Thursday, 29 November 2018

Achieving Goals

Did you set any writing goals at the start of the year?  As we rapidly approach the end of another 12 months, how many of those goals did you achieve or are on the way to achieving?
Someone set some kind of goal here but I've yet to see this one achieved!  Pixabay image
If it is any comfort, I haven’t met all of mine either (though a number are underway).  I like to set some targets for the year because I’ve found having something positive to work towards incredibly helpful.  I am much more likely to achieve something having done that.   I suppose the goals seem more real when written down so it makes me get on with them.

Setting goals is a good idea.  You know what you're aiming for.   Pixabay image.

Do I “beat myself up” when it comes to NOT achieving all I would have liked to have done?  Absolutely not.  Life DOES get in the way at times and it can be a question of writing what you can when you can and hopefully getting to do more at a later date.  It is far more important to focus on what you CAN do but outlining some realistic thoughts on what this could be is a good idea. 

Let’s say you can only write a couple of hundred words a day, well look at turning those outpourings into flash fiction.  There is a wide range of markets and competitions out there taking 75 words, 100 words, 250 words and so on.  A story doesn’t have to be long to have impact or to be published.

Work out your possibilities.  Think short, medium and long term.  Pixabay image.

I understand the point of NaNo but have never taken part in it.  I know I couldn’t keep to the daily word count.  Some days I would exceed it, some days I would come in under it and I guess it would literally even out in the end.  I just know I would feel guilty if I didn’t “make it through” and I don’t want to put myself through that.

My preferred method, instead, is to have X number of stories written and submitted somewhere by the year end, so many posts written for Chandler’s Ford Today, some potential articles drafted for pitching at a later date, and to ask myself have I made progress on my latest flash fiction collection?

How will you do?  Can you turn the impossible into the possible?  Pixabay image

I then compare where I am this year with where I was the previous one and sometimes it is better, sometimes it is the same, sometimes it is less.  All of that is okay.  As long as you are happy with what you have achieved in the time available to you, this is all that matters.  Setting goals also means you are taking your writing seriously and for any success in publication to come, you must be the first person who does do that.  If you don’t take it seriously, why should anyone else?

The writing journey is a long one so setting goals along the route makes sense to me.  Pixabay image.
 One thing I have learned to do is to carve out what writing time I can and stick to it. Family and friends are supportive when they know what you are doing and why.  Just be consistent.  They’ll then take you seriously too!

Some goals will be easier to reach than others but give yourself time.  Pixabay image

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

How Can I Keep From Singing? by Trevor Thorn

In the summer, I was introduced to a lovely old song which has American roots, called ‘How Can I Keep from Singing'. I felt I wanted to re-construct the song bearing in mind those who through their personal darknesses find it difficult to ‘keep on singing’, when it is widely accepted that singing builds a sense of well-being.

Here is what emerged. I hope it will be helpful to some and enjoyed by others. The tune can be found in a number of hymnaries including Common Ground No 51: Worship & Rejoice 2003 - 424Lift Up Your Hearts 443 Evangelical Lutheran 2006 - 763 Also in a Sankey and Moody book No 356
Sing Of The East
Tune:How can I keep from singing.
(These verses are written in a sequence which follows the daily path of the sun in the northern hemisphere. If sung in the southern hemisphere, north and south need to be reversed: east and west remain as they are positioned in the hymn as both hemispheres rotate in the same direction.)

Sing of the east, as sunlight’s rays
wake earth in all its glory; 
as colours fresh emerge from dusk:
a new day of God’s story.
Come praise the Lord for joy-filled hours
when gifts of love are brimming.
Or if should be dark clouds oppress,
Lord, help us keep on singing.

Sing of the south when mid-day sun
gives warmth and light abundant,
nurturing life in many forms 
that fill us with enjoyment.

Sing of the west when sunset hues,
with gold and red abounding
bestow upon the clouds and skies
a beauty quite astounding.  

Sing of the north when brilliant stars
show God’s immense foundation;
know that, though little, you are loved
by Christ who shaped creation.

