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Showing posts from November, 2016

HISTORY AND HYMNS - JOACHIM NEANDER by Allison Symes

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Image Credit:  All images for this post are from Pixabay.

The older I get, the more I realise uncertainty is nothing new.  Nor will it go away, no matter how much we might wish or pray it would.  This thought hit home when I was singing Joachim Neander’s marvellous hymn, God, My Hope on You is Founded at a recent church service.

In one of the verses, the words “sword and crown betray our trust” suddenly struck me as being a massive political statement. I have no idea why that thought had not occurred before during the many years I’ve sung this hymn. 


I looked at Joachim Neander’s dates of birth and death.  He lived from 1650 to 1680 (which even by the standards of the time was not a long life span but he was unfortunate enough to catch TB.  He did write 60 hymns.  I wonder how many others would he have gone on to have written had he lived to a more usual age.).



He was a hymn writer for the German Reformed Church and his most famous hymn is Praise to the Lord, The Almighty, the King of…

100,000 Pageviews: Modesty or Self-promotion for the Blogger/Author?

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‘Ex Nihilo’: one of the author’s acrylics that accompany the blog referred to below Within the next month, unless something very surprising happens, my blog ‘The Cross and The Cosmos’ will pass through 100,000 pageviews (98000 as this is written and rising at 130/150 per day). Not massive in terms of today’s astounding viewings achieved by some young tech and entertainment savvy young people who appeal to their peers by age and sometimes curious interests across the world. But the internet is still, for many of us, a startling phenomenon.
But, I like to think, 100,000 is a reasonable achievement in five-and-a-half years for a blog which is about weaving together the themes of faith (1% interest), science (maybe 2% interest) in poetry (1% interest). Now it is not necessary to have a degree in maths to work out that .01 x .02 x .01 is a very tiny percentage of likely readers. But there are obviously some interested readers out there amongst the massive number of internet users today.
That…

The NaNo Rebel, by Lucy Mills

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November.
A month can hold strong associations for us - it might be the month of our birthday, or the birthday of a loved one. It might make us think of the season - the 'spring-ness' of May, the 'summer-ness' of August. It might make us think of a period on the church calendar - December, for example, for Advent - although Advent begins today - this is the first Sunday of Advent and we're not even out of November yet!

November, for many writers, has become equated with NaNoWriMo. I've engaged in this a few times, all successfully - somehow that little chart with my increasing word count gives me a boost where nothing else has (hence my saying 'I only write novels in November').

This year, however, I have a non-fiction book to write and that takes priority over any 'novelling'. But I decided to use the NaNo model to help me - to write and add my wordcount in the same way as always, just for this, my commissioned non-fiction book.


I discovered there…

Lord, hear my prayer - Eve Lockett

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If you had a message to deliver, would you employ a good talker, or a good listener?

When God had a message for Pharaoh of Egypt, he chose Moses, ‘slow of speech and tongue’ who claimed never to have been eloquent. The good talker was Aaron, Moses’ brother. Moses agreed to the task if Aaron would do the speaking for him. But it was Moses who proved faithful to God’s word and purpose. While Moses was listening to God on the mountain, Aaron was pacifying the people by assisting them to worship golden calves.

It is clearly not enough to be good with words. We have to be good with silence. We have to be able to listen. Elijah remained isolated and resentful through earthquake, wind and fire. But the still, small voice of God brought him trembling to the mouth of the cave. Jonathan Sacks, in his book Radical Then, Radical Now, gives us an insight into the ‘still, small voice’:
- the Hebrew literally means ‘the sound of a slender silence’, - meaning, the voice that we can hear only if we liste…

The Things I Find in my Car, by Fiona Lloyd

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Last month, Helen Murray wrote about how she enjoys collecting pine cones. This resonated with me, as a couple of days previously I had parked under a huge horse-chestnut tree and opened my car door to find the ground littered with conkers. Mahogany shells gleamed at me from spiny green cases as they nestled – half-buried – beneath yellowing autumn leaves.
There’s something irresistibly appealing about freshly fallen conkers: I love the richness of their colouring and the silkiness of their shells. They remind me of misty autumn mornings melting into mellow sunshine, and how – when my children were small – kicking up leaves in the park in the hope of finding autumnal treasure was a great way to pass a couple of hours.
I gave in to temptation, even though my children are all grown-up now. I gathered a couple of dozen conkers, and put them in the side-pocket of my car door, fully intending to display them in a glass bowl when I got home.
So, guess where they are now? Yep, that’s right: fi…

Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry

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Writing in the Diocese of Oxford weekly newsletter today, the Bishop of Reading says:
Last Friday we watched starling murmurations at dusk and we were transfixed. Look up Emergence Theory. When a whole nation flocks, rises and turns unexpectedly, as it did last week, many ask, ‘what is God up to?’ The answer must be, God is right there in the shifting patterns and the unexpected. Pray for America’s next President and keep on asking the question.
Such a response to recent events is itself unexpected, but he must be right. We shouldn’t take his point in a simplistic way, assuming that manifestly wicked things are God’s will. But God turns evil to good. The world’s reaction to political problems is to get angry, hurl abuse, draw scurrilous cartoons, write satire. And we quite naturally get drawn in. But the distinctively Christian response, of course, is to pray: for our enemies, for those whom we dislike, for those whom we fear, for people who say and do the most obnoxious things, for ext…

A hard hat and the Holy Spirit - by Helen Murray

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'...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.'
Philippians 1:6 NIV I have been musing about this.

