Showing posts from March, 2016

Surprising Things by Susan sanderson

On Sunday afternoon - with Storm Henry forecast for the following day - we looked out of the window at 2.30pm and saw a barn owl flying in (not very bright) daylight. About four gulls were providing a menacing escort too close to it for comfort. Barn owls need dry weather to hunt, usually at dusk. This one must have been desperate to run the gauntlet of daytime scavengers.

A few weeks ago I noticed that my favourite sweater had gone missing. I looked everywhere. It was unlikely that I could have failed to put it back on if I had removed it away from home. (I had had my blood pressure taken at the doctor’s and been in other places, where I had felt too warm.) I began to ask people whether they had seen it. I had the opportunity to replace it and bought a similarly coloured tunic in the sales. I was glad to wear it at the writing group as I was over-heating in the jumper I had worn to travel and too cool in a blouse.

Losing things is very time-consuming. No, that’s not quite rig…

The Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature 2016: ‘All the World’s a Stage’ by Eve Lockett

Shakespeare and Jungian analysis, sleuthing vicars and the poetry of e. e. cummings… the Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature 2016 managed to combine these and other such varied subjects in a fascinating three-day event. Speakers were drawn from the worlds of literature, theatre, politics, science, conservation and church ministry; with many Christian writers giving insights into their craft and the sources of their inspiration.

This year’s theme commemorated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, providing a fruitful supply of titles, quotes and subjects. Neatly meshed with these was the connection between crime and clergy, murder mystery and ministry, and the many whodunnits given ecclesiastical settings or clerical detectives.

Sponsored mainly by SPCK, the Festival is an annual event held in the pleasant, comfortable surrounds of Bloxham School, Oxfordshire. Sarah Meyrick, Festival Director, says that the Festival’s aim ‘is to encourage a love of literature as it relate…

Authentic Fantasy by Trevor Stubbs

‘Th-rump, th-rump, th-rump, th-rump. Something new had entered Tabitha's dream’...

“You can’t do that!”


“Start your story with a made up word like ‘th-rump’. What kind of a word is that?”

I had allowed an acquaintance (shall we say?) to read an unpublished manuscript after they had pleaded to become a beta-reader. It was a mistake, I decided. I recalled Jesus and prophets in home-towns.

“It’s for children,” I protested, “not for your generation. And besides, I can make up as many words as I like. I’m the author. Shakespeare introduced thousands of new words into English.”

Yes, I am the author. I can use words as I want, and make up a world out of my own imagination. The plot is mine, and so are the characters. They do what I want... or do they?

In theory I could get my characters doing anything – but they just won’t. Sure they exist only in my head, but they have minds of their own. Sometimes it amazes me to think that the characters of my White Gates Adventures series do…

New Life! A Celebration

Nothing like a new member of the family to put one in reflective mode! Welcome Rowan - our most recent grandchild.

There are few greater joys than to share in the welcome of a child, new-born. A miracle, many will say, Or, better perhaps, an abundance of miracles that now lies helpless, vulnerable and seemingly forlorn, likely at the loss of its safe, dark womb.
This scrap of body can be rested entire in the marvelling crook of my arm. A rapid pulse at the temples,  fingers with miniscule nails and silk-soft skin conjoin to disarm any who, sadly, might wish this beauteous new-life untimely harm.
Lips and eyelids, active keep  whenever this babe is awake. Snubbed miniature nostrils already, the chilly air, fluently take. Smell, hearing, touch, and taste develop with unseen advances of tissue and nerves to meet the multiple challenges  the world, at this child, will serve.
The palm of my hand can cradle this tiny head, so utterly uncontrolled. Soft shapely skull, a wonder itself, for within that fragile, beauti…

Resurrection Day, by Lucy Mills

Today is what I like to call Resurrection Day.This is it - the hinge point, the moment when our faith becomes reality, where death can not hold the Son of God, where all he has said and done is vindicated, validated, underlined and given several exclamation marks.

I'm not a fan of lots of exclamation marks, but I allow extra on Resurrection Day.

He is risen!!!

This is our good news - not only that Jesus died but that in his dying he defeated death. That the end of the story is not the end at all but a vast new beginning.  That to be a Christian means to follow a risen Lord.

How can we even begin to put this into words? Sometimes in our eagerness, we end up writing too many words, using too many adjectives and adverbs and purple prose in our desperation to create an impact.  And sometimes we are too sparing - we forget to celebrate with our writing, neglect to let our excitement flow through.

Because today of all days is one when we are called to 'Go, tell!' just as the women …

A Place of Hope, by Fiona Lloyd

(This story was first published in the ACW book, Write the Vision)

I’ll never forget that day. The cruelty of the soldiers, the mocking of the crowds. The sickening metallic clunk of hammer against nail, swiftly drowned out by piercing screams of agony. Endless hours in the searing heat, watching as the life slowly drained from his bruised and battered body. Oh yes, I was there right through to the bitter end – which was more than some of his so-called friends could manage. It was the least I could do for him; even though it broke my heart to see him up there, covered in blood and gasping for breath.  I thought back to his childhood. To me he was the most beautiful baby ever. Of course, all mothers say that about their firstborn - but I still remember the pride I felt at his birth, and the overwhelming sense of gratitude to God as we took him to the temple to be dedicated. Our faith has always been a central part of our family life, and my son loved it when we went to visit the temple o…

Knox and Foxe get knocks from Cox

If you’ve read C. S. Lewis’s Pilgrim’s Regress, you’ll know that the Northern Irish Presbyterianism of his childhood was rather forbidding. Now, pretty much the main founding father of Scottish Presbyterianism was, of course, John Knox (1513–1572). When Lewis comes to discuss John Knox in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, he gives Knox a very fair hearing: showing as always his ability to set aside his own preferences and imagine his way into the minds of writers in the past, even ones with whom he might not entirely sympathize. Knox is so interesting that I think I shall need two blogs for him. Let’s start, then, with a list of six little known facts about Knox.

