Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Calling and purpose, by Eve Lockett

The Calling of Peter and Matthew, Ravenna -
There are so many ways we can fulfil our calling in Christ as writers. Our natural talent for writing, our love of words, our imaginations, can be used to serve Christ in so many ways. And it could well change as time goes on – our original calling can develop and be transformed.

Peter was a fisherman by skill, by training, by natural aptitude and by trade. Jesus transformed Peter’s fishing. Peter had spent a wasted night, catching nothing. Jesus called Peter to ‘go out deeper’ and try again. This time the abundance of fish was overwhelming. Clearly, Jesus had the power to enhance Peter’s career as a fisherman. But he transformed it into another calling altogether. Peter left his nets and moved on to a new calling. For three years, he followed Jesus as his disciple, a fisher of men.
But then came another calling. This time, the risen Lord Jesus called him to be a shepherd! ‘Feed my sheep’, Jesus said. Peter became a pastor, a bishop, a shepherd of the church. And his final call was to die a martyr’s death in the service of Christ for the glory of God.

Last week I had a dream, one of those rare dreams which, because it contains a surprise out of nowhere, stay in the memory.

I dreamed I was getting ready to go with friends and colleagues on an assignment, which meant presenting some of my work, the use of visual aids and a prepared speech. I began to get ready, fussing over the equipment I would need, the material I would use, and also what I would wear. I remember trying to decide between pink or purple tights, wanting to make the right impression.
A further anxiety was that the road outside was under repair, with potholes and some surface water. I moved my own car into a better position so that the car picking me up could have more room. I waited, mentally going over my list of all that I would take with me and all that I would have to do before being collected.
And then suddenly, without warning, a vehicle arrived outside. Instead of a sleek black car with seats for several passengers, it was a brown charabanc, an old-fashioned bus, and every window was crammed with familiar smiling faces calling me to ‘come on!’ I left the house immediately, without changing my clothes, without any of my presentation material, without any equipment.
And then, dear reader, I woke up.

My first thought was that this dream was about death. When we are called to God’s presence, we leave everything behind, we go dressed as we are and we join those who have gone before us. My further thought was that this could be about vocation. Christ called the fishermen to leave their nets and to follow him. We come to Christ just as we are. He equips us for the journey, and he gives us the company of other saints as our travelling companions. We step out unprepared, beyond our own excessive fretting and planning, and we join his joyful and purposeful band of followers. Our assignment is of his shaping and choosing. And he takes us where he wants us to go.

Lord, help me to let go of the fussiness and unnecessary details, the silly ways I try to impress, my shallow plans, and help me to join in your plans and purposes, and follow where you lead.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Everyday learning? by Fiona Lloyd

There’s a scene near the beginning of Ursula Le Guin’s book, A Wizard of Earthsea, where the newly-apprenticed wizard Sparrowhawk is discouraged by the amount of time he spends performing apparently mundane tasks.

“When will my training actually begin?” he asks Ogion, his master.

 Ogion’s answer is short, and surprising. “It has begun,” he says.

This is wholly unsatisfactory to the hot-headed and impetuous Sparrowhawk, who subsequently takes ship to the wizard school on Roke at the earliest opportunity. It is only many years later, when he looks back on his time with Ogion, that he recognises the less tangible lessons – and deeper understanding – that his former tutor wanted to mentor. 

I recently read a quote (which I think was from Dallas Willard) which talked about discipleship not just being a Sunday thing. He argued that if we are taking our spiritual growth seriously, then what happens during the rest of the week is equally important. If we can’t learn how to be more Christ-like at work (or at home, or in the supermarket), then chances are what we do on a Sunday isn’t making that much difference, anyway.

Gulp. I’ve never been of the view that following Jesus is for weekends only, but seeking to learn how to grow spiritually through my everyday experiences seems challenging. What about that driver who cut in on me the other day when I was driving to work? Or that person I came across online who expresses political views diametrically opposed to my own?

It’s made me think about my writing, too. It’s easy to see that whatever we write, we should seek to do it to the glory of God (which doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be “religious”). It’s harder to understand how we can use our writing experience to help us become more like Jesus – but I’m willing to give it a go. What do you think?

