Thursday, 31 December 2015

Books to Take you Into the New Year

As we stand on the cusp of the New Year today's blogs brings you some books which will help you move forward with God. These are a mixture of books for both adults and children so something for everyone to use as part of their journey with God.

A short Journey through the book of Ruth
Buy from: Amazon

Turmoil in Turkey and a ‘lone wolf’ who sets out across the Balkans for a strike on a foreign target
Buy from: Amazon

A time-shift thriller, Namestone pits fallible, ‘good’ people against implacable evil dealing with the inter-connectedness of life and beyond, and the conflicts evil produces in normal people under abnormal stress.
Buy from: Amazon

Biblical fiction based on the woman at the well
Buy from: Amazon

Emma, a young and self-contained professor of history, leaves Cambridge for a post in an exclusive university in the USA, intent on finding a long-overlooked 17th century journal. Bound within its pages are secrets that threaten to bring Emma into conflict with the present; but can she discover the truth - and will she believe it?
Buy from: Amazon

A superb between the books chalet school book, newly brought to life by Adrianne Fitzpatrick
Buy from: Amazon

Muses, Reflections, Poems, Prayers and Rants on Life's Crazy Journey
Buy from: Amazon

A historical novel which spans the centuries and the globe. The first in a trilogy
Buy from: ZaccMedia

All four beech bank girls in one bundle. (I've no clue why the books are appearing upside down)

A novel for young adults set in a London which has been hijacked by terrorists

A book for those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's
Buy from: eBay 

The Flatland Escape. In Flatland all the people are two dimensional. Scripture states we are three dimensional, spirit soul and body. people in flatland do not see the first dimension (spiritual). Sadly a lot of people are living in flatland
Buy from: Amazon

This brings us to the end of the year. Tomorrow will be a brand new year full of endless possibilities. See you on the 1st January. May God bless you over this time, and may you be blessed by the books which have been posted over the past few weeks. 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Deep Channel by S.E. Gill

A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is a sandbank; should someone ask, ‘Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel and deviate so much from a straight line?’ His answer would be, “Because I should not get my vessel into harbour at all if I did not keep to the deep channel.’ So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession. Some plants die if they have too much sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get but little...because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection. Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” – Charles Spurgeon

It can be so disheartening when things seem to veer off track. Whether it just affects you, if it affects your loved ones or if you are troubled by the darkness we see in our world.

It is likely we all have or will have challenges in different seasons of our lives. I am certainly no exception. Spurgeon’s analogy reminds me to be still and to trust that God’s plans are always better than my plans. It is so simple but so breathtaking once we start to understand it.

Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

Another illustration of this is that if you are a passenger on a train that is going through a dark tunnel, you don’t try to get off the train because you can’t see the way ahead. You trust the driver.

Not worrying while we are experiencing internal and/or external chaos is possible with God’s help. In order to achieve this we have to make a conscious decision to focus on loving God and loving all the people around you... not just the ones that are easy to love but also those that are not so easy to love. I am still working on this. I find it does get easier when you keep your mind on God, His Word and being obedient.

God has given us all gifts and we need to use those gifts to show kindness to others. Then they may see something of His love in the light that shines in us. I believe that is why He gave us the gifts in the first place. We can’t out give God.

So as we transition into the New Year may we all accept that peace that has so lovingly been given to us by Jesus Christ.

Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.] – John 14:27 Amplified Bible

The good news is that, whatever the issue is, we do not need to be anxious. God is very much in control. When I think about this, I feel His peace in me.

Twitter @SEGillwriter

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Little Goat by Veronica Bright

The sheep were a friendly lot. There were one hundred of them in a vast meadow within ancient dry stone walls. They munched soft sweet grass, and drank clear fresh water from a stream that bubbled over stones and round boulders, as easily as the breeze lifting a feather and carrying it away. The mountain rose elegantly in the distance, always there, invincible.

