ACW

ACW

Monday, 30 November 2015

Starting Young by Jean Gibson



My eldest grandson is eight years old.  Having been read to from his earliest days, he has always loved books and over the past year has begun to read for himself.  He still likes to be read to, but realises he can devour many more books on his own than if he has to wait for someone elses availability.  At family gatherings he can often be found stretched out on the floor, chin on hands,  a book in front of him.  He is in another world, oblivious to what is going on around. His six year old brother is reading beginner books and his two year old sister thinks she can read everything.

As a lifetime bookaholic, it brings joy to my heart to watch my grandchildren reading.  I delight in introducing them to books I have loved over the years.  And I love reading the stories they are beginning to put together themselves.  I look back to my childhood attempts at telling stories and writing plays for my friends to act out and remember that uninhibited enthusiasm to share my writing. Across the generations my grandchildren and I revel in the shared joy of words and stories.

One interest leads to another.  Reading Bible stories, talking of Gods love for them, praying with them as I tuck them in at night are a precious privilege I dont take lightly.  I hope that as they grow we will be able to share stories of Gods work in our lives and that they will come to understand the most important story of all.

As Christian writers we face the ongoing discussion of how overt we should be in sharing our faith in our writing. My grandchildren don't want to read Bible stories, or Christian books, all the time.  They enjoy them but they revel in a wide choice of books and stories.  I want them to have access to many stories that portray Christian themes in a positive light.  I want their understanding of the Bible to sharpen their understanding of beauty, forgiveness, integrity, care for others, self-sacrifice, when they meet them in different contexts.  And I would love children who have little Bible background to be exposed to these themes too. 

Psalm 78:4 reminds us We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done.  For those of you writing for children and young people - please keep writing these stories that let them know there is something more to life than the world around them.

Last week my fourth grandchild was born.  As a child of reading parents and grandparents, I suspect that he will love books as much as his cousins do.  Im already hoping and planning to be part of his literary - and spiritual - experience.



Jean Gibson was involved in theological training in Kenya for eight years and for fifteen years was the national representative in N Ireland for the Christian charity Care for the Family. She now lives on the east coast of Northern Ireland with her husband Brian when they are not travelling or childminding in Scotland.  Among other books and articles she has written Journey of Hope, the story of her travels through Kenya and Malawi.  She can be found at www.jeangibson.co.uk  and you can follow the exploits of her wider family including grandchildren and 94 year old father on Facebook.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Haven't we Been Here Before by Theresa Grant


Haven’t we been here before?

In Ecclesiastes the Teacher says that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecc 1:9 NIV).

As we approach Christmas this year I have a sense of deja-vu about the furore over the cinemas saying that they will not screen The Lord’s Prayer advert. This has happened before when radio stations refused to play Sir Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer. It went to the top of the UK chart for 3 weeks and just missed it for Christmas.

The refusal of the cinemas to show this advert of the Lord’s Prayer is already having a similar effect, it is piquing people’s curiosity, whether or not they would have gone to see the Star Wars film they will now look at it on-line. Just out of curiosity.

The thing is that whenever anyone tries to cage the Word of God, it will break free. In the UK we have seen this prayer for too long as being very British and a very nice, safe and easy prayer to pray. So why then does it repeatedly warrant this treatment in modern day Britain? People in the secular world seem to grasp better than most of us Christians that this prayer is the dynamite that could blow the current godless and rebellious nature of this land apart.

Here are a few snippets about the prayer that you may find challenging.

Our Father.
God is personal and he wants a personal relationship with each of us.

The One in the heavens.
God is enthroned in heaven, and we come before him there when we pray. Jesus is referring to Psalm 2 when God laughs at those who set themselves up against him.

May your name be honoured as holy,
May your kingdom come,
    May your will be done,
    As in heaven, so on earth.
Jesus bases this on an early form of a Jewish prayer called the Kaddish which was used to finish every synagogue service. Jesus’ call is for kingdom now. Where God is honoured as holy even if people don’t know him, this is nothing less than a prayer for revival!

Our bread for tomorrow, give us today!
This is both physical and spiritual food. This is why this prayer has always been associated with communion, and will be consummated when he returns on the last ‘tomorrow’.

