Tuesday, 31 January 2017

How should the Bible be read? by Susan Sanderson

Having been brought up to go to Sunday school and later to Church, I was used to The Bible, or better still The Holy Bible, being regarded as a sacred text.  As a student I noticed a book on a library shelf.  It was entitled The Bible to be Read as Literature.

Quite honestly, I was horrified!

I felt that this was an attempt to undermine the respect with which earlier generations had viewed the Bible.  The linguistic root of literature is surely anything consisting of letters.  We use it in the title of examinations such as English Literature.  We also use it about information from showrooms about various products.

Nowadays, considering the trend towards secularism, I’d be glad to find someone reading The Bible to be Read as Literature.  Even in a different form it surely still has the power of the original to turn the hearts and minds of people towards God.  (I have to admit that I never touched this book, let alone looked inside it to see how it was presented.)

I wonder how much it contributed to the rise of secularism.  The title still seems disrespectful.  Perhaps it was just a symptom of a trend which had already begun.

So, how should the Bible be read?

There are lots of books and dated (i.e. with a date on, not old-fashioned) helps for Bible reading. Most people, who read it regularly, would agree that a beginner should not start at the beginning in the hope of working their way to the end.  Not many get to the end of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament.

Joining a study group is a good way of staying motivated to read the Bible regularly. There are a number of courses, which are designed to help.

I have no formal qualifications in Bible study. Religious Education (RE) was not offered as an exam subject at the school I attended.  However, I began using Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) notes as a child. I didn’t find that they provided enough depth. When a teacher of RE sold some of us Scripture Union notes, I found those more helpful.
The BRF notes mentioned here

I haven’t always made Bible reading a daily habit. There have been long spells in my life, when I haven’t attempted this. However for the last twenty-odd years it has been a habit. I have tried other notes such as Every Day with Jesus, but I have come full circle and use BRF notes.  Currently I use two different publications, New Daylight and The Upper Room, which focuses on prayer and is written by its readers.  (Two occasional contributors are members of both ACW and the writing group I attend.)

In my view the Bible should be read prayerfully, thoughtfully and regularly. Reading it out loud can also help both the understanding and the memory. I have some personal preferences about translations, but I just long for people to be exposed to the scriptures in whatever translation speaks to them best.

How do you read the Bible?

Monday, 30 January 2017

Don't Punish Yourself...Let Others Do It

How often do you sit there, manuscript in hand, wailing over your uselessness and wondering why God created such a worthless specimen as yourself?

Oh. Just me then is it. Oh you do too? Phew. For one moment I thought I was alone in that.

So, to the only other writer who put their hand up and admitted it, this advice is for you:

Don't punish yourself. Let other people do it.

Publishers, agents and magazines employ people to go through manuscripts and accept/reject them. Why are you doing their job?

As a writer, our job is to write to the best level we can, improve our writing through practice and reading the work of others, submit work to professionals and move on to the next project. It is NOT to pre-reject ourselves.

We do not, usually, have our finger on the pulse of publishing and the literary world. We have a rough idea of what's going on but that's all. On top of which, new strands have to start somewhere. JK Rowling started one, why not us. Of course that's unlikely, but I doubt the publishers thought it would be as big a success as it turned out to be.

And that's the point: we don't know. Our useless piece of garbage, created by a piece of trash that God must regret allowing to exist may be the one that creates or re-invigorates, a genre.

Have a bit of faith in yourself, as I can tell you this one thing for certain: God has faith in you.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Aspire to Inspire, by Fiona Lloyd

This time last week, I was taking part in the annual ACW committee retreat. It’s a great opportunity to talk and pray through the business of ACW, but also to get to know one another a little better. (It’s also a good excuse to jeopardise my diet by eating far too much sticky toffee pudding…but that’s another story.)

Well worth joining the committee for...

One of the getting to know you games we played involved writing down the name of someone who has inspired us. The leader added a couple of wild cards for good measure and then we had to build teams by taking it in turn to guess which of us had picked each name. Some of these were easier to work out than others: anyone old enough to remember who David Kossoff is could have quickly made the link between him and our very own Amy Robinson. Others were harder – we’ve all heard of Agatha Christie, Barack Obama and Elijah, but who would cite them as their inspiration?

No doubt we all have those who have inspired us in our Christian lives: biblical characters, modern day speakers, as well as lesser-known individuals who have made a difference to us personally. And when it comes to our writing, we’re often influenced and helped by other writers…which is why some of the best advice offered to aspiring writers is to read, read, and read some more!

