ACW

ACW

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

In the deep and dark recesses of space, God moves. By Trevor Thorn

A song of praise to the 'Maker of Heaven and earth and the entire cosmos


LITTLE CANTICLE 22 (One of a series of 150)

In the deep and dark recesses of space, God moves.

In the whirling orderliness of galaxies, God moves.

In the precise and sensitive balances which hold planetary and galactic systems together, God moves.

In the continuously gigantic forces which fashion and refashion stars, God moves.

In conditions of turmoil in the firmament which confound our understanding, God moves. 

In the preservation of the cosmic vastness, God moves.

In the gift of light across the universe and to a darkened world, God moves.

Yet amidst these cosmic realities he is mindful of humanity: he gave his Son to suffer our woes and his Spirit to comfort us.

How can we comprehend the substance of one so great? Who could destroy the universe with a word?

Whose great love has not only given all that we can see and hear on earth and in the depths of space, but far, far more.

Is it little wonder angels worship him? Or that saints give everlasting praise?

Yet this is a God who hears us if we call upon him: He will bid us, "Come".

Not into the great turmoil of incomprehension; but into the tiny stillness of expectant silence.

Open our hearts and our minds, O God; to see your hand in the universe and hear your voice in the quietness of contemplation.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Connecting and dividing, by Eve Lockett

‘I wish you would make up your mind, Mr Dickens.
Was it the best of times or was it the worst of times?
It could scarcely have been both.’
    

It was Virginia Woolf (not in person) who taught me that poets see connections and scientists see divisions. In other words, scientists classify things by their separation from other things: poets discern links and mergers.

Well, that itself should begin a debate! But let me follow it up a little. In our church, we have a strong mix of ‘arts and sciences’. In a recent Bible study, someone with a science background asked me why I had chosen two separate readings which, in her view, had simply nothing in common. The poet in the room began listing all the connections, which was exactly why I had chosen them.

I’ve noticed some people have trouble understanding, and therefore believing, a passage in the Bible because they want the words to mean only one thing, and that thing to be clearly stated. Writers know that words don’t work like that. You try to pin one down and it wriggles away, joins up with its friends, then teasingly waves at you as you pursue it down a winding track till you end up where you started, only deeper in.

I have met strong Christians who tell me that paradox and mystery have no place in Christian faith – Jesus spoke with clear meaning, and all mystery is revealed in him; mystery and paradox are for those who worship saints and follow superstitions.

I suspect some of you may already be remembering bruising encounters with people who have read your own work, and dismissed it as obscure or dodgy. They wonder why you can’t state the Christian gospel clearly, or why your characters are flawed, or why you leave some threads hanging in the air. If you say, ‘because life, or truth, is like that,’ it only makes things worse.

This isn’t meant to be an exercise in the superiority of art over science. However, I think it’s helpful to understand how some people process what they read, so that we are careful whose criticism we accept and whose discouragement we disallow. It also gives us as writers a genuine task to counter literalism by continuing to be nuanced and suggestive in our work. And, of course, I’m overstating the division between scientists and poets. We need both approaches to achieve a balance, and a world without systematic thinking would be terrifyingly nebulous.  Nor are all scientists literalists. Many are also poets and artists, like Trevor Thorn.

We see the perfect balance in Genesis 1, where we have the great artist/scientist/creator God, speaking and separating at the same time, making and defining, setting boundaries and giving freedom, brooding lovingly over his work and casting a critical eye over its quality. In the same way, in Jesus we have the one who unites and separates, whose words are allusive, visionary, and yet dangerously direct! How do you describe the kingdom of God? ‘A man found a pearl in a field, sold all he had and bought the field.’ ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no part in me.’ ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘Before Abraham was, I am!’

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Tell Me a Story, by Fiona Lloyd


Those of you who know me well may well be surprised to hear that we decided to holiday somewhere other than Whitby this half-term. Armed with a smattering of dusty phrases from my O-level German and a stack of guidebooks loaned by more well-travelled friends, we set off for a long weekend in Berlin.

            The hotel we stayed in was not the poshest I’ve ever been in, but it did have the advantage of being fairly central (just off Aleksanderplatz), and therefore only two minutes’ walk from one of the main tour bus stops. Given that the temperature was only just above freezing, this was an excellent way for us to get a historical overview of the city (without succumbing to frostbite in the process).