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

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Hidden Stories 2—Words and Deeds

Last month, in Rich man, poor man, I mentioned that while, in the Gospel parables, teaching is hidden inside a story, in the Letter of St James, there are stories hidden inside the teaching. I thought I’d share another little story with you, this time based on chapters 2 and 3. I hope you won’t mind that it’s a bit longer.

Part 1

It’s the Sabbath after the one when Elder Yakob gave Brother Sophron a rather painful telling-off. Sophron is again on the bema of the synagogue that he helps to run, the one that broke away from the Jerusalem community to follow Yeshua Mashiach. Worship has just ended. That well-dressed stranger with all the rings who came last week didn’t come back. Sophron is disappointed about this, but two other things are very cheering. Firstly, Elder Yakob isn’t there either: perhaps his rheumatism is playing up. And even better, the chap with shabby clothes has come again, despite Sophron’s curtness last time, and has obviously profited by his visit. He joined loudly in the prayers and hymns, and, gratifyingly, paid close attention to Sophron’s word of instruction. It was his first such address, specially devised for people like that.

He still feels bad about the way he made that ill-dressed guy sit on the floor. This would be a good opportunity to make him welcome and get to know him a bit. I wonder what he will have to say about the teaching? With a bit of an inner glow at that thought, Sophron makes his way over to the man, who’s all by himself. The other congregants are chatting to each other all around him. I can be the first to make him feel at home, thinks Sophron.

‘Welcome, in the name of Mashiach Yeshua, my friend. I am Sophron bar Zakkai. May I know your name?’
‘My name is Elazar bar Adam, sir,’ says the man. He does look rather haggard, thinks Sophron. Hope he’s not unwell.
‘Brother Elazar, I noticed how keenly you participated in our worship. And you followed the teaching with great concentration. I hope you found it nourishing to your faith.’
Elazar’s eyes light up and his thin face breaks into a grin. ‘Yes, my brother, I am so hungry for the Word. I have been hungry for much of my life, but now I have found the Bread which really satisfies and does not perish.’
Sophron’s heart melts with pleasure. Here’s the real thing. One of the lost sheep of Israel, returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of souls.

There follows a wonderful conversation about the Faith. They talk about how all of us who are faithful to Mashiach are set free from everything that the Law of Mosheh could not set us free from—loosed from a burden which we were never really able to bear. (And how much more this must have been a burden for a poor man like you, than for a son of the priesthood like me, thinks Sophron.) How Mashiach fills the poor with good things, while the rich are sent away empty. This was very much the theme of Sophron’s word of instruction, but it’s more alive and heartwarming to share it.

‘And now brother,’ says Elazar,  ‘when Sabbath is out I will have much to do, as I am not a wealthy man, so I must leave you. I thank this brotherhood for its welcome and you for your words of edification. Until next Sabbath, peace be with you.’
‘And with you, Brother Elazar,’ says Sophron, ‘go in peace, keep warm, and be filled with all good things.’

It’s Brother Shimon’s turn to tidy the synagogue and lock up, so Sophron is soon striding down the alleyway, humming cheerfully to himself. Rounding a corner of the dark alley, he is suddenly knocked heavily into by another person coming the other way. He staggers, loses his balance, and lands sprawling in the dust—and the more unsavory stuff. The man who cannoned into him is sitting on the ground nearby surrounded by several large well-filled bags. A wineskin has burst, loosing a dark stain into the dirt, and near it several small flat loaves are scattered. The other man is wearing a deep hood so that his face cannot be seen, though the end of a grey beard peeps out.

Sophron’s whole body feels sore and he is slightly shocked and rather angry. ‘What on earth were you thinking of, you reckless idiot? Why can’t you look where you’re going, you stupid fool? My clothes are filthy and I’ve got bruises all over! May Heaven judge between us!’

The other man gets up slowly, evidently with some pain in the joints. He puts back his hood. Sophron’s mouth suddenly goes dry. It’s Elder Yakob.

