end some time. A stimulus, perhaps, to keep working towards that deadline that is known only to God.


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 New Daylight. Veronica belongs to the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and also blogs at reversedstandard.com

Friday, 18 September 2015

Remember this when you feel stalled by Joy Lenton

Are you feeling stalled, prevented from progressing as you want to? Me too.

We're full of hope and expectation, pressing ahead with our projects, when it feels like we hit a brick wall.

Something slams into our days, rendering us helpless, too tired to carry on as before.

We become the sparrow fallen to ground, empty jar needing to be filled, lost coin waiting to be found.

We thought it was almost reaping time but now we sit in bleak and barren furrows.

Circumstances make us crumble into the dust and ashes we came from.

Being laid low, set aside for a while, feels painful, humbling, frustrating. Everything within us longs to move on.

I've become accustomed to the fluctuating symptoms of M.E, the way it can drain and deplete so inconveniently. 

And the hardest thing to have to lay aside is connection, being a part of life when you're too weary to participate. 

That, and the work in progress, of course. Who wants to stop when words and ideas are flowing? Not me.

At times like this we can forget Whose hands our life and times are in.

So I've sat still for a season, alternately resisted and relaxed into rest. Most of all, I've sought after God because He is the Peace I crave, and He makes me whole again. 

As I browsed through my prayer journal to remind myself how God has strengthened me in the past, I found some words to share which I hope will encourage you too.

'Prayer Whisper:Your story matters'

“You have a message to share. You have a story to tell. Surrender the outcome to Me. 

All I ask of you is that you are willing to write as I guide, speak as I direct, and listen continually for My promptings.

Sometimes words will flow and be written down; other times you wait in faith and trust, with expectancy, and I will provide as you take the first step.

Surrender your tools to Me. Your pen, paper, keyboard, phone or voice. In My hands they will accomplish far more than you can imagine.

If words stall and you feel blocked from speaking, do not allow fear to paralyse you further. Continue to believe that I will provide.

There will be seasons of bounty and seasons of fallow. Believe I am in both. 

Your heart may need surgery.

Your attitude and thoughts may need correction. It is necessary to purify and make you fit for purpose.

Then you will come forth as gold and shine with My radiance and glory. I will renew and restore what is broken and lost.

You still see holes. I see more areas where My grace can filter through.

Trust the work I am doing in you. Broken, weak and wounded people surrendered to Me are the most beautiful vessels to reflect My Light to others”

May I pray for you?

Eternal Father,
I pray for those who may be in a season of being stalled, a period of challenge and change, requiring direction from you.

Be the peace they need, the calm in every storm, the shelter and safe place we can all come to when life overwhelms us.

Ease the discouragement and frustration of being set aside for a while, and bring forth the fruit of their labours at just the right time for it to impact the lives of others.

Thank you that you are the Author of life, Source of inspiration and giver of all good gifts. Help us to use them wisely to your praise and glory.
Amen


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 +