Plenty of inspiration here!
Sometimes, however, we can be so preoccupied with looking to those who have gone before us, that we forget to look behind. We all have something to offer to others, whatever point we’ve reached on our personal writing journey. After all, Jesus used the five loaves and two fish not because it was a huge amount, but because a small boy was willing to offer them.

One of the great strengths (I believe) of ACW is the way members encourage and support one another. So, I’d like to issue a challenge: think about those who have inspired you – and why – and then consider what you can do to inspire and help others. And I’d love you to offer suggestions in the comments below, if you feel able.

Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013 and blogs at You can find her on Twitter at @FionaJLloyd. Fiona is vice-chair of ACW and is married with three grown-up children.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Stretching the Boundaries of Our Creativity by Trevor Thorn

Partial Neural Pathways: A composite image
‘stitched’ together to symbolise our advanced but still 
partial knowledge of how the brain works

Several years ago, my wife bought me a computer painting programme as a birthday present. It wasn’t cheap (of course!) but neither was it hugely expensive. It is called ‘Artrage’ although there are now a whole range of art generation programmes available and some are very modest indeed. I tend to doodle rather than draw/ paint but I have been amazed what can be achieved with a little practice. On the basis that the impact of a picture can be several times more powerful than the word (Dare one even whisper it on an author’s blog!), a programme of this nature opens up all sorts of unexpected possibilities, the most significant of which I would identify as follows:
  • Building images can be done without having to get art materials out - and then tidy them away (unless you are fortunate enough to have a studio area).
  • The features of such a programme allow for some extraordinary possibilities, such as blurring a layer; turning even a criss-cross of multi-coloured straight lines into a soft ‘maze’ of variegated intersections.
  • Taking pictures and interpreting them in a way similar to the way the image at the top of this post has been manipulated (The original - posted by the Koch Institute - is the characteristic shape of the brain. The image above has been cropped half way across and then a copy inverted and put together; so you can see the mirroring of top left and bottom right).
  • That even those who can only draw at a very simple level can construct simple cartoons (see illustration below) which will not have any copyright implications.
  • Children who have reached the stage of being able to be trusted with electronic equipment can have a field day illustrating things you have written: some fascinating ideas can come out of such creativity.
And in the last of these, lies the idea which I find most fascinating about using such a programme - that of cross-fertilised creativity. As the brain engages with an emerging image, so words may emerge giving fresh slants for writing. Let me give you an illustrated example.

I was toying with a pattern of blurred wavy lines and realised I could set them against a pale blue/green background. By then putting the result into a oval section it looked just a little like the pictures of the cosmic microwave background. (Google it for a Wikipedially simple explanation). It was then possible to place the tiniest of white crosses at the heart of the image which suggested to me the sense of Christ as the ‘Source’ of all being. That became the title of the image and led on to a poem and a hymn: the first entitled ‘Sonnet of The Source’ and the latter ‘Source of the Fundamental Forces’.

Who knows, the willingness to dabble with minimal risk - unpromising material can easily be blitzed - just might even soothe away ‘writers block’ for some. It’s at least worth a try.

So, finally, as promised above a very simple sample cartoon

These images - and many others, many with associated poems, can be found on my blog at

Trevor Thorn.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Ode from a writer, by Lucy Mills

As I am a little overwhelmed by writing and editing at the moment, please forgive me for not sitting down to write an original post for you today, instead sharing a little bit of silliness in a few imperfect lines I wrote sometime in the past:

It’s true I’m quite besotted:
I want to stroke you, sniff you even
happiest when I’m scribbling on you,
spilling coffee on occasion
but you don’t seem to mind.

I get grumpy when we’re divided –
hear you calling in the middle of the night
when I’m just too sleepy to get up
and in the morning cannot remember
exactly what it was I wanted to say to you.

You and me, in our tight huddle
may draw occasional curious glances,
I don’t care if you’re all over my table
that’s just the way I like you.
You are my addiction.

What can I say of my dilemma?
My eccentricity, my love, my vice?
My temptation, vocation, adoration?
Others don’t know what to make of it:
the writer and her manuscript.

A good reminder of the times when writing is relief and joy - especially when in the hard slog of editing!


Lucy Mills

Lucy's first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 (DLT). Undivided Heart: finding meaning and motivation in Christ will be coming in Autumn 2017. Lucy writes articles, poetry and prayers for various publications and is Editorial Co-ordinator at magnet magazine.

Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills
Lucy's Facebook page

More than Writer posts in 2016:

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Happiness, Augustine and Traherne, by Eve Lockett

Traherne windows by Tom Denny, Hereford Cathedral

Very occasionally, I dip into the ‘Confessions of St Augustine’, which is his personal blog written in the fourth century. I’m not really getting into theology or doctrine here, but I want to reflect on something he says about happiness.
Happiness is not often talked about in the Christian life – it’s as if it isn’t deep enough or spiritual enough to be really taken seriously. Either that, or happiness is associated with a kind of self-indulgent naughtiness careless of common sense or duty.

As with Augustine, the writings of Thomas Traherne give a very profound view of happiness as part of the Christian experience. Traherne, born in Hereford in the seventeenth century, wrote on the flyleaf of his work, ‘Why is this soe long detaind in a dark Manuscript, that if printed would be a Light to the World and a Universal Blessing?’ Ever felt like that? His words would have to wait four centuries to be published. Some of them were found on a bookstall barrow, many have turned up in manuscript form in private libraries, and one section was found burning on a bonfire in the 1960s and was fortunately rescued.

So what is happiness and where can it be found? I don’t mean the desperately forced jollity of game shows and holiday camps, but the inner glow of life-enhancing wellbeing that lifts our hearts. Does it just exist for the lucky and the strong? It seems crucial to explore its nature in a world where so many around us are stressed-out, anxious and despondent to an alarming degree.

Augustine made some observations about happiness. Firstly, that everyone wants it. No one would say they didn’t! A happy life, he goes on, is to joy in the truth. An interesting statement in our post-truth, unhappy world.

How does he argue this? Because everyone desires to joy in the truth. He says that he has met many prone to deceive others, none that wish to be deceived. And yet many deliberately do not choose the truth, and so forego happiness. Why? Because ‘they love truth when she enlightens, they hate her when she reproves.’ ‘…they love her, when she discovers herself to them, and hate her, when she discovers them.’ So the mind of man wishes nothing to be hidden from it, but wishes itself to be hidden.

I think this hits on something in our own experience with God. We don’t like being exposed to truth or God’s discerning Spirit, we like to keep the power balance in our favour. And yet happiness is found when we accept God’s love looks clear-eyed into our souls.

Traherne was adamant that we were created for happiness, and that happiness was allied to active holiness, virtue and humility.

Holiness is more than Righteousness is. It is the Zeal wherewith we render unto Things their sacred value…

I love that idea of passionately according things – and people – their sacred value. Think how life-affirming it would be if we all lived such holiness towards our work, our creative writing, our planet, our relationships.
Traherne saw blessing in God’s creation and a life lived in harmony with God’s infinite and eternal love. Ultimately, it is the generous love of God that bestows happiness on his creation:

But after all to be Beloved is the Greatest Happieness… I intirely Lov Him, that He is Infinite Lov to every Soul!

May we all find the happiness of knowing and rejoicing in God’s love, truth and holiness in a world where so often we find ourselves, as Traherne puts it, ‘Swerving from this Glorious and Happy Life’.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Hobgoblins and Heroes

Image Credit:  All images are from Pixabay

One of my favourite books from my late mum’s collection is The Illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and published by Odhams in hardback.  It is a beautiful book and is written as what we would know now as a graphic novel/comic book. 

The images of the hobgoblins and foul fiends are brilliantly done (in black and white, which is more menacing than colour) and gave me more than one nightmare when I was a kid.  The illustrator did their work well!  Hobgoblins and foul fiends should be scary…

My love of fantasy and allegory I think must come from this.  My bigger love of the hero/heroine who overcomes the monsters also dates from this.

Just one type of weapon the average hero might use in tackling the latest monster.
That’s one of the biggest things I like about classic fantasy.  Evil is always defeated, wrongs are put right, monsters are sorted out, the hero will overcome (and they can be the unexpected hero.  Frodo Baggins, the hobbit, is the obvious example in The Lord of the Rings.  I can’t think of any other small hero with hairy feet!  There’s hope for us all…). 

I also like Tolkien because he shows the effect of the strenuous quest on Frodo and that he is not unchanged by his experiences.  Tolkien also shows the invaluable comfort of the loyal friend in Sam.

The one thing you can guarantee with Rings of Power is they are nothing but trouble
We can all think of things in life which have hit us hard and to come across this in fiction I’ve found helpful. It can be a reminder you’re not alone in this.  It’s also good to know we have the Ultimate Loyal Friend in Jesus.

But, as any fan of Doctor Who will tell you, the biggest monsters in the universe are not the hobgoblins, the Daleks or the Cybermen.  That accolade belongs to us.  All 12 versions of the Doctor have made valid condemning comments about mankind’s warlike tendencies.

The Tardis - Doctor Who's time and space machine
Yet the Time Lord is keen to help us.  Why?  Because he sees the good in mankind too - our creativity, our ability to come up with helpful rather than warlike inventions and so on.  Does that remind you of someone?

With thankfully rare exceptions, the biggest monster we will face is the dark side of ourselves.  We need that monster defeated by a hero who knows all about our dark side yet can see the good in us too and the potential for greater good.  We need to be set free from that dark side.  That, of course, is Jesus’s role. 

Unlike the Time Lord, who is limited to helping one set of characters at a time (and who once his full cycle of regenerations is used up will die and that’s it), the marvellous thing about our Lord is He does rescue any and all of us simultaneously. Nor can He die again.

None of us are the “next episode” while He is busy sorting another poor soul out.  For that, we should be truly thankful.  We can call on Him at any time.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Working Together

Did you feel inclined to cheer at Merryl Streep’s attack on Donald Trump? Or perhaps rather at his retaliatory tweet, the one that said she was ‘overrated’? (I must admit to some sympathy with both…) But I have come to the conclusion that, in this time of crisis, to incline to such a response is to head up the wrong path. Retorts, rebuttals, refutations, repudiation, ridicule, mockery, sarcasm, satire, scorn: all those reactions. I crave the psychological release of using them as much as anyone. But I think that they only compound the evil.

A toad. We may be tempted to think of some people as toads.

My guess is that God is as much concerned about the way we debate and discuss divisive issues as about the substance of those issues. Perhaps more. A great deal of the distress I have felt over the last six months stems from the way people have responded to the crises with loaded speech or emotional behaviour, often crude. When we compare our instinctive behaviour to the standards embodied in the Gospel, we see at once that even Christians fall way below what is expected. We forget that we are going to be judged on our speech. Only this morning (10 January), in my daily New Testament chapter, I found myself reading:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.’

When our most disliked political figure says or does something that makes us want to blast them with invective, St Peter says bless them instead—and you may recall that Jesus said the same thing. And how do we bless disliked people from a distance? Well, of course, by praying for them.

Have you ever thought of prayer as a creative activity? We, as writers, whose craft is to imagine the best, the worst, and everything in between, are particularly well placed to practise creative praying. For me, praying creatively starts from a simple principle: God cares infinitely for every single person. He wants the very best for absolutely everyone. If he had his way they would get it right now, but, consistent with his loving nature, he upholds their freedom to reject it. Knowing that this is the ultimate purpose for all, I can set up in my praying imagination a scenario of well-being and blessing for those difficult characters. I can envisage all the virtue and kindness which God longs to form in their souls and ask for this to come about. I can try to smile on them the way God does. I’m offering my cooperation in his work of re-creation; working together with God, as St Paul puts it.

So I shall hold Donald, Theresa, Jeremy, Nigel, and the others before my inner eye, and I shall take up an attitude of goodwill, setting aside rejection and scorn. I am going to treat them as if they were respected friends, and I’m going to imagine the best that they could have and be and do. I’ll imagine the immense power that the US President has. What an exciting opportunity to do good! If he could just catch a vision of compassion—if he could be touched by the awareness of God’s compassion—what might he do! And similarly, in her smaller arena, Theresa. There is, of course, no guarantee of success. But it’s not about success, it’s about faithfulness.

Dorothy Kerin, one of my spiritual heroes, used to describe prayer as a ray which could be powerfully focused on its object. She was a healer, and perhaps thought in terms of that marvel of her youth, the X-ray (which we now know can have harmful effects!). But I think she was right. If we all focused the bright ray of loving, caring intercession on our leaders, especially those we dislike and fear, what creative possibilities there might be! What changes we might see in our society!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Unseen forces and beautiful vegetables

Our youngest daughter is doing a project on magnetism at school. This weekend she's been creeping round the house with a large magnet stabbing it at random metal items to see if they'll stick. Radiator, yes. Teaspoon, yes. Grandma's glasses, no. Thankfully.

This thing happened, and the angels were watching with a smile on their face.

My husband, PhD in physics, always delighted when the girls show an interest in something scientific (he's given up on me) got out a very sensitive set of kitchen scales. He placed a key on the scales and then slowly lowered the magnet over the key from above.

The key weighed 17g. As the magnet got closer, closer, the key weighed less and less.

14g...11g... 9.25g... 5.67g...

At 4.3g, the key jumped up to meet the magnet. Whoof. Just like that.

He kept the magnet and key hovering over the scales and the weight registering on the scales started showing minus numbers.  I didn't even know it could show minus numbers.  The metal plate on top of the scales was being pulled upwards by the magnet.