1. Knox is famous for writing The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. I hope it’s not a little known fact that monstruous (yes, with a U in the middle) means ‘contrary to the natural order’ and regiment means ‘the action of ruling over other people’: so it doesn’t mean ‘the huge ar…

A little rumty-tum offering for Easter - by Helen Murray

The other day I was humming a little tune and I was thinking about Easter and I having a little conversation with God while writing in my journal. How's that for multi-tasking?  Anyway, I wrote a little poem. If you add your own bit of humming, it can be a song.

All those of you who know lots about poetry, please forgive the lack of sophistication; I always had a soft spot for John Betjeman and his rumty-tum kind of poems and I don't think I ever grew out of it.

Still, clever or not, (and I think perhaps not) this is my Easter offering:

You knew what it would take to save your people To give us all a chance of being free You knew how great the price that needed paying You sent your Son to earth so we would see.
You came to us; you lived and died among us But even then we would not bow the knee Despite it all you never ceased to love us How can I thank the God who died for me?
The story doesn’t end with Jesus dying The story isn’t one of loss and pain For you defeated all the powers of e…

Speaking With Our Gifts

I’ve been mega busy lately. I'm in the middle of a campaign to stop a huge three or four storey secondary school being built on our playing field, right next to a primary school on our narrow residential street. The people in charge of setting it up have been very underhand about the whole thing, and given places to year sevens for this September before they've even applied for planning permission, leading parents to believe they have the go ahead. It's all about money and it stinks.
I must admit, a lot of the process is way over my head. There are conversations about planning, intricate details about moving bridleways and changing boundaries, and all sorts of things that, if I’m honest, just get me even more confused. So I have to figure out, in and amongst all this detail, what my role is going to be.
It turns out that my role and my gifts marry closely in this instance - I do anything that involves writing, which means putting points across in a way that people can und…

A Case of Cancer vs Christ...Part II - Ruth Johnson

"He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 
Romans 4:20-21

Last month I wrote of my belief the Lord had a plan and strategy to overcome my breast cancer diagnosis.  After a scan of my nodes it was time to take the pills.  By God’s design it was the night my friend and I seek and pray what is on His heart. When we finished my friend touched my knee as she suggested we should ask for my healing.  Immediately heat surged through me from my waist to the top of my head.  Astonished, her only words were: “You’ve gone bright red.”  I've never had hot flushes.  The invisible gift of faith arose to believe that despite lack of evidence the Lord’s healing power had removed the cancer. So should I take the pills?  Finally, the Lord broke in to ask, “Ruth, who organised for you to take pills?”  I answered, “You did Lord.”  My answer …

Culture professional? by Veronica Zundel

In a fit of joinery (ie the urge to join things - I get these fits), I signed up not long ago to regular emails from the Guardian Culture Professionals network. Being a Guardianista since my youth when my parents read the then Manchester Guardian, it seemed like a good thing. Now I am being bombarded with networking events, advice on arts management and the role of culture in society. None of it seems very relevant to my so-called career as a writer for the Christian market. Admittedly, in the last week my husband has been interviewed by the Guardian and myself by the Independent, all to do with the imminent closure of our Mennonite church (if only they'd shown this much interest when it was going strong), but I'm still not sure that makes me a card carrying culture professional. Maybe a Tate membership and a Freedom Pass will count?

Is what we do, as Christian writers, culture? Writing is certainly one of the arts, and I hope we've got beyond the idea that the only thing …

On clinging, releasing and relinquishing by Joy Lenton

Trying, puffing and panting a bit, he rocks back, grinning with pride, eyes wide at the achievement. He examines the wonder of a pair of rubber boots on his feet, each somehow on the correct foot, all shiny and new. Look at me, his eyes smile. I did it!

We smile indulgently as toddlers discover how to achieve new skills. Putting on (and taking off) their own clothes and footwear by themselves is a sign of burgeoning independence.

Life is all about trying new things, especially for toddlers. They have many obstacles before them on the path to becoming able and capable of helping themselves.

As adults, we can cling too tenaciously to the safe and familiar, afraid of the very real risk of failure. Or hold too tightly to what we know instead of opening ourselves up to things beyond our comprehension.

Much of life consists of aspects of trying, holding and releasing. The key thing is having wisdom and insight to see what to hold onto and what to relinquish. Thankfully, God gives them to us fre…

Wearing different hats by Claire Musters

The last few months have seen me wearing the two distinctive hats of writer and editor. While I’m co-writing a book and writing my usual columns I’m also juggling the editorship of Families First for three issues.
As a freelance writer and editor, I do regularly take on both types of jobs, but the experience of having such finely delineated roles for an extended period of time has been quite fraught at times.
I’ve been deep into making editorial decisions and endlessly chasing up text and pictures while all the time longing to get my teeth back into the chapters piled up on my desk. At other moments I’ve been sluggishly working through amendments on the manuscript, longing to get back to the easier, and quicker, checklist of jobs to do on the magazine.
The overall process has made me reflect afresh on how one area of my working life (and indeed wider life) can inform the other. Lessons on making headlines snappy can make me look at extended writing in a more critical way, not settl…