More original hymns, songs and poetry, including a small Christmas collection by Trevor Thorn at

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

In the know by Tracy Williamson

The power of words to create a deeper understanding of what cannot be easily seen is an amazing reality and responsibility.  Some say that a picture speaks more than a 1000 words and I agree that it is very powerful.  I have pictures all over my house, most of them chosen because they have stirred a deep response within me.  A picture truly can get to the heart of an emotion or give the shape and form to what has only previously been imagined.  Yes there is something about words and the way they are put together that enable you to understand, empathise and identify.  So those of us who write novels will create characters whose viewpoint becomes our lens on life even if personality wise they are very different to us. Somehow the act of creating that character enables their feelings and experiences to be opened up so that we are seeing them from within not just gazing at the external view. Not all of us are novelists (I've never written one myself though I would love to) but the principle still holds for all forms of writing.  Think of the Psalms and the way their writers' joys, sorrows, longings and fears become reflections of our own:
'One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.' Psalm 27:4
'Why are you downcast O my soul?' Psalm 42:5
'If I make my bed in the depths you are there..' Psalm 139:8

I find such words so evocative, as if a mirror is being held up to my own undisclosed heart and through such words flesh is being put onto my own joys, sorrows and longings.  I long to write in such a way that the reader is taken into an experience and viewpoint that is beyond their own.  To be broadened, to see and bond; to connect with God' or with someone's delight or grief.

I remember once watching a comedy about an angel that was on a special mission to earth, so it took on a man's identity in order to fulfil God's plans. 'He' developed a relationship with a lady but kept getting into scrapes because he had no concept of for example, hot or cold temperatures, pain, the taste of food...He asked her to describe what the taste of an orange was and she was struggling to find words that could cross the void and enable him to 'taste' it himself.  I realised that although this was just a comedy, it was also a picture of what good writing can do, to create that window of understanding and connection so that I can stand with another and see through their eyes; or put words to my own reality in such a way that someone else may be able to stand where I stand, glimpse my feelings and identify.
Here for example is a tiny poem I wrote once about my own experience of deafness. One in 6 people in Britain have a degree of hearing loss but everyone's experience of that loss is different.  When I say I am deaf many presume that means I live in a silent world but for me, that is not the case as my world is in fact very noisy but yet totally incomprehensible. One day while in a difficult social situation, I started jotting phrases down of how my deafness felt to me and it became this poem which I have shared many times since.  Several have said how much understanding it gives them of how deafness can be for some and is for me:

Noise jangling,
A muddle of sound,
Voices passing to and fro.
I smile, trying to look as if I know,
What is going on.
A joke
Shrill laughter
Helpless hilarity,
I laugh, trying to prove to myself,
That I belong.
Why do I try?
Why can I never express the cry,
That echoes in my heart?
As, in the laughing, talking group
I sit cut off, a person apart.

So that is a glimpse into one part of what it means for me to be deaf.  A picture could convey the loneliness and strain a deaf person experiences but maybe not the specifics of that person's experience to the same degree. But the words do bring those specifics alive in one small aspect.  but it is not all sadness, here is another aspect depicting my joy:

Words are spoken
But I cannot hear
I see the lips moving, the animated gestures,
But I am beyond a veil
Invisible, always looking in from the outside.
And then you come,
My dear friend,
Seeing from across the room
That I am disconnected, alone.
You sit alongside me
Keyboard in your hand
And with sacrificial love, skill and deepest friendship
You type every word being spoken.
On and on
And I read, understand and suddenly am there!
And joy fills my heart as I connect.
Through the  wonderful gift of friendship and care.

Let's keep exploring the awesome power of words to put us 'in the know'.

Tracy Williamson is an author and speaker working with blind Gospel singer Marilyn Baker for the itinerant ministry MBM Trust   Tracy and Marilyn share a home together in Kent and apart from travelling, Tracy loves reading, eating out with friends, dogs, and chocolate!

