Monday, December 31, 2012

Dear God...


 

 

Another year has almost gone. It's awfully hot here, the dogs and I are sitting inside while the guys have gone to help someone whose car broke down.  I keep hearing the song 'Yesterday' playing in my head. You know that one the Beatles had a hit with?

That's exactly what the past year has felt like, snapshots of yesterday. Does that make sense? Let me explain.

 

Wasn't it only yesterday that Pierce turned eleven and started school for the first time? I'm sure it was. We introduced him to his teacher on that hot summer day, gave him a hug and walked away leaving him to the care of others. Lord, it hurt to do so. My boy looks so little…yet I see glimpses of the man he is to become, and I'm thankful. Sad, but thankful.

 

Summer was still with us when our dog was hit by a car and her pelvis was smashed. Who knew vets could be that expensive? But you'd never know, now, to look at her that she'd been hurt. You guided the surgeon's hands as only You can.

 

Then, surely it wasn't long ago that Narelle Nettelbeck and her family were visiting us, and our pet cow, Babette, died? I know it wasn't long ago, but there is her baby running around in the paddock, nearly grown. Thank you, Lord, she is so cute and the spitting image of her mother.

 

And wasn't it a few moments ago that George was diagnosed with an incurable illness, that will eventually steal him from us? I'm so grateful for the time we've had and the time we will have. Even if still doesn't hang up his clothes! You gave me the greatest gift by sending him into my life.

 

The tenth of June was a day we won't forget, but it, too, seems like yesterday. The tornado that hit our home took almost everything from us. Darkness filled our minds and hearts but from the devastation You showed that people cared. People we didn't know prayed, and sent us gifts and thoughts that tugged and pulled us toward You. We were humbled.

 

Wasn't it only a moment ago that we walked past our house filled with water and slime, and saw a wild duck having a bath on our lounge room floor? We opened the door and asked it to leave. The poor duck was not amused and walked passed us quacking in disgust. I guess he was right; he couldn't do any more damage than had already been done. But, really, a duck?  Your sense of humour couldn't have been more apparent. Thank you.

 

The day Pierce came straight from school to swimming with legs and arms covered in bruises is a day I would rather forget. My son being bullied because he was too polite was heart breaking. You took hold of that incident and used it for good. His headmaster was amazing and we're thankful for him.

 

Winter had passed and spring was here when George's sister came to live with us. People questioned our decision and thought we were crazy, but she's been such a blessing. I can't believe it's been three months already. Pierce loves having his aunt here to do things with and look after when they go out together. She even brought dippy dog, aka, Gaylord with her. His original name was Pierre. Pierce and Pierre. Two boys who go wild and love to run.

 

Just when my heart was mending, it broke all over again. I listened as my sister cried and said my nephew was diagnosed with early onset dementia. He's only fourteen. How could this happen? Wasn't it yesterday I stood as his godmother promising to look after him? Lord, help me to understand.

 

It's still hot here, Lord, and my friend, Chris, is in hospital and not expected to see the new year. Can You hold her hand please? Whisper in her ear how much she's loved by all of us. It's so sad to say goodbye. But, I know, You'll be there to hold her hand.

 

Can you hold mine please? Give me grace to see the new year in, help me to be a blessing to someone, and, Lord, please just be there to hold me up when I can't do it myself.

 

Thank you.

 

You're loving daughter,

 

Lee
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The Franklin Family wishes you all a wonderful New Year!
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Saints, Seekers and Sleepers


Why do Christian writers write? No doubt there are as many answers to this question as there are there are Christian writers. I know I write my blogs and fantasy stories because I love writing and I have these stories and ideas buzzing around in my head demanding to be told. Yet I also want to communicate God’s love – the love that I have experienced and that gives meaning and purpose to my life - to the hurting world around me. I want my stories to connect with people who may never walk into a church, who may run a mile from an evangelistic crusade, who may in fact be antagonistic to God and Christians and who may not know the difference between Jesus and soap. Of course to do this, my stories need to be published and read. If I can make a living doing it that would be a wonderful bonus.


Perhaps you have similar motives for writing. Your passion may be non-fiction or it may be a different genre of fiction such as romance, crime, suspense, historical or adventure and you may also wish to communicate God’s love and grace in your writing. The question is how do we do this and I suspect that the answer to “the how” depends a great deal on “the who” (we wish to connect with) and “the where” (the community they belong to). Mike Duran suggests that there are two main approaches in Christian fiction – the “holiness” and “honesty” camps. In the first, the focus is on upholding God’s standards while in the second the focus is engaging with the brokenness of the world. It is clear Duran favours the “honesty” camp and claims that the “holiness” camp’s driving concern is God’s law. The law gets a bad rap these days for as Paul said two thousand years ago our standing with God depends on accepting His offer of forgiveness not our (failed) ability to keep His law (e.g. Rom 3:20-28; Gal 3:11). Yet God gave us the law to show us His vision of how we should live and what type of people we should be (e.g. Deut 12:28; 28:9-10; Rom 7:12). As Paul says it is through love that we do what the law demands (Rom 13:8-10). So a concern for God’s standards is not a bad thing. We are called to be prophetic and counter-cultural as well as compassionate.