Embed from Getty Images
Part 2

Elder Yakob limps over and extends a hand to Sophron, pulling him up from the ground with surprising vigour for a man of his age.
‘Blessed be the Lord of Glory, Brother Sophron! May he judge mercifully! I apologize for knocking you over. I was in a great hurry.’
‘Blessed be he for ever, Brother Yakob, and thank you...’ In a state of confusion, Sophron casts around for a safe subject of conversation. ‘You were not at prayers today, brother? I was hoping you would appreciate my short word of instruction.’
‘No,’ says Yakob, gathering his bags one by one. ‘I am on an errand of the Lord Mashiach, to deliver these supplies to someone who needs them. Perhaps you would assist me,’ he continues, handing several large bags to Sophron. As there seems no way out of it, Sophron follows the older man up the alley.

‘It seems you are now a teacher of Israel,’ Yakob says over his shoulder. Oh dear, this is going to be one of his monologues. ‘Not many of us should become teachers, my brother, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways—as we have just been shown quite painfully. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.’
‘Brother Yakob, I’m well aware that I’m not perfect, but teaching—’
‘You know, Brother Sophron, the tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.’
At the word ‘hell’, Yakob stops abruptly and turns round, so that Sophron nearly bumps into him again. Looking straight into his face, Yakob continues:
‘With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father—blessed be he—and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. I rather think I heard you do both just now, did I not?’
‘Well, I—was taken rather by surprise, and—’
‘Brother Sophron, out of the same mouth—yours on this occasion—come praise and cursing. My brother, this should not be!’

They go on down the street. Hoping to change the subject, Sophron asks, as mildly as he can, ‘Brother Yakob, where are we going with these bags?’
‘To visit a certain Elazar bar Adam, who you may remember from last Sabbath prayers. He is a poor man and has a sick wife and three small children. These supplies will keep them going.’
‘That’s excellent, Brother Yakob. Brother Elazar came back again to prayers today and we had a wonderful talk afterwards.’
‘About what, may I ask, brother?’
‘About faith. He has the most perfect grasp of salvation by faith in Mashiach. Really, there was nothing I could teach him about faith!’
‘There you speak truthfully, brother.’
‘I hope I always do,’ says Sophron, a bit resentfully and wondering what he’s implying.
‘Elazar is without clothes and daily food, and your final words to him were something like “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed”, were they not?’
Oh dear, is this the preternatural insight that Elder Yakob has a reputation for?
‘Er, yes, brother—’
‘But you did nothing about his physical needs?’
‘Well, no, the subject didn't come up.’
‘And what good is faith like that?’
‘How do you mean?’
‘What good is it, brother, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead!’
‘Heaven forbid, Brother Yakob… I am sure I have a living faith...’
‘You believe that there is one God. That’s good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’
‘Brother, you have faith, you say; I say that I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. Now I’m afraid I’m going to call you what you called me just now, but—Heaven judge between us—with justification. You stupid fool! Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?’
‘By all means, Brother Yakob,’ says Sophron hoarsely, knowing that it will come whether or not he wants it.
‘When was our father Abraham called righteous? When was the scripture fulfilled, the one that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”, when he was called God’s friend?’
‘I suppose, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar, brother.’
‘So you see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And what about Rahab, Brother Sophron?’
‘What, the prostitute?!’
‘Yes—was she not considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?’
‘Well, I suppose you might call that—’
‘So, brother, you see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone, don’t you!’
Before Sophron can reply, Yakob stops in front of a door in the wall. He bangs on it with his fist.
‘Here we are, brother. Thank you for helping with the bags. Just leave them here. Go in peace, and remember,’ he continues with a smile, ‘as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’

Somehow less keen to meet Brother Elazar just then, Sophron quickly heads home.

Next month, DV, a third story about Sophron, ‘Moth and Rust’.
If you enjoy (or can stomach) my unorthodox orthodox thoughts, you can find other faith-related ones in my blog Ecclos.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Me Too Moment - by Helen Murray

Earlier this month, a fellow ACW member reached into the hole I was sitting in, took hold of my hand and gently pulled me out.

I'm quite sure she didn't know that she'd done it, and it's possible that she'll be amazed when she finds out. When God takes our words and uses them for something unforeseen his creativity quite often astonishes us.

In her post, Deborah Jenkins speaks of her desire for her writing to touch people. To offer them comfort and encouragement as they navigate the ups and downs of life; to point them to God. The day I read her words was definitely a down kind of day. I can't remember the weather but let's say it was dark and cold and rainy. I was cross and miserable, feeling defeated and overwhelmed. Through that post, Deborah noticed me in my hole, stopped and spoke to me and offered me a hand.

