Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Book Review: Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today's post is by Wendy H. Jones

I appreciate this is a writers blog, but as the name of the blog suggests we are More Than Writers. In today's blog we are also readers. A writer who does not read would be very difficult to find. I am a voracious reader and I would pretty much read the back of a cornflakes packet if it was all that was available. However, I've been saved from cornflake hell by this excellent book by Charles Marsh.

This book is not a quick read. It is 528 pages long and has fairly small writing. However, every single page is fascinating. This is a detailed and in depth look at the life of Dietrich Bonhoefer. However, this book is so interesting it kept me reading, and reading until I and finished it. The way it is written makes it easy to read and the prose flows well. Marsh has obviously done his research as this book is packed with fascinating insight and detail about Bonhoeffer's life

The book works on multiple levels as it is so much more than a biography.  It is also a historical exposition of life during that time. The detailed level of research book ensures historical accuracy and interest.

 I enjoyed this book and learnt so much about both Bonhoeffer and the times. I would not hesitate to highly recommend.

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones lives in, Scotland, and her police procedural series featuring Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie, is set in the beautiful city of Dundee, Scotland. Wendy has led a varied and adventurous life. Her love for adventure led to her joining the Royal Navy to undertake nurse training. After six years in the Navy she joined the Army where she served as an Officer for a further 17 years. This took her all over the world including Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Much of her spare time is now spent travelling around the UK, and lands much further afield. As well as nursing Wendy also worked for many years in Academia. This led to publication in academic textbooks and journals. Killer's Countdown is her first novel and the first book in the Shona McKenzie Mystery series.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Speak the truth in love – but speak the truth by Andrew Chamberlain

Guest Post by ACW Member Andrew Chamberlain

It is usually the case that, when two or three are gathered together in the Lord’s name, there is politeness, there is civility, and there is good behaviour. I am not saying Christians are perfect, but generally when you put a group of us together, we behave ourselves, especially when we don’t know each other.

Of course, this is a very good thing. We are called to love one another, and that should manifest in our behaviour and our relationships with each other. Most Christians understand this, and what is true for Christians generally is also true for Christian writers. When we gather together, whether for local events, training conferences, or retreats, we treat each other with civility and politeness; and rightly so.

The problem is, we often extend that same politeness and civility to our writing, and that’s where it can all go wrong. This is because our calling as writers is not to be polite, it’s to entertain, to inform, to challenge. We are called to speak the truth. If my writing is merely polite, no one will read it. If my children’s story is full of polite children it will fail. If my theological reflections are just civility, no one will be interested.

So we have to present life as it is, and this principle applies to every genre of the craft, and to both fiction and nonfiction. We instinctively know that this is true, but how can we put it into practice? Here are three tips to help you keep your writing both gracious and honest:

1. Don’t preach, tell a story. Don’t tell me about the theology of lust, tell me the story of how you overcame the temptation. I know bad stuff is bad, what I really want to know is how you overcame it. Don’t tell me your Grannie survived the blitz, tell me the story, with all the darkness and smoke and grief that it entails. Show me a life, not just opinions.

2. Keep asking the question – what is this work really about? This applies whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. If you are writing fiction, work out what your story is really about and focus on this, relentlessly. If you are writing biography or autobiography ask the question: what is this project really about? And don’t be satisfied with: I am telling the story of person X’s life. Ask yourself why you are writing about this life. Why should anyone read it? The hard questions reveal the best answers.

3. Take out the bits that don’t need to be there. When you’ve written your work, edit and re-edit it. What can you cut out and still tell the story? Which parts of your story do you read and lose yourself in? Keep those. Which parts seem either just nice, or only show off your wonderful skill with prose – ditch them.

In our lives and relationships we should take Jesus at His word and love one another, but when we pick up the pen or start to hit the keyboard, we also have to tell the truth.

Andrew J Chamberlain is a writer, speaker, and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical direct advice on the craft. Andrew has self-published a number of science fiction short stories, and his novel, Urban Angel was published by Authentic Media. He has also worked on a number of ghost-writing collaborations, including the bestselling: Once an Addict with Barry Woodward. You can reach him at:

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Why being a martyr doesn’t glorify God by Ruth Tong

Guest Post by ACW Member Ruth Tong

In the story of Mary and Martha, one sister wanted to sit at the feet of Christ and listen to him, while the other wanted to receive recognition for bustin her hump! I’m so glad the short account (in Luke 10-38:42) was actually documented because it’s one of those universal human dilemma’s we can all relate to. I guess depending on where we find ourselves we can feel empathy for either side. It’s hard when it feels like the buck stops with you isn’t it? But stop and think for a moment does it, really? Our fallen nature can dictate the amount of control or surrender we feel we hold on to or yield. When I look at Jesus I see a person who gets what’s going on around Him… and it matters to Him for we matter to Him. In this story, He wasn’t unaware of Martha’s experience. I wonder if she had handled her heart and her tongue differently would Jesus have sat her down and quietened her with His love and got everyone else to cook dinner?

