Monday, 31 December 2018

Meeting Royalty

Have you ever met a member of the Royal Family? The seventieth birthday of the Prince of Wales last month prompted some memories.

A few of my friends and acquaintances have been invited to Buckingham Palace. I have merely been an onlooker and visited the palace as a tourist. The Coronation Exhibition was very well presented. I enjoyed it with an audio-guide, which included a welcome from the Prince of Wales.

Visiting London as a child, people let me through to the ropes near the road. The royal car with Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh came into sight. As it drew level the Queen leant forward obscuring him and waved to the crowds lining the other side of the road! I have forgotten the purpose of our trip to London, but seeing the royal car was not on the original itinerary. We had followed the crowds.

Once in my student days I emerged from a small railway station to find people lining the road. I asked one of the policemen what was going on.

“Prince Charles is coming. He’s late and I want to go and play golf!”

I waited and saw him go past in a car on the way to open a new building at a nearby college.

Although I now live in a remote part of England we have had a few royal visitors. The first time I went to see HRH Prince Charles in our village, I had a normal morning for that stage of my life. After taking the children to school, I had gone home to do some housework. Nipping out to join a crowd of onlookers I was surprised that some of them had dressed in their smartest clothes. It hadn’t occurred to me to dress up!
The footbridge at the station
The next time he was due to arrive in the royal train I positioned myself near the station and had a good view of him crossing the footbridge. I had my camera with me and was about to take a close-up shot of him, when I decided that would be rather rude. I lowered my camera. He seemed to notice as he made a remark along the lines of, “Do you people know how to use those things?”

Whatever our opinion of the government and whether we should have a monarch, we are instructed to pray for those in authority.

Of course, we pray to (or in the name of) the ultimate authority. We believe that Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

A member of ACW, who hosts the local writing group, told me about something, which happened on a train journey. She was sitting quietly, while other passengers – young women – were talking. One of them, surprised, said, “Jesus Christ!”

My friend looked at her and said, “You know you’ll have to meet Him one day.”

So will we. Will we be dressed appropriately?

As it is New Year’s Eve, I wish you all a peaceful New Year.

Sunday, 30 December 2018


Ever failed?


If you've never failed, you've not lived.

Failure comes to us all at some time in our lives. It could be a large failure, a small failure or something massive. Whichever it is, we will live with the consequences. Oftentimes, so will others.

Last month I failed to do my post for this blog. Not a massive failure, but it was still a failure. I've had other, much bigger failures.

I was once a member of a writing group that set a goal to publish novels every year. We managed for two straight years, but one member decided that they weren't the centre of attention and decided they would act like a seagull. Screech, flap about and make a mess everywhere. With no backup from the other members in the group when facing this person down, I left.

This was a group failure, but I was part of that failure because we allowed someone to get their way and ruin what we had achieved. We'd even been approached by one publisher. (It's the origin of the starfishpc website in case you're interested)

What I learned from that experience has helped me to continue writing and publishing, albeit to a much smaller degree. It's one reason I would like to work with other unpublished and semi-published authors. Sharing the burden makes the process much easier.

There are other failures.

I've written stories and articles that will never see the light of day. Said things in public that I really wish I could erase. Started jobs that were a waste of time, made journeys that ended up in frustration.

From them I know things I'm good at, bad at or okay at. I can play the guitar after a fashion (and the recorder, piano and violin) but I'm not good enough to perform professionally. I can write and people will pay for it. I'm also good at training others, which is one part of my I.T. job.

Other lessons include being creative when finding a solution, knowing when to walk away from bad people and (almost) when to keep my mouth shut.

Failure is hard. But it doesn't have to be the end of everything.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Background Characters

How vital are your background characters? Their role in your story must be important enough for them to be there but not such that they overshadow your leads. It has never been easy to play second fiddle. It is not always easy to write it either!

Your background characters must have a vital role to play but not hog the limelight.  Pixabay image.

I love stories associated with the Nativity, which often involve characters such as the innkeeper and his wife.  I’ve come across a story recently suggesting the innkeeper’s wife was keener than her husband to help Mary (given he’d been rushed off his feet with the influx of guests and the last thing he needed was a heavily pregnant woman also needing accommodation, the one thing he was short of!). I thought the idea was well executed.
Even in the Nativity there were background characters but whose role was pivotal.  Pixabay image.
So how can we show our background characters in the best light but at the same time ensure they don’t hog the limelight?