Those of us who write do so for a huge variety of reasons, and I suspect that no two people's motivations will be the same. We write because we have something to say and we need to get it out there, because we are trying to earn a living, because we are called to, compelled to - because we can't not write.

I write because it's how I process things; I feel better when I've expressed what's in my mind and my heart and in the process of arranging words on a page I find the internal confusion subsides a little as well. Of course, I don't need a 'Publish' button to do this; most of the meanderings of my mind are not for public consumption. I journal, I scribble, I make notes. What actually goes out for people to read is the tip of the iceberg.

For me, it's about the 'me-too-moment'. A precious point of shared experience, where I read someone's words and something inside me responds, yes! me too. How powerful that can be. A moment where you feel a little bit less alone, less different, less isolated.

Life is difficult, much of the time. I firmly believe that not even the people who appear to have it all together have it all worked out. Nobody does.

We're all making it up as we go along, but we all feel intense pressure to pretend otherwise. The world can be a dark place, and not just when a hurricane blows off the roof and cuts off the electricity. In the middle of abundance we can be in utter poverty. I heard a speaker at a conference recently say that she sees people living in mud and dust in the wilds of Mozambique that have greater wealth than many in the cosmopolitan cities of Great Britain. Our problems are many and varied but one of the biggies is loneliness.

You can be lonely because you have no friends, you can be lonely in a auditorium full of people, you can be lonely sitting on your own sofa surrounded by a loving family. You can be lonely when it feels as if nobody understands.

And then how wonderful is it when you find someone who does? That's when a me-too-moment gets it's capital letters.

I write because I am awed at what God has done for me, and I look around and I see people just where I was. I want to reach a hand out to some of the people who are in the dark. Not everyone makes such heavy weather of life as I do, but there are other over-thinkers out there; other night-time worriers. Other people who have believed the lies that I have believed, and for whom it might be the wake up call that they need to hear that there is another way, a fresh start, a clean slate.

Nothing is wasted for God. Just as each of the troubles and difficulties I negotiate each day will hold a lesson for me, if I'm willing to learn it, there might be someone else who reads what I write, sits back in their chair and whispers, 'Oh, Me Too,' and feels a little bit less alone.

'Thank God it's not just me'.

Sometimes God has to tell me something scores of times before I pay attention. It could be a gradual understanding or a sudden, eyebrow-raising, penny-drop kind of moment, but those times where I have come across someone who has been where I am, who has found a way through it, something in me responds on a deep level.

To connect with someone (whether they ever know about it or not) has been a powerful catalyst in a healing process brought about by God himself. Real, shared experience is more profound than any number of theories or self-help books.

If I can do that for someone else, even if I'm never aware of it - how great would that be?

So what must I do? I am learning that I need to be honest and stand up for what is true in a culture that encourages us to dissemble. I need to say, 'No, it's difficult,' when I am supposed to pretend it's easy. I need to leave off the virtual make-up in order to reassure someone that it's ok to have blemishes and scars. I need to drop my defenses, let down the guard and reveal my vulnerability. That's a bit scary, but you know what else I have learned?

God provides the necessary courage.

Several times someone has told me how brave I am, and yet I don't feel one bit brave. It takes me much more courage to walk onto the poolside in my swimsuit than to write down what Jesus has done in my life. I haven't gathered up my courage to tell people my story - I know that God has helped me. And this is how I know for sure what it is I want to do with my writing.

I want to reach out to people and tell them that they're not alone. I have found someone who can help, and if He can help me, He can help you. God doesn't want me to keep that to myself.

I want my words to say: You're not on your own.  I did that too. I felt that way too. I believed that too. And you know what? I am precious and priceless and loved, just as I am. Really. God loved me too much to leave me in that mess, and He loves you too: yes, you. Here's what you need to do: don't look at me, look at Jesus.

I know that not everyone thinks or feels like me. Some people will read my words and think they are too emotional, too raw, too touchy-feely. That's fine. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you or me. We all speak - or write - in different voices, even if we all do it in English. You connect with people your way. Me Too Moments come in all accents and dialects.

So Deborah reached into a hole and hauled me out into the sunshine. She says she wants to shine the light of Jesus into people's lives and that's exactly what she did. And I sat back in my chair and said, 'Me too, Father God.'