Monday, 26 November 2018

Heaven’s High Achievers, by Eve Lockett

As Advent approaches, our home group is studying some of the parables Jesus told about his coming again in glory. Among them is the parable of the talents, a parable that could be said to speak very directly to gifted and artistic people. Or does it?
A talent used to be the term for a weight measure of precious metal and then became an amount of money. It is the parable itself that has given us the term ‘talented’ to mean gifted or skilled. In the parable, those servants entrusted with talents were, on their master’s return, honoured for putting them to productive use, while the servant who hid his talent in the ground was rejected.
Is Jesus telling us that we should use our gifts to the full, and that those who have talents and don’t use them are displeasing to God? I live in an area where people are terrifyingly high achievers. They have distinguished professions, successful children, lovely homes, creative output, a strong work ethic and a moral, responsible outlook on life. Oh, and of course they keep up with social media. No one could accuse them of not using their talents to the full. I love and respect them very much, but is this really the key to heaven? As I understand it, Jesus said broken, repentant tax collectors and despised women living on immoral earnings were entering the kingdom first. These two messages don’t quite tally.
Are artists and writers too prone to feel that the neglect or failure of their creative output reflects on their own worth or their spiritual service to God?  This is harsh. And it takes no account of a person’s whole life, their priorities, their relationships, their circumstances, the choices and the sacrifices they’ve made on behalf of other people.
I heard a story that C S Lewis thought the writer George MacDonald a wonderful communicator of myths but not a great novelist. MacDonald might have been a better writer if he had dedicated himself more to that end. However, George Macdonald gave priority to his role as a husband and a father. He had eleven children, passing on his faith and his creative talent, and he and his wife celebrated over fifty years of marriage. And, in fact, his less-than-best writing had a profound spiritual effect on Lewis who called him his master.
There may be so many reasons why we need to respect the choices people make rather than place them on a scale of achievement. 
So what can we understand by the parable? I wonder if it helps near Advent to think of the metaphor of light. Each of us is asked to shine with the light of Christ, light that shines in the darkness and brings glory to God. If we hide our light, we are not serving God or anyone else. Light might be shared in many ways, through hospitality or prayer, loving and caring, standing up for justice, making things, growing a garden, writing to express truth or make people laugh, or just for the joy of writing. There are lives of sacrifice and dedication which shine their light through history and we are overwhelmed at the way God speaks through them. And there is the light of the thief on the cross, whose life hardly had much to recommend it, and yet who shone with faith as he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come in your kingdom.’

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Forty years on ..... by Eileen Padmore

Last month we took ourselves off to a remote stretch of Northumbrian coastline to mark our fortieth wedding anniversary.  Cosied up in a little stone cottage perched on the cliff edge – with sea views from every window and overlooking its own beach – we wallowed in the memories.

A tad unsociable?  The thing is, there are so many happy, hilarious, poignant, sad (even devastating) moments special to us that would send others into glazed boredom.

First, we waded through a minefield of cliches like:  'Where has the time gone?'  'It only feels like yesterday.'  'How can we be forty years older when we haven't changed a bit (inside)?'

We have changed a lot, of course, by stealth.  A comparison of photos then and now blows apart any illusion that we haven't aged as much as our peers.  So what does the Bible say about forty years?  According to an online search, it signifies a time of 'testing, trial and probation'.

Well that's not wrong!  I wonder why we weren't warned?  What happened to those roses around the door and romantic sunsets?  Or is it just us?  Do others major on that kind of thing, I wonder.  Sure enough, we had rose arches leading to the front door of our cottage in Northern Ireland, but what I remember most about those was the pain of the thorns when we tried to prune them each year!

We asked for some of it, of course.  Moving from country to country brings its own peculiar issues and rewards.  Travelling from Cork to Belfast in the eighties in a battered car displaying a red Republic of Ireland number plate – with only 48 hours to find and purchase a house – isn't what sensible people do.  But we did, and survived, even at gun point on that first visit!

So much shared humour, so many lovely friends, severe trials, long grey stretches, moments of achievement and unlooked for reward.  Certainly testing and trials, but probation for what?  What comes next?

For the children of Israel it was the end of their wanderings in the wilderness.  For Noah, the catastrophic rains of the flood ceased after forty days and God promised never again.  Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days, after which he was surrounded by angels.  Moses came down from the mountain on day forty one with a manifesto for harmonious living, dictated by God. Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days before he went back to Paradise.

Could it possibly be that we've been changing on the inside after all; that his spirit has been working in and between us through all the events of those forty years; that the process will continue if we stay in tune?

There is no way of measuring or quantifying, but surely we can trust the one who brought this unlikely couple together, has accompanied the journey and promised to stay to 'til the end.

Eileen Padmore has retired from a life spent in health care and academia, having worked in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Eire and Northern Ireland (in the troubles) as well as inner city Birmingham and Leeds.  She has had articles published in Woman Alive, Christian Writer and contributed to the popular ACW Lent book.  She is currently tackling NaNoWriMo fir the first time – on target to date with the end in sight!  Married to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and an African tortoise.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Something More Than Writing

I have a confession to make. Let me put it like this.
What do you do if:

You believe that the Christian writer’s calling is to share in the church’s prophetic ministry 

You feel a burning message in your bones 

Other Christians seem unaware of it 

You have no platform, not being a minister, priest, preacher, or recognised speaker or writer on Christian matters?