Beloved child, stressing out does not glorify God. It’s easy to find stressy people they’re usually in the midst of some drama. Martha wanted others to join her stressing and Jesus was not ok with that. We live in an age of drama queens and it’s sad because this stressy behaviour is celebrated. Look at any docu-soap! But let’s look at ourselves too because there are times when we have all craved the approval, sympathy or deference of others, looking to humans for something only The Father can give. Sadly we then wonder why we feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled? Many times I’ve tried to fill the holes in my self-esteem, my loneliness my inadequacy with the wrong ‘stuff’ only to find these things added to my sense of emptiness. Or worse my pride and self-sufficiency has stopped me asking for help.

The bible says only what is done for loves reward will remain. When we look in the wrong place for acceptance or do the wrong things for approval we rob ourselves of something from our eternal future. Jesus wants us to enter His Kingdom ‘minted’ having stored our treasures in heaven. So when the kitchen feels hot it’s good to remember the only person you need to please, seek approval or empathy from is Jesus. So what pleases Him? It pleases Him when we put Him first, when we chose to humbly get on with the ordinary and determine our hearts to live in obedience and surrender to Him. When we choose to be low maintenance just like oxen, it’s then that His yoke is easy and His burden light because we’re not straining against His will. Next time you’re sorry for yourself, overwhelmed or misunderstood. Go and ask Jesus for practical help then take a moment to receive from His spirit the gift of peace which surpasses understanding and promises to guard your heart and mind.

About the Author

Ruth is an author, blogger, conference speaker, overcomer and cancer survivor; she was brought up in Northern during the troubles but left there to study in London in 1990. With her background in psychology she offers insight into the dynamics of the heart and minds of women. She is a great advocator of making the best of life no matter how awful it is and she can speak with authority on what it is to do live that stance out. Ruth runs the self-esteem course ‘Shine’ for teenage girls and women and is passionate for Christians to communicate the hope of Jesus in a relevant way to a hurting world. She is committed to enjoying the object of God’s love - people and life which is reflected by her infectious sense of fun.

You can find out more about Ruth and her Work at:

Saturday, 28 March 2015

So what’ll it be? Fountain Pen or Laptop? by Michele Morrison

Scattered round my laptop are tell-tale signs of my age. A foolscap notebook is at my right hand, beautiful Swiss pen at the ready. Three Christmas cards from last year sit on my left, sent by friends who aren’t on email. I’ll write a note to each one, telling them we prayed for them during this last week when we pulled their cards out of the basket.

On the other side of the laptop screen, more foolscap and reporter’s notebooks spill round, revealing the painstaking efforts of my husband Don and me as we struggle to learn Russian.

Next to them is a diary for registering the names of guests who book in to our B&B. Google Calendar? No thanks.

I’ve just read an article about the decline in teaching handwriting. Some schools in the USA, it said, have given up on teaching this beautiful art form. Pupils are on Ipads. The next generation may not be able to put pen to paper.

Certainly I’ve noticed recently that as I grab an old envelope to scribble down a recipe or address, others take a picture of it from their phone, which is synched with a computer. Effortless.

The days of handwriting may be numbered.

At the risk of sounding like an old dinosaur, I would grieve this loss. When Don and I met, he was living in Scotland and I lived in California. After a couple of days spent in his family home, we had fallen in love but our love grew and was grounded as we separated to opposite sides of the world and wrote at least one letter a day. (No Skype in those days, and phone calls were expensive.) I remember the thrill every time I saw Don’s beautiful cursive script in fountain pen on the envelope, and the tenderness in the opening, ‘My darling Michele’ ... it just isn’t the same in Times Roman.

The article noted that a different part of the brain is engaged when using handwriting as opposed to typing. In taking notes during a lecture, for instance, facts need to be sifted as to their importance because there isn’t time to cursively write everything down, whereas an adept typist can record many more facts without really thinking about them.

Times change of course, and many changes are for the better. But not all of them.

Although I write on a laptop, there comes a point in every article, Bible reading note, or chapter where I simply have to print it out and pull out my pen. I then spend time editing the hard copy. Meeting it in a different format stimulates creative critique and changes. Then it’s back to the computer for the final presentation.

God has written his love on our hearts. He didn’t use a laptop or fountain pen, but the indelible blood of our Saviour. We are his print-outs as we live it out for others to read.

About the Author

Michele is a freelance writer, contributing articles to Woman Alive and Bible reading notes to BRF’s Day by Day with God. She wrote a children’s book starring her four children, having time-travel adventures based from their own home and environs: The Comet’s Tale is available on Amazon. She’s written a Christian lifestyle book, Footprints of Faith, and a historical novel based on the Biblical character Onesimus, Chains of Love. A transplanted Californian living in the cold northeast of Scotland, she enjoys twice-yearly trips to southern California to thaw out (and visit her daughter and her 90-year-old mother). She and her husband Don run a small B&B and are loving having youngest son and wife and first grandchild living nearby, and the other two sons and wives back in Scotland – at least for now.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Lyric Writing for the Resurrection by David Pennant

Guest post by ACW member David Pennant on the process of writing lyrics

It was while I was singing tenor in a rehearsal of Stainer's Crucifixion at Southwell in 2014 that the conductor Nick Thorpe said, "the piece ends with the crucifixion, not unnaturally."

