Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Plea of an Unborn Child by Trevor Thorn

This, surely needs to be one of the most voiced themes on behalf of the coming generations - and probably even more so after the result of the UK referendum. The present government has sadly not lived up to its then Prime Minister's promise to be the greenest government ever. But the message is one for the whole world

Dearly beloved Mother, you are, just now, 
the only person to whom I can talk.
You are my sustenance, my comfort,
my very life; and it will be much the same
up to and beyond that special day when I can walk.

Today I want to ask you
that you will do all you can to ensure
the world into which I will be born
will sustain me and your grandchildren,
and not be so hideously transformed
that we will find it impossible to live without fear
of disasters, even wars, brought about
by too much or too little water, violent winds,
extremes of cold and heat:
and a probability of having to weep all-too-frequent tears.

Please,please, listen to discerning,
careful, forward-thinking scientists
and whenever possible, 
tell those who pursue the relentless exploitation of fossil fuels -
and everything that follows in its wake -
that you need them to draw it to a rapid halt, for my sake
and for every single child of my generation.

Please go on marches,
write indignant letters,
organise petitions,
argue with vehement determination,
that I and all of us-in-waiting
may not have to mourn the earth,
but live as you would no doubt have us live,
to welcome our children
in the fullness of time,
with joyous celebrating.

Same topic in a shorter poem Extending The Life of the Planet #ELP and other poems with similar themes can be found in the CARE OF THE PLANET collection of Trevor Thorns poetry, published on The Cross and Cosmos blog.

Sunday, 26 June 2016


I woke up early this morning wondering what the date was. I looked at the calendar and saw it was the 26th with a circle around it and the words ‘ACW blog’ scrawled beside it. I had a sinking feeling when I realized I had not written the blog.
           My plan, you see, was to come back on Friday from a life-giving three-day spiritual retreat on Holy Island, and allow the words of truth that had settled in my heart there to gently spill onto the page. My blog was to be about peace and taking time out and oh how beautiful is God’s creation and the pilgrims I met and the wonderful people who served me. But, in my last hours on the island – despite my best efforts not to (I didn’t read a newspaper, had no internet access, and had no radio or television) – someone I bumped into said: ‘Have you heard? We’re out!’ I am not exaggerating when I say I nearly fainted.
I spent my last hours on the island crying. First at the altar in St Mary’s church, then I clambered over the rocks to St Cuthbert’s Island and cried out my prayers to the sea and the seals. I grappled for words and could not find them and, instead, poured out my heart in Tongues until there was nothing left.
        However, coming back from the island, there has been no shortage of words. Words for, words against, some of them said in anger, some in pain, some of them mine, some of them other peoples’. Some callous words: ‘just get over it’, or well-meaning but ill-timed words: ‘time to lay aside our differences and work together.’ Those words, spoken within a few hours of a result that will affect us for generations, are easy to say by people with hope – but not so easy when your hope has gone or you are still struggling to see what it might look like.
        Other words have been spoken: words like ‘divorce’, ‘unamicable’, ‘resignation’ and ‘no-confidence’. Each of these words carries a weight of meaning and consequence. I have also heard the word ‘regret’. Some people who voted ‘leave’ have said they are now beginning to regret it; that their vote was really just a protest vote, so their discontent would be heard and not swept under the carpet when what they believed the inevitable – that we would remain – happened. But it turned out the ‘leave’ word carried more power than the ‘remain’ word. And now they don’t know what to do with it.
        And then there are words like ‘joy’ and ‘sadness’. One spoken by people whose political dreams have been fulfilled and sincerely hope it will lead to a better future, and the other by people, like me, who mourn what has been lost and believe we have committed political, social and economic suicide.
        Christian people, for and against Brexit, have turned to the Bible too for words. Hoping to find unity there because, after all, we are one people under God. But for every Biblical verse of celebration and freedom, there are ones of lament. I was particularly touched by a post by the poet Andrew Philip who said ‘How can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ (Ps 137:4) How indeed, but we must somehow learn. The first words that came to me when I heard the news were ‘You have sown the wind but reaped the whirlwind.’ (Hosea 8:7). None of these, I think, will be helpful or welcomed by people who feel it was right to leave. So, even the words of the Bible have not really helped.
        So that brings us down to one Word. The Word who became flesh and lived among us. He lives among us now in the post-Brexit world; He lived among us before in the EU world. I do not yet know how to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, nor how or when it will cease to be strange, but I know that in the end only one Word will ‘Remain.’ And for now, that’s the only thing I can thank God for.

Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and writing lecturer, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She writes across all media, for children and adults. Her children’s books The Young David Series and the Young Joseph Series (to be published August 2016) are available from SPCK. Her mystery novel The Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby Investigates Series, is published by Lion Fiction, the second, The Kill Fee, will be coming out in September 2016 . Her novel The Peace Garden  is self-published under Crafty Publishing

Saturday, 25 June 2016

When Life gets in the Way, by Fiona Lloyd

I have a confession to make: I’ve not done much writing recently…at least, not the sort of writing I’d like to be doing. I’ve written a few school reports (still plenty left to do, though), and I’ve done some musical arrangements for work. My two main WIPs, however, are feeling sadly neglected.

Progress is slower than I'd like...
It’s not that I’m short of projects. I’ve had helpful advice regarding both the bigger items I’m working on, and I’ve plenty of other ideas for articles I’d like to write. But those chunky pieces need a fair amount of rewriting (gulp!), which means I not only need time to write, but also space in my head to think through the changes I’m going to make. I’m hopeful that once I get to the end of term I’ll be able to get back into a better (and more productive) writing routine, but part of me doesn’t want to wait that long.

Before you start passing out the virtual tissues - or a virtual kick up the derrière if you feel it’s more appropriate - let me share something that has helped me through this dry patch. I’d call it a God-thing, as it came out of the recent writers’ weekend at Scargill (and it’s not the first time it’s happened to me there). When we had our free writing time, a couple of lines for a poem came into my head. I wouldn’t describe myself as a poet, but these lines sneaked into my suitcase and came home with me.

And for the last three weeks, they’ve followed me around: to work, to church, to Morrison's. Not only are they stalking me, but they’ve started reproducing at a steady rate. I now have 28 lines typed out on a sheet of paper, kept folded in my handbag. When I’m on my lunch break, out comes the piece of paper. I’ll insert a new word here, or cross out a phrase there. I recite verses aloud as I’m driving from one school to the next, testing out metre and cadence. And it’s surprisingly satisfying, like a generous helping of custard on my granny’s best apple crumble.
Needs custard...

Working on something relatively small has stopped my writing-brain from putrefying, and has soothed what could have been a severe case of writers’ itch. I can see my poem taking shape, and I have high hopes of finishing it, even if no one else ever reads it.

So next time you feel stuck in a rut with your writing, or so swamped with everyday life that the notion of writing another chapter feels more stressful than taking Tim Peake’s place on the International Space Station, try finding something shorter to work on instead. Even if it’s for your eyes only, it might just get those writing juices flowing again.

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.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Reaching the bottom

At the ACW weekend at Scargill House recently, I wrote this as my 300-word writing exercise (it’s a bit longer now).

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-14469 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, Berlin, Boykott-Posten vor jüdischem Warenhaus.jpg
It’s not easy looking back to take in the fact that thousands of kind-hearted, well-motivated Germans, many of them Christians, believed that the Nazi programme was for the good of their country. They didn’t anticipate the ruthlessness and cruelty of the people they gave their support to. When they woke up, it was too late—their liberty was gone, and worse, their faith was drastically compromised. This piece highlights that realization. 
You will probably know by now the outcome of the EU referendum. This piece may or may not be relevant. I rather hope not.