I’m old enough to remember the fall of the Berlin wall, and how the political upheaval in Eastern Europe dominated the news headlines for several weeks. But it’s hard to gauge the impact of this – or the pressures of living in a divided city – from looking at a television screen. Riding and walking around the streets of Berlin brought history to life in a new way. In particular, visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial and reading the accounts of families who were separated by the wall, or whose homes were boarded up to prevent people using them as an escape route, was a deeply moving experience.

            Seeing photographs of distraught faces and of people leaping from windows to escape fleshed out the story and made it seem far more real. Similarly, visiting the Jewish museum and seeing the everyday items left behind as families fled from – or were taken away by – the Nazis, emphasised the horror of that terrible period. 

            This is turning out to be a far gloomier post than I intended…but I think it serves to show the value of human stories, and how they can affect our writing. Readers care about characters they can engage with, whether fictional or otherwise. Small details and personal stories can move and challenge us in a way that sweeping description and carefully researched facts may not. If we can make our readers laugh or cry or reflect because they see something of themselves in our writing, then our words will linger in their minds long after they have turned the last page.


Fiona Lloyd is vice-chair of the Association of Christian Writers, and is married with three grown-up children. Her first novel, The Diary of a (trying to be holy) Mum, was published by Instant Apostle in January 2018. Fiona has also had short stories published in Woman Alive and Writers’ News, and has written articles for Christian Writer and Together Magazine. Fiona works part-time as a music teacher, and is a member of the worship-leading team at her local church.

Twitter: @FionaJLloyd & @FionaLloyd16


Saturday, 24 February 2018

Ugliness in Fiction

A severe family health crisis this week has prevented my writing a blog, and I offer instead this extract from the concluding part of an article ‘On Ugliness in Fiction’ in the Edinburgh Review of April 1908 (pages 463-4).

A somewhat tardily exhibited regard for space induces us to cut short our chain of analyses. It was necessary to make it sufficiently long to assure our readers that the evil to which they point is of sufficiently frequent manifestation to warrant attention. But we have by no means exhausted our stock of examples. Many of those which remain are such as to render any description of them difficult in the pages of this Review. 

Once more let us emphatically say that our reduction to their bare poles of the plots which we have given was neither unfairly nor unkindly meant. We have done it in order to place, without confusion or admixture, one question before contemporary writers of fiction: ‘Why work upon a bad subject? Why prostitute your undoubted literary gifts?’ All novels should be contributions towards the liberal education of their readers. Though not to be obtruded, this purpose should be unswervingly kept in view. So delicately should the teaching be administered that it should be imbibed almost insensibly by the scholar. 

None of our really great novelists have posed as pedagogues; but who among us, all the same, has not felt that he has risen up the better for having read one of their books? Have they not laid bare to us our failings, our affectations, our self-seeking, our vanities, our falsenesses?—some quality of conduct, positive or negative, which has prevented us from deserving that useful, if sartorial epithet, ‘thorough-stitched’? Do not such writers place before us ideals of a practical altitude to which we may hopefully aspire, and, in contrast with them, lower standards of sufficient likeness to our own unassisted views of life to strike us with their perilous proximity? And because such men bestow these serious boons on us, are they in any way shorn of their powers to interest, excite, and amuse? How varied are their characterisations, how free is their fun, how sound their pathos; how true their love of landscape, how rich and vivid their descriptions of external nature! Have we any real need to justify ourselves when we beg their successors in art to work in the same fields which they and many good men before them have indeed tilled, but which no amount of cropping will ever exhaust? 

By all means, in order to achieve actuality give all types and topics their due places in the broad pages of art, just as they take them in the life-dramas which we see enacted around us. But do not let the evil and the phantastic usurp the field of presentation, nor let necessary shadows grow till they obscure the picture, the main qualities of which should still be brightness and beauty. Every artist should remember that his own nature rises and sinks with the choice of his subjects no less surely than it rises and sinks with the earnestness of the work which he puts into them. And of all artists the novelist is specially bound to gauge his responsibility by the reflexion that inasmuch as the novel is devoured by larger crowds than those which are accessible to any other form of didactic literature, its debasement spreads moral decadence over a proportionately greater section of mankind.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Who am I? An exercise - by Helen Murray

Someone asked me who I was. What would I say? On my blog I am defined by relationships: I am someone's wife, someone's daughter, someone's mother. On Twitter I am defined by what I do: I am a reader, a writer, a swimmer, a coffee drinker. On my most basic, spiritual level, I am an adopted daughter of the Creator of the world - is that the best answer?