Nobody knew where the little goat came from. Someone said she’d jumped over the wall in the night. Someone else claimed she appeared suddenly amongst a cluster of lambs, running and bouncing with them on springy legs. An older member baaed that she was sure the little goat used to be a sheep, and that something, she knew not what, had altered her entirely. Whatever was bleated amongst the tribe, they all agreed. The little goat had an engaging smile, and a cute way of putting her head on one side to consider anything anyone said. But the truth was, she didn’t fit in. She couldn’t agree with the doctrines of the sheepfold, laid down from days of old. No matter how the sheep urged and coaxed her, her head would tilt to one side, and she would consider everything carefully, as if each thought was a lily of the field.

As the green of spring turned to the gold of summer, the lambs grew bigger, and left their playing days behind. The sheep were happy, content with the pasture they loved. The little goat found herself alone in a way she hadn’t noticed before. She wanted something, and she wasn’t sure what it was. She had questions, and the sheep weren’t able to answer them. Or else they refused to consider them. That was worse. This is the way it is, they said.

One evening, as the shadows of dusk slid over the mountain, the little goat jumped up onto the dry stone wall, and gazed upwards. Then she leapt down onto the coarse grass and trod her own path towards the great peak. It was dark by the time she was high above the meadow. The sheep would be sleeping, safe in their own knowledge of the what’s-what of things.

A tumble of stones skittered down from the path above her. She stopped. Her legs shook. A voice spoke in the darkness. ‘Little goat, what is it you wish to ask?’

The little goat had the urge to mutter, ‘Er, nothing. No, sorry, I was mistaken.’ But she couldn’t do that. She sat down, and began to weep.

‘I know your questions.’ The voice was gentle.

The little goat’s head tilted in the darkness. ‘I am always asking questions.’

‘Ask and it will be given unto you. You are not alone, little goat. There are others like you.’

‘But where–?’

The voice spoke again. ‘Seek and you will find.’

The little goat smiled.

Tomorrow. A new day. A new mountain path to climb.

The stars shimmered in the night sky, like a song dancing over the world.

Veronica Bright is a prize-winning short story writer, and is now working on a novel set in the sixties. A former primary school teacher, she enjoys organising regular events for children and families at church, and she runs the Plymouth Christian Writers’ group. She writes a monthly blog for beginner writers at

Monday, 28 December 2015

Bethlehem Embattled by Trevor Thorn

As Christmas memories take shape, for anyone who has had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land, as we did in May 2013, I guess there will be many who will be reminded of the sadness of finding Bethlehem and other New Testament locations enclosed behind the 'Separation Wall'. The picture here is of the wall in Bethany and gives just a glimpse of its size and oppressiveness.
As I have reflected on this during this Christmas period, the following short poem emerged.

Bethlehem Embattled

You gave birth to earth’s true hope;
Yet now you are enclosed
By hostile wall and strangling gates,
And quotas, fierce imposed.

May Angel hosts, not barred by walls,
Proclaim their song anew,
‘Let love and concord flood the earth,
through the peace of our Lord, a Palestine Jew'.

In part this felt an appropriate piece of writing having put up on my own blog a more conventional style of newly written Carol ‘Stable Talk’ in which Joseph makes his plans for his new-born son - though Mary is not so sure! if that sounds an interesting contrast, you will find it  by clicking HERE

Trevor Thorn

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The God of every place, by Lucy Mills

This originally appeared as a Finding Inspiration column in the Autumn 2013 edition of Christian Writer, under the title 'Uncontainable God'.

Place was very important to the people of Israel. They saw the temple as the place where God could be found – or at least, where they could communicate with him.

In 1 Kings 8, Solomon dedicates the newly constructed temple in prayer. Note how much significance there is in "praying towards this place". But Solomon makes a very important caveat: “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”

Nevertheless, the temple was to be the great connector between heaven and earth. When Israel was sent into exile, this challenged everything she knew about herself. The people had to learn that their God was not just the God of one special place but the God of every place.

Think about the places that inspire you, and about the places that don't. How can we turn the latter into the former? It's good to have a special place for writing or spending time with God; these associations can be very helpful to us. But perhaps, like the people of Israel, we need to learn that God is the God of every place. Look around you.