Well, that is me. In 2016 the message was only a mild foreboding. I wrote a piece of fiction at the Scargill Writer’s Weekend about a German Christian taking the inventory of a Jewish businessman detained (with his full approval) by the new Nazi government, who is shocked to learn that the Jew has become a fellow Christian. I posted it on the ACW blog just before the Brexit vote, adding ‘You will probably know by now the outcome of the EU referendum. This piece may or may not be relevant. I rather hope not.’

Embed from Getty Images

It had begun: the awareness of the approaching dark cloud, and the increasing inner pressure to cry out. I had turned to the ACW blog as my platform. It seemed the natural place, and anyway I had no other, apart from my own blog, Ecclos.

And so it has gone on. In the course of two years, as the sense of darkness has grown, so has the urge to speak out. It has shaped a dozen blogs. I’ve tried to temper them and make them relevant to Christian writing; I’ve tried to avoid party politics. I’ve written stronger blogs, and shelved them so as not to sound unduly alarmist. I’ve interspersed them with gentler blogs, such as those based on the Epistle of St James (but even these have some of the burning in them).

And what is the burning message? Just this: Wake up and get praying. Pray for dear life. Forget divisions. Stop judging others. Unite and pray.

I think we need a nationwide day of prayer for the future of this country—or more than a day. The crisis is already upon us, and worse may be on the way. Britain faced its last great crisis in 1940, and at that time churches joined in national days of intercession every week!

I am no campaigner. I sent this suggestion to my diocese. They replied that existing programmes of intercession were adequate. I do not agree, so I posted the same suggestion on the contact pages of the two Anglican Archbishops. They are not going to take it up.* 

I have seen no warnings or calls to prayer from other Christian leaders. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places. Mostly, the Anglican bishops are pottering around various worthy local enterprises—nothing wrong about that of course—while some are contemplating secession, of all things!

You may decide to write me off as a crackpot, or worse. I’d be happy for my forebodings to be proved groundless. I keep thinking that maybe things aren’t so bad, and then something else awful happens. So if you agree that there’s some truth in this message, perhaps you could act upon it and pass it on, whether from your own platform or by personal contact?

That’s my confession: I’ve been using More Than Writers for something more than writing: prophetic speaking, true or false.

*I’m delighted to add that on 16 November, when the Brexit agreement had just been announced, the Archbishop of Canterbury posted the following on Twitter:
Politicians on all sides are dealing with incredibly difficult decisions—let’s pray for them.  
Let’s pray too for the most vulnerable in our society, whose lives will be shaped for better or worse: we must not forget them. 
May we stay rooted in compassion, solidarity and hope.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Tall trees and abject terror - by Helen Murray

I had a moment the other day. A 'kairos' moment, where things suddenly become clear, or a moment where the penny finally drops and something that you've known intellectually crystallises into something that you understand on a profound level. Whatever they're known as - I had one of those.

 "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus...:
Hebrews 12:2

Keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus has been my aim for many years now, with hugely varying degrees of success. There are times when I glimpse Him, times when I can't find Him, times when I stop looking completely, but I have carried this exhortation with me since the early days of my faith. I've understood it in abstract terms; I should keep in mind the things of God, I should look to Jesus for my example of how to live, I should look at Him rather than allow my eyes to wander and lead me into temptations of all kinds. All those things.

And then there came the day that I found myself up a tree fifteen metres above the ground, about to step out onto a single thin wire leading to another tree.

Yes, I had a harness on, connected to a second thin wire at chin level that I could hold onto as the clip slid along with each step I took. I had undergone a half-hour training session that was intended to instil in me complete confidence in the harness in case I fell off the wire. I was there of my own free will; indeed, I had paid for the experience.

We took the kids to an adventure playground which is billed as "a daring rope-course challenge" with "stomach-churning swings and electrifying zip wires." The more athletic and adventurous of my daughters chose this as a birthday treat and, well, we didn't quite know what we were in for.

"Prepare yourself for a day of blood-pumping high rope activities that are sure to test your nerve!"

I can attest that my heart was pumping, my stomach was churning and my nerve was well and truly tested.