Well, here are my musings. I suppose you could call this the long answer. I'm recording it here not because I know that you'll all be hanging on my every life-experience but for this reason: as I wrote down this stream-of-consciousness outpouring of thoughts and memories I found my head flooded with inspiration for things I wanted to write about. If you ever find yourself with your digits hovering over the home keys with a blank page ahead of you and no words, try it. The key is not to get too bogged down in explanations, chronology or even tenses, but to pour it all onto paper and see what comes out.


Pleased to meet you.

I am from Chesterfield, an unremarkable Midlands town with a crooked spire and Roman history, once great but now faded market and struggling town centre. Peak District hills and dales and moors and crags. I am from the county furthest from the sea in a small, crowded island that can sometimes feel big.

I am from a 1930s bay window dormer bungalow, back garden photographs in brown and orange 1970s flares, chunky legs and a scowl in front of the newly planted conifer, tiny then, towering last year, now only a stump. I am from the endless summer, 1976 drought, bathwater slopping down the garden to water the vegetables, plague of ladybirds, lizards in the rockery. I am snowmen and snow-in-your-wellies and cocoa with sugar in blue and white striped mugs.

I am made of buckets and spades, hunts for seashells, scared of seaweed, little flags on sandcastles. Caravans and car journeys, travel sickness tablets and lay-bys. I am from pub-lunches and motorbike rides and leapfrogs and awful school dinners.

I was the one in 'Jesus' sandals with ankle socks, sensible shoes, gabardine raincoats, wonky fringe, cheese and beetroot sandwiches, skipping ropes, grazed knees and space hoppers. Shoe buckles snagging on the sofa cushions,  wax crayons and writing stories in tiny notebooks. Beans on toast, pikelets with melted butter and tinned fruit and ice cream that you cut in slices. My mum's rice pudding; the best in the world.

I remember Sunday lunch at Grandma's, chicken and gravy and boring grown up conversation and rhubarb-from-the-garden suet pudding and custard made from scratch. I remember rocking chairs and setting lotion and cigarette smoke and bags of sweets and leaving my comfort blanket behind and insisting that Dad goes out in the night to fetch it. I remember kiss-it-better and it won't always be dark at six and if at first you don't succeed... I am reserved and English and stiff-upper-lip and a smile costs nothing.

I loved Enid Blyton and Helen Dore Boylston and Nancy Drew and Jill's Gymkhana. I pored over Bunty magazine, and my brother's Beano and then Just Seventeen and Mizz and Cosmopolitan. I loved shopping with Mum, saving up for things, cracking open the piggy bank, giving things to Dad to mend rather than buy new.

I date back to Listen with Mother and Magic Roundabout with Dad and Andy Pandy with Mum and Mary, Mungo and Midge. The longing for a Blue Peter Badge and the innocence of Jim'll Fix It and the excitement of Why Don't You...? Jacques Cousteau's Undersea World and the dull bit at the end of The Two Ronnies. Cigarette smoke in the sitting room during The Antiques Roadshow, staying up late on New Year's Eve watching The Sound of Music for the very first time.

I am eager to please, english lessons easy and maths lessons hard; too much homework each night and ice on the inside of the bedroom window above my desk. I was the bullied, the insecure, the fearful, the betrayed, the distrustful. I did adolescence in the company of boys, not girls, much more straightforward that way.

I was into hotbrushes, big hair, hairspray and new-fangled Sodastream. Into rolled up jacket sleeves and 'Flashdance' and 'Pretty In Pink' and 'The Breakfast Club'.

I had Slinkies and Sindy dolls and Pippa and thought that ET was not remotely cute; unmoved when he nearly died and yes, Auntie, I did understand it.

I remember Atari tennis blip blip electronic games and longing for a hand-held Donkey Kong game that everyone had but meI remember three TV channels and no video; the girl with the teddy and blackboard when the telly was finished. I remember our first phone installed in the hall and it went bring bring and we sat on the stairs in a draught to talk.

I was a teenager in the middle of a huge crowd on a hot, hot day in May listening to an evangelist introduce me to Jesus Christ. I was one of those struggling past rows of knees to get to the aisle, self-consciousness miraculously forgotten, to turn my tearstained face upwards and say yes please to the One who really saw me.

I was a gung-ho church youth group member, teen camps in the Lake District, boyfriends, exam-passing, teacher-pleasing (mostly) and the first in the family to go to university. I revelled in Bronte, Hardy, John Clare, Keats and Shelley, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Jonson, Rosetti, Milton and Byron and the whodunnit? I drank cider in half-pints because I didn't know how to order anything else.