Over the next few days, I found myself thinking, someone should write a sequel, called The Resurrection. Then I thought, why not me? Why not have a go? After all, Stainer was my great grandfather. Also, the Crucifixon only lasts fifty minutes, so a thirty-five minute sequel after an interval would make a well-rounded programme.

The format of the work would be the one Stainer used. As he wrote for amateur choirs, I would have to reign in my accustomed polytonality and keep it tonal, otherwise the piece would never get sung.

The first challenge was to create the text. The resurrection appearances in the gospels were clearly all in, but I found other ideas came to mind. For example, the weeping Mary finds herself being contradicted by a Gospel choir enjoying Hebrews 12 - "Oh no Lady! I'm running in the race, there's nothing I can't face 'cos the Father's on my case and the Spirit sets the pace; I'm running!" I went through the alphabet and wrote down all the words ending with ace sounds and created the rhyming text that way. (My footwear is in place, no good tripping on my lace, etc). Isaiah 40:31 made an unscheduled appearance after a while as the runners stumble and fall, but then rise up with wings as eagles.

I wanted to represent every tribe and nation as it were, so the numbers are in different styles. The Emmaus road song celebrates unlearned folk (see Acts 4:13); "We was on the road, goin' home, me and her." Cleopas was originally male in my mind, but when we tried out the work last year in a church near Ely, the solo parts were considered male dominated, so Cleopas became a lady, as some think she may have been.

I created my own text for the fishing-all-night scene. I did not attempt rhyme for that one. Various comments came to mind for the chorus to interject - "It's the Lord - don't be silly! It's the Lord - don't be daft!" etc.

I looked at the prayer book lectionary for the days following Easter for ideas of what else to use, which led to a setting of "You know the message God sent to the people of Israel" from the preaching of Peter in Acts. Again, it seemed best to use the text as it was with no need for rhyme.

Revelation 1:13-18 provided a number full of of awe. "I am the risen one!" The resurrection inspires astonishment as well as joy.

Finally, when setting the great commission (Matthew 28 conclusion), I found myself writing canons for the chorus to sing while Jesus declaims. This was just right, I realised later: Greek Canon means 'rule', and Jesus is here laying down the rule for future generations of followers.

The three hymns for all to join in needed to be well known: I chose We shall overcome, what I call John Brown's Body, and wrote two rhyming stanzas of my own to go with the trumpet tune by Jeremiah Clarke.

Later, I remembered copyright issues, and went over the Bible text carefully to make sure no one translation predominated, so as not to offend. In several numbers I did my own translation from the Greek, to be on the safe side.

The premiere is on April 18th just outside Woking. Chorus members and audience welcome! Please get in touch. Thanks.

More details can be found at the Resurrection Website

Find out more about David and his work at his website

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Simple All Age Evening Prayer by Victoria Ireland

As the regular blogger for this day isn't able to start until April, we welcome Victoria Ireland to the blog today. She is guest posting with a very thoughtful look at all family prayer. I love the photo which companies this. So without further ado I hand you over to Victoria.

I have longed to establish a habit for bedtime prayers with and for our children. I have spent many hours wondering how best to do this; asking God, and questioning friends about what works for them. Some methods I've tried have felt too much like saying prayers by rote. On the other hand, leading our children, who share a bedroom, in individual prayers feels a little too public. They may not want to share deep feelings in earshot of their siblings and when one child says that they have nothing to say sorry for, others will be all too willing to remind them! Even I am tempted sometimes, when a child states that there is nothing that they need to say sorry for, to (not so gently) jog their memory!

The Examen, a prayer developed more than 400 years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola feels like a wonderful solution to this angst, and to my inner control freak. Using the Examen I can lead us all in a silent prayer. I can create a moment and a space, while recognising that only God and each child together can make it significant. I let go and leave God to work in their hearts. He is the only one who can.

The Examen is a wonderful contemplative prayer, which offers us a way to see God’s presence in our lives day by day. At its simplest the Examen guides us to review two moments in our day: The highest point and the lowest point. In their beautifully illustrated book, Sleeping With Bread, the Linns share a variety of ways of asking this question. Here are two examples:

When did I give and receive the most love today?

When did I give and receive the least love today?

When was I happiest today?

When was I saddest today?

As testimony to the significance of this prayer, Ignatius instructed his followers "when busy skip everything (in prayer) except the Examen." During the past month I have begun journaling my responses and already I have seen distinct patterns that I had not previously noticed in over a year of intermittent Examens; patterns that I can explore more deeply in prayer.

If you'd like to learn more about The Examen, here are my favourite resources:

My original inspiration from Ignatian Spirituality

Sleeping With Bread, a beautifully illustrated guide by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, & Matthew Linn

Mars Hill Church Examen

I would love to hear from you about how you remember learning to pray from your parents, or how you pray with your own children?