You may not think that your writing space is ideal; you may not think it’s a place of inspiration, or a place for hearing God. But perhaps we need to look a little harder for glimpses of God where we least expect him.

 After all, Solomon could not conceive of God dwelling on earth. And yet…he did. In an extraordinary, history-changing way, the Word of God set up his home among us. He became the new temple, where heaven and earth meet.

 Now that’s inspiring.

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.

Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills
Lucy's Facebook page

Previous More than Writer posts:

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day

by Fiona Veitch Smith

So now that it’s over, how do you feel? Exhausted? Elated? Relieved? The family and friends have gone (if you had any visiting) and it’s just you, your nearest and what’s left of the turkey. Or perhaps it’s just you – and that’s all it ever was.
For some people I’m aware that Christmas is just like any other day of the year, just a bit lonelier. If that’s you I would like you to think of another day – a day after something exciting, that you’d waited for and prepared for a long time – and transpose that day for Boxing Day. Because that’s what I’m really talking about – the day after. The week after. The months after. The years after …

In my writing life I’ve had some mountains and many, many valleys. And as most of you know, the valleys are the worst. I know some of you still have to reach your mountaintop of being published, broadcast or produced, but you too know what it’s like to achieve a writing goal: your writing being complimented by someone you admire, finishing that novel or play, being short-listed for that competition, winning that competition … or getting taken on by that agent. Finally you’re there, or at least nearly there, surely it won’t be long now… But then, before you know it, it’s over. It’s Boxing Day.

The other day I walked past a theatre where my ‘breakthrough play’ – a play that won a prestigious competition – was staged. I remembered seeing the poster of the play on the billboard and was expecting in the coming years to see more. That was six years ago now and the breakthrough play was the last to be ever commissioned. Instead I have a file-load of rejections and no one, other than me and a few close friends, remember that my play even existed for one blissful week and a further week of fabulous reviews …

I’m currently on a mountaintop with my novel The Jazz Files. I’ve had some stunning reviews and people seem to love it. But perhaps one day it will be Boxing Day for this novel too. Because I’ve been through this so many times I know I need to prepare myself for it and shift my perspective. On the first ‘Boxing Day' – the day after Jesus was born – Mary and Joseph would have been preparing for their life ahead with their new little boy. They didn’t look back; they looked forward; they embraced each new day - with its joy and pain - as it came.

And that’s what I intend to do this Boxing Day; with my family and my writing. The highs and lows are both part of my life. I cannot live from mountaintop to mountaintop. I need to embrace the valleys too. Sometimes I manage and sometimes I don’t. But I know that in it all God is with me – before, during and after. Happy Boxing Day.

Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and writing lecturer, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She writes across all media, for children and adults. Her formerly self-published children’s books The Young David Series, are now available from SPCK. Her mystery novel The Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby Investigates Series is published by Lion Fiction

Friday, 25 December 2015

A perfect Christmas? by Fiona Lloyd

Each year, I promise myself it'll be different. The Christmas in my head is organised weeks in advance: cards posted, presents wrapped, and sprouts prepared in good time. I have an annual ambition that in the few days before The Big Day I'll be free to relax and maybe enjoy a coffee with friends, as well as having plenty of time (and energy) to meditate on the wonder of the incarnation. And for the first three weeks of December I convince myself that I'm on top of things and that once I get to the end of term I'll be able to chill, in a house that'll somehow be calmer than a turkey farm on Boxing Day.

So why is it that every Christmas Eve I feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff still left to do? I have managed to write all the cards (although I still have three sitting by the front door waiting to be hand-delivered), and I've wrapped most of the presents. We did the big supermarket shop on the 23rd, an experience about as far removed from the concept of "peace and goodwill" as Tim Peake is from his home and family this Christmas. But for every job I tick off my list, another three appear, and I worry that my Christmas Day celebrations will be more focused on whether I can stay awake past the Queen's speech than on the miracle of God coming to earth as a tiny baby.