On the other hand, Jesus associated with sinners to the extent that the religious people of His day called him a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34). Jesus sends us out into the world as the Father sent Him (Matt 17:18; John 20:21). He calls us to be salt and light – we are not to hide our light nor are we to stay in the saltshaker (Matt 5:13-16). As Christians our calling is to engage with the world that the Father loved so much that He sent His Son as ransom to reclaim it (John 3:16). As far as I can see, it is not an either/or proposition – either uphold God’s standards and the truth of His Word OR connect and engage with the hurting world that Jesus came to rescue. So I prefer Tony Whittaker’s more nuanced analogy of three ways of moving across the ocean – as a hovercraft (the “holiness camp”), a submarine (“the honesty camp”) and a ship cutting through the waves. Or as Jesus intimated, we are to be “in” the world but not “of” it (John 17:14-18). Whittaker is discussing the design and writing of websites but I think much of what he says is relevant to literature including fiction. He says that 99% ofChristian websites are written for the saints (i.e. Christians) and much of the rest is written for seekers (people who are positive towards Christianity and/or are already familiar with Christian concepts). However there are many people (over a third of Australians) who have little or no contact with the church, who are unfamiliar with Christian concepts and who are indifferent or antagonistic to the Christian message. Perhaps we could call these people the Sleepers for they are unaware of their need for God and/or His existence (and, okay, it keeps my “S” theme going).

Does that mean that I am arguing that all Christian writing should be explicitly evangelistic? Not at all! This is for three main reasons. Firstly, to my mind good fiction does not preach overtly. Rather, as Robin Phillips  suggests good fiction immerses us in a journey which engages and changes us. The message flows organically through the story rather than being imposed from outside of it. Secondly, I am convinced we need writers who write to inspire, challenge and strengthen believers (the saints) and engage those close to the Kingdom (seekers) both with good Christian nonfiction and fiction. Thirdly, we actually need a more subtle and nuanced approach with Sleepers in contrast to Saints and Seekers. This may mean presenting a Christian world view or concepts in a winsome and understated way. It definitely means avoiding Christian jargon or stereotyped scenes. It means engaging the reader wherever they are on their spiritual journey. It may mean a layered approach or moving one step at a time. To be honest I am still exploring what this may look like (and would like to explore this further in a future blog). I am sure that as Christian writers we are called to write the stories God gives us. To paraphrase Whittaker, any story that brings people further along on their journey towards God is evangelistic. So a large part of why I write is to strengthen the saints, guide seekers and to begin to awaken sleepers so that they might turn to the Light.

As the early Christians sang:
 “Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”
(Ephesians 5:14, NLT)

May God's love, peace and joy bring life and light to you, your family and neighbourhood this Christmas.

Jeanette (Jenny) O’Hagan


Jeanette has lived in Australia and Africa and has studied medicine, history, communication, ethics and theology. She has practiced medicine, taught theology, spoken at various groups, accumulated a few degrees and is focusing on caring for her young children and writing. She currently writing her fantasy fiction Akrad series and has several concept plans for non-fiction books as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The write time for the holidays!

Holidays, time to sit and think a while...
It's mid December. We're pushing through end of year events and parties, concerts and presentations. We're packing our bags and preparing for holidays. No more homework, no more school lunches, a break from the routine that has carried us all year long. 
But do you holiday from writing? 
I do. And I don't. 

I take a holiday from deadlines. Any writing that I usually schedule into my week, in a work like manner,  or ongoing projects that have specific due by dates - I take a break from these. Hopefully I've done sufficient work on them in the lead up to family holidays that they can put their feet up in the back corner of my mind and just chill, brew and develop without my thinking of them.


And time to take cheesy self-portraits!
I don't take a holiday from writing though. My humble journal follows me wherever I go and I'll write as I feel in there. I usually tuck a writing related book into my suitcase, and some notepaper. Perhaps a notebook belonging to a particular dreamy project - you know the ones that are deep in your heart but not quite ready to come out yet? A lot of my holiday writing is done is mini paragraphs on scraps of paper or the skippish imagination just before falling asleep. 

So, I thought, it might be fun to do some holiday writing together. Put away your deadlined projects, your major work novels and picture book re-edits.
Choose 5 of the following words and write them into a paragraph that captures something about what you are looking forward to this Christmas Holiday period. And have fun!



Easter-eggs     Breakfast     Pudding     Tissues     Grit     Snot     Tinsel     Beetroot     Sticky-tape       Crumpets     Shampoo     Cinnamon     Pages      Noodle     Empty     Acne     Yelp     Conglomerate             

And, since it's Christmas time, I'll send a little pressie to the author of the paragraph which makes me wish I could come piggy pack on your holidays for an afternoon or two.  


Penny Reeve is a children's author currently living in Western Sydney. This week she hopes to find sufficient chocolate to avoid the pre-Christmas crazies, remember to wrap the right gifts with the right cards and find some time to sit with a notebook, a pencil and a blank page of possibilities! You can read more from Penny at her website or facebook page.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Who plants the seed?



   At this stage of history Mary must have been feeling pretty uncomfortable.  She was nine months pregnant, or near enough. It was likely summer and she had to travel to Bethlehem. The destination was about 130 kilometres from Nazareth. If she wasn't already on the donkey, she would have been preparing for the trip. How do you prepare to spend five or six days on the back of a donkey when 'heavy with child'?
   Who could blame her if she now questioned her ready obedience to obey the angelic request. Not to mention God's timing. If He planned this child, couldn't he have organised it a little better so it didn't coincide with a census?
   However, she had replied to the angel, 'Be it to me as you have said.' So I'm sure she pushed ahead with little complaint.
   Producing a book has been likened to have a baby. It starts with a seed of an idea which quickly multiplies, grows and develops. There is the realisation that we have a book in the womb. We develop characters, themes, word pictures, plots, emotions. As each week passes, the concept develops. Details become clearer. Images are refined. Pushing ahead, we work hard, ignoring the cost and discomfort until we are ready to bring forth our literary masterpiece.
   And like babies, books are born everyday. But occasionally one, like Jesus, rises out of the crowd. There is something different about it. People start talking, maybe arguing and criticising. 
   Do you, like me long to have your writing noticed? Would you like your book to engender passionate discussion on Twitter causing everyone to talk about it. Of course, we would have to accept some low rankings and scathing reviews on Amazon. Maybe we would even have to field inflammatory emails. Would it be worth it?
   Take, for example, The Shack. It has 4,801 reviews on Amazon. One of them begins this way. 'A poorly written, philosophically bankrupt, theologically challenged airport novel.' Ouch! Some love the book. Others hate it. But millions have read it and, in the process, their thinking about God has been reignited.
   What made Jesus stand out of the crowd? It was all because of his Father! He was the Son of God, born for a purpose. 
  This raises a question. If we are the mother of our books, who is the Father? Who plants the seed in the womb of our thinking, that begins the creative process? Do we accept any old seed or are we more discerning? 
   Is there a possibility that God is looking for a womb where he can safely deposit a seed that will produce writings carrying his DNA. I believe our Father has fresh concepts to plant within us. He wants some of us to bring forth ideas previously unheard of. Some of these ideas will engender gossip and will be misunderstood. They will be radical and emotive. These books won't satisfy the established religious system, but will reflect the True God and His character. They will travel far beyond the Christian book market.
   Only the discerning recognised baby Jesus as God's son. Most passed Him off as Mary's illegitimate kid. They liked Him but didn't recognise who he was. 
   Some of you have written such books, seemingly passed off as unsuccessful. Maybe it is a case of timing. Or maybe, like John the Baptist, they are making way for the book that God is yet to deposit within you.
   Lets open our creativity to our amazing God. As we go into a new year, let us say with Mary,  'I am the Lord's servant. Let it be to me as you have said.'
   Lord, as you move across this Great Southland of the Holy Spirit, use us to spread your message of love and hope.' 


Jo Wanmer, lives in Brisbane with her patient husband, Steve. She is the author of 'Though the Bud be Bruised', and is nurturing the embryo of her next book deep within her mind.


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Greatest Story Ever - retold



Surprised, shocked, stunned, or amazed, much of this could apply as a young girl witnessed the incredible, two thousand years ago.  When an Angel of God, suddenly appeared and was seen by Mary she may have closed her eyes at first in disbelief. Perhaps she wondered if she was still asleep and possibly dreaming.  Or was there really a magnificent being standing in her room?  Maybe, after closing her eyes and counting to ten, Mary opened them again expecting nothing to be there. Yet the Angel remained, and waited patiently for recognition. The words from her prayer of the previous evening would come to mind.   
“Adonai, I love you so much, please use me as your handmaiden in whatever way you desire.”  
Was this now the answer to that prayer?  Mary believed it possibly was. 



His wings stood tall and shimmered as he spoke, “Greetings, I am Gabriel and you are highly favored Mary. The Lord your God is with you.”                                                                                                                                                                 
Adonai, her Adonai, was with her...? Her forehead creased in awe.  Then her heart thumped in adoration.  Before she could interrupt and question the meaning of this special messenger attending in person, more was spoken.                                                                                                           
 “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and name him Jesus. He will be called the son of The Most High God and will rule forever, and His kingdom will never end.”                                                                                                                                 
Mary felt an enlightening in her soul, and yet she reasoned … how this could be?  What would her fiancĂ© Joseph say?  Surely since she was unmarried this meant she would be dragged to the town square and stoned.  What a disgrace for her parents who were devoted believers. Her mind raced on.….                                                                                                                                                                   
Reading her thoughts Gabriel took a step forward. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you Mary,” his voice reassured while eyes of fire pieced into hers.                                                                                                                                           
 “You will become impregnated by the power of The Most High and God himself will be the Father. Be at peace as He will take care of you; no harm shall befall you.”                                                                                 
Mary knew her reply could be nothing less than what now burst forth from her lips.                       
 “Praise the name of the Lord! May it be unto me as you have stated. For I know as his servant, that nothing is impossible with Him.”                                                                                                                                                     
 Closing her eyes once more and leaning back into the softness of her bed, Mary felt her insides moving of their own persuasion.  She saw in her minds eye the conception of a human life within her and she rejoiced in knowing she was chosen of God. The baby’s blood would be untainted because it belonged to the Father and not to her.                                                                                                               
Many years later her sister Salome’s son and Jesus cousin, John would write acknowledging this.    
 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word, was God.”  
Yes! When Mary Accepted That Word, The Word miraculously because a living embolism inside of her.  He was then able to be born as the Savour of the world.
      
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 

Crystal Mary Lindsey at :  http://crystalmaryauthor.blogspot.com/  
                                            http://crystalmarylindsey.blogspot.com/
                                            http://crystalmaryandhealthissues.blogspot.com/  
May the Lord bless and keep you all safe in His care this Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance?




Approaching the end of a year brings all last year's resolutions to mind, along with the promise of a New Year. As a writer you have goals for each year and the dance between dreams and reality is a daily battle as the tyranny of the urgent knocks on your door.

This year has brought many things to each of you. I’ve read of loss, illness, success and exciting projects. My own year has been filled with such a mixture of emotions and events. Losing my mother, publishing my first novel and seeing my children complete university degrees have been some of the milestones.

Like life, writing is an emotional and spiritual journal that is woven into the fabric of our lives. The dance of life, and writing, has several challenges.

The Dance Between Imagination and The Reality of Work
A writer’s imagination is always firing, however, getting down to write can be a challenge.

We see these books in our waking hours and dream of them through the night. However, if we don’t have the structure or time or effort or discipline to get down and write, the books stay dreams.

The dance of life between space and busyness is one that challenges every writer. How do we sit down and write when life interrupts?

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper. E.B. White

Bryce Courtney would write a 600-page book in around six months, year in, year out. Bob Sessions, Courtney’s publisher said, “To achieve that feat he used what he called 'bum glue', sometimes writing for more than 12 hours a day.”
Many participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge this year and succeeded in completing a complete novel.
How have you danced between imagination and work in 2012?
The Dance Between Imagination and Structure
Roland Fishman from The Writers Studio says that writing “is a profound dance between imagination and structure.”

A plan and schedule for our work help us to structure our days and projects so we will be sure we will reach completion.
Having worked in events management, I know the value of having an end date and a plan that works back from that. This approach gives you steps along the way, deadlines to meet and a sense of achievement as you progress.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” Friedrich Nietzsche

The Dance Between Stepping Out and Insecurity
Creating something is a dance between the adventure of stepping out and insecurity. We all have self- doubt. We all have the thought every now and then of, “Who am I to do this?”
Insecurity and fear can bring us to a halt. We need to develop the bravery required to focus on what our calling is. I think we all have that inner voice that gives us the vision and purpose in what we are supposed to write about.
Life is short and fragile and, if you put things off, you may never do what you want to you. A few years ago I went on a tandem parachute jump. Stepping out of a perfectly good airplane, strapped to a guy with a chute via a thin piece of webbing and a metal clasp was a step of faith.
I felt the same way when embarking on my first book. (I have that feeling every time I begin a new project.) Knowing who you are and what you are doing it for helps you to step out of insecurity, and into the adventure of creating something.
Albert Camus wrote, "On the ridge where the great artist moves forward, every step is an adventure, an extreme risk. In that risk however, and only there, lies the freedom of art.”
So, Do You Think You Can Dance In 2013?
I’m learning to put more structure in place so that the books in my imagination become a reality. The motivation to push ahead and keep working on more books in 2013 is rising as 2012 fades into the past. It’s time to take the leap of faith required to make dreams a reality.

One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. 1 Thessalonians 4:1

Will you dance in 2013?

 By Elaine Fraser
www.beautifulbooks.co