Victoria is mum to three boys, a fundraiser and a writer. She writes mission-focussed resources for the children & youth team at the Methodist Church, and blogs about her contemplative journey at Expectantly Listening. Victoria shares resources and reflections for personal quiet times, alongside her ideas for sharing contemplative experiences as a family in the midst of a busy, hectic home. If you like meditative prayer do check out her audio files, suitable for all ages. You can also connect with Victoria on twitter, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Furniture Removals for Dummies by Fiona Lloyd

We know how to have a good time in our house. Lured by the temptation of getting a “bargain” in the post-Christmas sales, we decided to invest in a new bed. The woman who served us was a cheerless soul who obviously thought it was unreasonable for customers to come and invade her privacy on a damp and dreary Saturday afternoon. Undeterred, we did that thing where you go round the shop and try them all in turn, as if lying on a mattress in a brightly-lit showroom for two minutes can really tell you whether it’s going to still be comfortable after you’ve been sleeping on it for eight hours.

The problem with having a new bed is that you have to get rid of the old one.
“Can I have it?” asked our youngest. No problem – except that we’d now have to move the bunk beds out of her room. These ended up in our lodger’s room, while her former bed is now in bits waiting to go to the charity shop. It felt like we lost a week of our lives dismantling and reconstructing beds (followed by dusting, hoovering and crawling around on the floor trying to find missing screws). I’d never land a job with Pickfords.

Right now, my work-in-progress feels like a game of musical beds. I’m in the process of moving a chunky passage from later on in the story to nearer the beginning, which has had a knock-on effect on other parts of the book. Suddenly, a section that flowed well doesn’t fit any more. An incident on page 26 no longer makes sense, and needs to be rewritten or even discarded. Writing a book has become much more complicated than I expected (and I never thought it was going to be easy in the first place).

What I’ve learned from my experiments in furniture Tetris is that it’s hard to see what the end result will be when you’re still in the middle of something: we had to have faith that somehow it would all work out. And while giving up halfway through isn’t an option when your lodger’s bed is in several different pieces in three separate rooms, a book is another matter. Although it would be easy to abandon my WIP I’ve realised I need to trust my instincts and keep going. It might look like the literary equivalent of a scrap dealer’s yard at the moment, but something, somewhere is telling me it will all be worth it in the end.

There's a spiritual lesson for me here, too. Right now, I'm in a season of change, and it's hard to see exactly what God is doing. I need to remember that he sees the bigger picture, even when I think I'm trapped in a divine obstacle race. And what I can do is trust that he will take the tangled threads of my life and weave them into something beautiful for him.

Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. She enjoys writing short stories, and is working on her first novel. Fiona self-published a violin tutor book in 2013, and blogs at She is married with three children. Fiona is ACW's membership secretary.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Juggling Hats by Adrianne Fitzpatrick

Starting out with one Hat
Starting out with one Hat
Some days I feel a lot like Bartholomew Cubbins with his 500 hats: I take one hat off and find another one in its place.
We all have many hats: mother, father, employee, employer, writer, editor, taxi driver, friend … the list goes on. Juggling all those hats can feel overwhelming at times.
My professional hats include writer, editor, photographer, student, publisher, proofreader, website designer and manager, teacher, ACW Events Organiser, and probably others that will come to me as soon as I hit publish on this blog post. No wonder I feel exhausted so much of the time! (Well, that and ME/CFS …)
So what’s the secret to juggling so many hats? I wish I knew! But here are some of the things I’ve learned. What works for me may not work for you, so feel free to offer your own juggling tips in the comments below.

1. Organisation. I have all of my different projects listed on a To-do List – though I confess I don’t always look at it! Nevertheless, once something’s on the List, I can generally keep track of it. Tasks are listed in order of priority, from ‘Urgent’ down to ‘Would like to do … someday.’
There used to be a time when I didn’t need lists. These days they’re essential – my ME/CFS brain doesn’t retain things in the way it used to – but I’ve discovered there’s a great satisfaction in being able to cross something off, which I do even on a Word file so that I get the buzz of seeing something achieved before deleting it permanently.

2. Deadlines. I’m deadline driven. I’ll admit it. Give me a deadline and I rarely miss it.

3. Scheduling. This is how I meet those deadlines. On the publishing side, there’s usually an end date by which a project must be completed. I’ll set mini deadlines for each stage of the project, and when it’s something that involves other people, mark the dates by which I need to send the project on to the next person/stage. I usually find these by working backwards from the end date, deciding how long each stage will take, adding an extra week or two to allow for the possibility of me having a bad patch and generally trying to reduce the pressure on myself as much as possible. By having all the projects on the same page, I can see what needs to be done first and whether I need to do some juggling with the deadlines and mini-deadlines of different projects to keep them all on target. The writing side, however, is more problematic.

4. Self-imposed deadlines. Anyone else find these don’t have quite the same authority as those set by external sources? Especially if the project isn’t going to contribute to paying the bills? For me, writing falls into this category, unless it’s a piece that has been commissioned (which usually means it’s contributing to the bills). This is where a writing buddy – or a writing group – can play an important role. Being accountable to someone else, even if it’s just because they’re desperate for the next chapter of your book, can really help in meeting those ‘flexible’ deadlines. When I wrote my children’s novel, I sent each chapter to my editor as it was written. While she edited that chapter I wrote the next. That accountability got me through the mid-book slump and on to The End.