My (main) problem was that I hadn't appreciated how afraid of heights I was. I had thought of myself as being moderately nervous; a standard level kind of fear. A respect for gravity, maybe. I had not realised how cripplingly, breathtakingly terrified I was going to be. Yes, I had a harness on, and three clippy things (I'm sure they've got proper names but details like that went in one ear and out of the other during the safety briefing). Since we only ever unclipped one at a time to transfer between wires, it meant we were always clipped onto the safety wire. Did this comforting knowledge help in the slightest bit?

No, it did not.

I have never been so frightened for such an extended period in my entire life. It was such unrelieved awfulness that at one point my daughter said to me, 'Mummy, is this the worst day of your life?' and I was forced to arrange my features into a rictus-like smile and assure her that it was far from the worst day of my life, while thinking to myself, 'Oh, I do hope so.'

The only way I could get across the different high-wire paths, whether they were suspended stepping stones, swinging planks or rope bridges, was to fix my eyes firmly on the platform to which I was heading. When I say fix, I mean, fix. I don't think I even blinked.  If I glanced at the ground (so far below) for even a second my head went funny, my legs went wobbly and my already white knuckles tightened so far that at one point my fingers cramped into claws and wouldn't open again. I had to straighten them out by flattening them on my leg.

I stared firmly at the next tree. Specifically, at the industrial-looking, red-painted bolts with which the safety wire was connected to the tree. Not to right or left, not up or (certainly not) down. Never has my gaze been so perfectly fixed on something.

For three and a half hours I trembled, clipped, unclipped, re-clipped, stared, gripped and tried to remember to breathe. When I finally picked myself up off the floor after the final zip wire and picked bark chips out of the back of my jeans for the last time, I had to fight back the tears of relief and sit down with a cup of tea while the muscles in my legs stopped twitching and the post-adrenaline nausea passed.

What a dreadful morning. But, the lesson I learned that day has stuck with me. I know what 'Fix your eyes on Jesus' really means. I didn't before.

It means keep looking at him, not to the right or the left, or upwards or downwards. Don't look at the rope, or the harness, or your feet, or even those shouting encouragement. Look straight in His eyes, and you'll get across. I found that the presence of the harness or the excellent safety record of the park gave me no reassurance whatsoever. The thing that got me through (apart from quivers-full of arrow prayers) was focusing consistently on one point of fixed stability.

Jesus is the same now as He was in the beginning, when He was with God, and He was God. He died, rose again to life, and still lives. Steady, reliable, and trustworthy. Just like Peter who jumped impulsively out of the boat to walk towards Jesus on the water, I need not fear falling when my eyes are locked onto His.  When Peter became distracted by the storm and glanced nervously away, he began to sink, and when I glanced at the ground so far below me, or all the other wire bridges left to cross, I felt dizzy and weak and overwhelmed.

I needed reminding. Maybe God thought that nothing less than abject terror would get the message across and this is what he came up with.

Life has thrown some pretty troublesome things my path in the last year or so and this ridiculous way to spend a morning showed me how to negotiate the chasm between one place of comparative rest and the next. One tree to the next, tiny step by step, cling on tightly. Shuffle if you must. Clip, unclip, clip on again, test the safety line, make sure that you are always attached.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. When you do, you'll find Him gazing right back at you with love.

You'll be amazed at what you can do.

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

As well as being a reader and a writer, she is a student of theology, a master of procrastination, a drinker of far too much coffee and a full-time swim mum. If you get a whiff of chlorine while reading the blog, it's probably because it was written on a poolside somewhere. 

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 November 2018

What's Your Trombone? By Emily Owen

Last weekend, I watched a programme about the composers Vaughan Williams and Holst.

The programme detailed the life and work of the two composers.  They were opposites in many ways, and yet their love of music brought them together.

Holst suffered from weak lungs all his life and learned to play the trombone when he was young, in the hope it would help. As a composer, he took the unusual step of giving the trombone section of the orchestra opportunity for solo parts, as well as giving the same opportunity to other sections.  Unusual, because the trombone section tends to have more of a supporting the whole role.

I thought, what’s my Trombone Equivalent? What have I had to learn to do as a result of (perceived) weakness?

For me, one answer is rest.  I am unable to keep going as much as I might like to, which used to frustrate me.  Ok, if I’m honest, it still does frustrate me at times. But, by treating rest as Holst treated his trombone section, it frustrates me less.  Rather than constantly being in the background, vying for my attention but never scheduled in, it gets its solo part and then it hands over to another section: writing, speaking, whatever it may be.