And forgive us our debts,
As from now on we will forgive our debtors.
We can only forgive others their sins (moral debts) because God has forgiven us in Christ. Once forgiven we have no right to hold onto the sins of others.

And do not bring us to the time of trial,
And deliver us from the Evil One. 
God doesn’t tempt us and he brings us through all times of trail.
True deliverance not just drives out evil but sees the person filled with God. 

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, forever.
It says it all.
Amen!
We agree together with God. So be it!




Theresa Grant is a preacher at her local church and is working on her first book with current working title The Lord’s Prayer But Not As You Know It. She is Andy’s wife and Isaac’s mum

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Being Given Research on a Plate by Rosemary Johnson



When I retired from teaching this September, I had grand ideas, of writing The Novel and having stories published in women’s magazines. Also wanting to use my more abundant time to serve God and to support my local church, I enrolled on the Course in Christian Studies (CCS) offered by Chelmsford Diocese.

Although recommended for those considering lay ministry or ordination, most people join CCS for the personal satisfaction of understanding their Christian faith better. Many just have a gut feeling that it’s the right thing to do. A two year long course, CCS covers the Bible, church history, Christian ethics and how to apply your Christian faith in the world. Although run from Chelmsford (Anglican) Diocese, it is open to Christians of all denominations. Similar theological foundation courses are available in several other dioceses, although CCS itself is only available in Essex.

Our group is more than twenty strong, with few drop-outs, even after nine weeks. I admit that, being a shy person, I’ve found the group size a challenge, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable. We start, and end, each session with worship, and, mostly, we discuss Bible passages we’ve ‘prepared earlier’ and hear tutor inputs, which are always interesting. However, a few weeks ago I found myself storytelling Jonah and the Whale, using my writerly skills – and my classroom experience – to make Jonah into a mardy teenager. Bob Hartman (guest speaker at October ACW Writers Day) would’ve been proud of me.

I’m sure CCS will make me a more confident evangelist. Much of what we’ve learned so far, particularly insights from my fellow CCS students, is adding layers of meaning to my understanding of well-known Bible stories, but it’s hard work. To be honest, I don’t always want to turn out on a dark, rainy evening, or even to do my homework, which might involve reading six listed passages from Exodus and writing notes. After having struggled with a paid job that took over my every minute, I didn’t want this sort of commitment, but, hang on, it’s commitment to God we’re talking about here. Get your priorities right, girl.

Just in the last few days, I'm starting to see how my growing knowledge of the Bible might inform and direct my writing. As a history graduate, I love inhabiting the past by writing historical fiction and I thoroughly enjoy reading crime fiction, but don’t feel sufficiently confident to write about modern forensics and police procedures. I now have some ideas for writing historical crime, with an Old Testament prophet as a detective perhaps, and I'm being given my research on a plate.

This brings me on to the Best Stories Ever Told competition, the first comp I’ve initiated as ACW Competitions Manager. All you need to do is to write a Bible story like a modern short story and in 1000 words. Full details of this ACW members only competition will appear in the Autumn Edition of Christian Writer, which should burst through members’ letterboxes very soon. Competition deadline: 27 February 2016.

Friday, 27 November 2015

A Way with Words, by Lucy Mills


I don't know about you, but it feels like the year is accelerating.  November hurtles by and I'm trying to hold lots of different things inside my head.

As I feel a bit 'brainless' at the moment - trying to do NaNoWriMo may have something to do with it - I hope you'll forgive me if I share something I wrote a few years a go (2009).  I've probably used it on my blog at some stage so again, I'm sorry for any repetition. I would probably do some stringent editing these days, but I'll let it be itself, for now, to be the churned up piece of 'feeling' it was at the time. Please don't count the adverbs; it's not at all fashionable in that regard.

It charts well my writing journey at a certain point in life.  2010 was the year when I started getting published, when I started to work on my book in earnest.  It was the year I started to call myself a writer.  

I'm glad that I did not let go of writing - or rather, that it did not let go of me...


***

I’ve lost it again. It was there, right on the tip of my tongue, but I’ve lost it. A whole cascading gallon of words, gone. They etched themselves on my mind for a moment. So fast they piled on top of each other, gleeful, eager. I was…sitting in the armchair staring at the bookcase. Washing up, spilling water down my sleeves. Wandering up the stairs, forgetful of where I was going. And then the rabble is gone – gone! Just like that, erased, vanished. I have a moment of frustrated mourning. How many stories can come and go, in a flash?