I’ve found it helpful to bring a background character into the story early as this flags up to the reader this character is worth watching.  They must be there for a good reason.  Hopefully the reader will want to find out if their suspicions  are right!  Also naming the character can act as a flag to the reader.  (It will flag things up further if that name is repeated, especially if done by your protagonist).

What roles have you planned for your background people?  Pixabay image
 One of the classics in fiction is having a situation where your hero/heroine needs help and your background character is the one to save the day.  But it doesn’t need to be overly dramatic.  Even in this day and age of emails, social media etc., people still need to receive messages.  Think about how Romeo and Juliet hinges on whether Juliet’s letter is delivered or not.  Update the procedure!  Your background character could be the one to let your heroes down or to prove to be their salvation.

Do your background characters act as catalysts for change or are they the "connectors" in your story?  Pixabay image
Talking of which, I’ve visited a couple of fascinating medieval fairs and the role of the scrivener was something that drew my attention.  Understandably so, I think!  As well as writing things for people for a fee, he would read letters they had received in the days with literacy was limited.  How often did the scrivener read what was really there?  Did they write things down their customer didn’t want them to write but had no way of double checking?  There was a great deal of trust put in the scrivener.  Could your background characters be in that type of role where they are needed to be trustworthy (but aren’t necessarily)?

Was the scrivener trustworthy?  Are your background characters faithful to your leads or treacherous?  Pixabay image.
The scrivener's wares.  Image by Allison Symes
There should be a good reason for the background character to be able to provide the assistance needed. Every word and character has to justify their place in your tale but background characters can be the catalyst for change which every story needs.  Also, your lead characters cannot be in every scene, they need to interact with others, have conflicts with others (else there is no story), and again this is where your subordinate people come in.

The scrivener had some of the best accommodation in travelling fairs. A great example of a vital role that could change people's lives.  How vital are your background characters?  Image by Allison Symes

Friday, 28 December 2018

Retelling The Wise Men’s Story as an activity by Trevor Thorn

This might be helpful for any of your friends called on to lead an all-age service or Epiphany event
The Wise Men’s Tale (Matthew  2, 1 – 11): an interactive all-age story

Here’s a way of telling the story of the Wise Men at an all age event involving both children and grown ups. Get the children to join you and split them into five groups (or five individuals) and sit on the ground in their groups - they won’t be sitting still for long so don’t worry if the floor is a bit cold). If you have a centre aisle of reasonable length, spread the groups down the aisle so is present as near a group as possible.
Name each group/ individual: One group has to remember ‘Caspar’, traditionally the name of one of the wise-men; the second remember ‘Melchior’ another wise man; the third group ‘Balthazar’; the  fourth ‘Camels’ and the fifth group ‘Servants’.  ALL THE CHILDREN have to listen out for their group’s name AND FOR the word ‘Caravan’

As you tell the story - each group has to stand up, turn round and sit down again whenever ‘their’ name is called and to do the same when ‘Caravan' is read out.

Start to read the story slowly so the children get the idea and so the smaller ones have a chance to follow the lead of the older children in their group. Then gradually speed up so the children soon have hardly time to sit down before they have to get up again. The children will enjoy the muddle and so will the rest of the congregation (unless they are very, very staid!).

THEN: stop the story where indicated in the script and invite everyone who can to join in each time ‘Caravan’ features

Once the script ends, go straight into whatever message fits your situation best. I like to go simply to how clearly God demonstrated the Good News of Jesus was for all people – not just the Jews.

Once upon a time, there were three Wise men who lived in the land we now call Iran. They were called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar and they watched the stars every night to try and understand the meaning of their patterns in the sky.

One night Caspar called to Melchior “Quick! Go and fetch Balthazar then come and look at the sky with me. The three of them, BalthazarCaspar and Melchior gazed into the Eastern sky where there was a star where they had never seen one before. Almost as they watched, it seemed to grow brighter.

Balthazar said “It’s a sign we’ve been waiting for”.

“Yes”, said Melchior, it’s the sign of a King important enough for the heavens to take notice.

Caspar said quickly “Let’s get our servants and camels and gifts and go and find him. The star is moving: it will lead us to him”

BalthazarCaspar and Melchior called their servants. “We are going on a journey – we don’t know where and we’ll go in a great caravan to take gifts for the king which a new star will lead us to. BalthazarMelchior and Caspar set out with their caravan.