The media does a fantastic job in selling us the myth of the "perfect" Christmas. Buy this perfume, wear that dress, prepare 27 different types of stuffing and you'll have the best Christmas ever. Put on a silly hat, ply the in-laws with sherry, and everything will be sweetness and light in your home. Except that life isn't perfect: it's messy and complicated. Relationships can be difficult and memories can be bittersweet, especially at this time of year. Those gifts we so lovingly wrapped get broken, or are left unused. And often we're so tired that we fail to appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with those we love.

I wonder, though, whether we're missing the point here. Two thousand years ago, the Son of God was born into a world that was messy and complicated, too. The people who sought Jesus out - and followed him - never came because they had nothing else to do, or because their lives were all hunky-dory. Jesus attracted people whose lives were broken and damaged. The poor and needy flocked to him. And he calls us today - however busy and stressed we may feel - to look to him. If we want to receive afresh the gift of Christ this Christmas, we need to surrender our attempts at enforced peace and harmony, and instead invite Jesus to meet us in the midst of our mess.

So, on behalf of ACW, may I offer you Christmas greetings in the name of Jesus. I pray that - whatever your circumstances - you will know the peace of his Presence at this time.

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 She is married with three grown-up children. Fiona is ACW's membership secretary.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The great disappointment

Another taster from English Literature in the Sixteenth Century

C. S. Lewis’s aphorisms are wonderful. ‘One of the greatest disappointments in the history of Europe’ he declares, in his introduction. And what is he talking about? The discovery of America!

The reasons for Columbus’s voyage were mundane and mercantile. His aim was to enable his Spanish sponsors to circumvent the Turks and Venetians who obstructed or engrossed the lucrative trade with the East by finding a route to China the other way round the world, spurred on by the Portuguese discovery of a route to India around the southern end of Africa. The enterprise was not guided by high-minded ideals stemming from the ‘new learning’. Commendably, Columbus, who was a brave man, acted in faith upon ‘the age-old doctrine of the earth’s rotundity’ (not a new ‘renaissance’ idea, Lewis reminds us) and sailed west to find the east.

It was therefore an irony that ‘lands which no one had dreamed of barred his way’. America was, essentially, a nuisance, and the new nautical powers—Spain, Portugal, England, Holland—had to make the best of it. And so, Lewis observes, began a ‘period during which we became to America what the Huns had been to us’. When the English explorers, or exploiters, appeared on the scene a bit later than the Spaniards, they ‘had to content themselves with colonization’. Lest we should view this as a lofty, if ill-executed, enterprise, Lewis reminds us that it was seen at the time mainly as ‘a social sewerage system’. Humphrey Gilbert, in his Discourse of a Discouerie for a new Passage to Cataia (1576) conceived the New World as a handy place to put ‘needy people who now trouble the commonwealth’ and are ‘daily consumed with the gallows’. Long before transported criminals went to banishment to Australia, their destination was the English lands in America (see Daniel Defoe’s 1722 novel Moll Flanders). And alongside the African slave trade there was a system of forced indenture by which many young English people worked as virtual slaves in North America.

Some of the early English voyagers’ descriptions show that it was a brave new world indeed. In Virginia there was ‘shole water wher we smelt so sweet and strong a smell as if we had beene in the midst of some delicate garden’.  But they wanted ‘a good Mine or a passage to the South Sea’. They hadn’t even a missionary enterprise. Lewis tells us also that ‘the best European minds were ashamed of Europe’s exploits in America’. Montaigne felt that the ancients might have ‘spread civility where we have only spread corruption’.

The ‘wonder and glory’ of exploration was not much reflected in literature of the period. Lewis thinks that the only thing which the New World impressed strongly on the European mind (though it did not create it) was the image of the Savage or Adam-like Natural Man (the pioneers thought they might encounter him there). This ambivalent belief produced Rousseau’s Noble Savage, but also Caliban in The Tempest, Hobbes’s state of nature, and the nineteenth century’s myth of ‘Cave Man’. Perhaps even Santa Claus?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Norman's new growth - by Helen Murray

It's Christmas time, so my husband and I recently dragged the Yucca plant into the greenhouse to be wrapped up cosy for the winter. As a result the front corner of the house looked a little bare. And there's a grubby circular mark on the paving that needed to be scrubbed or covered up - so covered up it was. I pulled Norman the Nordmann Fir Christmas tree over to fill the gap.