Having a way with words will not make you a good writer. The most delicious sentences are in vain, with nothing to hold them. Like a broken cup, it all spills out uselessly onto an unforgiving floor.  Trying to write them down before they are lost – one hesitation, just one, can lose it all – stopping to save a document – so very sensible, and yet so fatal. This is wonderful, I must save it – but in those few seconds it is lost again. Gone. My very first word. ‘Gone’. And it repeats over and over in my life. Gone.

It is not that I cannot think of a plot. Not precisely. They flow exuberantly through my mind – usually uninvited – but they turn sour. My initial caresses, the delight of losing myself in a tale of my own making…it is over too quickly, before I could do anything with it. My mind makes a series of adjustments. I forget the original – was it better?! That which I adored with a passion yesterday today seems pathetic, useless, even despicable. Surely not. Not entirely. Perfectionism sizzles in there with the whole torrid mix. It will not stay still. And then it is lost forever. 

Keep on pushing, straining, hoping, hurting, and then maybe you will achieve it – the grand idea the glorious tale the exorbitant march of words. But each time becomes another time where the sour taste of defeat spreads. It is like the food you adored but now cannot stand. That is how I feel about words. That is how I feel about my words. But they won’t let me go. Not entirely. I allow them vacation time and tell them not to come back if they don’t want to. But they slyly re-occur, bringing with them all their tired disappointment. 

Having a way with words will not make you a good writer. But words insist on having their way with me. Briefly, punctiliously, laugh-out-loud extravagantly – and then comes the dumping, the dispelling, the never-mind-not-today dulling. The teasing, exhausting, wooing, discouraging, miserable love affair with words. There are those that achieve some mastery. Some discipline. Some staying power.

But they will not stay with me. They never do. 

They never quite leave me alone, either.
***
 

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:



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Small is Beautiful by Fiona Lloyd

At the beginning of November I was full of good intentions. In my last blog post I wrote about the benefits – and challenges – of NaNoWriMo. While I never expected to reach 50,000 words in a month, I had high hopes of equalling my 2014 score of 20,000.

I’m full of admiration for my NaNo buddies who are on course to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, but it’s at this point that I need to make good choices about how I view my own likely total of around 17,000. In any other month, I’d be dancing for joy at having achieved so much … so why, when it’s November, am I tempted to berate myself for having done so little?

A couple of days ago, Helen Murray wrote about how often we can be oblivious to the things that pose the greatest threat. I think one of the ways the Enemy likes to trip us up is by telling us our achievements are too small to count in God’s eyes.
            Nobody’s going to read what you write, he whispers. You might as well give up now.
           
And if we’re not vigilant, we get sucked in by his twisted lies. We inwardly agree that we haven’t written / published much recently, and that therefore we are no good and should probably take up macramé instead. The words that we dreamed would reveal something of the mystery of God to others are left incomplete, while the stories in our heads wither and turn to dust.
            
Strangely enough, if we look at Scripture we find the opposite to be true. God delights in taking the small and insignificant, and transforming it into something glorious. He called childless Abraham to follow him and promised that his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand on the shore. Jesus – who would have gone down well at any church potluck supper – took one boy’s picnic and used it to feed a vast crowd. 
           
There is encouragement here for us as writers. We may not always be as productive as we would like, but as we surrender each and every word to God he works through them to bring his light to our world.







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.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

More on ‘New Learning and New Ignorance’

C. S. Lewis is the great debunker of shallow modern thinking. It’s amazing how much the myth of progress, which reigned in his days, is still with us. So it’s refreshing to read what he writes (in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century) about Renaissance thought.

Two things, he tells us, that were ‘reborn’ in the Renaissance are things that modern thinking consigns to a ‘medieval’ dustbin: astrology and magic. It might surprise some people to learn that these two practices underwent a new and more ‘scientific’ development in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Even more surprising: these two systems, which you might expect, as ‘superstitions’, to be arm-in-arm, were actually at daggers drawn. How come? Lewis explains: the magician asserts human omnipotence; he believes that, if he can find the key, he can control Nature. The astrologer asserts human impotence; he is a determinist, believing that everything humans do is controlled by natural powers far beyond their control.

Lewis says that, separate from witchcraft, there arose another, quite respectable kind of magic in the Renaissance, sometimes called ‘high magic’. In medieval literature there is plenty of magic—such as is practised by Merlin, King Arthur’s wizard, for example. But magic in medieval stories is unmistakably fairy-tale magic. In fact ‘magic’ is the earliest meaning of faerie in medieval English—it’s ‘fay-ery’, what ‘fays’ do, rather than what real-world people do. It ‘could rouse a practical or quasi-scientific interest in no reader’s mind’, says Lewis. But when you come to the Renaissance, things are different. Magic is portrayed as something that ‘might be going on in the next street’. ‘Shakespeare’s audience,’ (Lewis again) ‘believed that magicians not very unlike Prospero’ (in The Tempest) ‘might exist.’

High magic can be studied in the works of European writers from the mid fifteenth century onwards, even in Henry More’s Philosophical Works (1662); the supposed ‘medieval survival’ outlived all the other achievements of the Elizabethans. And actually its exponents, in common with the other humanists of the period, had contempt for the ‘middle ages’. They regarded themselves as reviving learning that had been lost during that ignorant period. It had been forbidden and denounced by the Church right from the start; unjustly, because it is a ‘high holy learning’. Why is it ‘high’? Because it held that ‘there are many potent spirits besides the angels and devils of Christianity’.

Lewis goes on to show (and I have no space to summarize it) that this Renaissance magic was based on a very widespread and well-established ‘Platonic theology’. And, he says, the new magic is no anomaly but ‘falls into its place  among the other dreams of power which then haunted the European mind’. Francis Bacon, the pioneer of the new science, has much in common with the magicians. Both seek knowledge for the sake of power and both dream of a time when Man will be able to perform ‘all things possible’. And indeed Bacon thought that the aim of the magicians was ‘noble’. The major difference is that science succeeded and magic failed—but at the time they didn’t know that this would happen.


What then did the astrologer and the magician have in common? Lewis says: ‘both have abandoned an earlier doctrine of Man’. The medieval doctrine guaranteed humans, in their place on the hierarchy of being, their own limited freedom and efficacy. But now both became uncertain: ‘perhaps Man can do everything, perhaps he can do nothing.’

Monday, 23 November 2015

Keeping my eyes on Jesus

'Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.'
1 Peter 5:8 (NIV 1984)
There was a bird in the garden.

A blackbird. I like blackbirds. He was on the bird table, pecking at crumbs from the stale ginger cake that I put out earlier that the jackdaws had in minutes. He bimbled around for a little bit and then jumped down and started examining the floor around the base of the tree. I thought he was after more crumbs but it turned out he was fancying a bit of protein. 

It was a dank, damp sort of day today and the ground was wet. Blackbird stood very still with his head on one side. Then he started pecking the ground with his little orange beak. Success! It wasn't about to give up easily - even from my vantage point in the house I could see how stretchy this worm was. The worm didn't want to be someone's lunch. He was holding on with his bottom half; he wasn't coming out of the floor without a fight. 

Meanwhile, behind the twiggy lilac sat one of the neighbour's cats. A beautiful pale grey tabby with a white front; a feminine little feline, but lethal nonetheless. She sat with her chin low to the ground as Blackbird struggled with his reluctant snack. Tabby watched, smiled, and shifted position slightly. Never took her eyes from Blackbird. 

Also featuring in this debacle was Stumpy. Stumpy is also one of the neighbour's cats, so called because he has only half a tail. He's a big, muscular dark grey cat who lumbers around the place where the other cats stalk, or tiptoe or dart. Don't get me wrong, Stumpy can move quickly when he wants to, but he seems to think that as the Alpha Male he is more entitled to shuffle nonchalantly. He has battle scars; a damaged ear as well as the amputated tail - he is not to be messed with. Today Stumpy was behind the lavender, also with a beady eye on hungry Blackbird.

The neighbour's cat.
Still struggling with his worm, Blackbird was oblivious to his audience. He pulled and he twisted and he stopped for a better grip on his squirming prey. He was concentrating hard. This meal was not going to get away.