Trombones come in different shapes and sizes.  So, I think, do Trombone Equivalents.  They may well be different for us all.  Things that are constantly in the background but never really acknowledged, and so never able to hand over to another section.

Holst’s weakness invited the trombone section to know new strength.

When we acknowledge and offer our weaknesses to God, we invite His strength.

Holst didn’t only give prominent sections to the trombones.  He shared them out among the instruments. At the end of his life, in a letter to Vaughan Williams, Holst wrote that he ‘liked the impersonality of orchestral playing’ because it was not about individuals.

It was about each section playing what the composer had written for them, to the best of their ability, and so, acknowledged and together, producing something beautiful.

Something written by the Writer...

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Embrace your destiny

"As you come to him the living Stone - rejected by men but chosen by God, and precious to him - you also like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house... "    1 Peter 2:4

Many lives have been invested in writing books with the dream that among the millions published each day ours will be found.  My desire in writing books to romance the soul and spirit is to reveal God’s love for His people and draw them to become part of His spiritual house.   With that in mind my husband and I recently invested in a Destiny Activation Course believing it would assist us to see, with the Lord’s help, how that could become a reality.  We found every participant on the Course had a different call to serve the Lord, but sadly their church didn’t provide encouragement, prayer or financial support to help them.  One couple, with two sets of twins, had in faith, sold up their home called to join a farming project in India.
At best, many church members have a daily relationship with the Lord, come to fellowship together praying, praising and hearing God’s Word preached.  Similar to a natural family that grows and develops, we as God's people should be doing the same supporting each other to know God’s call on our lives so we can fulfil His plans and purposes.  
Peter writes we are to be like living stones built into a spiritual house – a house without walls.  With the incredible advances in technology that spiritual house can stretch across the world.  But the enemy has sought to split and divide the church into many denominations with varying beliefs.  Christianity is now seen as a religion rather than a family with a living, loving relationship of a  heavenly Father who has adopted us as His children.
In the midst of the Destiny course I spoke how years before the Lord had directed me to build an umbrella organisation to connect His people bringing opportunity to interact and support each other.  The project failed due to lack of interest, but the Course participants met the idea with enthusiasm, emails were shared and a ‘What’s App’ Group formed.  A few weeks later this became a lifeline to the couple going to India when the wife became desperately ill, and their departure indefinitely postponed.

ACW is an umbrella organisation. Over twenty years I’ve attended meetings, bi-annual conferences and a monthly joining of Christian writers’ in my area, yet there is little opportunity to break out with other writers into the secular market.  I’d like to see us contributing and supporting a bookstall at a ‘worldly’ event where we could talk, pray and sell those books which testify to God’s love and won’t be found elsewhere.

It’s in our unity that the Lord commands the blessing. His call on my life is three-fold: intercessor, writer and networker. My desire is to invest what I’ve been given into the lives of others. I believe the Lord can multiply the little we have to offer and from that can feed thousands of people.  
Whatever the call on your life if you'd like to be linked with others of like mind please email me at:

                                                                                                                 Ruth Johnson

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Living Ideas

I mentioned last month that by now I'd be in the throes of NaNoWriMo. I'm delighted to say that it's going really well. The prep was well worth it, and all the thinking an notetaking paid off. I diarised writing time and have been able to stick to it about 80\90% of the time. Also, instead of doing the avg word count per day (1667), I'm doing what's called 'Reverse NaNo', where you start with a much higher daily word count - in the 3000s and the following weeks, the daily counts go down. It really helped to get the high word count in the first 10 days, and as you read this, I'll be heading for 40,000 words. It's been fun so far, but I need to get finished by the 26th as I'm going away! So no faffing about for me :) Here's a peak at my draft cover.

The other November writing joy was the South Wales Christian Writers Day in Porthcawl. Bridgend. The main speaker was Mandy Bayton. She shared about the opportunities God has opened up for her in writing in the areas of writing and speaking, also her work with The Cinnamon Network. She also encouraged us on the subject of making connections in the world of writing. 
She charged us to "write anything and about anything," that we should take every opportunity. She also encouraged with the challenge - "find what inspires you -- use your voice to make a difference." Mandy shared that she writes about the things she is passionate about, the things that mean the most to her. Fuelling her writing with the subjects that fire her up, has improved her writing and opened doors which have led to more invitations to write and speak. 