Norman has a special place in my heart, because we rescued him a year ago. Typically late to the game, we went shopping for a smallish (cheapish) Christmas tree in December last year for the Yucca-spot near the front door because Bruce the Spruce, the previous incumbent, had gone brown and crispy by May. Alas, the locusts had visited the garden centre before us and the enormous space where the flock of Christmas trees had been was a wasteland of broken branches, discarded labels and lots of pine needles. Huddled in a corner, askew in his tiny pot and looking ashamed of himself was Norman.

Of course we had to bring him home. (Mostly because there weren't any more). 

So Norman joined the family. He held up his spindly arms to hold aloft the Christmas lights and only fell over a few times when someone tripped over the cable. He did his best. He gained in confidence as the festive season progressed and by early January he was reluctant to surrender the lights. When the Yucca reclaimed his spot in April when the frosts passed Norman retreated into a corner again but this time with his head held high. He had purpose in life. He was content to bide his time until the spotlight focused on him again. 

Norman's glory
And now Norman reigns once more. And do you know, this year he's impressive. He's a good looking tree. He stands a bit taller, reaches out a bit further. He is bushy and lush-looking. And the thing that struck me powerfully is that the season's new growth is a vivid bright green and contrasts beautifully with the old Norman. You can see clearly where he's grown.

New Growth. 

I really think that I'm a bit like Norman. When I think about the 'me' of twelve months ago in comparison with today's 'me', I definitely have fresh new growth that contrasts dramatically with the dark foliage that I'm used to. Norman's new bits are bushy and beautiful, but they're also softer and less prickly than his dark, last year's branches. As the new bright green bits were developing over the summer and autumn they were very fragile indeed and when I forgot to water him they'd droop, only to perk up quickly when I gave him a drink. Now they're firming up ready for the winter when it'll get icy cold and windy. He needs to keep those Christmas lights steady in the middle of whatever the next few weeks throw at him, and his delicate new fronds will soon toughen up. 

I, too have delicate bits. Little hopes and dreams that are battered and fragile, barely surviving the year I've had. They're vulnerable and I'm protective and a bit nervous about people seeing them in the state they're in, but they're part of me and they're still hanging onto life. 

I have spent the last year alternately huddling close to God and then wandering off, distracted, only to come running back when the gale started. I have learned an awful lot about faithfulness in prayer and  about finding time to sit quietly with Jesus and He has taken my pathetic little offerings and given me back riches that I couldn't have imagined. 

I've learned that I need to read more of the Word, even if it means reading fewer of other people's. I have a stack of books this high - yes, that high - to read; on a myriad of worthy subjects: prayer, prophecy, ministry to women, theology... but the small gold-edged book with the Cross on the front holds more wisdom than all of the others. 

My bright green bits are firmly attached to their older, darker, pricklier parts but the eye is drawn to the new bits. They show that I've grown; that I've been there through the sun and the rain and I've been soaked and blown, but the sun has shone on me as well. My branches reach out a bit more than they did. Norman has a little pot inside a bigger one and the bigger one is heavy and stable and keeps him upright when he rocks. That's exactly what Jesus does for me. As long as my little pot is hidden inside Him I have stability, safety, protection. I still have to stick my head above the parapet and I still sway in the wind and bend under the weight of heavy snow, but I can remain upright. 

Norman has his scars, too. At some point in the year he developed some infection or other and now his top spike sort of has a bite out of it.  I don't think he'll ever be quite straight; near enough still to be gorgeous, but he's not perfectly perpendicular, thanks to his midsummer problem. I quite like his imperfections - they give him character.  