Tabby shifted again and the fallen leaves below the lilac trembled a little. Blackbird carried on hauling at his worm. All the other birds in the garden had fled, and indeed someone else up high in the silver birch was squawking that repeated, insistent bird-squawk to try to warn everyone away.

There are cats. Watch out, there are cats.

Blackbird took no notice. Tabby seemed to be limbering up for a sprint/pounce/capture sequence but Stumpy was closer. Closer and heavier and, to my mind, more sinister. He was biding his time. My hand was on the door knob. I like blackbirds.

Blackbird (tummy rumbling, missed out on the ginger cake): tug, tug.
Tabby: back end wiggling from side to side, preparing to strike.
Stumpy: unblinking stare.

Double jeopardy.

Out of the blue it happened. So quickly that I nearly missed it. An orange streak; it was GT and he came from nowhere.

GT (Ginger Tom) shot onto the scene from the side of the house where he must have been lurking near the forsythia. Whoosh. With the lithe athleticism of a cat not long out of kittenhood he covered the distance between the flowerbed and the bottom of the apple tree in a nanosecond.

Blackbird fluttered vertically in a frantic flurry of panicked feathers, clipping branches as he ascended to relative safety. GT pretended he hadn't been aiming for Blackbird at all and darted off in a straight line under the conifers. Tabby turned tail and fled backwards through the lilac and under the fence. Stumpy just rolled his eyes.

Blackbird nearly died. Well, I don't know if he nearly died or not, but it seemed a close thing to me. He took a big risk. He was so intent on what he was doing, what he wanted, that he overlooked lurking danger. I assume he didn't see the three cats, or if he did he is either braver or more stupid than I gave him credit for, so I conclude that he was concentrating so hard on his stomach that he didn't notice Death crouching in the undergrowth in three different directions.

I am often so absorbed with what I want right now that I miss so much that's around me. Good things and bad things. I am often so intent on My Thing that my hands are full and occupied when God is trying to give me gifts. I have noticed that sometimes I am concentrating so completely on the wrong thing that I get blindsided by life. I want my worm so badly that I don't notice the predators.
'Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like the neighbour's cats looking for someone to devour.'   1 Peter 5:8 (slightly adapted by me)
I thought the main dangers to Blackbird were Tabby and Stumpy, but it was GT, completely invisible to me that posed the biggest threat. I didn't even know he was there. He was the youngest, fastest and boldest of the trio. Quite often danger lurks where I don't expect it. It might pounce, it might stealthily creep up on me,  or it might dart across the lawn like a ginger torpedo, but it's there and it's waiting for me to make a mistake. Waiting for me to be focused on the wrong thing. Waiting for me to take my eye off the ball, to wander into the wrong territory.

I need to makes sure that I am focused on God and not getting bogged down with distractions. I have a tendency to get engrossed the irrelevant or indulgent when I need to keep my eyes on the only One who matters.
'...and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.'
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
It seems to me that it's all about keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus so that those same eyes don't go roaming all over the place looking for something better, easier, quicker, less effort, painless.

Once my gaze rests on one of those things then I tend to wander away from the safety that is where He is and enter into the dangerous territory of the neighbourhood cats, or the roaring lions, or the other guy. You know, himThe Enemy. He would have me far away from God, pursuing the easy life, or the selfish goal. The thing that I am so sure will make me happy, right now, and to hell with the long game.

He would quite like it if I was so intent on something that I didn't see the trouble I was in. He'd be delighted if I held still, determined to prevail with my own idea that I fail to look around me.

Blackbird was just doing what birds do. They catch worms and they sometimes fall prey to neighbourhood cats. It's not his fault. Perhaps I've stretched this analogy a little too far (like the worm?), but as I watched the scene unfold I sympathised with Blackbird (all he wanted was a spot of lunch) but he should have kept his wits about him; been more alert. Then he could have avoided that monumental adrenalin rush to avoid being a meal himself.

(Do birds get adrenalin rushes? I must google it). *

Anyway.

Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. I don't want to be someone else's meal. I don't want to wander away from you and find myself struggling. I want to run with endurance the race that you have for me, not one of my own invention.