I’ve reached the bottom drawer of Goldberg’s desk now. Seems to be just the one book there…

This week, I’ve catalogued, recorded, and audited the whole of his company accounts. I’ve been through every drawer and file in this office. All his assets are in the hands of the State now.

I love my work as a civil servant of the Reich. I see it as service to the Lord too. ‘Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.’ 

Of course, the Führer isn’t an ideal Caesar, but neither was Claudius in Paul’s day. The thing is—he’s saving our nation from ruin and humiliation. He’s clearing out the alien corruption in our Christian society. That’s how I see it, as a Christian.

Take this Moses Goldberg—‘mountain of gold’, eh! No doubt he did make a mountain of it—but by exporting our wealth, bleeding the Fatherland dry to feed the people who prey on us.

As a Christian, I can share in restoring our society to health and prosperity. I’m proud to do it.

This book in the bottom drawer, now. Looks like a diary. Private stuff? Come on, as an enemy of the state poor old Goldberg has forfeited his right to privacy. Not much of that in the Rehabilitation Camp!

So let’s have a quick look.

In this diary of 1938, I record a remarkable spiritual journey.
As I finish my record, I am informed that my family firm is to be ‘Aryanized’— forfeited to the State…

So what kind of a spiritual journey can a capitalist Jew have, I wonder?

On the 1st of January, I was still an agnostic, secular Jew... 
At Passover, I met the Evangelical pastor, AB (I shall not record his name, for his safety)…
At Pentecost…

What’s this?

Ich habe mein Herz dem Herrn Jesus gegeben—I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus. Now, all men are my brothers. Even the Nazis who are robbing me. ‘If any man will take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.’

Dear God! This Jew, Goldberg, is now my brother in the Lord! And I am consenting to his destruction!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Me and the moon: a conceit - by Helen Murray

I am the moon.

I look down on the world from on high - but all my light comes from you. I glow only because the you shine on me. When I was younger I thought that I was all the light that I needed, just me, shining brightly, but as I've grown older I realise that I have none of my own at all.  I depend on you.

You are the only light.

Sometimes, occasionally, people see and comment on my unique beauty - but that too comes from you; it's all because of you. Most often I am not bright enough for people to notice me at all. Without you to illuminate me I'd be completely dark; the world wouldn't know that I was there. Now and then when there's nothing between you and me to get in the way, that's when I'm best; reflecting your light. On those occasions I shine. Your light bounces from me - I am occasionally a source of inspiration, but always I fade and give way at sunrise.

When I can't see you I am in darkness. The side of me upon which you don't shine is pitch black. No light there at all. I keep this side of me angled away from you all the time. I don't show it to you but I know that from you I can hide nothing. Sometimes I long for your light to penetrate through the whole of me and I spin around trying to find illumination through and through but there are always parts of me in need of your light.

I can't do it on my own.

Sometimes, strangely, we're found in the sky at the same time, but if you're there and the sky is blue and you're shining in all your glory I am all but invisible. All eyes are drawn to you, not to me; that's as it should be.

I look faint and fragile, but that's deceptive.  You made me strong. A close examination reveals scars and craters where things have hit me and hurt me; I have wounds. My injuries left marks that won't go away, and yet they make me more interesting. Intriguing. The contours of my scars; my imperfections - they tell a story. I can only tell it when I am lit by you and when people look and really see, they want to hear that story.

In the daytime the sun shines and the shadows are banished. There's no darkness when you are here. At night, just sometimes, when I'm big enough and when it's clear and your light finds me just as you intend it to, when conditions are perfect and it all comes together - the reflection of you in me penetrates the darkness. It does! It illuminates the gloom and brings a subtle, silvery beauty all its own. Nothing like the indescribable golden brightness of you, but maybe enough to see by.

A reflection of you.
Enough light to show the way.
Enough to take a few steps.