I've learned that I don't have to be the sum of my experiences; I have been wounded but I don't have to nurse those open hurts and accept that I will always limp because of them. God can heal; He wants to heal, but I have to stop huddling over the injury and lift my head so that He can place His healing hand on it. I may always bear the scar but I am not crippled by the deep wounds from long ago.

I am far from perfect, but I stand as straight as I can. 

But I have done some growing. It shows - I'm sure it does, even if I know that there is an awful long way still to go. 

If Norman were back in the garden centre he wouldn't be cowering in a corner any more, the last rejected tree in the shop. No, someone organised and keen would snaffle him up in late November. We took him in when he was a bit bedraggled and sorry for himself and look at him now. He's a different tree entirely.

We bought new lights to celebrate his newfound growth. A transformed tree needs new lights, and more of them. 

They're going to be brighter this year than ever before.

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

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Improving My Writing...

Many of you may have seen a blog posted on the ACW Facebook group page earlier this week about increasing word count (in the writer’s case from about 2k to 10k a day). I've found Rachel Aaron's methods useful, but I've also been encouraged to look at what adds to my own writing process - not just what I write, but how I write.

From a faith perspective, I consider my writing as an act of worship, and I want to use not only my gifts but my time wisely. The article got me thinking not just about how I can increase my productivity, but about how I can be obedient by writing.

Here's are the things I've come up with that improve my work - in both volume and quality.


We all laugh, don’t we, at the stereotypical pictures of writers drinking copious amounts of coffee to meet a deadline. But for me, coffee denotes something else. My first cup of coffee marks the start of my writing time as apart from everything else. Not only does it demarcate that time from the rest of my life, but it affords me the time to formulate my plan for that session. I count it as the first cup of coffee one might get at an office before sitting down at a desk to work. 


When it comes to writing I, like most, need my laptop to get things into a shape for other people. That said, before I even go near my keyboard, I write down in a notebook exactly what it is I’m planning on writing. For me, there is nothing to replace sitting with a mechanical pencil and A4 paper (yes, I’m picky!) and setting out what I’m aiming to achieve that session. With an outline beside me, not only do I waste far less time, but I also have a way to quickly scribble the random ideas that seem to come out of nowhere!


Like Rachel, I too took a quantitative look at my writing output, noting where and when I was writing alongside how much I got done. What I found surprised me - my most productive times were actually in noisy places. The background humdrum of cafes seems to work particularly well (and aid the coffee requirement above!), and being out and about actually offers less in the way of distraction - being a full-time stay at home mum means that there is always work to do, and it never takes much to be side tracked by all the many things that need doing in a house.


Prayer is the fourth, final, and most important key to my writing. “Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love,” wrote Frances Ridley Havergal. It’s a hymn I love, and I have taken to saying it before I start writing anything. I use my hands for note taking, for typing, even for tapping on the table as I try to find exactly the right word for something, and I want God not just to be in the final product for people to read, but to bless me as I seek to worship him by writing.

I wonder, if asked to pick four things, what would yours be?

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 December 2015

The most precious of Ruth Johnson

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!…                  Matthew 7:11

The enormity of God’s gift of His Son, and the salvation He brought us, will take this life and eternity to unwrap.

To the Ephesians Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is only a deposit of our heavenly inheritance.  Jesus’ parable of the talents surely points to our need to invest what He has put within us. 

Many seem to have forgotten, or have no understanding that Jesus was the Son of God and is the reason for the season we call Christmas.  And I’m sure your desire is, as mine, to take people beyond baby Jesus in a manager.  How can we make Jesus' commission to take away the sin of the world relevant, when in a corrupt world people aren't bothered by their sin?  Or bring understanding that Jesus' death released the Holy Spirit so mankind can have a relationship with a Holy God.  He's a loving Father who wishes them to experience His love, peace and joy now, and for eternity.