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

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims, breeds Aloe Vera plants and collects ceramic penguins.

Helen has a blog: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith.

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray
Twitter: @helenmurray01

Friday, 22 September 2017

What's in a Lampshade? By Emily Owen

I went out for dinner this week but, while the food was good (I had seabass risotto), the thing which really grabbed my attention was the lampshade.

That’s right; the lampshade.

The outside of it was very plain but, inside, it was rather beautifully book-lined.

As I looked, I realised that lampshades can deliver lessons.

How often have we heard, or said, or felt; “I have a book/poem inside me which is just bursting to come out”?

Externally the same as ever but, inside, where no one sees, there is a book idea germinating away.
A book-lining.

But what’s inside our book-lining?  What’s inside our life, our work, our writing?

Just as inside the book-lined lampshade was a light, so inside our hopes, inside our dreams, inside our plans, inside our writing, inside our lives, should be the Light.

The light of Christ.

Illuminating all that we have and are.

Shining out from us.

I recently attended CRT for the first time and do you know what struck me most?  In amongst the speakers and books, every person I met shone the light of Christ.

This was perhaps especially evident at the Awards ceremony.  As person after person went forward to receive recognition for ‘shop of the year’ or ‘book of the year’ or ‘volunteer of the year’, the awards themselves were that beautiful book-lining. 
The shining light inside was celebration. 
Everyone there celebrated everyone there.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Romans 12:15

When we truly rejoice with those who rejoice, with the joy that comes from God, the light of Christ dwells in us. 
And the light of Christ shines out, lighting up all around. 
It really does. 
Just ask anyone who was at the Awards ceremony at CRT.

So, what difference, if any, would it make to our lives and writing if we were like that lampshade; keeping the Light central to all we do?

Consciously remembering to ‘walk in the light of the Lord’ (Is. 2:5)?

Letting His light shine on every step. 

Every thing we write.

Every situation we encounter.

Every response we give.

Let's try it and see…

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Lord orchestrates the battle

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

                           Habakkuk 2:2

In August I felt the Lord commissioned me to write daily on my blog for 40 days using the above title and verse, and doing that I gained greater understanding of the battle raging over our land.  When I read 2 Timothy 3 the title was “The Last Days” it certainly described the state of our nation today.  However, the Bible also tells us that the battle is the Lords.  Eph.6 says “we don’t battle against flesh and blood, but powers and principalities in heavenly realms”.

I believe the Lord is calling up His people to join His army. Unity isn’t uniformity, but a need to stand together and know we are “reading from the same hymn sheet.” It is essential we understand how much God loves us, resides in us and desires to bless us.  He doesn’t want us living in fear, but to know His voice, to be His watchman and be obedient to His call to play our part in these days.

Which brought me to consider that those in a battle had to be trained just as those in an orchestra. There are different instruments, as there are people. We often group together with those of like mind, and  He wants us to take our place to be ready to play our part and release the fullness of all He is in us.  Our heavenly Father is the ultimate conductor of creation amd we are made in His image.  That makes us a diverse, unique and a gifted people who He desires to use to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  

In the Father’s orchestra He is our tuning fork, and we need to know His perfect pitch. From an individual learning an instrument, to reading music and joining a group, there is a musical score to follow.  And when the groups come together their instruments make the harmony fuller and richer. It is the blending with others that the composer and conductor hear how to bring out the best sound to bring forth a symphony to delight the listener.  However, if everyone plays the notes they think are right, joins in when they desire, it is unlikely many will find the music uplifting!

I saw that our church denominations can be like that. It doesn’t matter if there are a variety of backgrounds, understanding and worship, but it appears some churches have lost the Biblical score. For those both inside and outside the church that brings confusion, because the harmony intended for the body of Christ to be seen and be attractive, has been lost.

It is wondeful there are organisations like ACW which have the ability to cut across God’s divided army and find agreement in the basic Biblical truth.  It is God’s vision for all His people to love, serve and unite.  And despite our diversity of belief it is good to enjoy fellowship and encourage one another as we write to reveal the rich fabric of life the Lord can bring..

Our part, our battle is to tune into His melody, and become that sweet, sweet sound in His ear.

Ruth Johnson
Author  www.