After several days and nights, Caspar called to Balthazar and Melchior, “ I can see signs of a sandstorm, draw the caravan together so the camels form a shield for the servants and all of us. The storm came, swept over the caravan, leaving sand everywhere and passed on.

PAUSE HERE and invite EVERYONE who can to follow the  children’s lead every time ‘Caravan’ is read out.

The journey then led them through rocky mountains and deep streams. “Caspar,” Melchior said, “Balthazar, make the caravan travel as fast as it can. There are robbers in these hills but they won’t be able to catch fast moving camels. The caravan did spot some wild looking men at one stage but the camels were moving so fast the caravan soon left them behind.

The star led CasparMelchior and Balthazar and the whole caravan to Jerusalem. BalthazarCaspar and Melchior decided to call on Herod – but the star was beckoning the caravan onward – on another five miles to Bethlehem. And there, MelchiorCaspar and Balthazar left the camels and took the whole caravan with them to worship the new king JESUS.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

The morning after the night before by Tracy Williamson

I wonder how Mary felt,
the morning after the night before?
I imagine she was at the very least, exhausted
after her epically long and difficult journey
while at the height of her pregnancy.
What thoughts and fears she contended with
I can barely comprehend,
for no one before, since or to come
will ever be called to do what she did.
To birth the son of the living God,
A holy birth, a miraculous conception,
The impossible taking form
inside her own womb.
Beautiful yet terrifying.
Awesome yet incomprehensible.
Why would God choose her, so young and inexperienced?
she had hardly dared to believe the angels words could be true and yet had felt that strange sense of utter peace in her heart as he brought her God's message.  And she suddenly knew that with Him this crazy idea truly would take place and yes she was willing for it to happen.
But now it had happened, they'd undergone that terrible journey and all through that last day she'd known her time was near.  The pains were sharp and agonising, the ride on the donkey almost impossible to sustain.
She'd had no prior  concept of the impossibility of finding somewhere to stay, the crowds, the noise, the darkness and smells, the fear of what was to come, yes that fear, right in the midst of the peace.
Fear - would she have to birth God's son in the streets in all the mud and filth?  And what exactly was she bringing to birth? would it look human, like her even?  Or would it have some alien form?
After all who had ever seen God and lived?
Yet now she was carrying His son!
Could she love him, this baby when it came?
Or would it forever be an imposter in own home?
Yet she loved God and wanted with all her heart to fulfil His call.
And now it had happened!
Jesus was here
and after all the struggle of that long journey,
he had arrived easily.
No complications no drawn out labour
Only the surprises of having to give birth in a stable with the animals watching, even sharing the bed, the glory of the strangely beautiful light that throbbed across the sky and the echoes of heavenly praise that seemed to fill the entire universe.  Then the shepherds in all their roughness, humbly kneeling to worship...
What did she feel in that moment of birth, bereft of her mother's presence?
her only help the fumbling hands of her young husband?
A as he was born and as she screamed and writhed, pushed and tore
and experienced that lull as He came fully into this world,
She looked down into His face and in that moment her dread melted away as if it had never been.
For this was no alien being,
This was her son, her child, her most precious gift.
Ad inn that moment, as she looked, she loved.
And that is what she felt.
Love. A pure, deep, joy giving, life giving
swell of love
for her baby, for Jesus, For God.

Tracy Williamson is an author and speaker working for the Christian ministry MBM Trust.  www.mbm-ministriesTracy lives in Kent sharing a home with her friend and ministry partner Marilyn Baker.  Tracy is deaf and has a hearing dog called Goldie.  Her latest book The Father's Kiss came out in Sept 18.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