I have a job to do and you enable me to do it. When people look at me, they see you, even when they don't realise what they're looking at; or that's the idea. Help me to reflect you more and more!

Even when the world is in darkness, the light reflected from the moon shows the world that you are still there. You never disappear. You might be just over the horizon but you are always there.

And then, at the end of the night-time, I will give way with joy to the true radiant Light which floods the world fresh and beautiful each new morning; streaming over the horizon with majesty and splendour and glory.

That's you.

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

Having spent time as a researcher, church worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently supposed to be working on her first novel. 

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

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. It's been a while since there was anything to report, but she hasn't given up.

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

It’s All About The Angle (or what writing taught me about editing...)

In the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, there is a moment when one of the leading characters, Hermione, gets to see herself from behind. Despite all the time travelling and world saving that’s happening at this point of the story, her one comment is “is that really what my hair looks like?”

That’s what being edited is like - you suddenly get a chance to see something you know intimately from a completely different angle. I’ve had my writing edited more than once - I think I’ve said before on this blog that being edited is the most devastating yet productive experience I’ve ever been through.

I’ve recently moved sideways from writing into editing. I have to admit that I’m learning on the job, but of one thing I’m certain - being a writer and having been edited is one of the most important training opportunities I could have had. Here’s what I always keep in mind:

1 - When I’d finished the first draft of Secret Scars, I really did think it was done, and as open as I might have sounded about being edited, I still thought I’d produced a genius final version. How wrong I was! Editing freelance means that I only get work from people who want to be edited, but I’ve still had to give warnings that there may be more feedback than they’d envisaged.

2 - As a writer, putting my manuscript into someone else’s hands was incredibly difficult. It had been a part of my single-minded life for so long that it was hard to open it up to someone else. So, as an editor, I aim to be as gentle as possible when I am given the privilege of reading someone’s work, and appreciate that writers are giving me a huge part of their lives.

3 - Having spent hours writing such a personal piece, it was devastating to get negative feedback on Secret Scars (a memoir). I was fortunate at the time to have a very gentle editor! I am now trying to keep that in mind with the writers I edit. Although it’s my job to bring attention to what needs doing, I try to find a way to say it without breaking someone.

4 - During the pain of having my errors and misunderstandings pointed out, something slowly became apparent to me that I've hung on to - editing makes writing better. I make sure I say this to the writers I’m working with - that having a second brain and pair of eyes can improve a manuscript beyond expectations.

5 - There is nothing that can replace an editor. We can self-edit over and over again, but editors can see things writers don’t. Some of those things are obvious and hit you between the eyes - once you know you’ll never not see them again. Others are more subtle, and some may even lead to disagreement. Whatever they are, it’s better to have them pointed out than miss them completely.

All writers need another perspective at times. Seeing something from behind, or above, or through the eyes of another person, can be all it takes. The truth is, Hermione could brush her hair all she liked, but she didn’t know how it looked until she saw it from a different angle. 

Abbie has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil. She wrote a memoir, Secret Scars, (Authentic, 2007), and later, Insight Into Self-Harm (CWR, 2014). She founded and directs Adullam Ministries, an information and resource website and forum about self-harm and related issues. She blogs at Pink and Blue Mummyland and tweet as @AbbieRobson and @AdullamSelfHarm. She lives in Rugby with husband John and two children.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The greater the trial the bigger the pearl by Ruth Johnson

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matt.44-46

God recently highlighted to me the above verses.  Jesus knew that the treasure of the Kingdom was hidden, and that the Kingdom was like a merchant who was looking for pearls.   What a beautiful picture of Jesus the servant, merchant King, looking for those pearls, those people created in the image of God, who He so values and gave up His life for. 

As I sat before Him and considered those hidden pearls I came to believe there are still many hidden that He desires to unearth.  Are they those who have known Him, but turned away, perhaps hurt by Christians they trusted, or that the world seemed a better place?   Are they those held in captivity:  physically, mentally or spiritually? 

