Friday, 31 May 2019

From the archives

 A few months ago I was looking for a piece of red paper with a list of Bible verses setting out “who you are in Christ”. I didn’t find it. What I did find was a copy of Writing Magazine from August-September 1998. I was going to consign it for recycling, but (terrible mistake) I looked through it. There were all sorts of articles about writing, but it was a profile, which caught my eye – The Association of Christian Writers. The article was compiled from information provided by the then chairman.

In those days the magazine was Candle and Keyboard (now Christian Writer). In the latest issue of Christian Writer, our chair, Angela Hobday, suggested we dust off our own archives.

For some reason that I do not understand, my failures loom larger in my psyche than my successes. One writing success I had way back in 1995 was that a bedtime story for under 5’s, which I wrote for a Women’s Institute competition, won me a prize at county level. I haven’t found a home for it (or even managed to revise it in line with the critique I received), but here it is, with apologies for a longer post than usual!
The prize I chose with my £5 voucher

Little Polar Bear’s Bedtime

Little Polar Bear was a good little bear most of the time. Sometimes he was rather naughty at mealtimes. Sometimes he was a bit naughty in the park.

At bedtime he was always naughty. Some nights he hid. Other nights he sat down and refused to go to bed. Most nights little Polar Bear’s Mummy had to carry him to bed after he had fallen asleep exhausted.

One evening Little Polar Bear went to the park. Little Brown Bear, Little Grizzly Bear, Small Spectacled Bear, Little Sun Bear and Little Honey Bear were all playing in the puzzle tunnels. Little Polar Bear tried to join in their game. He was very surprised they did not recognise him.

“Who is this new little bear?” they asked.

Little Polar Bear told them, “I’m not new. I am Little Polar Bear.”

They did not believe him.

“Little Polar Bear is white all over,” they said.

“White face with black circles,” mused Little Brown Bear, “That’s a panda.”

He offered Little Polar Bear bamboo shoots to eat.

“I don’t eat bamboo shoots,” said Little Polar Bear sadly.

The other bears called him, “Panda” and would not call him by his proper name. Little Polar Bear was very sad.

When Little Polar Bear was sad, Grandad could always help. So Little Polar Bear called at Grandad’s house on the way home from the park.

“Hello,” said Grandad, “Which little bear have we here?”
(Grandad knew which bear it was, but he was a very wise old bear.)

“Little Polar Bear, of course,” said Little Polar Bear tearfully. “I didn’t think YOU would have to ask. All the other bears are calling me “Panda”.”

“Now, I wonder why they are doing that?” that murmured Grandad as he put his arm around Little Polar Bear and guided him towards the mirror. “Nobody likes to be called by the wrong name.”

Grandad and Little Polar Bear stood side by side in front of the mirror.

This is what Grandad saw – one big bear’s white face and one small bear’s white face with black circles round the eyes. He was not at all surprised. He had already seen Little Polar Bear’s face.

This is what Little Polar Bear saw – one little bear’s face with black circles round its eyes and one big bear’s white face. Little Polar Bear was very surprised.

“Who is that little bear?” he asked.

“That little bear is a very naughty little Polar Bear, who does not go to bed when his mother tells him to,” said Grandad.

Little Polar Bear looked in the mirror again. Then he looked at Grandad. After that he looked all around the room. Then he thought very hard.

‘Grandad is a big bear,’ thought Little Polar Bear. ‘I am a little bear,’ thought Little Polar Bear. ‘We are the only bears in the room.’

After a long time Little Polar Bear said aloud, “How did I get those awful circles and how did you know about bedtime?”

Grandad replied, “All young bears need their beauty sleep. Otherwise they get dark circles round their eyes.”

“Will I always have these awful circles?” asked Little Polar Bear.

“Not if you get enough sleep,” replied Grandad. “Now come and try some of my fresh elderberry juice, before I walk home with you. Then I’ll come straight back here. I could do with an early night myself.”

Little Polar Bear stopped being naughty at bedtime. Very soon the black circles became grey circles. The grey circles became paler and paler until at last they had gone.

Little Polar Bear is sometimes rather naughty at mealtimes. Little Polar Bear is often a bit naughty in the park. But if he is ever a teeny-weeny bit naughty at bedtime, his mother says, “What about your beauty sleep?”

And Little Polar Bear is a good bear most of the time.