My youngest daughter and I tidied her bedroom some weeks ago.  Well, I tidied her room and she followed me around complaining, removing items that I put in a black bin bag and disagreeing with my definition of 'rubbish'. The room was dreadful. It was a mess, and needed work. About an hour into the job, it looked much, much worse than it did to start with. You know that bit where Macbeth says, 'I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, to return were as tedious as go o'er...? 

Too late to change my mind; no choice but to push on. Can't leave it like this.

My life is in such a state at the moment. A while ago God started tidying up, making a few changes; can't stop now.
know that he is at work. I know it beyond any doubt; I know that things are considerably d…

The Message in the Bottle.....................by Ruth Johnson

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‘… I (Jesus) pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”John17:20-21

I have tried to bring the strands together for the finale of my fourth book, but none have seemed right.The first would have gone beyond the 165,000 words and four hundred pages.The second felt boring. If I’m bored so would be the reader. I re-read my last book and was astonished at how I’d woven the plot and it had come together. I really feelI write the words, but the Lord brings forth the plot.
So when spending time with the Lord and believing He desired me to revisit and finish book four, I asked for a plot download and also spoke to Him of the poor sales in recent years and needing encouragement of fresh interest in the books already published.
In August on hearing I wrote books a woman asked to buy them. In September a man said he’d read ‘J…

Bread upon the waters by Sue Russell

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Like, I suspect, many of the readers of this blog, I am prone to discouragement. I have probably complained before (these things don't go away) that the writer's life involves hard work while offering little visible fruit, but is also a compulsion that can only be resisted at the price of misery. It feels like Hobson's choice - which, I find, originated from a horse-keeper in Cambridge who would lend out the horse nearest to the stable door or no horse at all. So I have to keep on doing it, (and trying to get better at it, and making efforts to reach a wider readership), or else give it up as a waste of time and suffer.
Sometimes, though, there comes a tiny insight that leavens the general gloom: nothing very profound, indeed, probably quite hackneyed - but often enough a cliche is a cliche because it strikes a lot of people as true.
On a shopping trip recently with my good friend and writing buddy Claire (C.F.Dunn, author of the acclaimed series The Secret of the Journal…

You don't have to be mad to be a writer...

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..but it helps...

Much has been said and written about the relationship between creativity and what some of my online friends call being 'mentally interesting'. We  know that many creative geniuses (or should that be 'genii'?) struggled with mental health issues of various degrees, whether caused by overconsumption of alcohol or drugs, or just by the vicissitudes of life. It's a fine line between having brilliant ideas and having frankly crazy ideas, and those of us with the sensitivity/insight/eccentricity to feel deeply and to write about it, are also prone to feeling more deeply than we or those around us can cope with. Do you, in fact, have to be a bit mad to be a creator, whether in words or other media?

I ponder this subject today because in the last week I've been plunged once again into the murky waters of depression, nervous exhaustion or whatever you want to call it, and I'm only just beginning to come out again. It was to be expected: after the f…

Why it's good to pause in the midst of busyness - by Joy Lenton

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Let's pause shall we? Life's getting increasingly hectic as this season gathers momentum. 

But we don't have to stay on the hamster wheel of busyness, leading to increasing cycles of anxiety and stress. 

We can be people who pause, those who slow down and breathe for their sanity and soul's sake.

In this pre-Christmas season it's all too easy to get sucked into numerous activities, fail to prioritise self-care, neglect to pause and protect our weary souls. I sense a tension in the air, hanging like a dark, palpable thing. And I long for light, relief and rest.

I hear consumerism's clarion call, ready to ensnare us in its tenacious thrall. Who knew there were so many things we couldn't possibly manage to celebrate without? Who realised how much it all depends on us? But it doesn't, my friend, it really doesn't. We can discern as we sift the wheat from the chaff, the important from the urgent, the needful from what can waitand learn how to delegate.

My re…

An introvert’s discovery by Claire Musters

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Yes I’m introvert by nature. I would quite happily crawl under a duvet with a laptop, write away and never have to face anyone. So, as I know I have expressed before when we’ve had discussions on the subject, the idea of self-promotion and pushing myself forward has always left me cold. Not least because as Christians we have to tread an uneasy line between dying to self and promoting ourselves in order to sell our writing!
Just in the last month, however, I have preached, appeared on Premier Radio for the first time and spoken at a women’s breakfast – and I LOVED it all! If anyone had told me I would be doing those kinds of things a few years ago I would have laughed at them. Because I am the person who, when I first joined a worship band in church, used to sit up all of Saturday night crying because I was petrified at the thought of playing in front of people. The poor guitarist / band leader – most Sunday mornings he would get a call from me saying I couldn’t possibly play after …