When we believe Jesus is the Son of God we receive life, but many like the oyster in the hard shell of life have remained hidden. Sometimes man’s hand stops us opening up, or a lack of understanding and opportunity has prevented us from knowing who we are in Him, and who He is in us.  

It’s the oyster’s continual irritation of sand in its shell that produces the pearl covering substance.  The Father uses the trials of life to release the covering of His love.  When we groan His love is grown in our hearts to trust and believe that through Jesus all things work together for good.  That turns our negatives to positives, and as we, like the oyster, die to our will, and desire His Will, we become one of those fine pearls stored in His treasure chest = the Kingdom of God.

I sense the Father is digging His field and Jesus is seeking for those precious pearls whose value and worth needs unearthing.  There has never been such a time as this when the Lord needs to find and release the pearls of His Kingdom to shine with His love, light and truth. 

In two days time we need to look, see and know which box God wants us to place His cross to seal the fate of our nation.  Whatever the outcome, God will still be with us.   His hand is so clearly upon us along with His plans and purposes to be outworked in our land.  Many years ago I felt the Lord said we may have lost the Great from Britain, but He had renamed us.  And the plan for the United Kingdom was that we would be united by, and for our God, and He would command the blessing over us.  

“I’m no longer a slave to fear,  I am a child of God.”

Monday, 20 June 2016

From there to here, part 3 by Sue Russell

With the publication of the first volume of my trilogy, 'Leviathan with a Fish-hook' in 2009, things started to speed up in my journey. The sequel, 'The Monster Behemoth,' was already written, and edited in line with what I had learned from the inestimable Donna, among others. Towards the end of this book I realised that Eileen's story wasn't over;  a third volume would have to be written. 'The Land of Nimrod' was the fastest yet - six months - from first thoughts to first draft. 'Behemoth' was published in 2010, 'Nimrod' in 2011. I used the same self-publishing company, which was small, family-run, well-established, honest and efficient, and didn't charge the earth. I kept costs down by doing my own proof-reading, asking my most literary friends to read and critique, and providing my own cover designs.

I made lots of mistakes, of course. I still had little idea about publicity and marketing, and at the beginning I ordered far too many copies which I then couldn't sell. I learned, though: on my bookshelf now I have 21 copies of no.1, 11 of no. 2, 7 of no. 3, and 2 of no.4! Launches provided the best opportunities to move copies, and I aimed to have the party in late autumn so that people could buy books as Christmas presents.

Meanwhile I read, and conferred, and bit by bit became a little more savvy about publicity, starting a general-interest blog with books on the side, and setting up a web site. It was all very small-scale still, and maybe always will be. But God can turn our honest efforts made in his name from something quite modest into something he can use, of that I am sure.

I wrote a fourth novel, a stand-alone this time, called 'A Shed in a Cucumber Field.' By now you will have seen I take my titles from the Bible, but even people well-versed in Scripture have often not noticed that cucumbers feature that much! (Isaiah 1 v. 8, depending on your translation.) By this time I had become aware that there were some British publishers about who accepted Christian fiction, so I decided to see if anyone would be interested in 'Shed,' which I believed to be a more polished story than the others. It didn't work out, I lost nine months while they sat on it, and it gave me much to think about. I concluded from my own reading and the opinions of others that I hadn't written a bad book, but it just didn't fit anywhere, especially when so many traditional publishing houses were obliged to be extremely cautious in taking on new and unknown authors.

I self-published again, and 'A Shed in a Cucumber Field' was launched in late 2014. It was all done, I had copies available, and the book could be downloaded to Kindle. Then I received a bombshell: an e mail arrived one morning telling me that my publishing company had ceased trading. It had tried everything possible, but was unable to meet its obligations because of the fierce competition from global enterprises. It was a blow for the company and its loyal employees, and for thousands of authors, whose books simply vanished from the internet. I was aghast, and spent most of the day waiting for news, still in my pyjamas! Eventually all the files were transferred to another company with no cost to the authors, except to their frayed nerves, but I am sure I was not alone in passing a few worried hours.

But for now my books were safe, and I was with a new publisher.

I'll bring this blog series to a close in July, if you are still with me!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

'Lazy' is a four letter word, by Veronica Zundel

I hate to say this, but there is a small town in Austria called Fucking (pronounced in a northern way). Yes, it's embarrassing. As a German word, however, it's just a combination of consonants and vowels denoting a place. Why am I sharing this less than enlightening fact with you? Well, like several others who write for this blog, I was recently at the ACW writers' weekend at Scargill House. And hardly were we there a few hours, when a discussion arose about using 'bad language' in  fiction.

Now I've been around the Christian writers' scene for around 35 years, and I am sick and tired of this topic. Is Graham Greene a Christian writer? Yes, he's a novelist who was a Christian. Do some of his characters swear? Yes, when appropriate. Is J K Rowling a Christian writer? Yes - she holds a lay office in her church. How can anyone read the final scenes of the last  Harry Potter and not see profoundly Christian themes? But Ron Weasley says 'bloody' a lot. 

What is 'bad language'? Is there even such a thing? Many years ago someone called me the laziest person they knew. I must admit I lost it and swore at them. But in context, who
Any language can be bad
was using 'bad language'? The word 'lazy' is bad language if used to do someone down (and it's a four letter word). True, there are words we should never use: because they are racist, sexist, or cruel. Nevertheless, if we create a racist, sexist or cruel character, we may have to put such words in their mouths.

Of course if your calling is to write 'safe' fiction for easily offended Christians (since when was being offended a fruit of the Spirit?),  you will have to avoid those pesky Anglo-Saxon words. However if readers don't want what they read to confront them with language they surely already know, they had better stop reading the Bible, which is full of curses and earthy language. St Paul, for instance, said he counted everything as - well, I'll say excrement, but in the Greek he used a stronger word - for the sake of knowing Christ.

If however you want to write fiction or non-fiction that communicates the down-to-earth gospel to ordinary people, you may find it necessary to be less mealy-mouthed. What we call 'strong' language is weak language when used as punctuation; but if you sprinkle it sparingly like that hot seasoning in a grinder from Traidcraft, it might make the all-important contrast between the character you want people to admire, and the one you don't.
A US president disobeying Jesus...

One last point. Jesus never said anything about swearwords. No really, he didn't. When he told his disciples not to swear, he meant don't swear oaths in court to prove you are telling the truth, since you should be telling the truth all the time. A command that Mennonites and Quakers take seriously, but no other Christians I know of. But 'bad' language? No such thing. It all depends how you use it.

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently churchless. She also blogs at

Saturday, 18 June 2016

How looking back can help us move forward by Joy Lenton

Writing a memoir looks quite daunting as more years unfurl and a life is viewed with the benefit of hindsight and perspective.

Tons of junk and gleanings of gold wait to be sifted through as our memory begins to recall past times with greater clarity than what happened yesterday.

What do you focus on: scenes, themes or dreams?

What should have the preeminence in the whole gamut of one's experience?

Where do you start (or finish) the story of your life?

Can you appreciate it for the gift it truly is?
"It holds joy and pain, laughter and tears, success, defeat, triumph and disaster" ~ Marion Stroud 'The Gift of Years'
I'm not entirely sure how to answer those questions, but they (and others) have preoccupied my mind since I decided to get my life down on paper.

Inspiration and guidance have come from reading memoir and books about the art of writing it, including William Zissner's 'Writing About Your Life'.

I had a stab at it with 'Seeking Solace', where I examined aspects of my life in the light of God's grace discovered in the hard places. 

It flooded out of me in an unwieldy spiel of poetry over a couple of years, and pulled me inside out emotionally. Afterwards, I was drained, depleted, the poetic well a mere trickle.

Then something rather surprising and wonderful happened - God began opening a door of discovery in my  mind.

By God's grace I saw into my past with eyes that could look beyond the painful circumstances

I was able to remember the good times in my childhood without shame or regret, experience a freeing in my soul.
"The gift of years may hold bodily weakness and limitations, but it can also contain increased spiritual strength and effectiveness" ~ Marion Stroud 'The Gift of Years'
Those reminiscences became tiny snapshots like this...

Fruit picking

"I bend to the task before me with inky-blue stained fingers cradling soft, squishy currants with increasing expertise. My mahogany neck a fragile stem crisped by sun's fierce heat, and hair bleaching blonder by the day.

Summer was lived outdoors. My sister and I could disappear for hours, venture further beyond home's confines.

It was a needful breathing space in the school year, where being yourself was easier to bear.

Stretching like a lazy cat warming herself, I smile at the heavy weight of fruit sitting at my feet. A good crop means more money in my pocket, bus fare home at least.

Despite the exertion, it beats potato or strawberry picking because here I can stand to reach the fruit.

Wiping sweat from my forehead I notice how grubby my white gypsy top looks, smeared with grime and smatterings of juice.

Soon I spot someone glaring in my direction as the line checkers move our way. They don't like unaccompanied children unless they see you working, filling baskets or buckets instead of bellies.

I bow my head dutifully back to the bushes, because guilt always sits heavy within, knowing that when I close my eyes tonight I will see a vast spread of blackcurrants hanging like dark lanterns on my eyelids..."

It is said that an unexamined life isn't worth living. There is value in reflecting on the passing years and seeing God's hand at work.

Too much introspection can be damaging, but a life looked at in the light of eternity, seeing how God has led and kept us, is a life examined and appreciated for the gift it truly is.

In speaking about Jesus we can come at it slant, share via storytelling like He did. In exposing our experiences, laced with threads of grace, we also invite the reader to read between the lines as they find their way to faith, discovering the Greater Narrative beneath it all. 

Will I complete a memoir? Maybe. For now I'm having fun reminiscing about coal bunkers, Corona, pogo sticks, Spam, Camp Chicory and Coffee Essence, to name but a few. Anyone familiar with them?

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'

She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs and as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

Friday, 17 June 2016

Gratitude for those unexpected moments by Claire Musters

A smile from a passing stranger..

A beautiful blossom that has opened overnight…

Conversation with a friend who just ‘knows’ what you need…

Inspiration for a piece of writing…

Interest from a publisher…

A good night’s sleep…

A wonderful and timely gift from a precious couple…

The chance to be stretched in leadership…

Laughter with family…

There are so many ‘little’ moments that we can overlook every day. But God has been reminding me of something He first taught me during a rather frustrating walk with my then toddler daughter. We were walking into town, but it took a good 10 minutes just to walk to the end of our road. She was totally distracted by everything around her.

She noticed a little flower growing through a crack in the pavement, a ladybird crawling up a lamppost, a cat sitting on a garden fence. I was getting more and more impatient, urging her to hurry up and pulling her along with me when God spoke to my heart. He told me to stop rushing her, to get down to her level and really ‘see’ the world through her eyes.

That’s a lesson that has stayed with me ever since. In the moments I’ve been rushing around at warp speed, God has gently spoken to my heart to slow down and open my eyes to what’s around me. And He’s been saying it again this week. It’s a particularly busy time, and so it is easy for me to be too focused on my checklist. So I’m being intentional; grabbing time each day to simply reflect on those unexpected moments that have happened. Those interactions or inspirations that have filled me with joy and gratitude.

What unexpected moments are you grateful for today?

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 authenticity, 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: David A man after God's own heart and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today as well as Bible study notes, and her next book, Insight Guide to Self-acceptance is due out in October. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.