Susan Sanderson blogs on Sue's Trifles and Sue's words and pictures

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Sexism for Teenagers

I recently wrote a review for a book aimed at teenage girls: and I slated it for its sexism and portrayal of teenage girls, and women in general, as desperately needing a boyfriend at all times.

The first chapter was about the girl, Tella, with her mother. The second one opened with Tella lying in a forest after having sex with some random bad boy in tight leather trousers.

It's not the first time I've reviewed a book aimed at teenage girls that starts off with a sex scene. But it's not the sex scene that bothers me. It's when you compare it to the books aimed at boys you see a massive difference.

I can't remember one aimed at boys that pays much attention to their love lives. Yes they have a sort of love interest somewhere, usually late on in the book, but it's nowhere near as intense as the 'love' that's written about in girls' books.

Why?What is it about books aimed at teenage girls that leads most of them (in my experience at least) to see the female lead as desperately in need of a man?

I then drew some, none too flattering, comparisons with Disney, Barbie and Tinkerbell films. I've had to sit through a couple of Barbie and Tinkerbell films due to a friend's 8 year old daughter. I've even seen a relatively recent animated film about the French ballet school in Paris. Barbie, Tinkerbell and the ballet film had far better female characters than a lot of teenage girl books. They were independent, went on adventures, built things, made friendships and enemies and dealt with the problems of life.

Even the latest Disney films seem to have got it right. In the two Wreck-it-Ralph movies, the lead female character doesn't get romanticly involved with anyone, but builds a great friendship with Ralph. Brave shows how a young princess destined to inherit a kingdom can build a life without being in thrall to a man. Then there's Jessie in Toy Story, Elsa in Frozen, Eva in Wall-E, not fogetting the girls in the How To Train Your Dragon films.

So why are the books aimed at teenage girls so obsessed with them having boyfriends or lovers? What are they teaching them, what example are they setting?

I wonder if this is one reason behind the success of the Harry Potter books. While love and relationships come into the stories, none of the main female characters are obsessed with boys, though Ginny Weasly is a probable exception.

I want to be clear that none of this applies to the genuine romance books in which you expect there to be relationships, love and sex. It's the attitude of the books that claim to be about adventure and friendships that are aimed at teenage girls, when they are little more than 'isn't it nice to have a boyfriend' tales.

Nor does this attitude stop at teenage books. It's also in those 'independent woman saves world/solves crime/catches spy' books. Whereas the man can just get on with it, the lead female has to get involved with someone in a close relationship to the point where it can take her away from the job at hand. When was the last time you read a book with a female lead where she was allowed to get on with things?

Yes, there are generalisations here and not all books or lead female characters are written that way, I'm also aware that I'm writing this as a middle aged man. But I believe it is far too prevalent to be random.

Isn't it about time we, as authors, changed it? Because if we don't, who will?

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Steps and Contrasts

Have you created a character all at once?

Thought so - me neither!

Does your writing always proceed smoothly?

Thought so - me neither!

Is there any writer who doesn't know how this feels? Pixabay

You build up a character a piece at a time. I hear characters before I can visualize them and that explains, I think, why I relish writing dialogue or internal thoughts.

The latter is useful for flash fiction as these convey attitude as well as information to propel the story. Double whammy as far as I'm concerned and no additional word count either.

So putting a story or article together must be in a series of steps then, given non-fiction has its characters too even if these are”just” the voices of the narrator/writer.

It will take time to work out where your writing journey will take you.  Pixabay

What can be frustrating is when those steps don't come together as smoothly as you would like. This is when it can be tough to have faith in the writing process.

Writing has to be a series of steps as you develop your characters and plot.  Pixabay
 When I get stuck, or as I prefer to think of it as being temporarily bogged down, I do the following:-

1. I put a piece of work away for a day or two, draft ideas for further stories, and come back to the initial idea. A break away can help enormously.

2. I read more than I usually do - stories, non-fiction, magazines, novels etc. As well as being a great thing to do anyway, I see this as feeding your own imagination.

3. I contrast what I thought the piece of work would be with how it is working out. Have I unintentionally gone off at a tangent? If so, is the tangent stronger than the original idea? If it is, I stop writing and do more outlining based on the new stronger idea. If it isn't, I go back to the original idea. I outline more than I used to do and this has helped me avoid this problem a lot of the time but it can still happen. It' s just a question of working out how to get around it.
Writing is not a straight black and white journey.  Using contrasts can be useful though.  Pixabay
4. If a character is proving problematic, I contrast what I like and dislike about them. I usually spot something in that which needs rectifying and away I go again.
The important thing is not to panic. Give yourself time to go through the steps of writing that have worked for you before. Be honest about what isn't working this time. Do bear in mind it is only this piece you are temporarily stuck on - it is a phase and will pass.

We all need to take time to recharge.  It will boost your writing later.  Pixabay

Above all, remember we're not writing machines. There are bound to be times when life gets in your way and that may well reflect in what you're writing. But nothing is wasted. You may well draw on those tough times to inspire your writing later.

Enjoy the steps in creating a new piece of work. Use contrasts to add depth to your characters and resolve issues.
Ideas have to be worked out, sometimes thrashed out!  I've yet to see a light appear above MY head like this!  Pixabay

Writing is like a word jigsaw. Get the corners right and fill in the gaps!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Rigorous Editing by Trevor Thorn

Some readers of the ACW blog may have picked up that my principal area of writing is producing poems, songs and hymns about the complementarity of faith and science in revealing the glory of God in the Universe.

One of the projects under this umbrella is the production of a children’s songbook of 30+ songs on this theme for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils - aimed especially at the 5000+ Christian Primary Schools and leaders of church-based work with similarly aged children. For this purpose, I was delighted to receive a substantial grant just over two years ago from ‘Scientists in Congregations’ (SiC) to gather and write material . Then, in the latter part of last year, I was further thrilled to hear that Kevin Mayhew are prepared to publish this book in June 2020.

When we (a small project team working with me) were advised of the grant from SiC, I was surprised that we had been granted more than we had asked for. As a professional fundraiser for a quarter of a century I had only had that happen once before! But the grantor trustees showed great wisdom. The additional money was to fund a rigorous appraisal of each line of each song in four principal areas. They were to be screened theologically, scientifically, pedagogically and musically.

So it was that during the past week, I sat down with eight other people to examine the suitability of each song for the new volume. As I had written most of the songs submitted in this round, the process was one that tested my willingness to see my work seriously scrutinised in front of others. I thought I had written simple, clear texts, mainly set to well-known, unfussy music which would be wholly understandable to children of the age I was writing for, judging by the reactions of my grandchildren to similar, but more light-hearted material I had shared with them. However, it soon became clear that there was no real comparison between the doggerel I wrote to have fun with the next-but-one generation of our family and the more serious themes of the faith and science songs*.

Those of you who have worked with demanding editors will, I am sure say something like ‘How naive can you be?’ And you would be right. Nearly all the songs demanded some changes. So I had to persistently rein in any trace of irritation that my work should be found wanting.

But, of course, the suggested changes consistently improved what I had produced. At this point some still need a fair amount of re-working which will improve them too, so there is quite a lot of work ahead before we can submit the portfolio to the publishers.

Then, of course, their own editors will swing into action!

*Do please enjoy with me the nonsense that an autocorrect can produce - in that the last four words of the  paragraph annotated above became ... the fish and science songs! Perhaps we could build on that bit of nonsense by people sharing in comments on this post what their most  bizarre auto-corrects have been.

Monday, 27 May 2019

The right choice by Tracy Williamson

Today I choose. . .

“Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”       ( Brodi Ashton, Everneath )

I am not great at making choices.  I don't mean that my choices are bad  although they can be, but I am bad at making them.  I dither and put off the responsibility; I seek out other's opinions and if those opinions are different to mine then I take it as a sign that mine are wrong.
But choosing is central to living.  We wake up and from that moment of consciousness choices are before us...Will I get up now or later? Read the Bible or take the dog out? What shall I eat for breakfast?  What shall I wear? And so on throughout the day with choices ranging from simple to complex.
Most of us make these choices automatically, they are part of our daily routine and habit determines the answers, but what about the bigger choices which determine how we actually live our lives and arrange our time?  What do we choose to give priority to?
I am really struggling this year to make those choices that will enable me to arrange my time wisely.  I have had several writing projects on the go since January and as each deadline looms I find I've left things so close to the wire that its almost impossible to meet it. I feel guilty, am I being l lazy? But my days are full with things that need to be done. My friend said 'you've got to choose your priorities'  but how to do that as all the priorities seem important?  I am full of admiration for those who combine writing with the demands of bringing up a family.  I read in some of your posts things like: 'I write 1000 words a day...'   and think, heck, my writing output is so here and there!  How do they do it?  I am single and childless so don't have those obvious demands on my time, so surely I can manage a regular output?  But there are many other demands apart from children - I still have family who I need to make time for including an elderly mum to see regularly. In my ministry with Marilyn Baker we have events unfolding all the time that we need to travel to and fulfil; When we are home people need to visit and spend time with us; there's admin to catch up with, the house to clean, time with the Lord and preparing for events, ironing, shopping....Somehow in the midst of everything else, writing gets pushed out of the window.  How can I choose what to prioritise when everything is important? How can I put writing above spending time with people when our ministry is to draw people into God's love? How can I ignore the practical jobs when we often have people coming to our home? Do I need to make myself into an owl when I am by nature a lark?
Maybe you are struggling in a similar way?
I was feeling rather overwhelmed when I came across this little story in Mark 10.17 - 22.  It's about the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus quoted the commandments and the young man said he had always kept them since his youth.  It then says,: 'Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," He said, "go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come follow me."'
As I read those words I realised that for me, the last phrase is the key: 'come follow me.'  For that young man, making money and doing well was his driving force in live, so all his choices and priorities were shaped out of that goal.  Jesus offered him a different goal: 'come follow me.'  Making money wasn't wrong and neither are my goals to reach out to people, have a clean house, prepare for events, write books....But what is my driving force?  It said 'Jesus looked at him and loved him.'  He could see into the man's heart and loved him for who he was.  He was dear to Jesus.  Jesus longed for him to be free of those driving forces that were crippling him and to know the joy instead of his prior motivation being to follow Jesus.
That man went away sad because he didn't allow himself to make that choice.
What about me?
Jesus looks at me and loves me too.  I am dear to him.  He knows me just as He knew that man.  He wants to help me live from a different centre.
I want to follow Him from that central goal place in my heart because He knew how to make the right priorities moment by moment.  Sometimes those priorities took his friends by surprise, like disappearing from the crowd to make time to be with His Father; resting  in the middle of a dangerous storm or taking time to talk with a sinful woman....But the key is, He knew from His Father what to give time to.  He was at peace.  He bore incredible fruit.  He was full of joy.  He lived, He wasn't just swept along, but He lived to the full.
Yes Jesus, today I choose.  I choose to take everything else out of that central goal place in my life and 'come follow you.'

Tracy Williamson is an author and speaker working together with singer/songwriter Marilyn Baker for the itinerant ministry, MBM Trust.  Tracy's latest book The Father's Kiss was published Sept 2018 by Authentic Media ad her new book A Desert Transformed will be released end June.  Tracy lives in Kent with Marilyn and Tracy's hearing Dog, Goldie.  Tracy loves reading, writing, being with people, chocolate and wine...!

Sunday, 26 May 2019

George Herbert’s 'Prayer', by Eve Lockett

George Herbert window
St Andrew's Church, Bemerton
You may have gathered the weekly Radio 4 programme Something Understood, presented by Mark Tully, has come to the end of production. Each episode explored a different aspect of faith and experience. The title was taken from George Herbert’s poem Prayer:

Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age, 
God's breath in man returning to his birth, 
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage, 
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth 
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r, 
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear, 
The six-days world transposing in an hour, 
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear; 
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss, 
Exalted manna, gladness of the best, 
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise, 
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood, 
The land of spices; something understood.

Herbert’s poem has been described as one long sentence without a verb! Each rich phrase is a brushstroke evoking the mystery of our communion with God. It is a poem to savour, to reflect on in quiet contemplation. And it rhymes – so skilfully that one hardly notices.

Herbert comes to the subject of prayer from the perspective of an ordained Anglican priest. But he does not represent prayer as for ‘members only’. It is the cry of all humanity for meaning, for intervention, for some connection beyond our solitude as a species. In prayer we are drawn back to God, to our origins, ‘the heart in pilgrimage’, God’s breath in us returning.

Prayer is not just acquiescence, it involves struggle and protest.  ‘Engine against th’ Almighty’ is an image of forcefulness, of siege warfare against heaven, as is the phrase ‘reversed thunder’. Herbert is drawing on the traditional image of heaven speaking in a voice of thunder, shaking people awake, overwhelming them. Here it is humanity that thunders – shouts back, you could say, attempting to shake God. 

And then in the next phrase, ‘Christ-side-piercing spear’, our thoughts are turned to the cross. Herbert sincerely believed in the truth of God sending Jesus into the world as our saviour. In prayer we ‘inflict’ a wound on Christ, because it is through the cross that Christ embraced all our human need. In Jesus we see God’s brokenness, his humility and compassion, giving himself in love so that others might live. Prayer is also ‘the church’s banquet’, reminding us of the feast of communion – bread and wine – where Christians remember the death of Jesus, and also celebrate that he rose from the dead and our future is with him.

‘The milky way, the bird of Paradise, church-bells…’ – from the farthest reaches of the stars, the ethereal, the mythical, the beyond, we come to the abrupt phrase ‘soul’s blood’ – the deep, fundamental guts of being alive. Prayer allows the full dramatic range of the human spirit, welcomes it. Nor is prayer airy-fairy, it calls to our senses and our passions – ‘the land of spices’ – evocative, sensory, alluring.

There is so much more to draw from Herbert’s poem. I have only picked out a few phrases, and even they keep resonating for me in new ways. In the end, we have ‘something understood’, we have grasped only a little, for, as Herbert demonstrates, there is no end to the wonder and mystery of exploring prayer.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Dissolution of Paradise

 How can I put into words the unfathomable loss many of us feel on the imminent closure of St Oswald’s Pastoral Centre near Whitby?  Longstanding branch of the Anglican Order of the Holy Paraclete – it has offered a unique ‘place for all reasons and all seasons’.

Now, lack of postulants is prompting closure, with the two remaining sisters, Janet Elizabeth and Helen, due to rejoin the mother house in the new St Hilda’s Priory on site at Sneaton Castle, Whitby. 

So I am here on a final retreat, looking out over the beautiful Esk Valley through teardrops of rain.  A flowering cherry tree laden with deep pink promise frames the left foreground, whilst sentinel oaks to the right butt into a skyline of blue green hills.  The toot of a steam train drifts up from below as it chuffs cheerily along the North York Moors railway line towards Pickering, marked by a long plume of white smoke. 
Years ago I arrived for my first visit to be greeted on the doorstep by sister Janet Elizabeth wearing sweat shirt, denims and a beaming smile.  I was early by some hours, she explained, hence the mufti which they wore in free time.  My error in no way dimmed the warm greeting as I was shown around. There was  an immediate sense of stepping back half a century – from the general decor, eclectic shabbiness, uneven tick of the grandfather clock, clutter of newspapers, magazines, sign-in book – to the large tortoiseshell cat purring contentedly on a cushioned chair.  It felt like a warm and loving home.

Prayers happened in chapel four times a day, optional for guests but an essential part of the daily routine for the sisters.  I ventured in tentatively.  Formality and strange silences were accompanied by a heady mix of reverence and humour, especially when guests got it wrong. Once, proceedings had to be halted to release a feral cat gyrating around the chapel in terror at being trapped.  Another time the cricket score (for the match abandoned on the sounding of the chapel bell) was given out with the intercessions. 
It has become an annual pilgrimage, allowing me to write, walk, sleep, eat, read novels, study weighty tomes, knit, crochet, reflect and contemplate.  Just now the gardens are glorious with a kaleidoscopic mix of colours – plus a variety of greens, pervasive scents, twittering birds, atmospheric woodland and views across the wide fertile valley. God is  everywhere.

But most of all he is in the humour, love and nurturing rhythm of the warm Benedictine hospitality lived out in work, prayer, provision of food and rest  Things go wrong: my loo cistern is currently on the blink, someone’s roof has leaked, cook may go off sick, a guest loses their key …….. but faces are constantly turned towards God in joy and expectation.  The bell tolls for chapel through thick and thin.  God’s in his heaven and all is so right with this world.

 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.  Last November she claimed NaNo 2018 winner at first attempt.  Married to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and a large African tortoise. 

Friday, 24 May 2019

Thou Shalt Not Be Preachy

There’s a consensus among Christian writers that the things we write for the world outside the Christian fold should not be ‘preachy’. On the whole, the need is not so urgently felt if the writing is intended for believers, which is, in the American expression, ‘preaching to the choir’. But if what we write is aimed at a mixed audience, the message is: don’t be preachy. So what is ‘preachy’, is it a particular danger for Christians, and is it harmful to your chances of being a successful writer?

Consider the following:

There was a greedy look on Charlie’s face as he told Emily ‘I’m going to pull down my old factory and build a bigger one. I want to make twice the amount of profit that I’m getting at the moment.’ Emily was shocked. ‘You know the gospel tells us to beware of covetousness—in fact covetousness is idolatry,’ she exclaimed, pointing him to Ephesians 5:5.

This is dreadful writing by me. It’s definitely preachy. ‘Preachy’ is defined as ‘showing a tendency to give moral advice in a tedious or self-righteous way’. Through the persona of Emily I’m doing that. Of course, I don’t think any Christian writer would dream of writing like this.

But now consider these:

Example 1: They had a son called Michael and a daughter called Matilda, and the parents looked upon Matilda in particular as nothing more than a scab. A scab is something you put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away. Mr and Mrs Wormwood looked forward enormously to the time when they could pick their little daughter off and flick her away, preferably into the next county or even further than that.

Example 2: Mrs Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbours.

Example 3: They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on the beds and the windows were always open.

Of course there have to be ‘bad’ characters in a book, or there will be no conflict and no story. But what about the way these writers introduce their bad characters? They appeal to our feelings of superiority. They make use of subtle mockery. The implication is that if people are on the wrong side it’s justifiable to look down on them and make fun of them. That there is no point in trying to understand why they are the way they are, or in feeling sorry for their evil predicament.

Not only is this giving moral advice—or rather, spreading moral propaganda—it is both self-righteous and, after you’ve read enough of it, tedious. In a word, preachy.

I don’t think I need to name these writers are or identify the books; they are too well-known. But can we draw any conclusions?

First, since two of the writers are secular and one is Christian, can we conclude that being preachy is as much a technique of secular writers as it is of Christian ones?

Second, these three are among the most popular, best-selling children’s writers of all time. Not only are they habitually preachy, in the way illustrated here, but they get away with it—indeed, are admired for it. Can we then conclude that being preachy doesn’t necessarily harm your chances of success as a writer, as long as you wrap it up in facetious denigration?

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Practising Forgiveness

                    Practising Forgiveness

Forgiveness. Most of us would find it hard to discuss our faith without mentioning it.

One of my childhood memories is my dad reading me Matthew 18:21-22: ‘Then Peter came up to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”’ It didn’t make me any more willing to forgive my brother, but it did teach me early in life that forgiveness is important to God.

Ultimately, as Christians, we know we need to forgive others because it’s a command from God. If we believe He has a perfect plan for us, then forgiveness will do us good, as well as those we forgive. It’s also hard to deny this when Jesus himself is the greatest example of forgiveness there is. His forgiveness of all our sins sets us free from condemnation, able to experience life in abundance.

But few of us would say it’s easy. Where we’ve been genuinely hurt, forgiveness isn’t something we always want to do. Forgiveness is a risk. We might look weak, we might get hurt again. Often, it’s most difficult when others close to us have been hurt. I like to think I find forgiveness fairly easy these days, but in reality that’s more the case when someone has hurt me. When a family member or close friend is hurt, it’s harder to let go of ill feelings towards the person who hurt them.

But God commands it. He doesn’t make mistakes. We know that we like being forgiven, whether it’s the saving grace of God forgiving us or the people around us giving us another chance. We also know that if God wants us to do it, He enables us to do so. He provides the Holy Spirit as a helper so that we can be like Him.

Forgiveness is an important theme in my novel, A Silent Song. The main character suffers rejection and trauma and has some huge things to forgive. How is it feasible that she is able to forgive people who have caused great harm to her and those closest to her? It’s because she learns to do it slowly. Early on, there is a row between her and a friend. Cultural differences and Els’ past experiences mean harsh words are exchanged. However, another friend is able to pour oil on troubled waters by explaining the misunderstanding and Els forgives her friend. Later in the story, Els can forgive much bigger mistakes, which I don’t think she’d do without these earlier experiences.

God does this too – and a lot better than I do! There are many examples in both testaments of the Bible of people forgiving others, from Joseph forgiving his brothers to the story of the prodigal son. These build towards the picture of Jesus’ forgiveness and the freedom that brings. A freedom we can show others.

It isn’t easy but forgiveness has an impact like nothing else and this makes it worth practising.


Rebecca Seaton mostly writes fantasy but would love to write a crime novel one day if she could just pin down a coherent plot. She manages a behaviour recovery provision for primary children and is on the advisory panel for Pen to Print, a Barking and Dagenham-based initiative for supporting emerging writers. These days, she gets on really well with all three of her brothers!                                                                                                          

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Knowing Me, Knowing You by Emily Owen

Some dates stick in the mind.

For me, this week contains such dates. It was this week, many years ago, that I had surgery. In fact, today marks the one-in-four days when I did not have an operation on my brain.

During that time, people prayed for me. As they did, more people got to know about me, and so the prayer links grew.

But people were not galvanised to pray by knowing a nebulous name (mine). They were praying because they had learned about some of my story. They wanted to know about the person behind the name.

Earlier this month, I was invited to the Isle of Man, where I had the pleasure of meeting with Georgia and Andrew. They manage Churches Bookshop, a Christian bookshop on the Island.

I had a question for them: What is the main thing authors can do to help you in your work?

I confess, I didn’t anticipate their answer at all:

‘Meet us.’

Apparently, while it is possible to sell books without having met the author, knowing the person behind the book leads to more sales.

Much as, while it’s possible to pray for someone when you only know their name, knowing more about them enables you to pray further into their situation.

To be honest, whilst I am always invested in the books I write, I think I’d assumed that the selling of my books in shops was not part of my role. That booksellers and authors were wheels running parallel along the same road.

As Andrew pointed out, we’re actually all part of the same wheel.

The lyrics in the ABBA song go: ‘Knowing me, knowing you; there is nothing we can do…’

Thankfully, that’s not true in the book world!

So, next time you’re near a shop, why not pop in and say hello?

Knowing me, knowing you; there is something we can do…

Andrew didn’t have actual statistics but, at a guess, he thought that knowing the author often doubles the sales of their book.

Maybe the same is true of bookshops you pass.

Or maybe it’s different there.

To be on the safe side, maybe you could go in and ask.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Promises of God

For no matter how many promises 
God has made,
they are "Yes" in Christ. 
And so through him the "Amen" 
is spoken by us 
to the glory of God.   

                                    2 Cor.1:20


Songs often herald a movement of the Lord, and there are many in these days.  Two of them we sing regularly in church struck me as being particularly relevant in these days to build our confidence in the Lord and to believe His promises. “Faithful are You” and “God can do it again.”  

The Bible is one big promise, the first and foundational one in my life is Ps.37, “Trust…Delight…Commit your way to the Lord…”  From that my  ‘Hearts Desire’ series was born to testify the Father’s love through fiction and using some my journey and the adventures He has taken me on.

When young, before knowing the Lord, I and a friend would pretend to be radio presenters.  A buried desire which fifty years later opened up through my books to present and produce my own programmes on a local radio station.  

But I still await a promise of forty years ago and have never lost faith that the Lord would bring it to pass.  I believe if I doesn’t happen in my life time, like those who were commended for their faith in Hebrews none of them received what had been promised as “God has planned something better for us so that only together with us would they would be made perfect”.

Jesus said, in remaining in Him we will "be taught by Him", "bear much fruit”; “ask whatever we wish” and in "obeying Him know His love.”  So in the simplicity of that I ask the Lord for plots and characters.  Each book title is the name of the main character and the story from their perspective. I’ve no experience of my next character's lifestyle so how was I going to get into her mindset?  A year ago, in preparation I asked the Lord.  As before I thought His provision would be someone who had. As that hasn’t happened and I will soon begin writing I asked again.  And awoke with not only a ‘brilliant’ solution, but the skeleton plot will dovetail nicely into the previous book.

I believe God is going to move in ways we haven’t seen before.  Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Let’s go over to the other side, the boat seemed safe until a squall arose and they thought they’d drown.  Jesus response, ‘Oh ye of little faith’ for hadn’t He said ‘Let’s go over… His Word, His assurance they wouldn't under. 

Andy Williams, one of the songwriters in our church has written an amazing song which came out of a debilitating illness which he overcame with the Lord    The words so apt for these days that the congregation erupts every time we sing it.  I'll finish with.the last four lines.

Every lie of the conquered accuser
Every weapon that my enemy may hurl
They will cease when my God starts to speak
'Cos my King always has the last word.

                                                                                                                     Ruth Johnson