She shared lots of practical tips, quoting a range of different writers. The one bit of advice that stuck with me was -- 'live with the idea.' When we have an idea, we should ponder it for while, keep it with us as we go about our day. It struck me that I had been doing this as I prepped for NaNoWriMo And it has paid off. Living with my ideas has, and I pray will, make those ideas come alive in me. I feel so blessed by that. 

After a super buffet lunch, there were opportunities for three workshops. One on Haiku, one regarding keeping financial accounts when selling books, or being paid for writing, and I led a workshop 'show, don't tell', in prose.

For the final hour of our day together, we sat as each had the chance to read some of their work. 

November has been smashing so far. Here's to the rest of NaNoWriMo and plenty more living ideas. 

Annmarie Miles is from Dublin, Ireland. 
She lives with her husband Richard who is a pastor in the Eastern Valley of Gwent, in South Wales. She writes short stories, magazine articles, devotional pieces for Christian radio, and blogs about her faith at Her first collection of short stories published in 2013, is called 'The Long & The Short of it' She is working on a second collection due for publication in 2018, and a non-fiction book about being an overweight Christian called, 'Have mercy on me O Lord, a slimmer.'

Sunday, 18 November 2018

More About the Power of Words by Georgie Tennant

Contrary to popular belief, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is not the longest word in the English language.  This new-found knowledge ruined my children’s week when I told them; it’s going to take them some time to master its replacement, which, in case you were wondering, is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, - a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of fine silica particles from a volcano. 

SWIMS still says SWIMS when you look at it upside down (try not to crick your neck as you contort to see if this is true).

Around 1000 new words are added to the dictionary every year (my excuse for being so out of touch with the language of the ‘yoof’ I teach).

These little gems (and I know, I’m safe, amongst fellow word-admirers, to reveal my inner geek and call them that) made themselves known to me as I gathered some thoughts for a sermon I preached last week, about the power of words (should you wish to spend a further 16 minutes dwelling on the topic, my sermon can be found here).  I wrote, last month, under the same title, and, as I gathered the material for the sermon, I decided there was another blog in there somewhere.  I fear, in fact, that there is so much worthy material under that title, that I will be turning blogs into sermons and back into blogs and then more sermons, riding an infinite topic-loop for some time to come.

I’m sure you will indulge me and agree that it’s a topic worth dwelling on.  Words are our everyday currency and we can’t get enough of them.  They fill awkward silences and keep us entertained.  We read and listen to them, record ideas and create with them.  The lonely and alone crave them.  On long, wet cooped-up-with-the-family afternoons, we long to escape them!  They build up, calm and comfort, explain, analyse, solve.  They can sting and wound, used thoughtlessly and destructively; their absence, when they should have been said, can hurt too.

My children love looking back over a notebook I used to keep of funny things they said when they were little.  My oldest son’s favourite is one from an occasion when we were heading out for the afternoon to visit a friend, who had just had a baby called William; he asked, in his sincere not-quite-two-year-old squeaky voice, if we were going to see ‘Willy Babyam.’  'Fire mixtinguisher' was another cute mispronunciation we didn’t correct for a long time. Whilst they enjoy entertaining themselves with comedic highlights of their younger lives, I’m glad that some of the silly and downright unpleasant things I have said at times, haven’t ended up on the pages of a notebook - I’m sure I’m not alone in that. 

As I undertook a spot of Googling on the topic (as all good sermon-writers do!) I uncovered a questionable piece of research, which concluded that an average person speaks 860.3 million words in their lifetime, the equivalent to narrating the Oxford English Dictionary 14.5 times (don’t some of us feel that our children achieve this before lunch, some days?!).  This raises all sorts of questions, caveats and variables depending on character, of course – but imagine for a moment that it even partly reflects reality.  That is a lot of words. 

A thought-provoking article on the Crosswalk website raises a challenging point: “We could fill a library in a lifetime – if we did, what would the titles of these books be?” How are we using our words – to gossip, slander, moan, complain, berate, tear down?  Or to build up, encourage, support, illuminate, and ultimately point people to Jesus, the Word above all words, who can forgive, set free and break the chains of other words that might have been spoken over us?

As writers, too, we have such a privilege and responsibility.  We may not write as many words as we speak, but, in writing them down, they have a permanence, weight and lasting impact that our spoken ones lack.  “Out of the overflow of the heart,” says a verse in Matthew’s gospel, “the mouth speaks.” We could replace those last three words with, “the pen writes.”  Let’s challenge ourselves, today, to stay so connected to the Word who was there in the beginning (John 1v1), that all of our words, spoken and written, flow from our connection with Him and are, as far as possible in our human frailty, “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones,” (Proverbs 16v24) for all who hear or read them.