I was definitely churchy, goody-goody, black and white, right and wrong, finding out about the grey the hard way. I had the broken heart, deeply hurt, church work disillusionment and faith on the back burner for a long time. I wept because of broken friendships, loneliness, confusion and low self esteem. I started out knowing what I want, then changed my mind, changed direction, worried my parents.

I moved on to leaving the country, running from decisions, backpacking, bewildering long haul flights and sleeping on coaches, brushing teeth out of the window, getting by with foreign languages, watching my back, camping under the stars; geyser fields and sunrises, waterfalls, volcanoes and air so thin it's hard to breathe. The beauty and the grime and the wonder and the riches and the poverty. Postcards and souvenirs.

I moved around a bit.  Newcastle upon Tyne, Liverpool, Essex, London. Old friends, new friends, new town, new university, new boyfriend; a keeper. Anatomy, physiology, sociology, psychology. More exams, romance, wedding magazines and flowers. These days were simple: happy, holding hands, holidays and freedom; uniforms, paperwork, hospitals, holding hands, comforting, healing, mending bodies, teaching skills, ticking boxes, climbing the ladder, striving, achieving, trying so hard but wondering what else there is.

I am all sentimentality, memories, diaries, journals, fragments of stories. Love and joy and the blue line in the box and wonderful, hopeful expectation; baby name books and bumps and kicks and then ... the late night phone call and the speed-limit drive and paramedics shaking their heads and checking my blood pressure and crushing, shocking bereavement and numbness and undertakers and flowers and funerals.

Days later contractions and ragged breaths and another late night dash of a different kind.  I remember congratulations cards among the condolence cards and not knowing which flowers were for what, from whom. I know fractured sleep and crying babies and Moses baskets and mobiles and feeding charts and confusion, exhaustion and black despair. I know post natal depression, lost and lonely and fearful.

Then, one day, I remember coming home to the church of my teenage years and finding that it was not God who went away but me. There He was with arms wide open to hold me tight.

I came back to live in the house with the wonderful tussocky grass for playing on and the conifer tree stump and the rhubarb patch and the people who mean the world to me.

I am now middle aged with aching joints and calorie counting and comfort-eating and swimming and gymming and making excuses. I am almost beyond self-conscious and inhibited, fresh from the land of low self-esteem and distorted self-image.

I have come awake again to the truth of how much I am loved, just as I am, in all my imperfection, and I want to tell the world: if I am loved like this, then you are too.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude and awe and empty-handed, head-bowed thanksgiving. I love hands-in-the-air worship where the angels' voices mingle with mine and I glimpse eternity; I revel in the silence and space of quiet prayer and scribbling my life in journal conversations with my Saviour and my friend. I see Him, I hear Him, I feel Him, I am after His heart.

I have come from closed-fist to open-palm, from rags to riches, from darkness to light. From lost to found.

I am a wife and a mother and a daughter and a sister and a friend. I am a reader and a writer.

I am a child of God.



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

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

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

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray
Twitter: @helenmurray01

Thursday, 22 February 2018

All in a Spin by Emily Owen


An engineer came to fix the stubbornly-refusing-to-spin washing machine.  

I made him a cup of tea and then waited while he looked at the machine. 

His diagnosis of the problem?

“You have an unbalanced load.”

A what? I had no idea what he meant, but that didn’t matter.  He was here to sort it, which was all I needed to know. 

“How long will it take you to fix?”

He took a sip of tea; “I can’t fix it.”

Right.

“But I can tell you how to sort it.”

It seemed the fact that he was here was not all I needed to know.

You have an unbalanced load.

Apparently an unbalanced load is when the washing is all squashed on one side of the drum, and it causes the spin to not spin. It stops the spin from working properly.

You have an unbalanced load.

The way to sort it out is to stop the cycle, open the door, rearrange the washing so it is spread more evenly in the drum, shut the door, and put it on ‘spin’ again.

I confess I was relieved that the solution was not more technical!  I think I have a vague chance of actually managing to follow these instructions.

But it got me thinking.

You have an unbalanced load.

Do I?

Does the washing – the mix of thoughts and feelings and shapes and sizes and pressures and commitments and, and, and – inside me become all squashed in the wrong place and stop me working properly?

Stop me living as God intended me to live?

I thought about this as I poured myself a second cup of tea.

You have an unbalanced load.

I think I have.

Sometimes.

More than sometimes.

Stop. Open the door. Balance out the washing. Go again. Repeat as necessary.


I probably know even less about yokes than I do about washing machines, but a look on Google seems to confirm what I suspected: a yoke is not fitted whilst the animal is moving.



Stop.
Take His yoke upon you.
Balance out your load.
Go again.
Repeat as necessary.


Another thing I learned, as a budding washing machine expert, is that the load does not have to be unbalanced in the first place. There is an optimum load which will never stop the spin from working properly.

The tricky thing is finding that optimum.  It is different for every machine. 

Every machine is made with the ability to work correctly. 

Unhindered. 

But it needs to be filled with the correct balance of things.

A load weighted, not a load weighed down.

A balanced load.

A ‘working properly’ load.

A load made easier simply because it is known....



Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The currency of the Kingdom of God




"For where your treasure
 is, there will your heart 
also be."
                        Matt.6.21





Two weeks ago I felt the Lord clearly say, "The currency of the Kingdom is in your hand."   I had been asking Him about a picture given in a recent prayer meeting where the Lord was seen putting a gold coin in our open hands.  At the time I sensed God was saying He knows our hearts, He values every prayer, He is blessed when we take time out to seek Him, and He desires that we might know Him as He knows us.

What is the currency of the Kingdom of God?  In Jesus day it was a Roman coin.  If one is found today, it’s origin is tested, and although no longer legal tender, often more than valuable than at the time of issue. Due to the circulation of counterfeits our pound coin had to be replaced, the old worth nothing.  Centuries have passed, and I wonder is it a ‘coin’ incidence that the currency of any country tends to bear the face of the one who is seen to rule over it? 

Is the currency the Word of God for that gives insight to the face of God, being Father, Son and Holy Spirit?  In which case Matthew and Luke tell us we should store our treasure in heaven rather than earth.  And that brings another question, “What do we treasure?”

In Ephesians we read that we have a deposit of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit within us,which is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead!  Wow! Now that is something to desire and treasure. Yet, I don’t think many of God’s people have attained even the faith, let alone the ability to make the dead arise.  But we do know with the parable of the talents that God has a desire for us to reinvest what we have been given into His Kingdom. 

God met Moses in the wilderness and asked, “What is in your hand?” Moses, an Israelite rescued at birth, had lived in Pharaoh’s palace for 40 years, and the same time in the desert. His only tool was His staff to guide the sheep. That was God's preparation and timing before using Moses to release the Israelites from Egyptian captivity and guide them to the Promised Land.

In ACW we may feel called to write. Our tool a pen in the hand, or a computer at our finger tips.  1 Cor.13: Love is the greatest gift; Hebrews 11: Faith is commended; Ps.37: Trust, commitment, delight in the Lord brings hearts’ desires.  Moses revealed all of these.  I would suggest these things in the Word of God is the currency of the Kingdom and still legal tender, despite the world’s counterfeit attempts to prove otherwise. There was unbelief and dissention among God’s people then, so it’s good to know nothing can thwart God’s plans.  And, equipped with His Word and His Spirit let’s invest our time and talents in Him, for the currency of His Kingdom can purchase more than we could hope or imagine.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Who's in charge here? by Sue Russell

Recently I gave a talk about my writing to a small group of British Christians in France - nothing very high-powered, and they were all very kind and attentive. Some of them even bought books! One person asked me whether I had a favourite among my titles, and this was something I didn't  remember having been asked before, and hadn't really thought about; but when  I did, I realised that my first three books - a trilogy, so arguably one story - were particularly close to my heart, despite being replete with the flaws that often bedevil one's first efforts. With the wisdom of hindsight I could see that in this story I was teaching myself something through the experiences of the protagonist - something I needed to learn: in short, to depend on God and not on myself.
Obviously if I were to be asked, then or now,'Who is wiser, you or God?' I would answer, 'God, of course.' Anything else would clearly be insane. In my case self-reliance was (and maybe to some extent still is) an unthinking, almost automatic default. That long story in three parts was (among other things) a working-out of my need to learn a lesson that more sensible souls have learned long ago. In the past my modus operandi would have been to come up with a great idea (so I thought), run it past a few people (maybe) and then forge ahead. I'd get it done, dust off my hands, and move on to the next thing. Perfect, I thought. No chance of  boredom.But perhaps other things too were teaching me that not everything is susceptible to such a model - parenthood, for instance.
I try these days to lay projects before God, to pray for guidance before I begin rather than as a guilty afterthought. But it doesn't always happen. We are all, I suppose, for ever falling down, and it's usually the same old things that trip us up. I was thinking these thoughts, with a view to this blog, and then today I heard two very different sermons about giving something up for Lent - specifically, giving up control. It was peculiarly apposite. The second of these sermons was hard-hitting, making the small sacrifice of a six-week chocolate or alcohol fast seem quite paltry compared to the huge sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
After those first three books, I experienced a lengthy period of having absolutely no idea where to go next. Eventually a germ of a clue materialised and grew and became a novel, but this happened every time. My creative brain was blank; nothing chimed. So there came a point when I asked God to supply me with an idea I could get behind if he wanted me to continue writing in his name and for his honour. If no such inspiration arrived I would conclude that he wanted me to do something else, and I hoped that I would obey, even if it hurt. So far he has answered that prayer four times, even though I had to wait for some while in the corridor before a door opened.
Perhaps this is something that happens as we get older, with the unavoidable knowledge of loss of strength and sometimes loss of confidence, the knowledge of the brevity and fragility of life. But perhaps I am finally learning to lean on God and not on  my own understanding.
What is your default? I suspect many of us have one and that it's an ongoing struggle.
(I have decided not to give something up for Lent; instead, as in other years, I am taking up something extra, this year being the recent ACW  Lent anthology. Since I like reading, this might be regarded as not much of a sacrifice!)


My latest novel is A Vision of Locusts, published by Instant Apostle. You can find me on my website www.slrussell.net or my blog www.suerussellsblog.blogspot.co.uk


Monday, 19 February 2018

Spotting snares, by Veronica Zundel

Yesterday at church a line in a familiar hymn struck me anew. Actually, the line itself wasn't that familiar, because it was in a verse that's rarely sung, and indeed not even printed in most hymnals. The hymn was the well known 'Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go', which in the Anglican hymnal Common Praise has all six original verses, and being a church which never misses out verses, we sang them all (actually, just before the service I heard our churchwarden say 'Verses 1-9' to the organist, and was relieved when I realised she was referring to the sung Psalm, not to a hymn with nine verses!).

Any road, as they say where I come from, this particular rare verse began 'Preserve me from my calling's snare', and it brought me up short. What did it mean? It's a Charles Wesley hymn, so he could have meant his calling as, originally, an Anglican priest. But since it's  for congregational singing, it must have been intended to focus the singers on their own individual callings, whether that be as shoemakers, lawyers or domestic managers (I don't recognize the term 'housewife'...). And for Charles himself, it is quite clear  that his primary calling was as a writer, in particular as a writer of hymns.

Perhaps each and every calling has its own concomitant 'snares'? Then what are the 'snares' of being a writer? I can think of several. The snare of wanting to be famous and acclaimed,  though few of us actually reach that height (even fewer encounter the snare of making a fortune from writing!). The snare, common to more of us, of believing we are dispensing unique wisdom, even the gospel itself - a snare especially close to those who write for the Christian market, whether devotionals, commentaries or 'Christian books' (as a writer of daily Bible notes I frequently want to remind my readers that they should not take my comments as gospel, only the Gospels can be taken as gospel).

Then there is the snare of wanting to count our lowly productions as 'literature', and in my case, that
of wanting to leave behind some writing that will still be read after I have, as we were reminded last Wednesday we will all do, 'returned to dust'. In reality, most of us who blog here are writing ephemera, which may influence many and be passed on to others, but may also not, and will almost certainly not join any canon studied by the studious after our deaths.

Perhaps the most perfidious snare is thinking that we are contributing to the Kingdom of God in some way superior to those who 'only' contribute by being a loving daughter, sister or parent, or by wiping the bottom of a relative with dementia, or indeed cleaning the toilets at church or at work. Writing doesn't actually put us into an exalted class of Christians whose work is more valuable than that of those who serve as dinner ladies or doctors or dog walkers or even deacons.  All members of the body of Christ matter equally, and being a mouthpiece doesn't make you more useful than being a big toenail, as I discovered last year when I lost both big toenails in the course of chemotherapy.

If we are called to be writers, then, let's always remember the snares attendant on that calling, and offer our little output in a spirit of humility and not one of self-importance. And I'm saying that as much to myself as to any of you.


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 BRF's 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 playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at reversedstandard.com