There was a force acting on the key and the scales that we couldn't see. Completely invisible, but it was there nonetheless and its effects were obvious. Electromagnetism, it's called. 'A bit like magic,' I remarked, and was met with a hard stare.

We don't know what electromagnetism is, but we know that it IS. We know what it does, but not really how or why. Apparently people think that it has something to do with spinning electrons but we're not sure. Personally, if I've ever known what an electron was, I've forgotten. All I know is that a magnet pulls things towards it. I can see it doing its thing.

It made me think of God. I see him even when he don't come and sit on the end of my bed and chat with me in an actually, physically there kind of way.

Irresistible, subtle, powerful, insistent, inexplicable. I can see him in the uniqueness of snowflakes and in the wonderful intimacy of a father and daughter both transfixed by a scientific wonder to the extent that they're oblivious to Mummy's inane comments.  I see him in dew on a spider's web and in orange evening sun on a bare tree. I see him all around, even when I can't see him at all.

I'm supposed to see him in all these things. He put himself in them because they're his creation, and because he wanted to draw people to himself. God is pulling like a magnet. You can sense the power of him, pulling.

We had this vegetable as part of Sunday lunch. It's called Romanesco Broccoli. Sort of like a bright green cross between a cauliflower and broccoli, and as vegetables go, it was the most beautiful vegetable I've ever seen; it was the hardest thing to cut it up.

It's a natural approximation of a fractal.

A fractal is a geometric shape that has symmetry of scale, which means that it's a shape that keeps doing the same thing over and over again. If you were to zoom in on a part of it, it would still look the same. I'm told this is called, 'self-similarity', but I fear I might get sucked into something equation-like and quite complicated if I go much deeper. I am a bear of very little brain when it comes to this stuff.

It gave Mr Scientist Husband another opportunity to hold forth with a captive audience at the table.

But check out this breathtaking vegetable and tell me, who wouldn't be impressed? I had a portion of it on my fork.

The romanesco broccoli swirls round in an intricate pattern repeated over and over again, smaller and smaller.  Quite beautiful; and rather tasty.

It made me wonder at a God who decides to make a vegetable fascinatingly intricate, geometrically beautiful. Why? Because he could.

For the same reason that it pleased him to make a metal key jump three inches towards a lowered magnet. For the same reason that he decided that every snowflake should be different. I don't think he can help yourself.

As I glance down from the screen to see my own fingers tap-tap-tapping at the keyboard I get a glimpse of the wonder of the Creator. This is what I'm doing right now: an observation turns to a thought and forms an idea (what on earth is an idea?!) which translates to words which make their way via synapses and ganglia to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, fingernails, skin until they are constructed using learned knowledge of a keyboard layout to transfer to a sentence on a virtual page.

Blows my mind. Even without trying to fathom the mystery that is a computer.

A drop of water.

As if there were not enough magic in a drop of water - essential, life-giving, beautiful, refracting light, beading on a leaf after rain, cleansing and refreshing - when you drop a single drop of water onto more water a crown appears. A crown! A crown made by a King.

All these miracles and magical tricks were just waiting for us to find them. Hidden away until such a time that we invented or discovered the means to see.

We didn't know that a water droplet makes a crown splash until we invented high speed photography. We didn't know about magnetism until someone discovered it.

As Louis Giglio points out in his 'Indescribable' * talk it wasn't until we had telescopes powerful enough to see that we found out that in the outer reaches of space is the Whirlpool Galaxy; in the very centre of that is the shape of a cross. Just waiting for us to find it and stop still in awe.

A crown, by the King.
A fractal in a vegetable! Just because you could.
A key jumping to meet a magnet, pulled by an invisible force.
The shape of a cross, in a dark, remote part of space, both foretelling and commemorating the work of redemption done on a hill near Jerusalem. An echo of God's plan to save us, from before our time began.

God created these things because he's the Creator and he added in all the hidden wonder that astonishes us just because it pleased him to do it.

He is beauty, and so the things he makes will be beautiful.
He is infinitely complex and creative and beyond understanding, and so his creation will be just like him.

We think we're getting there, don't we? We think that we are so clever with ever scientific breakthrough and discovery but the truth is that there is so much that we don't know. So much undiscovered wonder out there. We don't even know how much there is that we don't know.

I think that God must be watching us and waiting with a big smile, impatient for the day when we can see further, beyond the limits of our technology and our imaginations.

Microscopes that can see smaller.
Telescopes that can see further.
Human minds that need to be so much more open.

He's not remotely concerned that we will find him, guess all his secrets, threaten him with our growing knowledge and understanding - there is always more; we will never catch up. Always more treasure to find, delights to uncover. It goes on forever.

God told us that when we look for him, he will be found. As I pulled apart my newly magnetised knife and fork, and looked down at my Sunday dinner it occurred to me that we can find him in the strangest places.

Isn't that brilliant?

*Check this out: Louis Giglio 'Indescribable' 

Photographs mine except:
Water crown image 114345352538.jpg by stuartjessop, (though it wasn't for want of trying)
From Used with permission.

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. Or at least working on something.

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. Check back when the kids have left home. 

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray
Twitter: @helenmurray01

Sunday, 22 January 2017

When Nothing Goes Write, Like by Emily Owen

Well, maybe I’m not quite that bad at multi-tasking but when, over Christmas, all the comings and goings and doings meant that multi-tasking had to be multiplied, something had to give.
For me, that something was my Facebook page.
When I logged onto it on January 6th, I realised I’d not looked at it since December 23rd.

Two weeks.

I also noticed that, in my absence, the page had accumulated a few more ‘likes’.

I was ‘liked’.

Despite doing nothing.

God says to Jeremiah (1:5), ‘Before I formed you in your mother's womb, I chose you.’
I chose you to stick with me, Jeremiah.
To follow me.
You’ve done nothing yet.
You’ve not even been born.
But I’ve chosen you.

Those people chose to follow my Facebook page.
Chose to click ‘like’.
Even though I’d done nothing.

Some days, I have ‘nothing’ days.
Nothing’s gone right days.
Nothing’s gone ‘write’ days.

Oh, the plan was to get it ‘write’.
To pen copious words of such flowing perfection that they took my breath away.
And I end the day wordlessly breath-full.

I’m not very keen on those days.
I certainly don’t like myself much.
I have no words.
I’ve done nothing.

And yet, as I gaze back on the mute day, some words do reach me through it all:
‘Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I chose you.’
Before you’d written - or not written - a single word.
I chose you.
Or before you’d completed - or not completed - your to-do list.
I chose you.
Or before you got - or didn’t get - cross or grumpy.
I chose you.
Before anything, I chose you.
And I chose you when you’d done nothing….

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Lord's Yearly Ruth Johnson

For I know the plans  I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Jer 29:11

We live in exciting, but tumultuous days, as did Jeremiah.  How good it is to know God has a plan for us, and He desires to reveal Himself to us in greater measure.  I see my life as a training ground, my hope is based in Him and the knowledge that I am being prepared for an eternal future with Him. However, the Lord often speaks to me through earthly things.

Eighteen months ago my daughter gave me an adult colouring book and pens for my birthday.  Within weeks newspapers were reporting that this was the latest trend started by Johanna Basford whose sketching attracted a friend to ask if she’d do copies for her to colour.  Since the first “An Inky Adventure and Colouring Book” was published there have been two further beautifully soft bound books released making her probably thousands, if not millions, of pounds.  It has been said that such a pastime will relax the body and mind and help break off anxiety and stress.  This Christmas there were dozens of adult colouring books in huge piles for sale.

Hebrews  4:10 “For he that has entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. 11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall according to the same example of unbelief.”  The best rest is obviously God's, but so often our lives feel like ‘inky adventures'.  We’ve a sketch of His plan, it's our characters and personalities that colour them in, and I suspect we often feel we could have done better!   Above is the same sketched pattern completed twenty years ago by my daughter and I. It reminds me that we all start out with God’s pattern for life, and He gives us the freedom to be unique along with the ability to grow in our response to what we see and hear.

To add to that a fortnight ago I came across perhaps the next phase or craze!  An adult 'dot to dot' book with several hundred numbers to join before the sketch was formed to colour in!   It caused me to consider if we sometimes see our lives so fragmented that there are seemingly hundreds of dots to join before we begin to grasp the bare outline of God’s plan for us.  But I remembered the Bible tells us circumstances, difficulties, troubles, produce character and shape our personalities.  It is in those times I know I need to press through in the belief that the Lord's desire is to love and bless me.  When I put my hand in His I begin to see the intricacies of His sketch as He guides, teaches and shows me how to form and bring colour to my life.  It is my hope through that to reflect the richness and beauty of He who lives within me.    

Friday, 20 January 2017

A struggling scribbler from Kent... by Sue Russell

A favourite quotation of mine comes from the composer Gustav Holst. 'If nobody likes your work, you have to go on for the sake of the work. And you're in no danger of letting the public make you repeat yourself.'
In the early years of his career Holst couldn't earn a living from his composing and instead played the trombone professionally. It may have been his failure to attract an enthusiastic following initially (rather a common experience!) that made him particularly aware of the dangers of taking oneself too seriously, and perhaps we should be too. In fact as Christians we should be less prone to this peccadillo than most artistic navel-gazers; we believe, don't we? that God has equipped us with certain gifts and we are to use them for his glory and the benefit of others, leaving the outcome to him. If we can put this into practice, it's quite a relief. I'm as susceptible to worrying about reviews (or the lack of them), who likes what I write, who doesn't, and all the rest of it, as anyone. But how wonderful to realise it's not ultimately my problem!
So in pursuit of a little light-heartedness I thought I would tell you about a small celebration coming up, as it happens on the same day as this post is published. I belong to two writers' groups, the ACW one and a secular group which I have been attending on and off for several years. Instead of a Christmas party or meal one of our group has invited us to her house for dinner - and something which has become a tradition: a limerick competition. She and her husband have recently moved house, and none of us has seen the new place yet, so the subject of the limericks is 'Moving.' Each of us has been asked to submit a limerick ( or two), and since my husband is not literarily inclined (apart from being a discerning reader, and supporting my efforts) it falls to me to compose one for him. I did a tiny bit of research about limericks and found that the form has been around for  centuries, usually as a vehicle for smut and scurrility, but was popularised by the multi-talented Edward Lear, whose limericks, while silly, were at least clean. I freely admit I find cooking up idiotic limericks a lot easier than blog posts.

Here's the one I'm thinking of submitting on my husband's behalf, and I make no apology for frivolity.
A lonely young lady from Leicester
Whose life, she decided, depressed her
Got fed up with waiting
And tried online dating.
Now she lives with a wrestler in Chester.

Let's hope and pray that the coming year gives us the opportunities we seek to move forward ourselves, to advance God's kingdom and glory rather than our own, and have a little fun at the same time.
Happy New Year!

Sue Russell writes as S.L.Russell and has five novels available in the usual places. Leviathan with a Fish-hook, The Monster Behemoth, and The Land of Nimrod are a trilogy, then there are two stand-alones, A Shed in a Cucumber Field and An Iron Yoke. A sixth should be making an appearance early in 2017.

Sue lives in Kent with her husband, currently one grown-up daughter, and Rosie the dog. She is an amateur singer and a church organist, and blogs at

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Unexpected will Happen, by Wendy H. Jones

Today, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, I found my self unexpectedly writing a blog post. Having not thought about this in advance I spent some time wondering what to write about. I had a busy day planned and writing a blog wasn't part of that plan. However, it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It has given me an opportunity to think abut how I react when the unexpected happens and throws my best laid plans into chaos.

The picture of the duck is intentional, mainly because it's a bonnie wee duck. Who can fail to be happy when faced with a yellow ball of fluff. However, it also serves as a metaphor for the various ways in which we act when the unexpected happens.

Usually the first reaction when something strays into the path of our ordered day is to panic. This can have its place but doesn't really help solve the immediate problem. Chaos ensues and nothing gets done. Except eating chocolate of course. That always gets done.

Then there's the opposite approach. Do nothing. Stay serene and sail smoothly along like our duck. Just ignore the fact that there is an extra task to be done. Again this may make us feel better in the short term but doesn't help in any way shape or form in the medium or long term. That task still needs to be done, or we can reap the consequences of ignoring it.

So what is the best plan of action. I find that it's best to act just like the bonnie wee duck. Stay calm but paddle like a viking warrior at the oars of a longship. Pray, prioritise and persevere. Put one finger in front of the other on the keyboard and before you know it all tasks will be completed.

So that's what I did and here we have the blog to prove it. My advise to you when you feel overwhelmed is to take one thing at a time. The tsunami will be diverted and you'll still be alive to tell the tale. You will also have completed one more unexpected task.

About the Author


 Wendy H. Jones is the author of the best selling DI Shona McKenzie Mystery series of crime novels set in Dundee. Killer's Crew, the fifth booking the series was released in November, 2016. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016.  She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Midnight musings from a writer's journal by Joy Lenton

It's dead of night. My body is resting but thoughts circle like restless birds. Trying not to leak black ink onto whiteness of pillow, I scribble in a notepad, needing to put pen to paper.

Here's what emerged in the midnight hours...

"Words have been rather stilled of late. Once they ran so freely I could scarce keep pace with them. Strangely, poetry often flows more easily than prose when I'm extra fatigued. It makes me wonder if we can only focus on one facet at a time: Storytelling, fiction writing, memoir, articles, functional narrative, or poetry in all its various guises.

I cannot always cajole poetry. She's capricious, wilful, shy. Her alchemy fails when I push too hard, strain for a rhyme or press to combine this word or that into magic potions of my own devising. 

When I simply let her alone, ignore my desire to pen the poetic, then she returns. Quietly at first. A line or two to get me started. A word that lingers like honey on the tongue. Eventually my poetic Muse (Holy Spirit) yields a few phrases and allows me space to create. Instead of dredging for pearls, I find they flit through my fingers, scatter their largesse. 

Instead of sitting with the sludge of frustration and settling into despondency, poetry's entry turns me into a deft weaver of words, spinner of rhythm and rhyme, with a sweeter expression than before.

She teaches me patience and the power of concentration mixed with creative imagination. Poetry reaches into my heart to prise apart soul feelings, stir the melting pot of emotions into a semblance of sensibility, which others can relate to.

In those times when we are together companionably, I am grateful for poetry's presence. When she departs briefly (or maybe for weeks), then I seek solace in writing of another kind.

Because I need to let loose. I cannot stop simply because poetry has temporarily pulled the plug on me. Allowing calm to come and refusing anxiety admittance will aid me to stay alert for her return. And when she arrives? I feign a little insouciance. But inside? I could cry with relief. Life is less than it can be when I'm missing poetry."

In order to keep the creative juices flowing in drier seasons I still try to write something each day—maybe a few words in a journal, a line or two that doesn't go anywhere yet, a poem that stalls but might be recoverable later on. 

Several notepads sit around the house, because I'm open to inspiration arriving at any time and in numerous ways. Thankfully, God knows just how and when we need to receive it!

A little bit each day

I write a little bit each day
because life's rhythm pulses
through my veinsaching to be birthed
in poetryand words find a way
to crawl slow upon the page
beating the blues, weaving through
my weariness and pain, until
they start to sing freely again

Sleep is always preferable to being woken with words buzzing in our heads, but I'm learning to listen to the small snatches that come my way and to be grateful for them. I'm also trying new things such as found/magnetic poetry and flash fiction, plus reading fiction—alongside my usual fare of memoir, Christian living and poetry booksfor future inspiration.

How about you—have you tried a new style or genre lately?
What helps you to remain creative? 

PS: If you can identify with writing/poetry being challenging, you may also like to read more here about scrambling for words and how God inspires us anew.

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.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Dealing with distraction by Claire Musters

Cheesecake - fuel or distraction?
We have had many a humorous moment discussing cheesecake, and our desperate need of it (or chocolate), over on the ACW Facebook page haven’t we? But, to be serious for a moment, I have found I have been severely distracted over the last few months, finding it difficult to settle down to work each day.

Not used to being distracted much, I have been questioning why it is happening. I believe part of it is due to a sense of dissatisfaction. I’m experiencing it in my walk with God, too, and I can sense Him beckoning me to go deeper and explore new things so I’m no longer satisfied by the status quo. Perhaps it is the same with my writing – although I think part of the distraction is down to the fact I am working on something so close to my heart.

A quick search online shows a wealth of articles from ‘writing experts’ telling us how to beat all writing distractions. But, I wonder, whether distraction is always an enemy – or whether it can open us up to new possibilities.

I totally understand that writing takes discipline, grit, determination, focus and routine. As a task-orientated person, I’ve always had a checklist of what writing needs to be done each day, and have enjoyed being able to tick each item off once done.

However, I was interested by this quote from Stephen King in On Writing: “In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways.”

Do distractions ever lead you to new and interesting ideas that you would have never otherwise have thought of for your writing? Or perhaps a distraction has given you an unexpected break, which you found you had really needed as you then went back to your writing with fresh vigour?

God has been talking to me recently about loosening my grip on my working day. I am very disciplined about keeping it to the hours my kids are at school, but that does mean I tend to be rigidly chained to my desk during the school day. But God has asked me to leave my schedule slightly more open, so that I can meet a friend in need when necessary, or grab another unplanned positive opportunity that may come up.

I have begun to do this, and have found that it has opened up all sorts of experiences that have challenged and stretched me as a person. It has also provided a wealth of writing ideas I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought of while sat at my desk staring at the screen.

I’m currently still working on the art of distraction, battling through the tension of its good and bad elements. I would love to hear your own stories of when becoming distracted has provided you with an unexpected lift or driven you, literally, to distraction!

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker 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 Into Managing Conflict and Insight Into Self-acceptance, 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 co-written book, Insight Into Burnout, is due out in February 2017. She is currently working on her next book, Taking off the mask: learning to live authentically. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.