5. Flexibility. Some days my brain stalls on the next task on my To-Do List. Sometimes I skip that one and move on to one that feels more manageable. Often doing something gentler is enough for my brain to recover and I can come back to the task at the top of the list.

6. Trust. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the hats demanding their place on my head at the same time, I take a step back and remember that I’m not alone in this journey. When I don’t have the strength to get everything done, I know God is in the midst of it all with me. He has called me along this path and he won’t abandon me now. He knows my limitations and knows how far to stretch me. He doesn’t ask me to do more than I can – unlike myself!

7. Rest and recharge. Some days even an ‘easy’ task from my To-Do List isn’t possible. Then I have no choice but to refill the well. That might mean reading, watching a DVD, doing a jigsaw puzzle, knitting or stitching, going for a walk, meeting with a friend. Or it might mean sleeping. Pushing myself through the barrier works sometimes, at least in the short term, but more often than not, because of the ME, the cost is too great in the longer term. I’m not very good at balance or at accepting limitations, so I do push through more often than I should; but I’m learning not to feel guilty about taking time to take care of myself.

And you? However you manage your commitments, I take my hats off to you!

Adrianne Fitzpatrick has around 25 years’ experience in the publishing industry as a writer (for adults and children), editor, teacher (of writing and editing), photographer, book designer and bookseller (both new and secondhand books). She has had numerous short stories and articles published; and her first novel, Champion of the Chalet School, was published by Girls Gone By Publishers in 2014. Adrianne has worked with many authors to see their dreams of publication come true, so it’s not surprising that she has started her own publishing house, Books to Treasure, specialising in books for children.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Where the words come from - by Helen Murray

I grew up in a house full of books and ours is just the same. My husband once calculated the shelf-space to keep up with the rate our library grew each year and I think that it won't be long before we no longer need wallpaper.  We have a Kindle as well, and they are useful, but (there had to be a ‘but’) I love books. Books are for sharing, lending, giving away - and you need shelves of books in order to run your finger along the spines, searching for the right book for the right time. You need the cover art, the smell of the pages, the way it nestles in your hand or on your lap. You can feel the weight and the width and know how much you have left to read; books are for tucking gently away on the shelf between two friends until next time.   

I thank God for the words in the books; every last one of them; the sweet and elegant and also the staccato and ugly. They work together, and every word has its place; each has meaning and value and all should be handled with care. In the right hands they have unimaginable power; to build up or to destroy, to bring peace or awful horrors. The world has been changed forever because of words. 

And then there’s my little life-full of words. I enjoy them on so many levels.

I love to look at words and hear their music, their whispers and their shouts. I like playing with them, and I think they like it too. They constantly surprise me, sometimes shock me. They crowd me, tease me and constantly show me things I didn't know. Whenever I think that I know enough words and have no room for more, just like the books on the shelf, along come some irresistible new ones and I welcome them, get to know them, take them out to see what they can do.

Thank you, God, for collections of words: books and articles and blogs and lists and journals; for the ones that make me think, or soothe me, or inspire me, encourage me or even infuriate me.

I am grateful for the words on my shelves and also for those that God has put in my head. Some of these words are organised, catalogued, filed neatly and efficiently and easy to access. Others are in huge, dusty piles, spilling over each other. When I call them, some prick up their ears and answer straight away, bounding over when I call and looking at me with big smiles and eager eyes, yet others are reluctant even to glance my way, hostile and sullen, refusing to co-operate. 

Sometimes the words tumble out of my head in a torrent - I can't get them out of my mind and onto the page fast enough! They jump and dance and play with each other and laugh and sing. Other times I have to coax them out, gently arranging them and rearranging them until they're comfortable and settled. Still other times I get hold of them and throw them mercilessly on the page and they sit there and glare at me with a baleful expression. 

Then there are days when the words hide from me completely and I can't find any of them. On days like that I go in search of other people's words; I fill my mind with those and hope that their presence will encourage my own words to slink out from their dark corners and show themselves. Sometimes it works. 

I love that the words are there. I think learning to wrangle them will be a lifetime's work - they can't be manhandled, but must be treated with respect. Firm but fair, I think. I am insistent that they can't just stay there, and that when they finally creep out from their hiding places they can't just loiter idly; they must submit to being ordered. Some, like people, have a secret need to be told what to do, whereas others long to go their own way, wreak their own havoc, create their own worlds. 

Words are neither good or bad; they just are. They didn't have any control over what they look like, how difficult they are to get on with, or how complex their meaning. There are long words and short ones, and they're all necessary. Everyone has a place; all are welcome. There is much that they can teach us, if we're willing to learn.

Words came from Him, of course - words from the Word. The Word that was God, and with God, since the beginning of everything. Alpha and Omega; first and last. He is the Author of it all, and He alone knows what's on the last page.

All the words come from Him, the thoughts, the ideas, the poetry, the inspiration. All from the Word; where else? These are gifts to unwrap with awe and gratitude, to examine, to treasure and to use as very best we can. We are showered with blessings here, for He loves to give His children gifts: ears to hear, eyes to see, lips to speak. Fingers to curl around a pencil.

More than Writers? Yes, I think so. 