Give me wisdom to know your mind. Give me discernment so that I can learn to tell the difference between your voice and that of my own ego.

Give me patience to wait on your perfect timing instead of taking matters into my own hands and putting on the blinkers.

Thankyou for birds and cats and worms and the things they can teach us.

Be close to Blackbird right now, Lord. He'll be feeling a bit jittery.





*Re: adrenalin. Yes, apparently they do. Their nervous system is built in a similar way to that of other vertebrates.
Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs.



Image credit: IMG_7713.JPG by alice10, courtesy of Morguefile.com. 
Used with permission




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

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

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

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

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01




Sunday, 22 November 2015

Lost for Words

So, here's the thing. Sometimes, I just can't do it. Writing, I mean. Today, I just can't write. There are no words to join together, which makes the sentences pretty impossible to produce, and without the sentences there is no blog post. This is a big issue on the 21st of the month, when my allotted ACW day is the 22nd.

One of the reasons it's a big issue is because writing is what I do. There are very few occasions when I can't find something to write about - normally I can expound on anything from the war on terrorism to a carrier bag I see in the street. Not even being able to find a topic induces a sense of panic in me that is hard to keep a lid on.

In a lot of ways, I’ve found that I can’t write the way I used to. Gone is the crazy haze of my twenties where all that mattered was the next perfect word on the page. As I’ve got older and taken more care of my own health, I’ve found that I can’t do what I used to be able to do. I can’t pull all-nighters any more, and I can’t loosen up the words with wine. I forget more, and concentrate less. Plus I have a family - writing doesn’t come first any more (or second, third or fourth).

That all sounds very practical, and yet what we call writers’ block is more than just an inconvenience to me. It's more than worry about a deadline, or frustration that I can't get something down, or concern that if I don't put something out there people will stop reading for good. It feels like a piece of me might just have disappeared. I said writing is what I do, but it's more than that - writing is part of who I am. There is this constant low lying fear that if I can't write, what is left?

Fortunately, who I am and what I do are actually entirely separate things. What I do is purely a choice about how to use my time. As soon as I base who I am on my achievements I fall into a trap, because one day I might not be able to do those things any more. I’m becoming more and more aware of just how much emphasis I put on what I do - and on what other people do. Ever noticed how the first question you get asked when meeting someone is ‘what do you do?’

Who I am is so much simpler than that, and all comes back to how I am loved, regardless of what I do, purely because of who I am. I am loved by the Almighty creator for being me, not for doing me.

Think of it like a wheel. A wheel may have many spokes, but it’s the hub that is important. You can lose a spoke, but with no hub, you have no wheel. Likewise, I can lose my writing, but with no love, there is no me.

When I think of that love, and the God who lavishes it, what I do suddenly becomes less important. I matter because the God who created the universe says I do, not because I can write a good article. 



Finally admitted the need for
reading glasses. Grumpy face.
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

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Thoughts from the Potting Shed by Ruth Johnson

“…You meant evil against me, 
but God meant it for good…”  
Gen 50:20 NASB

What a positive remark from Joseph when twenty-three years previously he’d naively shared with his brothers that he'd dreamt of them bowing down to him.  Their reaction at the time was to throw him into a pit and then sell him into slavery.  



Joseph seemed to have the capacity to make the best of any situation. His administrative gift so benefited Potiphar he recognized God’s favour on this young man.  Was it Joseph’s naivety that stopped him anticipating Potiphar’s wife crying rape when he refused her attentions?  Or did he bury his head in the sand hoping the problem would go away? 

Next came the prison, where in making himself useful, the warder recognised God’s favour on Joseph's life and trusted him with the free run of the prison.  It was thirteen years before he interpreted the King’s dream about seven years of plenty and seven of famine.  And another nine before his brothers came to buy food from Joseph who was now second in command to the King, Joseph's
dream was fulfilled.  The Lord watched Joseph in those testing times and it seems when the Lord felt Joseph was ready He initiated his rise to a place of power and authority.  Joseph had no specific call from God, circumstances dictated his path, and in Hebrews 11:22 he isn't commended for his faith while alive, but his belief his people would return to their land.  Martin Luther King had a dream, he carried it, spoke of it, but didn't see the reality of it in his lifetime.  It would seem every experience in life is to form our character, and God's plans and purposes are far reaching sometimes beyond our time on earth.
  
It's odd with my little interest in gardens and gardening the Lord called me to this 'spiritual’ potting shed to sit and contemplate how He is the gardener and has decreed this to be a second year of fallow ground. Wherever I am I can enjoy His Presence, rest and have just returned from His latest provision of a Caribbean cruise. And with this cold weather time I think to place my comfy chair inside the shed and firmly close the door.   In April I wrote about being at a cross roads, but instead of the expected opening up of a future path it has become a time of consolidation. In 1982 I had a dream and a vision that I believe was from the Lord.  As with Joseph circumstances have dictated my/our path, and although it has tarried God has an appointed time to bring it to pass.

I rather like this GPS analogy.  I'll call it God’s Protection and Salvation for travel along His holy highway.   God can find you wherever you are. He never asks us where we've been.  God sets a route most suitable to our needs. He only speaks when we start moving.  God will reveal the way, step by step.  He remains silent until it is time to turn.  God’s voice is calm, He doesn’t accuse or condemn when we take a wrong road.  He will always re-route and put us back on course.

Do you have a dream?  If we seek first His Kingdom, His righteousness, hold it before Him,  He is the one who desires to bring that which is not into being.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Rain or rainbow...or maybe both

Not for the first time, I found myself trudging round a field early with my dog, praying for a ray of inspiration for this blog post. In general I have plenty to say on a variety of subjects, and can even at times be opinionated (allegedly.) Once in a while I also post on my own blog. So why do I find it so hard to think of something to say here that might enlighten, interest, inspire, amuse? Some kind of crisis of confidence is involved, I suspect: along the lines of 'What can I possibly have to say that anyone will want to read?'

The same applies to my works of fiction, perhaps not all the time, but on a depressingly regular basis. It's not that I think they are bad (though I'm sure they could be better) or that I've had no plaudits at all. It's more a sense of being out of joint with the times, in some way disconnected. Can anyone relate to this feeling?

This morning the grass was dry, the breeze brisk, with ragged vari-coloured clouds being bowled along a sky which sported one or two blue patches.  But louring in the east was a heavy grey rain-cloud, and for a brief moment I caught a broken, insubstantial rainbow.  I turned away only for a couple of seconds, and it was gone. I can't help remembering God's promise whenever I see a rainbow: 'As a sign of this everlasting covenant...I am putting my bow in the clouds.' Genesis 9 v 13.
That led me to think about God's promises in general, and one in particular, which I hunted out when I got home. Here it is, Isaiah 55 vv 10-11: 'As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth...so is my word that goes from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.' Yet again I have had to be reminded that when I work according to the gifting and equipping that God provides, it is about his purposes, and proceeds according to his plan. My purposes are too narrow, my plan too self-regarding, and I am terminally impatient. I know this of old, but still on occasions complain that it's all very well casting one's bread upon the waters, but why is the tide out for so long?

My photo of a rainbow is not a very good one: it was taken from a moving car on a motorway in Majorca, where we had gone for an early spring holiday only to have snow for the first time in forty years! But perhaps it's more appropriate than the glorious technicolour images taken by others that I could have chosen. It may be blurred, lopsided, faulty - but the rainbow still bears the same weight of promise. And that little snippet from Isaiah is followed by another, most amazing promise, with trees and hills and mountains singing for joy. It's time - again - to take a deep breath and battle on.




Sue writes as S.L.Russell and has four novels in the usual places: a trilogy (Leviathan with a Fish-hook, The Monster Behemoth and The Land of Nimrod) and a stand-alone A Shed in a Cucumber Field. A fifth, An Iron Yoke, in a similar genre - realistic British Christian fiction - is in the pipeline.
Sue lives in Kent with her husband, currently one adult daughter, and Rosie the dog, and sometimes at her crumbling pile in France. She is an amateur singer and a church organist, blogs at www.suerussellsblog.blogspot.com and has a web site www.slrussell.net

Thursday, 19 November 2015

ACW Book Party


As this is the blog for the Association of Christian Writers we have produced a lot of books between us. As Christmas is coming several blogs will be dedicated to the books which members have written. This should help with the book buying this Christmas. There is something for everyone in here. To make it easier I have broken them down into categories. The photograph above is just a few of those I already have at home. 


Children and YA

 The Village by Eleanor Watkins -  An evocative book looking at the effects of the plague, as seen through the eyes of three children. 

Buy from: Amazon 








Losing Face by Annie Try - A teenager comes to terms with disfigurement through talking to her friend via email. A story of hope and overcoming tragedy. 

Buy from: Amazon









Tales from the Jesse Tree by Amy Robinson - 25 Bible stories for Advent. Includes downloadable videos.

Buy from: Kevin Mayhew







David and The Never-Ending Kingdom by Fiona Veitch Smith - The young David goes forward in time to witness the new born King

Buy From: Amazon 






Destiny's Rebel by Philip S. Davies - Kat, an Anestrian Princess flees from her destiny as queen. This leads to an adventure which no one could imagine. 

Buy From: Blackwell's Bookshop









Christian Fiction 


The Long and the Short of it by Anne-Marie Miles - a collection of stories put together with a range of readers in mind

Buy From: Amazon









Dear Bob by Annie Porthouse - A Christian novel about a girl struggling with faith at university

Buy From: Website








The Labyrinth Year by Mari Howard - in this sequel to Baby Baby Max and Jenny struggle with the pressures of work and family life

Buy From: Hodge Publishing









Refuge by Anne Booth - A retelling of the Christmas Story

Buy From: Hive










A Right to Know by Sam Lenton - Devastated by the news of his wife’s death, Daniel Farndon is convinced that the crash that killed her was no accident

Buy From: Amazon







This is kust a selection and the next blog recommending more fabulous books will be out on 1st DecemberDecember

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

How I wrangle with words by Joy Lenton

Confession time: hello, I'm Joy and I wrangle with words.

It's one of my favourite occupations, a regular, if not daily pursuit.

Sometimes they allow me to have my way.

Sometimes there's a degree of resistance involved.

A wrestling match of sorts as I aim to pin them to the page.

If I'm not writing out poetry or prose, I'm scribbling ideas down.

They might make their way into a blog post, future book or anthology.

On good days words slip through my fingers with liquid precision.

So when the poem below slid into my mind and slithered onto paper, I decided to share it as it came.

With a brief spell-check, yes, but otherwise left free of mangling and wrangling.

It's quite freeing sometimes to take our foot off the 'edit' pedal.

To become confident to let words fly free just as they are.

A liberating lesson I've been learning when following writing prompts.

It's also useful when writing commitments have grown, yet energy is low.

Received wisdom suggests that first drafts of anything are mostly rubbish, fit only as exercise, needing a lot of work to wrangle them into shape.

I don't think that's necessarily true for all writers at all times.

Sometimes my first thoughts (especially poetic ones) are the best thoughts. 

They require minimal editing, but I've grown to trust God's work in me, the way He fires and inspires my writing process.

Maybe we just need to trust more in the gifts we've been given?

Because being a word-wrangler-weaver is a marvellous thing.

Let's not let fear of failure or perceived pressure of perfection hold us back from creative expression.

Let's feel the fear and do it afraid, yes?



Pray, pause, ponder and put some words on a page...

Word Wrangling..
Sitting sentinel at my PC
I'm a keeper of words
a wrangler of sorts
Marshalling thoughts into neat little rows
of poetry or prose
Deciding on a whim what is sifted
out and what stays in
Giving credit to the edit
Even the inspired can make the fire
Providing fodder, it is turned away
for another reflective day
More often than not it comes easily
especially when penning poetry
When at haste for time, I tend to
automatically trace a rhyme

Although it's hard to ditch our darlings
when they appear to be so charming
We cling voraciously to
pretty phraseology
and mourn the loss
of what is really dross
In being desperate for a rhyme
we can forget to end when it is time
A cull may be called for
A showing of the door
This way, we say with gleeful abandon
pushing to the edge the hateful random
But care must be taken when we stop
and sieve, lest we drop those words
which are dying to live
©JoyLenton2015

God tends to work with what we have and how we're situated. He knows I have precious little energy and limited concentration, but I am open to His outpouring of inspiration.

What does the writing process look like to you?

Do you find it easy to go with the flow?

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 +