Several years ago in considering these questions I was praying with a friend and asked that He would give us wisdom and understanding.  As I was speaking my friend had a picture of a huge white box wrapped by a pink ribbon and bow.  We asked the Lord what it meant and Matt.7:11 came to mind.  In faith we prayed our thanks and acceptance before continuing in a prayerful manner to remove the ribbon and lift the lid.  The moment the lid was removed, we both 'saw', and were astonished, when the sides of the box fell outward revealing its emptiness.  Puzzled, we enquired of the Lord.  Almost immediately into my head came the words, “My gifts are invisible” and the words in Ephesians 1: “He (the Lord) is in everything, everywhere.”  And I remembered the song, “He is the air I breathe”.

There is no better time than Christmas to write of the outstanding favour of God upon each of us who believe, and the need to stretch our faith beyond our natural perceptions.  Paul writes in 1 Cor.12 there are different kinds of gifts that God desires to work in and through us.   Each gift is given to us for the common good.  But as Matthew says we need to ask, and believe that through the Holy Spirit we have received God given "wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, ability to administrate, distinguish between spirits, speak in different tongues, and interpret those". Paul adds that we should eagerly desire these greater gifts, but the most excellent is God’s love filling and flowing through us.

Without doubt the Lord is the greatest gift to mankind.  His desire is to reveal to you who He is in you, and who you are in Him.  So my message this Christmas is to unwrap those gifts and let the abundance of that which is in you spill out, it's a gift that could change someone’s life.

My novels seek in a simple way to romance the soul and spirit and  allow the seeds of the Gospel to permeate into hearts and minds.  Available from my website or on Kindle from Amazon.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Looking upwards

Among the many excellent and enlightening posts on this blog there have been just recently remarks that set up, for me, a chain of thought. On 16 December Lynda Alsford spoke of a way of prayer that in bypassing the mind allowed a 'turning away from my own needs and thoughts and simply seeking Him with all my being.' I have never had the gift of tongues nor, come to that, much success in turning off my busy mind, but rising above my own needs and thoughts seemed to me a goal worth pursuing. Then, further back, on 11 December, Deborah Jenkins suggested that perhaps our writing may not be the most important thing we do in God's service. I thought that perhaps of equal or greater importance may be visiting a sick friend, putting goods for a food bank into our shopping trolley, collecting someone's prescription, or even cooking a meal for our family. Deborah wrote, 'The highs and lows of the writing life...must only be part of our lives.'

In one sense, for me, this was a liberating thought. It took away some of the urgency to set aside time for myself, the frustration when I am thwarted, or the disappointment at perceived failures. I have given too much significance to my writing for, I suspect, unworthy reasons, not least a lack of humility. So I was led to pray something along these lines: Lord, let me know what you want me to do. Equip me with the means and the willingness to recognise it and to do it. And then do with it what you will, and may your kingdom be served by it - whatever it is.

All well and good, in theory. Just as I see the value of bypassing my own thoughts to contemplate God, but have no idea how, so also I can see the infinite value of leaving outcomes to Him but at the same time continue to be extremely grouchy when I want to write or edit but feel compelled to cook, shop or clean the house: all activities which are useful and innocent, but which I heartily dislike and often resent!

But then, perhaps there is a way to rise above the inevitable pettinesses of the daily round. The end of the year approaches, and my Bible readings are from Revelation. Here the dazzling imagery of the end of time invites us to look upwards, away from ourselves and our circumstances, to be aware, however fleetingly, that God's agenda is vastly more all-encompassing that we can understand, beyond our wildest flights of imagination. And at the same time as putting me in my place ( a necessary task!) it also cheers me up.

It is a truism that from our small and weak efforts, done in his name, God can make something grand and powerful. So I should be working on what he sends, whether it be writing my next novel, peeling potatoes or cleaning the bath, and rejoicing all the while. You never know: one day I might make some progress.

 Sue Russell writes as S.L.Russell and has four novels in print, written from a Christian point of view: 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, is due to makes its appearance early in 2016.

Friday, 18 December 2015

This little light of mine by Joy Lenton

Words I sang as a child still rattle around my mind.

They seem to be easy to dredge up from the depths.

Maybe it's because my early years come back into sharper focus over time.

It's especially hard to get song lyrics out of our heads, isn't it?

Does anyone else remember, 'This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine'?