We have something else; it might seem subtle, but ultimately it's the only thing that matters. It inspires us, keeps us going when things are hard, and gives us joy and satisfaction on the deepest level. Whenever we go about our business of working with those words, whether it's a devotional or an article, or a story, or a journal, we do it for Him. Not one of us will tell our story in vain.

We know where the words come from. 

We know the Word. 

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

Having spent time as a Researcher, Pastoral Worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently working on her first novel. As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims and collects ceramic penguins.

She has two blogs: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith, and Badger on the Roof where readers are treated to a blow by blow account of her novel-writing progress. 

You can also find her on: 
Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Water Walking for Beginners by Marion Stroud

The Indalo Man

I've always been fascinated by the thought of God calling us to 'do life' differently, so I have a soft spot for Peter, and his attempts to walk on water. That's why, when I came across the Indalo man, emblem of the Almeria region of Spain, pictured as walking on water and holding a rainbow in his hands, I had to buy one. He sits on my desk  to remind me that, in the words of John Ortberg  'If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat."

 One of my ongoing water walking adventures began in the early 1990's when an unknown caller left a message on my Answerphone. “I’m a missionary in Bulgaria “she said “and I’ve been asked to start bible study groups for women. Someone told me that you might be able to suggest suitable material.”

Valerie was working with a group called Mission Possible. “Many women have come to faith recently” she said “In fact the congregations are 75% women in many churches. But this is a very patriarchal society and the women don’t know how to lead a study group or what material to use.” I made some suggestions, expecting that this would  be the end of the matter.

18 months later, Valerie contacted me again. ‘Would you come and speak to our ladies?” she asked. “Many of them are lone worshippers in their families and you’ve written a book for women like that.”  Would I go ... and speak ... to people who knew little English ... staying with someone I’d only met once  ... in a country where the dark shadow of Communism still lingered and where the emerging Protestant churches were regarded as ‘sects’. That definitely seemed like walking on water. Was I up for the challenge? I  wobbled but I went.

That ten day visit was a jumble of new experiences. Evidence of the past regime were everywhere. The grey tower blocks of tiny apartments, the packs of dogs roaming the streets, avoiding eye contact with strangers, gave a tiny glimpse of life as it had been. We travelled to 5 different towns, stayed with an elderly lady who had led an underground church in her house, taught in a half built church sitting amongst piles of bricks and metal girders which would have sent to the U.K health and safety people screaming for cover, and spent an evening with Roma gypsies ladies.

I learned how to speak through a translator and was caught up with the sheer joy of their worship.  They were so hungry for God. I experienced life with frequent power cuts and dodgy plumbing. It was a new world and I loved it.

 ‘Have you considered having an occasional newsletter that you circulate to your ladies?  ‘I asked as I said goodbye to the Mission Possible team. ‘That way you could encourage them regularly with  a bible study outline or ideas for a meeting!’  They thanked me politely, but their body language implied that they had quite enough to do without that!

A year or so later another letter arrived. ‘You suggested that we make a Newsletter’ wrote Daniella. ‘But God has showed us to produce a magazine for all Bulgarian women. We shall call it Leah. Can you help us? ‘My Eastern European water-walking adventure had begun.

Marion Stroud is a former Chair of ACW, a trainer for Media Associates and the author of 26 books, some of which have been translated into 14 languages. Her two latest books of prayers for women, 'Dear God It's Me and It's Urgent' and 'It's Just You and Me Lord' are available in the UK from Monarch, a division of Lion Publishing and in the United States from Discovery House, the book publishing division of Our Daily Bread. She is represented by Mary Keeley from Books and Such Literary Management and you will find out more about her books at www.marionstroud

Saturday, 21 March 2015

'I have the pen of a ready writer' by Ruth Johnson

Paper,Write,Pen by aungkarns - Paper,Write,Pen,bujung'My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.Ps.45

Last year, through the worship song entitled “10,000 reasons for my heart to find (to bless the Lord)” I was inspired to count my blessings and on my blog wrote 10 blessings a day for 100 days = first 1,000!

In January I was reminded of the 1973 musical by Jamie Owens and Pat Boone entitled “Come Together” (in Jesus’ name) through which I met my husband.  Choirs were formed throughout the UK to sing to local congregations with a sell out finale at Royal Albert Hall when all the singers came together.  

The Doxology from that keeps stirring in me to sing: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below;  Praise Him above ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost” On two occasions I burst forth in secular situations and the people around me clapped! It was equally astonishing, two weeks later when not having heard it sung for years the music group at my church introduced it. My sense is the Lord is encouraging us, even in difficult times to praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

A couple of days later I read that Paul, a Jew, who was surprisingly called to preach to the Gentiles, only spent seven years outside of prison. I suspect with Paul’s personality and knowledge he questioned God at not being able to teach the people, but he did learn to rejoice in difficult circumstances.  And when visitors came he responded by sending letters to their churches and it was his attitude and faithfulness to do what he could, with what he had, that gives us those letters today.  Paul had no idea they would be read for the next 2,000 years instructing and changing peoples’ hearts and lives.