Georgina Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 10 and 7 who keep her exceptionally busy. She writes for the ACW ‘Christian Writer’ magazine occasionally, and is a contributor to the ACW-Published ‘New Life: Reflections for Lent,’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone: A festive feast of stories, poems and reflections.’ She writes the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog:

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Francine Rivers on writing by Claire Musters

I recently had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Francine Rivers for Premier Christianity magazine. Having devoured most of her books, getting a chance to meet Francine was definitely up there on my bucket list! The magazine article featured in the November issue, but, as Francine rarely gives talks or interviews anymore, I wanted to share with you some of the other insights she gave into her writing life that we simply couldn't fit into the article.

Francine began her writing career as a writer of steamy historical novels. She reminisced about how, once she became a Christian, she experienced writers’ block – and it changed the focus of her work:

“I couldn’t write for about three years and I couldn’t figure out why and I think that writing had really become an idol in my life…In that three year period that’s when I started reading the Bible and seeking the Lord, and I realized that he was basically saying to me: ‘You say you want to be my child but you don’t even know who I am.’ When writing ceased to matter and I didn’t care if I ever wrote again, we did a minor prophets study and came to the book of Hosea and God said: ‘This is the romance I want you to write.’ That was the last one I did for the general market and it was in the same genre and the same period that I’d been writing in because it was geared to the people who had been reading my work.” 

On the similar themes and approaches in her books (even though the subject matters vary widely):

“I know I tend to focus on people that are down and out and have difficult lives, even Christians. I don’t know any Christians who have had an easy time of it or haven’t made mistakes. I don’t know any perfect people. In a lot of Christian fiction years ago if there was a conflict it was because they were tempted – it wasn’t because they actually fell into sin in any way – and I think there are so many people now that are broken that I tend to write about those people. Or write for those people. Always God is the healer.”

On why she writes:

“The goal really in writing any of the books that I’ve written is to learn from them and grow as a Christian and to give a tool to people that they can pass on to people that don’t want to read the Bible.

“The whole idea is to find an answer – to find what God is teaching me through the characters of the story. And he inevitably does teach me something. There will be that goose bump moment of ‘ah that’s the lesson’ and sometimes it doesn’t come until the very end. People tend to think you write when you are inspired but it is like any job – you have to sit in the chair and do it.”

Writing when their children were small:

“I started out at the kitchen table, and then Rick got me a military desk. Of course we had three small children at the time so the baby would be in the cradle behind the typewriter, another baby would be down in the bottom drawer taking a nap and another in the playpen behind me.

“Our eldest son wrote a poem when he was going to Classics college and he talked about the sound of his mother typing and it was very comforting [when he was little]. They were kind of part of it. Of course I used bribery – ‘if you give me some time to work and I can get this much done then we’ll go to the park or the beach’. Later on they would talk about their dreams and I would start asking questions and building a story with them and I’d stick it in a file so they had an idea of what I was doing.”

Describing the ‘pray, plot and play’ retreat she attends annually:

“There are ten of us – it is a lot of fun and then you see the books come out too. We meet every year for four or five days and we each take turns – we throw a story onto the table and we start discussing it and throwing ideas out. We always start with devotions in the morning and singing, and then we do the plotting, and then we have fun in the afternoon. All but two are professional writers.”

On the daily routine of writing:

“We get up very early. We have our devotion time, Rick makes coffee for me and we talk and after that I get ready for my day and I have my Bible study and breakfast and then I go to work. You need to start in scripture before you work for the Lord – you need to start with him. There’s always something in there that has to do with what I’m working on at the time. And then I try to write four pages a day. Some days I can get done by noon; with a deadline I may be working 12–14 hour days, six days a week towards the end. I get immersed in it and just want to keep going.” 

There are other nuggets about Francine’s writing life in the magazine article. Alternatively, you can listen to the full interview on Premier Christian Radio at 4pm on Saturday 24 November or download The Profile podcast:

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Her books include Taking off the mask: daring to be the person God created you to be, Cover to Cover: Ezekiel A prophet for all times, Cover to Cover: 1–3 John Walking in the truth, Cover to Cover: David: A man after God's own heart, Insight Into Managing Conflict, Insight Into Self-acceptance and Insight Into Burnout. She also writes Bible study notes. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.