A Cat's-Eye Christmas, by Eve Lockett

I knew something was wrong when a tree arrived in the corner of the room. The Guardians had moved a chair out of the way, the one I perch on by the window. I hate it when they change things around, it’s unsettling. And there it stood, a tree. Its smell was powerful, a new smell overwhelming all the smells I’m used to.
I scrambled out through the cat flap, and prowled silently across the deep wet grass, checking all the familiar trees, the rustling bushes, the mysterious dark burrows in the earth. Yes, all as it should be.
When I returned, there was paper everywhere. The Guardians like paper. They stroke it, hold it, put it on the floor, make marks on it with sticks, hang it up and wrap it round things. I sit on it when I can, mainly because it feels nice, it crackles in an exciting way, and I like to join in what they are doing. I had another sniff of the tree, and even lay down under the branches as I would outside. 
No, not good. Too much to process. I climbed up to the top of the house and curled up on the Guardians’ bed, giving them time to put things right. I knew in my skin something dangerous and unpleasant was about to happen and I couldn’t scratch it away.
Down again, and the tree had burst into flower. It was covered in glinting tiny flames, round shapes, colours and yes, more paper. This time, I gave it a wide berth and settled behind the sofa next to the warm wall.
Often, when things get as disorderly as this, it’s followed by bewildering smells of food and then Strangers appear; loud, heavy, moving about, reaching their paws out to me and squeaking. But not this time. This time the Guardians scrabbled around at the top of the house for ages, calling out to each other and collecting armfuls of stuff. After that, I heard the outside door close and then it went very quiet.
The sky grew dark. Very dark. No Guardians. I slept a bit on the sofa, then padded up to the top of the house. The doors were all closed, and no sound from the other side. I’d been afraid something like this would happen. The tree was just the beginning. 
When it grew light again, I was hungry. No food in my bowl. No movement from anywhere in the house. I cried a bit, and went outside. The day was cold and damp, grey shapes hanging and dripping in the air above me. I drank from the pond as usual, and had a scratch.
Then someone was calling my name. Oh, food! A Stranger Guardian, quite friendly and not too noisy, so I allowed her to stroke my head. In fact it was quite nice, so I allowed her to do it again. ‘Happy Christmas!’ she said, whatever that meant. ‘They’ll be back soon.’
And they were – eventually – coming in with more armfuls of stuff wrapped in paper. I spent a long time reminding the Guardians who I was and why they were meant to look after me, and there was lots of scratching and stroking and my deepest, fastest purr. It all settled down properly after that.
The tree is still there. I’ve got used to it now, and in fact I quite like it. It’s comforting, and another place to hide. I hope they don’t go moving it again.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Nativity unravelled - by Eileen Padmore

My Christmas starts with liberation of the knitted nativity set from the shoe box where it has lain dormant since January.  Made by hand some two decades ago, each piece speaks to me of the mystery and wonder of that ancient event.  

There is no hierarchy of preciousness: local shepherds share the stage with wealthy foreign travellers, sheep and manger act as essential props for that insignificant newborn.

I wonder if God’s spirit was strong in supporting Mary and Joseph through the agony of producing that special God child in such wretched circumstances.  No running water, sterile delivery pack, pethidine, gas and air or epidural for the mother of the Messiah.  

Then no family visits or congratulations. Instead, gossip and disapproval back home from those who believed the young couple to be guilty of something for which they could not prove their innocence.

The religious establishment missed it, as did the politicians.  No help there.  Soon after, the young family became migrants.  The not-so-wise men had messed up by looking for the new King at Herod's palace.  Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape the slaughter of their fragile baby boy.

And through it all, did Mary see the cross?  Whatever agony she endured in producing the Saviour of the World, there was far worse to come.  Later, it would be her fate to watch him suffer the most barbaric death possible at the hands of Roman occupiers. 

It all looks so peaceful and innocent and amazing on my sideboard – and it is!  The light shines on in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.  But the darkness is still there.  I  remind myself that following the guiding star may lead from comfort into conflict.

Mary, blessed among women.  Really ….?  Do I wish to be that blessed?  Can I not follow the star from the safer shadows?  Compromising with the darkness is not so bad – is it?

Saint Ignatius of Loyola talks of only two directions of travel in relation to God: towards the Light of the World in a state of ‘consolation’ or away from Him in ‘desolation’.  My task as a child of God is to discern which way I choose to face through the events and circumstances of each day.  It is not possible to travel in both directions at the same time.

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.  Her most recent achievement was NaNoWriMo 2018 'Winner'.  Married to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and a large African tortoise.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Before the flood

Annie: You’re back on Twitter again, Martin! How many hours do you spend on it, really!

Martin: Not that many! I do look at it every day. Tell you, what, you learn more from it than you do from the newspapers these days.

Annie: Maybe. Depends who you follow, I guess.

Martin: Well, I follow all sorts. Archaeologists. Scientists. Lefties. Non-Lefties. Not really Right-wingers though. But you can’t miss the things that they say, whatever tweets you read.

Annie: Christians?

Martin: Yes, of course. A lot of church tweeters. And you know, it’s really noticeable how different their tweets are. Look at this: We’ve just switched on a lovely star on the side of the church. What about this: How marvellous the cathedral looks all lit up. And there are dozens at the moment like this one: Just over, our wonderful carols by candlelight service—magical atmosphere!

Annie: You’d expect that right now!

Martin: And there’s a lot that go: Ooh, So-and-so is going to be a wonderful bishop. And then, now and then you get, How dare they bring in this new service for people who’ve undergone gender reassignment.

Annie: So?

Martin: Well it really gets to me how—whether it’s positive or negative—it’s all about this tiny microcosm, the church and its internal activities, and pet peeves. You wouldn’t think there was anything going wrong in the real world (apart from gender reassignment, of course).

Annie: Makes me think of that bit where Jesus says In the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.

Embed from Getty Images
Martin: Yes, I mean, do we really know nothing about the awful things that might happen? Look at what our own Government, not some loony extremist, has just been threatening us with: food shortages, medicines in short supply, more suicides, queues of lorries outside Dover, and even troops guarding petrol stations. When have we ever seen that before?

Annie: And we’ve already got soaring child poverty, more and more homeless people, people who have actually got jobs sleeping in the street…

Martin: Dying on the street actually! I suppose at least there are churches tweeting about food banks.

Annie: And MPs, posing in them!

Martin: Don’t get me started on MPs. We just can’t trust our rulers any more. They tell lies, they break faith, they do all sorts of stuff secretly…

Annie: What about them being ‘influenced’ by other countries?

Martin: Well, I think we could even see democratic government suspended—you know, like martial law, state of emergency?

Annie: Really?

Martin: So why do you think all army leave’s been cancelled from 1 April 2019?

Annie: Well, I think we should all be in sackcloth and ashes for this incubus that we, as a nation,  have brought on ourselves.

Martin: Hang on, I didn’t vote for it!

Annie: Yes, but Martin, we’re one people, one flesh and blood; we can’t stand back, we are all involved. Those of us who can repent should do it on behalf of those who can’t yet see the need.

Martin: Well maybe, but that’s not the the end of it. While we’re flailing around enmeshed in the totally unnecessary net that we have made for ourselves out of our own folly, we can do hardly anything about that far greater spectre of climate change that’s looming up. Do the people with stars on the side of their churches realize that the world has only got twelve years to counteract it? We’re seeing temperature extremes, bigger and bigger hurricanes, ice caps melting, coastal areas flooded...

Annie: With the worst effects falling on poor people—lots of Christians!—in the third world! Actually reminds me of another of those things Jesus said: On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Martin: Maybe they just go along with 2 Peter saying You look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. Maybe they’re making sure the elements will be destroyed by fire by supporting fossil fuels, fracking, and new runways!

Annie: Oh it’s horrible thinking all this. I hate being a killjoy. I’d rather not spoil people’s Christmas…

Martin: Just possibly, their last normal Christmas.

Annie: When’s this blog for anyway?

Martin: Christmas Eve.

Annie: No one’s going to read it on Christmas Eve!

Martin: Listen, during the day, surely, it will still be the season of Advent. The message of Advent is ‘Wake up!’ And the call to wake up doesn’t end on Christmas Day. We need Christians to wake up! They need to stay awake and keep praying!

Annie: Yes, praying with repentance, the sure way to receiving mercy.

Martin: And especially for the rulers of this world and of our nation. They really need it.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

As poor as it's possible to be - by Helen Murray

Dear God,

It's almost your Son's birthday. Two more sleeps.

There are a lot of reminders at this time of year. 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' and 'Once in Royal David's City', and when the vicar turns Brussels sprouts into symbolism and when the Queen gives her speech about compassion and courage and the vestiges of Christian service in the despair and confusion of our country; when we open our presents and the mountain of wrapping paper reminds me of the miracle of the greatest gift ever given.

And then there's the little plywood crib in church. It's been there for a whole run of Christmas services with what appears to be an elderly Tiny Tears doll lying on a few meagre handfuls of hamster bedding.

I was born in poverty, too.

Not the sort of poverty that speaks of cold and deprivation - oh no. I have, all my life, been warm and looked after and well fed (just look at me); I had my own Tiny Tears with all the accessories. No, not that sort of poverty.

When I was born, the birth that I'm talking about, I was as poor as it's possible to be in every way that matters. I had nothing, and lived with nothing for sixteen years until the day I realised how poor I was - that was the day that I was born. That should be my birthday, really; that was when life began for real. I realised the void. The gut-wrenching poverty. The absence. The emptiness. The need.

For me, I didn't have to live with that feeling of poverty too long, for no sooner had I realised that I did not have the only thing that mattered, that I longed for it, asked for it - then it was given to me.
You are endlessly generous like that.

How much more awful for those who know, and feel the desperation but don't know where to come to find it, this the new birth. It must break your heart, Father God. No wonder you moved heaven and earth to come and find us.

He had everything, Everything, and He chose to lay it aside to come to this place of filth and cold and hurt to be close to us. He laid aside His majesty indeed, and chose the sweat and smells and roughness of humanity.

He was rich, and He became poor. I was poor, and you gave me riches.

He and I, reborn - humble, vulnerable nakedness. For Him, the vastness of Almighty God, shrunk into a tiny kicking, feeding baby. For me, the smallness and pettiness of a created being expansively given another chance by the grace of the One who reached down and lifted up my chin so that He could look into my eyes with love.

I am a baby as He was. I have all that I need only because You provide it. Mary fed Him, cleaned Him, dressed Him, sang to Him and loved Him through childhood and into adulthood, to execution and beyond. I live because You sustain me. Everything that I have comes from You. If you forgot about me for one second I am sure that I would cease to be. I am hopelessly dependent.

I am uncomfortable in my manger of hay; it prickles. I'd like it to be more comfy. I've come to realise that the times that I don't feel at home are because You have given me a longing for my eternal home. I sense that Somewhere Else from time to time, even insensitive and short-sighted as I am, and the wonder and awe of it makes me speechless, and yet the King of Glory walked purposefully away from that place; You chose to become small. The transcendental made finite. Did You ever feel homesick for the heaven that You left behind?

I am lifted gently out of the dirt to be called a Child of God. A crown has been placed on my head and a robe around my shoulders even though I am unworthy. I live honoured as Your daughter, heir to a wonderful place in your Kingdom. You, the very Son of God, fought your way down the birth canal of a peasant girl and landed in straw, surrounded by people and livestock.

The hands that arranged the stars in the heavens and created the animals and the birds would have brushed against the roughness and splinters of an animal's feeding trough. With Your first breaths You would have inhaled the odour people and cattle. Me, I'm used to the stench of life down here - it seems normal to me, but to You, it must have been strange indeed. You came from a place of peace, beauty, power and honour and put Yourself in the hands of two poor, bewildered kids, far from home, who had not the faintest idea of the magnitude of what was happening.

My rebirth opens up miraculous doors of wonder and possibility; You became confined in a tiny, frail body, kicking and wailing, feeding and sleeping.

You were born so that I could be born again.

And I've realised by staring at that roughly-made trough-cradle, that it is as I stand here with nothing, without anything at all, just me as You made me, unable to conceal a single part of me - I am most blessed. I am a new creation.

You turned your back on your glory to become one of us.

You were exalted, and You became weak. I am weak, and You raise me up. I can't get my head around it. You know what it feels like to be poor, to be vulnerable, to be human.

Lord Jesus, baby Jesus, King of Kings, Redeemer, Saviour.

Thank you, Lord God, for the gift of your Son.

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

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

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

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray
Twitter: @helenmurray01

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Someone has a Name by Emily Owen

‘Wishing you peace and joy this Christmas’ read the card the postman delivered to me. It was a beautiful card, and lovely message from someone. But who was the someone?

There was no signature, so I didn’t know who was wishing me peace and joy. I tried to find out by checking the postmark and scrutinising the handwriting. That didn’t help.

It was nice to know someone wished me peace and joy but, in the end, I resigned myself to not knowing who that was.

It was as I turned away from the card that I noticed a folded piece of paper by my feet.  It had slipped, unnoticed, from the envelope as I opened the card. Picking the paper up, I realised it was not only signed by the sender, it contained some of their news, too. Knowing who had sent me the card made a difference. Knowing their name and knowing a bit about them. It brought extra joy (and peace of mind).

It struck me that, sometimes, perhaps we can fall into treating Christmas a little like an unsigned card.

It’s lovely to go to Carol Services and Nativity Plays, and remember the message they bring, but even in our remembering do we forget who the message of Christmas is from?

God sent his son…

Do we forget that the Someone we are busy remembering has a name?



Prince of Peace.

Does he slip, unnoticed, from our celebrations?

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. (John 1)

May our celebrations this year, whatever form they take, wherever they are held, remember to find Jesus.  To recognise him as the One whose name reminds us what Christmas is all about.

Whose name brings extra joy.

Though he (Jesus) was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2)