If our hearts are stirred by a Godly theme, writing can come in many forms with an influence beyond our understanding.  From that encouragement, and believing God called me to write, I didn't think it a coincidence when I opened an email later that day asking me to contribute to this blog.  The parable of the talents reveals that the more we use, stretch and invest our God-given gifts, the greater they will be multiplied to us. 

To stretch my abilities, and helped by Christian Concern, I write to my MP about ethical, moral and Christian issues that constantly arise through government legislation. With a desire to romance the soul and spirit I have over ten years written four books, three of which are published.  I journal my walk with the Lord on my blog: “Adventures into the Supernatural” which always leaves me excited, expectant and believing in He can do more than we could hope and imagine.  Find blog:  name box: ACW  Password: Writers and/or sample my books @

Friday, 20 March 2015

Remember by Sue Russell

People sometimes tell me how lucky I am to have a good memory (so far.) It's not all luck: for example, at the age of 16 I decided to memorise my National Insurance number, and since then I have also committed to memory my bank account number and sort code. It saves rifling through your cluttered handbag or age-old files, only to emerge red-faced when you can't find the scrap of paper you know you wrote it on. Memorising things, such as chunks of Shakespeare, was something we did at school, especially if we are of a certain age. 'The quality of mercy...'

In the Old Testament the Israelites were repeatedly exhorted to remember, in particular God's mighty acts of deliverance. 'Make certain that you do not forget, as long as you live, what you have seen with your own eyes,' they are told in Deuteronomy 4. 'Search the past...the Lord has shown you this, to prove that he alone is God and that there is no other.' The psalms are also full of warnings not to forget: 'Remember what the Holy One has done...'

Having a good memory for random facts doesn't prevent me from forgetting what might be thought of as more important. In recent years I have had the task of clearing my parents' house, and I discovered a trunkful of my diaries. Not only had I forgotten their content - perhaps forgivable after 40 years - I had even forgotten having kept them at all. One volume covered the last three months of 1975, and is full of life's commonplaces: I was living at home, my brother was still alive, my father was working, and I had a full complement of aunts and uncles. Reading this slight record opened my eyes to so much I had forgotten: not just the facts but the flavour of that time. I found this rather worrying, since as writers we rely so much on memory, and it reminded me of the value of journal-keeping.

In the New Testament we find different instructions: 'So, then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way..' says the writer to the Hebrews. 'Let us run with determination the race that is before us.' 'I run straight for the finishing line,' says St Paul in 2 Corinthians; and with even more emphasis in Philippians 3, '...the one thing I to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead.'

Of course, there is no real contradiction here. If my memory starts to deteriorate, as it probably will as I age, I hope to remember those two things: God's untold blessings to me and all creation; and the need to keep focused on the finishing-post. The day may come when I remember nothing, so I am thankful that God does not forget. One of the most touching, humbling and reassuring lines of Scripture comes from Psalm 103: 'He knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.' Whatever happens to our human brains, we are safe in God's memory.

Sue Russell, writing as S.L.Russell, is the author of four contemporary novels from a Christian viewpoint, all now published by New Generation: Leviathan with a Fish-hook, The Monster Behemoth, The Land of Nimrod (The Leviathan Trilogy) and most recently A Shed in a Cucumber Field. A fifth stand-alone novel, An Iron Yoke, is at the editing stage. She lives in Kent with her husband, two adult daughters and Rosie the dog and when not writing, reading, gardening or visiting her crumbling pile in France is an amateur singer and church organist.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

They also serve who only sit and write, by Veronica Zundel

One of the 'uses' of the Bible Paul lists in his second letter to Timothy is 'reproof'. And there are few better books for that than Amos. We're studying it at the moment in our home group, focusing  on the prophet's message both for his time, and for today. So inevitably, we are talking about the pressing social issues of our world, nation and community, which are remarkably similar to those of Amos' day. The unholy trinity of money, sex and power still do their usual work of corruption and oppression.

Being a church with a strong emphasis on peace and justice, we have several members who work in deprived areas, or for campaigning charities. However I suggested the other night that Amos was not actually an  activist: he didn't personally go out and  change  the abuses in his society.  Instead his job was to identify and proclaim what was wrong. His powerful words shamed others' behaviour, predicted what would come of it, and offered hope to those at the bottom of the heap. I don't think my statement went down particularly well. One member pointed out that the prophets were very active, going out to where the people were and confronting them. But something still niggled.

As a teenage convert, I was sure God would call me  to work with Mother Teresa, or something equally heroic. We are fed, after all, with missionary biographies or accounts of dangerous, pioneering work in far-flung places; and it's easy to feel that the 'real' Christians are the ones in those books. Think about it for a moment, though. Who tells those tales of bold Christian endeavour that might inspire others to serve similarly? It's the writer, sitting alone at her computer, not feeling she's changing anything very much. Amos, after all, had no publishers, and had to go out into the streets; but we are at several removes from our readers, and rarely get feedback, positive or negative. It's easy (at least for me)  to get consumed by guilt that I am not 'out there' doing something to bring the Kingdom of God a  bit nearer.