It came to mind as I pondered on being a light for Christ in a dark world.

Most days I feel more like a wavering wick or briefly flaring match than a constant, fervent flame.

Yet a seemingly insignificant match dropped into the right place can become the start of a conflagration, instigator of an inferno.

Our spoken words can do this too - those said in the heat of anger, fire of passion or flame of love can have huge impact.

What about our written words? 

We send out fiery dart prayers, wave creative sparks around, light a small candle or two, hoping others are drawn toward their light.

Where is our calling in all of this?
  • To be living flames on fire for God
  • Reflect the Light of the world within
  • Point others to Him 
  • Make a difference with our words and lives
How can we be encouraged in this task?

By remembering these things as we labour in our small corners:
  • Our light reflects God's light
  • It shines even when we feel dull and drained
  • We have an inestimable potential reach
  • Our words matter - they have eternal repercussions
  • Faithfulness to commit to the task and trusting God to help us is vital
  • Our calling may look small but it's a glorious part of a whole
  • Although we may doubt our ability sometimes, it's still a gift of grace to be shared
  • We can quench the fire within but Holy Spirit will inspire us anew
  • Jesus will never snuff out a faltering candle-wick, only nurture it back to life

Our mission is to minister to others in the way we're uniquely designed to do.

We all have a personal perspective, purpose and individual gifting.

It's okay to be you, to speak, write, create and shine for Jesus in your own beautiful way.

Our tiny light flares are fanned by faith, fed by God's word and enlarged by His life within us.

As we send out words and deeds to be beacons of hope and light in the world, they are reflections mirroring Christ's work in us, each one enlarges the whole.

"This might be a small candle, but I'll set mine on the lamp stand and you can set yours there too - and maybe our glow will light the path for others" - Sarah Bessey, 'Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith'

Lord of Light and Life,
So often we are blinded by the darkness without
and within, failing to see how to be a light for You.

Take our faltering candle-wick offerings 
and multiply them by Your grace.

Enliven our hearts with the searing fire of Your love.

May we burn with desire to write, create and
live in the light of the freedom You provide.

Shine Your saving Light into every dark and gloomy place,
bringing Hope and Joy to bear instead of despair.

Teach us to be surrendered to You in all we say, think and do.

May our words and deeds shine brightly into the lives of others
as we seek to pour them out for our sisters and brothers.

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 and where she writes to encourage others on their journey of life and faith.

She would love to connect with you on her blogs, Twitter, Facebook or Google +

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Keeping the main thing the main thing by Claire Musters

Here we are in the countdown to Christmas and, even before that, the countdown to the day the kids break up from school. Just two work days left before they will be on holiday, full of excitement and energy as they look forward to Christmas day. Is it just me or does it seem like schools are breaking up early this year?!

Perhaps it is the fact that we’ve just had our son’s birthday, and our first carol service. Perhaps it is the list of work I need to get done before Christmas (preferably in the quiet, before the kids break up from school). Perhaps too, it is the fact that, as a freelance writer, articles and reflections for Christmas were written months ago and I’m now concentrating my efforts on writing Bible study notes for Easter.


… all these things are crowding into my mind – and crowding out the opportunities for reflection on this amazing time of year. I really do wonder how much I am embracing our current season. I am mindful of the busyness, stress, tiredness and I am generally feeling run down. I NEED a break – but my spirit also needs to slow down and reflect.

As writers we can often be on to the next job, focusing so much on our ‘to do’ lists that the world can almost pass us by. It can be such a solitary process and yet it is vital that it is punctuated by input from others, breaks away from our WIP and opportunities for activities that energise us.

I am aware of the wonder that the waiting of Advent contains; of the way that God can surprise us by unlocking something new in this oh so familiar part of our Big Story with Him. But it is so easy to miss those and to keep our heads down, slogging away.

So I’m asking myself – and you – this one question today: how are you keeping the main thing the main thing this Christmastime?

Claire is a freelance writer and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and Cover to Cover study guide on David and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today as well as Bible study notes. She is currently standing is as editor for Families First magazine too. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.