Friday, April 27, 2012

It only needs to be a small flame

We all know people who aren’t Christians who, at times when their lives are in danger or pain, or when they fear for the health of a loved one, or when they’ve reached the gutter of life, will pray to the God they’ve once heard of or once even known.

It makes me wonder… a person who doesn’t have a personal relationship with God must need more faith to pray that a born-again Christian who walks with God every day. These people pray with no assurance, just blind amazing faith.

It got me thinking that it would be amazing if every Christian writer could write one book for this market; a book that could stand alone on a bookshelf in a regular bookshop; a book that could tell a secular story that is so clever and so attractive to those without faith that it would light a very small candle at the base of the cross and lead the reader to gaze in awe at the rough texture of the wood that’s visible behind the candle then peer up into the charcoal sky to search for the outline of the body of the man who was flesh but was also the Son of God. And if our book could tweak a subconscious desire in them to open a Bible, even if the reader has to go to a library to find one, if our book can cause our reader to seek out our God, what a miracle we have been a part of!

But how to write a book that sparks this interest without preaching at the reader, whether adult or child?

Perhaps you’ve read a regular book that got you fascinated in something new: a novel about a country you’ve never been to that sparked the thought in you ‘I have to go and see that’, or a sci-fi novel that suddenly makes you want to Google how many moons Jupiter actually has.

It only needs to be a paragraph, a sentence or a word that lights the taper. But when it’s lit, and if the writing is done well, the curiosity in the person’s mind and heart won’t be quenched. They will seek God.

Here’s an example of what I’d like to achieve. JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series. I know many Christians are against these stories, but I hope you’ll understand where I’m going with this. Go for a walk along the shop or library shelves near the Harry Potter books. Alongside are copycat, fantasy novels about wizards. But there are books and gimmick packs about wizardry. And this is the point – Rowling wrote a story about an orphaned boy and the story is about the unfair things that happen to him and his fight for survival, with a backdrop of wizardry… and, today, kids everywhere are curious about wizardry. They dress like Harry or one of the other characters, buy the toys and read the spell-books.

We have the power of our creator. We are made in His image and He has given each of us a gift to be used for His glory. We use this gift to edify and entertain the people of God, and, wisely like we are treading on eggshells, we can use it to reach out to the lost. Our writing can lead people to buy into our God, to read His word and to seek truth. Our readers may seek out other books by the author they just read, or they may seek a church or a Christian friend. But we have the gift to light the taper that will lead our readers to begin their search.

www.jackierandall.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I turn 40 today. What a fluke, I have to blog on my 40th birthday! I'm settling into my new town of Redcliffe, things are travelling very well in my new church. I'm very much in love with my wife and kids, and I've even got back into the routine of writing, having recorded twenty, 1 minute 'at the top' spots for Brisbane radio 96.5 last week.

But 40! Isn't this the age when you are suppose to reflect on your life and have a mid-life crisis! All the things I haven't done! The realisation that perhaps life wasn't about what I thought it was. Maybe that doesn't start until tomorrow, but I don't want to trade my wife in for a younger model [she is still the younger model in my eyes! Va-va-voom!] My kids are getting more and more interesting as my daughter hits high school and is becoming so grown up, and my son can finally play sports at nearing my level!

I think about my life and I am truly blessed. I have achieved even more than I thought I would. Things I never dreamt about, like being a writer. A published writer! [and I did remedial spelling lessons at school]. My voice and thoughts are on radio. I write for sight magazine [online]. I have over 10 published books to my name and two DVD's. I even have a jigsaw puzzle and an activity book with stickers!  WOW!  I'm not trying to boast, I'm praising God! Who would have thought.

I'm also happy in my work, indeed passionate about it. It's nice when people are saying, 'that was your best sermon yet!' after a Sunday message. Don't get me wrong, my life isn't perfect, and I don't get everything my way - but I can't help but be astonished at the hand of God in so many things, even the hard things.

It contrasts what I heard in the media this month. A new survey reports the thing the current generation want to grow up to be the most - is not a fireman, or policewoman. It's not even an environmental scientist to save the world - it was this - to be famous. Famous.

Famous for what? Does it matter? Indeed isn't that why some young girls will take off their clothes and put the footage on Mybay? Just to be famous, or more correctly - to be noticed. Wow, we live in a world full of people with a growing need to be noticed. Desperate. I have to ask myself, is that why I write?

If I'm honest, I see that side of myself. I too desperately want to be noticed. It is a basic human need. 'Am I valuable?'  But there is another side of my writing. I write because I have something to say. There is something bursting within me that cries to be told, that is desperate top be shared. What is that?  It is this, I have met the Great Noticer, and it is in him, that all our need to be noticed can be found.

My family value me, that is good. My wife notices me, that is wonderful. Even some of my colleges and the general public know who I am, that is nice. But it is only because the Great Noticer knows my name, that I know I am valuable. He stretches out his hands and says, 'this is how valuable you are.' Because of that, I can live safe within his arms forever.

Fame. Famous. To steal a line from Cool Runnings. 'If you aren't enough without it, you won't be enough with it.'

So as I contemplate 40, I'm so glad I've noticed the Great Noticer, and I can see that my life is not wasted, and my writing is not in vain.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day of 'Firsts'


A few months ago a little idea popped into my head - why not try an ‘online’ launch for my next book ‘Beyond Resolution’. Electronic methods are certainly finding their place in our literary world. It stood to reason that this was a concept worth looking into. I have also come to realise that these little ‘ideas’ have often been God's tap on my shoulder. So with concept in mind I set about pursuing it, not knowing what was in store, but knowing that if it was divinely inspired, it would be special. BOY - Is it ever!
Today starts my very first online launch at www.koorong.com.au. It is also a first for them. In the last few months I have been busy producing two trailers, and an interview for the event. More opportunities presented when my wonderful supporters at Daydream Island Resort and Spa  ( www.daydreamisland.com ) came on board, and I felt that tap on my shoulder once again. The promotion grew from a week long online event showcasing my work, to a 3 week online and Australia wide Koorong in-store promotion featuring other Australian authors as well.
I see this as a very important opportunity for us Aussie Authors. This is a chance for Australian authors to be better known in the market place. And for the public to know we exist.
 I am asking you to please put your support behind both this online event, and the Koorong in-store promotion, by face-booking, blogging, and talking about them both. I see this as God’s provision for our industry, and it has the potential to open doors for all of us. 

Rose Dee is the author of 'Back to Resolution' and the newly released 'Beyond Resolution'
Visit Rose at: www.rosedee.com 
www.daydreamisland.com  www.koorong.com.au

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A holiday and a rest ...

I recently took a long awaited family holiday. Something we really needed to do. It was a great opportunity to meet with family and friends. We got to visit all sorts of places, see snow, go for walks, take the kids places we hadn't before. What a blessing. 

I've come home and in getting back to life I have lost a bit of time and lost track of things including blogging. Sorry! But it has brought home to me or perhaps just reminded me how important it is to rest.

As authors, especially new ones and aspiring ones, the work seems to be constant. As a publisher or appraiser it isn't much different. All of us Australian Christian authors and artists are struggling against a big world, a lot of people who have been around a lot longer and the challenge in ourselves to do better and better.

But one thing that I know I often forget, and perhaps others do too, is to rest. Take a break sometimes! Write something different for a few hours to break up the process (though perhaps not in the middle of a flow). Go for a walk. Play some games. Take a proper holiday!

What I am learning to do is to take a day off. You know how funny it is to think about how God did that right at the beginning and I always hear how I should rest more! Well I guess it is finally time to listen!

So after having a holiday. It is time for a rest!

And then it is time to get back into it! My prayer for 2012 and moving forward is that by resting more I will have the strength to succeed better in the time I do work. Not sure if that works for others, but we'll see. Blessings!

Monday, April 16, 2012

DON’T SETTLE IN HARAN!

The following was written years ago and stored as a reminder to persevere.
Ministry in its various forms can be infected with a weariness that makes the ‘Haran’ of Abraham's day desirable. Do you sometimes feel like I do about writing? There are so many out there competing for readers and modern technology produces more and more wordsmiths. What then can motivate us to break out of ‘Haran’ hit the keys again and complete the task? Simply the love of telling about God’s grace to the few or the many who may read our words!



I was day-dreaming as I gazed into the camp fire. I imagined Abraham being tempted to settle down at Haran and give the Promised Land a miss.


Perhaps he said,“I hope you understand God. ‘Haran’ is such a go ahead place. It offers trade and commercial opportunities and seems to be a great spot to raise a family. We could put aside the tent, sell the camels and settle down.

"I know it isn’t the land you promised. It may not have the ‘milk and honey’ factors but it is beautiful in its own way. Anyway, its half way to where you wanted us to be! My wife and I could set up a half-way house, be your information centre for other travellers.

"Why am I intent on storing the tent?


"To be honest I’m weary. Not being in control of my affairs, wrestling with doubts and putting up with ‘knowing’ looks has worn me down. No, you haven’t broken your word b-u-t the strain of expecting it to happen has got to me. Lord I’m getting on in years and this faith thing doesn’t get any easier. I fear that in my old age I’d be redundant to your plans. What would I have as back up then?

"What’s that? What would I like inscribed on my tombstone?


"Never thought about it! What would you write at this moment? Almost!"

The barking of a dog shattered my day-dreaming at that point.
Lord, did Abraham ever feel that way? I often wonder about things like that as I wrestle with persevering towards securing your promises. I don’t want to rot in ‘Haran’ no matter how comfortable it seems. Keep calling me to walk the way you’re pointing. You and you alone remain my goal, my joy and hope in this journey of faith.

I’m so thankful that you travel the way with me, even if you seem to be the silent superintendent. Amen.




Most of us will die un-famous but we can hold fast to 1 Corinthians 15:58 ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.’


I’m also comforted by the fact that the written word lingers long after my computer is exchanged for a ‘harp.’ May my tombstone have on it ‘Escapee from Haran!’




Retired from the Chuches of Christ ministry after 40 years, Ray, with his wife Mary, moved to Beauty Point, Tasmania. One of their three children, Craig, had settled there with Rachelle. Now Ray and Mary are grand-parents to six children.


A small Christian Fellowship has commenced at Beauty Point under Ray's leadership. Since being there he has had three devotional meditations published by EBP (Rochelle Manners) the latest out this month 'Captured by Calvary.'




Ray was encouraged to write by Mary who is a multi-published author. He had previously seen some of his devotionals used by the Upper Room magazine and also some poems and prose in Debra White-Smith's books about husbands and wives.




In his leisure time Ray enjoys spoiling his grand-children, helping at Craig/Rachelle's Sea Horse World business and being the hero in Mary's books.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Your Words are Powerful

I'm sure you are familiar with the beginning  of John's gospel.
'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ 
Would you allow me to interpret the beginning of the Bible in light of this scripture
'In the beginning The Word created the heavens and earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep...and the Word said, "Let there be light!'


As authors it is imperative we understand the incredible power of words. Four words ignited the creation of the world. Four words turned 'formless and empty' into the beginning of the world as we know it. A few more well chosen sentences formed the sun, moon and stars, land, oceans, wild life and plant life. 
'But,' I hear you argue, 'Those words were uttered by the Almighty God. They carried His power and authority.'
I agree. But look at what comes next!
God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..."
We are created in God’s image. Everyone of us is just like Him. We are spiritual beings, placed within a body meticulously crafted from the ground. 
Therefore, by definition, we are creative. But as I'm talking to a bunch of authors. You know you're creative. You can feel that blood flowing through your veins.
You are born with the ability to create your world using your words - just like your heavenly Daddy. As believers we carry the same power that God used when he raised Jesus from the dead. (Eph 1:19-20) This is why Jesus expected His disciples to speak to the storm, to multiply the loaves and fish, to command demons to leave.
The truth is we do create our world with our words. The question is, what type of worlds are we creating? Are they hopeful or fearful, positive or negative,  rich or poor...
Do we declare faith over our circumstances, or do we agree with the circumstances? 
As I preached about this subject a few months ago, a lady sat weeping throughout the message. She told me after the service that her unborn grandchild had been diagnosed with severe brain deformities a few days earlier. She went home with a determination to create her world. For the rest of the day she spoke life, health and wholeness into that child. She claimed her authority from Ephesians 1. The next morning she continued her verbal assault on the heavens. That afternoon, she received a phone call. Further tests showed the child to be completely normal.  A few weeks ago, he was born whole and healthy. She changed that little boy's life by the power of her words!
As authors, we are word-smiths. We hold within our fingers the greatest power on earth. We craft ideas that others grasp. When those words come out of their mouths, they create their worlds! 
What an incredible privilege! What a great responsibility!
Will we stuff up? You mightn't, but I sure do! Then I use the power of my speech to seek His extravagant forgiveness and ask Him for the words to put things right. 


Jo Wanmer is excitedly awaiting the arrival of her first book, 'Though the Bud be Bruised.' It will be released by Even Before Publishing on 1st June. Her hope is for the words in this book to bring life and hope to hundreds of readers.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Today, I'm filling in for Rose Dee who is in a very busy time. She will be taking my spot next week.
I don't know about you, but I become teary when I say goodbye to family and friends after they've come to visit. Last Easter weekend was no exception when our son visited with us. We had a time of deep sharing of our fears and hopes and dreams. A time to go deeper into our relationship and learn new things about each other. The sharing moved me deeply. We'd crossed another point of no return in our bonding. When Dan left I cried. He laughed lovingly. I was being sentimental, again.
As writers we become intimate with our characters. We share their high and low times. We conquer mountains, swim oceans and enter into deep dark places with them. We share secrets and argue with them in the same way we do with real people.
What happens to our characters in our minds when we finish a book? I like that they continue to live on between the covers of our books. I would like to think that is the end of those characters and I can move on to creating the next family to write about, but I can't. The characters became living breathing people. I've spent a year or more with them. Learning their likes and dislikes, their fears and hopes for the future. They've become close friends, the type we can argue with and still come up smiling at the end of the day and be stronger in our relationship.
I don't know about you, but I have one heck of a time trying to let go of my characters. I go through a grieving process and have to pray for guidance and strength to let go of these 'people'. A year or more later, I'm still thinking about them wondering how they're getting along and what challenges they're facing. I ask them if they want me to write another story about them. They answer, 'No, we're happy'.
Although, Kizza and Justin from African Hearts want me to write more about them. They're going to go through some tough times. I say yes, and immediately they come to life in my mind again. This is an exciting time and I can't wait until I get pen and paper to draft what they're telling me. I'm also pleased I'm not saying goodbye to them. We're going to have fun again.
Do you find it hard to say goodbye to your characters? Have they become so ingrained in you that they become real friends and you need to go through a grieving process?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

VICTORY AT LAST

Dozens of feet stamped the concrete floor, hands clapped a myriad of accompanying rhythms as joyful African voices sang;

“When we get to heaven

At the marriage supper

Where the saints are gathered

At the last assembly

No more sad parting

No more heart breaking

Farewell to sorrow

Victory at last,last,last.” christian song

Our hearts thrilled within us as we joined with our African brothers and sisters rejoicing in the victory that Christ has bought through His death and resurrection. Through the blood of Christ we do not fear death and sin does not have mastery over us.

“Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?....But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Cor 15: 55, 57

A message that was only realized by the greatest cost the world has ever witnessed.

A message for people in every country for it has no physical or cultural boundaries.

“….You [Jesus] were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Rev 5:9

A message that can be understood from the youngest child to the eldest of the human race for it is not an intellectual theory. It is the truth.

“….If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved………Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”” Romans 10:9, 11

As followers of Jesus we sometimes suffer heartache and sickness and even persecution here on earth but there will be a final realization of the victory that Jesus has won for us when we gather to celebrate and give praise and honour to our Lord in heaven.

If that is not worth writing, singing, dancing, sharing, persevering, suffering, speaking and living for then nothing is.

Rev21; 3 -4 “….God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…..”

THANK YOU JESUS

If you want to know more about Jennifer Ann or her book “Broken Pottery the life of an African girl” check her website at www.JenniferAnn.info.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Writing Boundaries

This year, as many of you know, I made the decision not to do any writing or speaking/promoting. Of course I am writing, because not writing would be like not breathing, but I find I am writing a little differently now days.
I am writing assignments, curriculum, learning stories and more ‘job related’ things but still it’s writing!

I have just started writing encouragements for Educators within the same service as me. Funny, I guess that I have come a full circle back to writing encouragements; back to my writing niche!

At our last Educator meeting, I shared about setting business and personal boundaries.

I have the habit of allowing my personal boundary lines to loosen and I find myself doing too much. Sometimes I think I do so much out of love, but as I read in the book ‘Boundaries’ if my ‘doing’ is causing me to feel overwhelmed and depressed then I am not motivated by love.

Why we don't set boundaries? Fear is a reason; fear we will hurt someone if we say no; fear we will be letting people down; fear of abandonment, rejection or shame; fear of being seen as selfish; fear of being seen as non-spiritual; fear of someone else's anger. Guilt is another big reason we don't set boundaries for ourselves.

A personal reason for me, is that I feel that people will like me and respect me more if I am 'doing'. I need to constantly remind myself that I am a woman of worth simply because I am a child of God. Anything I 'do' for His kingdom is great but not mandatory!

I am happy to say that I have been doing so much better in this area. At the beginning of the year I wrote a list of all the things that I needed to and wanted to commit to this year. Now when asked if I can do ‘extra’ I tell the person I’ll get back to them. I check my list, pray, speak to hubby and then with a clear head (and conscience) I can give my answer.

How about you? Are you the kind of person who easily says ‘no’ to protect your boundaries or do you say ‘yes’ and wear yourself out?!

If you are feeling overloaded, perhaps you need to sit down and write your own boundary list with the intention to stick to it!

Blessings to you,
Narelle Nettelbeck

(www.momentsformum.blogspot.com)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stories in Action – playgroup visits with Penny Reeve.

“Are you ready for another adventure?”

That’s the opening line of my picture book God Made Something Amazing, the book I used as for a playgroup visit last week at Hornsby Baptist Church. It’s also the thought that runs through my mind as I prepare resources I’ll need for each and every playgroup visit I do’. Am I ready? For another adventure?

Sometimes I think writers for adults have more opportunities to do speaking engagements (and therefore promotional possibilities), but there are some unique openings for audience engagement that only a children’s writer has. There is something magical about the way a child engages in story. They are more likely than adults to let their mouth hang open in suspense. They have a tendency to lean forward, stand up, butt in mid sentence with enthusiasm. But they are also more tempted to let their attention drift when confronted by the choice of listening to the visiting speaker or watching a fly escape out the window.

Then, if you multiply that child by 16, add several talkative mums in the background, three sets of fussy babies and several toddlers who really, really want to get back to the train set, you have the ingredients for adventure, whether you wanted it or not!

I find playgroup visits, especially church based playgroup visits, really worthwhile. Each one I’ve done has been slightly different because I like to tailor my visits to the needs of the group. I also like to consider my part in their program as a contribution to ministry. Although the section I run may only take 15 minutes of time I commit to being there the whole morning. There are several reasons for this:

· I like to chat with the mums and get a general feel for the group. The children also relax more if they see me interacting with their adults.

· I ask about church background, it comes up naturally when asking about attendance etc, and that helps me know where the adults stand. Many playgroups are full of non-church mums.

· I let people know I’m a mum and refer to my children and my writing, again this just builds credibility.

· I wander around and engage with children, learning as many names as I can for use in my story time, and breaking down barriers.

· I watch how the children are interacting with each other and with their toys – this gathers clues for how they’ll respond during my program/craft and if necessary I can adapt what I’ve got planned.

Generally my focus when preparing a playgroup visit is to introduce/remind children to the idea that God is creator and God loves them with an enormous love. In conjunction with the playgroup leaders I then choose a story that suits their group. For example, one group I visited was doing a theme on body parts, so I chose to use God Made Something Funny which is my monkey book because the monkey’s arms in that story are always busy. Another group was doing a Christmas theme so I used God Made Something Tall, which explores just how far God’s love can reach, and I coupled it with a story from one of my favourite picture Bibles.

Sometimes I’ll prepare games, some singing (even though as feel like a goose doing it!) and maybe an action rhyme to reinforce the theme. Always, I offer to bring along a craft activity suitable for the age range in the group.

Then I pack my bag with books for sale, my soft toys for the games, my program in case I get nervous and forget what I’m doing, and arm myself with prayer.

I’m always exhausted at the end of a playgroup visit – partly due to my introverted personality, partly due to the very age group involved. But I keep taking bookings because it’s worth it, no matter how many or few books I might sell at the event. It’s worth it to see a little group of eager 3 and 4 year olds bouncing on their knees to see the pictures, eyes shining at their correct guessing and mouths wide in smiles as they point to each other and say “God’s love reaches me and you!” And it’s worth it knowing for this brief morning I had the chance to show Christ’s love to harried mums and they got to hear, from the very lips of their children, just how big God’s love for them is.

P.S For more ideas and inspiration about preparing for author visits with children be sure to book into this year’s Word Writer Fair/Getaway. I’ll be presenting on this topic there also.

P.P.S. Join the adventure with children, faith and stories at my facebook page.

Penny Reeve is a children's author currently residing in Western Sydney. This week she hopes to finish a cross-stitch book mark, remember to bake the bread before it rises over the pan and get lost in Philippians chapter two while writing a Bible Study for tweens.