But we need not echo Woody Allen's words: 'My one regret in life is that I am not someone else'. If God has called you to writing, that calling is as honourable as any other more socially engaged vocations. Without stories, whether missionary biographies or redemptive novels, humankind perishes - which may be one reason the Bible consists mainly of stories (the other reason is that three-quarters of it was not written by Christians... ) Sometimes, words do speak as loudly as actions; and what is more, they can lead ourselves or others to actions, can comfort and encourage those who are drained by action, can offer visions of the world to which those actions might lead. So (while I know many look up with awe to actual published writers), don't let anyone question the value of your being 'only' a writer.

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

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Anticipation, birthing and creativity by Joy Lenton

Watching roses unfurl, I ponder on their fragile beauty.

A bloom which fades too soon. A tiny glimpse of glory.

A feast for the eyes coming at just the right time.

Winter-weary souls are made thirsty for colour, for life, for change.

Dark days and slow pace don't suit us all.

Word-weary writers have to sit out seasons where the flow is slow.

Seeking a deluge but only receiving a slight shower, a few drops and dribbles like tears on the page.


Pitter, pitter patter
go our words
Poured out fast
or slow
to the Universe
Tentative chatter
we can bring
Heart offering
A flow
of creation
against loneliness

No matter how they flow:haltering, faltering or poured out fast, our God-given words matter. 

Our heart offerings, given in love, by Holy Spirit inspiration and in expectant faith are waiting to be received ~ yes, imperfect as they may feel and be.

They impact the lives of others because they speak of our shared humanity, of pain and pleasure, of struggle and success, of failure and faith, of hope and expectations.

We all have a longing to know we are not as alone as we feel. A craving for connectivity.

Each word we write has potential to make those lines linking us to others feel closer, pulling us together, holding us in unity.

God is continually doing a new thing as He births His character and purpose in our lives. It is no less true for our creativity and calling.


Birth mercy in the face of injustice
Birth hope in the depths of despair
Birth truth midst lies and what-ifs
Birth love complete, everywhere
Birth peace in seas of sorrow
Birth joy in adversity's grip
Birth faith for today and tomorrow
Birth light where we're liable to trip
Birth grace to greet each new day
Birth purpose out of our pain
Birth trust when we fail and we sway
Birth belief you will do it again

Let's stay hope-filled in the dry seasons; let our words sit a while as we rest in God, awaiting His timing, inspiration and enabling.

Birthing anything new spiritually or creatively can be a messy, unpredictable business and being in transition is painful and confusing.

We ache for activity, for fresh ideas and purpose to come.

But when we come out the other side of the process we will breathe with sweet relief, and gratitude for the work of the Author of our faith in bringing new things to life.
Joy is a grateful grace-dweller who weaves words out of the fabric of her days as she seeks the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal.
As an M.E and chronic illness sufferer, who is also recovering from a painful past, she writes with a heart for the hurting and to support and encourage others who are struggling with life and faith issues.

She blogs at 'Words of Joy' and 'Poetry Joy' and would love to connect with you on Twitter, Google + or Pinterest

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Don't compare by Claire Musters

I have to be honest and say that comparing myself to others is something that I've done throughout my life. I find it hard to accept the gifts that God has placed within me without looking at others enviously.

As a writer, editor and musician the artistic temperament is definitely alive and well within me! I am grateful for how God has used me in the area of worship, but I am also very aware of my limitations – as well as those who are more talented. I have had to work hard to step out.

The same is true for my writing. I never set out to be a writer. I wanted to be a composer and, once I started my degree, that evolved into becoming an editor.

During my journey as an editor opportunities arose for writing and my first book came about when the publisher decided the manuscript they had been sent (which I was due to edit) was not what they had hoped for. I now regularly write magazine and online articles, Bible study notes and have four books under my writerly belt. 

But those ugly sisters envy and comparison still come and do battle in my soul regularly. I envy others in the same writing field as me who have more of a 'platform' and so are better 'bets' for publishers. I've known rejection because I am not on a regular speaking circuit. For now, I have chosen to prioritise being at home for my children. I know that's the right decision for us, but it doesn't make those comparisons any easier to bat away!

So far, the books I've written I've been asked to by in-house editors. I have a book on my heart that is at the proposal stage. This one is my baby, and it is a lot harder work – both to produce and to find a publisher for!

I've come to know some novel writers through the Association of Christian Writers. It is great to converse with them, and also wonderful to discover their books. But I am also in awe of their talent, as I don't feel I could ever write a good novel.

It is so easy to sell yourself short. To believe everyone else is more talented, more social media savvy, more liable to be published. But, as I know so many other writers will testify to, we write because we have to. It is what God has called us to; it's a part of who we are. 

So can I urge you, as well as myself, to intentionally forget the comparisons and celebrate the fact that God has given you the inbuilt desire to write. Yes it is hard work. But isn't it wonderful that God has planted that seed inside of us? He longs to see how we will tend it and grow it.

I have a renewed determination not to settle for second best, not to allow myself to wither under pesky comparison thoughts that cultivate apathy. Instead, I'm going to thank God each day for the gift of writing.

Claire is a freelance writer and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Guide: Managing Conflict and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes a regular column for Christian Today. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter.