Thursday, 28 February 2019

Journal by Trevor Thorn

Try as I might, I still find it hard to empty my mind of all of those concerns that continually bounce around when I try to be quiet with God. I am too much of an activist, I think.

So, some long time ago, I followed a suggestion that a prayer journal might help. If, it was suggested I wrote down my thoughts, I would stay more focused on what I wanted to take to God that morning: and hopefully also be more open to what God wanted of me.

My intention at the outset was that it would be an everyday activity during my morning quiet time. That remains my intention, but even a quick flick through the pages reveals at least a few days, and sometimes more, in every month when I haven’t lived up to my own ‘ambition'.

Thankfully, I firmly believe that God will be tolerant of this - even if he shares in my disappointment, which is sometimes virulent enough to make me wonder if it is worth carrying on. Then comes the ‘Will I listen to the whisperer who says it really isn’t worth it at all!’

When that happens, there is, again thankfully, an antidote which I’ve come to discover over time. I turn back to those past journal pages where the corner is turned down and a few lines marked. Those signify the moments where an idea has occurred during my sometimes almost incoherent jottings, which I think at the time of writing I might want to explore later. From those which puzzle me as to why I have marked them at all, through those which spark no more than they did earlier, to the surprise moment when I think,
‘Wow! This is extraordinary? It somehow demands to be thought through’.
Sometimes then a poem is born. Then after the poem - a wave of thankfulness for the balm of a creative idea amidst the dryness.

I cannot imagine mine is a unique experience but I am grateful for it: I am grateful to have been brought back to the idea and I am grateful for whatever the genesis of the idea was. In some of those reflections I can see that the threads from which this idea derived were woven way, way back in my life history. In those moments, I can find myself marvelling at incidents that are best explained, in my view, as the astonishing work of the Holy Spirit, preparing, guiding, drawing events together and speaking into the retrospect of a half-formed idea. What grace!

Journalling will not work for everyone, and some will, I suspect, regard it as a very poor substitute for active listening. But for this activist, it is unquestionably a gift from God, and if just one person reads this and finds similar patterns in their prayer life, I will be glad.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A Heavenly Perspective by Tracy Williamson

Am I viewing my life and my writing from my own restricted perspective or from God's?  What does He want me to see that I cannot perceive myself and how can I get to that point of seeing from a heavenly perspective?
By nature I am a cautious person especially since my sight and hearing have deteriorated.
However God put on my heart that He wanted me to have an adventurous spirit; knowing that He is always alongside me as a friend and that He has given me life that I might cherish it, not living in fear but in excitement and joy. Sometimes that fear can be so present that I opt out of starting anything new or doing things differently.  This goes with my writing too, making it sometimes feel like a huge chore, rather than a source of joy and fulfilment .
So in 2014, when I turned 50 I took a mammoth step and decided to do a skydive to raise funds for a ministry trip that Marilyn and I were making to India.  The big day came in mid July and after arriving at the parachuting centre I was paired with my tandem instructor, a young man called Chris.  A friend very helpfully typed the instructions for me although I didn't know what stage each  applied to as there was so much info to get across to me. So I just prayed and trusted! My first shock was when we reached 13,000 feet and the hatch on the plane floor opened.  I was the first to go and it should have been obvious but somehow I hadn't clicked that it would be me in front.  I thought Chris would have to be the front person and I would ride on his back. but it was the other way round and it was slightly terrifying to sit on the edge of a 13,000 ft drop knowing that it would be me who would hit the ground first! As you can see from the pic, I hadn't got the instructions quite right because my arms were still in hugging mode whereas Chris's were already spread wide!  For the first minute it was freefall.  A terrifyingly exhilarating experience as we plunged downwards at great speed, whirling and tossing in the wind which roared like a tumult into my ears and nose.  It was hard to breathe as I forgot to shout out on first jumping out of the plane as instructed.  I'd planned to shout Hallelujah but that did come a minute later when the parachute went up and we soared upwards again and suddenly everything calmed down as we were now
flying on the wind currents instead of falling through them! As you can see my arms were now correctly spread wide.  Awe and joy filled my heart as I gazed downwards, drinking in the panoramic view and realising that the things that seemed so big when I was on earth are minute from Heaven's perspective.  At every stage Chris ensured I knew what was happening, even to the extent of writing a note, using my back as a table, to let me know when to lift my legs ready for the descent.  I understood in a  new way that in life I don't have to work everything out myself.  Just as Chris 'had my back' and was in control and I was safely in his care, so God is constantly watching over me (and all of us).  All He wants is for me to be willing to step out, to brave my fears and relinquish my own piffling control which binds me up and restricts me unlike His which sets me free.  The experience of soaring with the wind was
unforgettable, a viewing from Heaven's balcony.  As I floated gently to earth I understood the importance of always flying with the wind of the Spirit, seeking to see from His angle not just my own, to have His vision in everything I do and every piece of writing I undertake.  Living and writing in this way will give me new vistas of insight and understanding, breadth and depth.
At the end, after we'd landed and untangled ourselves from the chutes, Chris gave me a big hug, a loving gesture from someone so much younger and so used to the job.
It was as if God my Father was saying 'my love for you is always there, you are always safe in my care and I am so proud of you and so delighted to enable you to see from Heaven's perspective. '
I will probably never do a skydive again but it is my prayer that in all that I am and all that I do that I will be willing to take new steps, jump out into the unknown and live from heaven's perspective, knowing that God is so much bigger and the insight and understanding He gives are so much more breath-taking than my own.

Tracy Williamson is an author and speaker working with blind gospel singer Marilyn Baker for the itinerant music, teaching ministry MBM Trust  Tracy who is deaf and partially sighted lives in Kent with Marilyn and Goldie her Hearing dog.  Tracy loves reading, writing, chocolate, wine, the beauty of creation and fun with friends....

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Workers in words, by Eve Lockett

Imagine this: human beings chipping away at stone slabs; pressing wedged sticks into soft clay and baking it; drawing on pottery shards with soot and oil; brushing vegetable and mineral dyes onto beaten papyrus reeds, inscribing stretched animal skins, scraped leaf thin; making wooden frames to flood with wax and scratch its surface with pointed sticks; pounding soaked rags and vegetable matter flat and then covering it in marks….

Imagine them forming messages in pictures, in symbols, in codes, creating alphabets to carry the sound of words, turning words into patterns. 

All that effort and energy so that human beings can speak their thoughts to one another.

And imagine vellum scrolls, exquisitely decorated, bound with embroidered cloth, rolled around carefully carved wood. Or paper sheets, folded and sewn together, then covered with painted boards, with jewelled cloth, with tooled metal or leather.

All that skill and care over creating beautiful ways for words to be kept.

And now imagine machines for pressing ink onto paper, the same words over and over again, sheet after sheet. Or machines carrying words in tiny electrical pulses travelling across the globe or into space.

All that invention and skill so that human words can be carried anywhere and everywhere, to anyone and everyone throughout the world.

Human beings are writers, makers, messengers. They breathe words and make words, and send them out into the world.

And now imagine this: words of such power they brought all creation into being, because they were spoken by God. Words making matter, making light, and bringing life. And then imagine God wanting so much to speak his words into the human heart that he sent one word into the world clothed in human flesh. A life lived, shared, given and destroyed. But the power of the word was so strong that death in turn was destroyed, and the word came back to life. And now that word is travelling out into the whole world, to the universe, to all human hearts. Christians believe the word has a name, Jesus. And the word is an invitation to receive life, and to know the heart of God.

What a privilege it is, to be a worker in words!

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Planner or Pantser?

The process of Creative Writing…looking at one Christian Writer’s process

NaNoWriMo is probably the place to start.  Imagine a whole month of discipline. Each day requires about 1500 words added to your tale, and you’re invited to splurge these out onto the page or screen without editing, deep soul-searching, or a thesaurus. Bliss! 

But wait – there is a requirement – constancy. Commitment… you must keep going day by day, no shirking, no excuses, no procrastination! Fear not – your buddy is there to share your efforts, to cheer you on, as you will cheer her (or him, though somehow the picture of a Nano is of busy-busy women snatching an hour or two out of the day)…to write that story which has lurked so long unattended.

So, are you a Nano-typical writer,  a ‘pantser’ driven by your muse – thankful that Nano comes in November, the darkest month of the year?  Or…Are you a planner (or plotter)? Carefully holding back on writing Chapter 1 at the top of a page until the research is done, the chapters sorted out, the characters carefully developed and introduced (or not) to one another? Do you already know ‘who done it’? Or where the other half of the ancient papyrus was hidden? Whether and how your main character will reach her goal? Some Nano writers do – the planning and plotting all “ready to roll” as November comes around.
Copyright: the Tolkien Estate

J. R. R. Tolkien looks like the ultimate ‘pantser’. They asked him for a sequel to the best-selling Hobbit, so he sat down and started writing what is still Chapter 1. He largely rewrote it four times before getting any further.

They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited ‘first chapters’. I have indeed written many. The Hobbit sequel is still where it was, and I have only the vaguest notions of how to proceed… (Letter, 17/2/1938)

Much later he listed all the things in the story that he knew nothing of at the outset: Bree, Strider, Lothlórien, Fangorn Forest, the Stewards of Gondor, Saruman. He even invented things that puzzled him:

I was as mystified as Frodo at Gandalf’s failure to appear on September 22. (Letter 7/6/1955)

And much of his writing seems to have been a quest to ‘discover’ the answers. He did have one thing: Bilbo’s magic ring. It was so obviously the key to the plot. There’s no hint of this when he first sets his Hobbits hiking across the Shire in Chapter 2, but suddenly he has them pursued by a mysterious swathed rider—who reveals himself as Gandalf! No sooner is this written than Tolkien changes it — he’s a Black Rider, and soon it’s clear that he’s linked with the magic ring, and the narrative machinery begins to hum. Most remarkable of all, the ensuing scenes where the hobbits hide and are rescued by Gildor and his Elves, who then hint at the menace of the Riders, remain almost unchanged through all the subsequent re-imagining and rewriting of The Lord of the Rings. As Christopher Tolkien puts it:

It is deeply characteristic that these scenes emerged at once in the clear and memorable form that was never changed, but that their bearing and significance would afterwards be enormously enlarged. The ‘event’…was fixed, but its meaning capable of indefinite extension; and that is seen, over and over again, as a prime mark of my father’s writing. (The Return of the Shadow, p. 71)

It’s as if the truly creative writer possesses a third faculty that unites pantser and planner — perhaps what was once thought of as the Muse — working unknown to, and sometimes against, his or her conscious ideas.

Clare and Edmund Weiner

Friday, 22 February 2019

How Did You Get In Here? By Emily Owen

I grew up in a large family, which was often made larger by extended family gatherings. I remember, on one such occasion, my aunty giving my mum a book called Five Minutes' Peace; a book about a mum desperately trying to escape the demands of her family.
I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to escape.

Fast forward through the years to February Half Term 2019 and me, surrounded by lovely-lively nieces and nephews, thinking, ‘I just need to escape for a minute’.

I sneaked into the bathroom and locked the door behind me.

Imagine, then, my shock when my niece appeared in the room.
I jumped a mile, much to her delight.  Once my heart-rate had returned to normal, and my niece had stopped giggling, I asked her; ‘How did you get in here?’

With a look reserved by three-year olds for adults they deem a bit dim, she said; ‘I opened the door’.

I’m deaf, so it’s not surprising I hadn’t heard the door open.  What did surprise me was that she’d opened a locked door. Clearly, in my haste, I hadn’t locked it properly.

In our writing lives, and life in general, we may need to escape things sometimes. Often negative things. For example, saying:

‘What I wrote today is only worthy of the bin.’

We may then, rightly, shut the door on the negatives within that voice. Remind ourselves that it’s ok not to not to be writing non-bin-worthy stuff every day. It doesn’t mean we are useless. We can start again tomorrow.

‘What I wrote today is only worthy of the bin.’
‘How did you get in here?’
‘I opened the door.’

And our thoughts become it’s not ok not to be writing non-bin-worthy stuff every day, I’m just useless, there’s no point in me starting again tomorrow…

‘How did you get in here?’
‘I opened the door.’
But I locked that door, we might think.
Maybe, in our haste, we didn’t lock it properly.

Philippians 4 holds the key to locking the door properly:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

Peace in the pressure.

We might wonder how we can possibly find peace, with deadlines looming, or many bin-worthy-writing days, or blogs no one reads (what are we doing wrong?), or inspiration gone AWOL, or focus not focussing….
If we knew how to find that peace, it wouldn’t be the peace of God.
God’s peace ‘transcends all understanding’.

I, being probably as un-engineer-like as it’s possible to be (just ask my brother-in-law), don’t really understand how a little lock in the middle of a door stops the whole door from opening.  But I know it does, provided the door is locked properly.

We don’t need to understand how God’s peace is able to ‘guard our hearts and minds’.
But it is.
And for far longer than five minutes.
Peace in all of every day.
Let Him deal with the how.

Question: ‘Peace? How did you get in here?’
Answer: ‘God gave me to you.’

Thursday, 21 February 2019

In the midst of division, disillusionment and deception

"...the people 
who know their God 
shall prove themselves strong 
and shall stand firm 
and do exploits for God".


It is becoming clear to all we live in unprecedented times.  Never in history has our world been assailed with so many inventions, innovations and scientific and medical advances that have radically changed lives. 

Many years ago “Goodnight Sweetheart” was a series where Gary could travel in time and lived two lives, one in the 1940s the other in the 1990s.  In 2015 there was a one-off remake and I howled with laughter as Gary experienced the technological acceleration since 1999.  If you can find it, it’s worth watching.

Interaction with the internet brings much that is not of God and it is terrible to learn how young people searching for love and acceptance find the opposite and are caught up in on-line abuse.  We read in Ephesians the battles we face are not of flesh and blood, but ‘powers and principalities’ and as Jesus tell us it is “the devil who comes to maim, steal and destroy, but He came to bring abundant life”.   How can we, as Christian’s fight this onslaught when Jesus’ name is no longer precious, but used as a swear word?

For years my first priority each day has been to speak God’s Word over our nation. Today asking Him to rescue our vulnerable young people caught up and maimed by self-doubt, lack of self-worth, gender identification and robbed of family life as God ordained it.  Without the plumb lines of a loving God, they are being tossed like ships in a storm of negativity, and unable to find a safe harbour, turning to anti-depressants, drink and drugs which destroying their minds, bodies and even life itself.   

How do we show Christianity isn’t a boring religion?  In my teenage years I was very anti-church, but over the years the Lord introduced me to Christians who spoke of their faith. A series of events culminated in being taken to a lively church, where God clearly spoke to me.  Having committed my life to Him I challenged Him in the next thirty days to prove Himself.  It was extraordinary, the Bible became interesting, and forty-five years later I am still excited as I walk in God’s plan for my life and believe I will do exploits for God. 

I feel loved and privileged to be adopted into 'God in three persons' family.  I’ve been disciplined and discipled to stand firm in His Word, and found the joy of the Lord in the darkest times which has strengthened me.  He inspires my novels where I use my experiences of Him to show His desire to breakthrough into our lives when we call upon Him.

My fourth book in the Heart Desire Series is finally finished and available free on Kindle on 1st March.  It would be wonderful if everyone reading this, would spread the word, open a Kindle account and download ‘Rosie’ on that day.  That should push up the book’s ratings so seen by non-Christians in the hope they'll download it..  Should you read it, please write a customer review which will also draw people to the first three books.

This is an ‘exploit for God’ where we can all take part to release His Word in a form to interest and draw people out of their darkness into His love and light.