Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Loss or a GIFT?


I’d bought it for $12.00 at the village – a small shiny silver elephant brooch. I thought it would look perfect on my black jumper. And so the very next Sunday, I wore it to church. The striking contrast of a shiny little silver elephant against a black jumper caused many friends to notice and admire it. Yes, it was twelve dollars well spent.

I wore it again and again. But guess what. The clasp behind the elephant didn’t work very well. So practically every time I wore it, I’d lose the brooch in a few hours. The very first time it occurred, I’d given it up for lost, when a lady placed it under my nose, asking me ‘Is this yours”? “Yes” I exclaimed in glad surprise. How did she know? Perhaps the little elephant’s fame had spread far and wide.

Another time I lost it only to find it a few days later, reposing on the floor of my car. A third time, a friend found it and returned it to me. Yay! Every single time I lost it – it somehow found its way back to me. Returned. Reclaimed. Re-owned. Amazing! (I think that little Elephant was determined to stay under my loving care. Don’t you agree?)

As a follower of Jesus, when I think of lost and found items, the parable of the lost sheep leaps to mind. All of us Christian writers have been like this little lost sheep at some point in our lives, haven’t we? And God has found us. How blessed we are!

I wonder if you have lost something this past year? Was 2012 a difficult year for you? Did you feel glad to see the back of it? Did you lose a relationship that was close to you? Or did you lose something tangible that was dear to your heart? Did you lose a dream? Did life perform an unwelcome series of antics in your presence and steal some of your joy? Did Satan trample hard on your desires? Did you lose your hope? Or courage?

I have good news for you. For a Disciple of Jesus – God’s Word holds out many blessed promises to all who grieve. Comfort, Strength; a New Beginning. Jesus Himself and His presence with us. Hope. So I’d like to assure you today that God has promised to return to you what was lost. Sometimes He replaces it with something far better.

As a Christian Writer – is there something you’d like to reclaim today? Inspiration? Fresh ideas? Readers to buy your books? New ways of promoting your wares? A way to push out of writer’s block? Courage to stay true to your calling?

As I write this today, on the 11th of January 2013, I am about to lose something precious. My independence. In 6 days time, I will be on an operating table. My right foot will be subject to lots of torture. Well, not torture but surgery. (Same thing, isn’t it?) An ugly bunion will be sliced and corrected. A badly dislocated toe will be shortened and re-made. Tendons and ligaments will be sewn up. And then for two long weeks, I will not just be house-bound but also bed bound. Not allowed to do anything apart from gazing at the ceiling with my foot raised above my heart.


On the whole, it’s not my favourite way to live.

But wait a minute. Perhaps it will be just what God Himself ordered. I’m sure it will be an unforgettable experience. Perhaps when the worst is over, I might even write a book about it. Perhaps after the pain has lessened, I will gain lots of pleasurable time to dream, to plan, to read, to write, to spend with God. My loss of independence will be difficult. But I might have a perfect little Writer’s Retreat during those 3 months, when I can write to my heart’s content and read to my heart’s content too – all in a wonderful guilt free mode. I have to admit that it’s sounding better by the minute!

What have you lost today? Is God calling you to something new through what you lost? Often our losses bring new blessings gift-wrapped in God’s special wrapping paper. I pray that you will find the package God is delivering to you in 2013 marked with Your Name – a special parcel filled with Hopes and Dreams for you alone, and God’s loving signature written with heavenly flourish, stamped all over it.

May your loss compel you to reach up to receive a brand new Gift from Him today.
Reach up and claim it dear Friend. It is yours.


And perhaps you can write a best seller about it one day to bless your world!
What do you think?

PS It's now 12 days since my operation. I have been under the surgeon's knife. Yes, it's hard being totally dependent on others for ALL of my needs. But - I have been deeply blessed. I am presently into my 13th day post op - and it has been a wonderful, restorative, restful 13 days. Many refreshing times with the Lord and my cup overflows. It was indeed a precious gift from Him. I pray that your loss too will be the same - an amazing gift from our Father God.




Anusha loves life and loves people. She’s passionate about Jesus and the difference He has made in her life. She has always been fascinated by the English language and enjoys playing with words. She also loves to inspire and bless her world through her written word and through her life. You can visit her at her website ‘Dancing in the Rain
at http://anusha-atukorala.webnode.com/

Monday, January 28, 2013

Begin with thanks

I'm beginning 2013 with thankfulness.

I'm being very intentional about thankfulness this year after having read a wonderful book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Hers is a story of growing from bitterness to joy through giving thanks for the gifts she found around her in everyday life. She says, "A friend dare me to start counting one thousand things I loved. I took the dare, acepted the challenge, kept track of one thousand things, one thousand gifts - a thousand graces - on a quiet, anassuming blog. Before I knew it, thankfulness to God began to fully change me."

I found this a really inspiring story and a great challenge. I have so much to be thankful for. It's not hard to find things, small and great, every day, that I can give thanks for, even in the midst of frustrations, struggles, or even pain and tragedy. In fact to focus on those gifts really does change my reactions to the hard things of life. There is always something to give thanks for and Ann's book and her journey show that it is so often through gratitude that God can do a wonderful work in our lives. I've taken up the challenge to write down a thousand gifts over the coming months and am already finding it an attitude changer.

This month I've had the perfect opportunity to be thankful as I've just returned from ten days in Cambodia and this has heightened my awareness of how gifted my life here in Australia is. We spent time in a small village which our church supports and I found the people in that seemingly deprived and poverty stricken place, really do understand the graces of God and truly appreciate what we would see as small, almost insignificant gifts.


Happy children despite having so little
 
Three generations in a country where this is rare













Being with these people was truly challenging and inspiring. So what can I do but humbly give thanks and pray we all have a year of seeing the grace of God in all things.



Carol Preston has written a series of historica novels, based on her family history.
The fourth book in this series, Truly Free, will be released in March this year -
for which she is TRULY THANKFUL. 
www.carolpreston.com.au 
www.amazon.com/author/carolpreston

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Eve of Australia Day


As it is the eve of Australia Day, I've been reflecting about those brave and daring ancestors who first settled our country. About six years ago, my father was researching his genealogy and writing it out by hand. He managed to delve back a long way and there were hundreds of pages, which he asked me to type out for him and give a bit of polish as I went. It turned out to be a really interesting experience. For example, one of his British grandfathers in the late 1700s (I forget how many 'greats') always wrote down his profession as 'auctioneer' and it turned out the commodity he dealt in was slaves.

I must be a thorough Aussie girl because ancestors from both sides of my family seemed to be arriving thick and fast as far back as the 1830s and 1840s, when South Australia was first settled. There were devout German Christians on my mother's side, who needed to escape religious persecution in their homeland. They were among the first to settle in the Adelaide Hills. And on my Dad's side were all sorts of respectable tradespeople from Britain who were finding it impossible to make ends meet in the old country and were lured by the stunning advertisements about the Great Southland which sounded too good to be true. Okay, there may have also been a few dodgier characters too, like that 'auctioneer' I mentioned.

Not long ago, I took my younger children to look through Adelaide's Migration Museum, which turned out to be a fascinating experience. On the wall was an old poster singing the praises of South Australia's open countryside and warm climate. Even then, it proudly advertised the place as the only convict-free state. I stood reading it, knowing that many of my direct ancestors had been desperate enough to accept the challenge.

One of the ancestors Dad had plenty of info about was a nineteen-year-old named George Peter Hammond, who'd read those adverts and decided he fitted the bill they were looking for; young, fit, able-bodied and willing to work. He booked himself passage and said goodbye to his parents and younger siblings, intending to write and let them know if the place looked any good, so they could consider coming too. Dad ended up with many details about his ship journey down south to the other side of the world, including the sharks the crew caught for everyone on board to eat.

 As I typed it out for him, I had this thought occur to me. That young man probably considered that he was acting independently, doing something off his own bat that affected just himself. Yet I wonder if he had the foresight to realise that his personal decision would end up shaping and molding the lives of literally hundreds of people still to come. I am one of them. So is my husband. So are my children and their future spouses. If that young adventurer hadn't decided to book himself passage to check out the new land, I wouldn't be an Aussie girl at all. As it turned out, the rest of his family did decide to join him down the track. And the rest of their story, for me, is now history.

When I was 20, I took a break from Uni and traveled with my parents for a driving tour around Britain. I felt a link and affinity with it, considering it our Motherland even after the passing of more than a century. It was wonderful to travel around, seeing landmarks where historical events had taken place, visiting the homes of great writers such as my beloved Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, and finding where our own ancestors had lived. But by the time our months there were over, I was happy to return to Heathrow Airport to head for home again. Because of the God-guided decisions of many people before me, something out of my control had been set in motion for me long before I was born. It is that in spite of all that ancient Prussian and Anglo Saxon blood flowing in my veins, I am an Aussie.

I wish everyone a lovely Australia Day tomorrow, as you may even take the opportunity to stop and reflect on the events that led to you being an Aussie too. Remember that the settlers who came were bold and resilient, so we have that in our DNA. And if you are an international reader, spare us a thought on January 26th and consider reading some of the excellent Australian books we've produced collectively, with their distinct flavour.

Paula Vince is an award-winning novelist who lives in South Australia's lovely Adelaide Hills with her husband and children. Many of her books are set in the same area, full of romance, mystery, suspense and adventure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Writing that changes lives.

Words are powerful. A few words strung together can destroy or encourage, bring hope and joy or dash every expectation. As writers we exert power in every paragraph we offer to others. Will our writing amuse, tickle ears, or inspire our readers?

Just after Christmas, Steve and I saw  'Les Miserables.'  Having loved the stage production in the late 1980s, I was both excited and apprehensive as I entered the theatre, tissues in hand. I was totally captivated and pleased I only cried a little. But this film didn't stop when I tore my eyes from the screen. It invaded my mind, interrupting my sleep and demanding answers. 


It challenged me. Could I, or would I, extend grace the way the Bishop offered grace to Jean Valjean. Could such costly grace be a hallmark of my life! The extent of grace was reflected in the shocked eyes of the women in this scene. Their Bishop gave away the family silver. Gave it to a man in chains. Gave it to a man who had stolen from him in the middle of the night,  thrusting into his hands two more silver candle sticks. The Bishop's offering of grace literally removed chains from Jean's legs, saved him from returning to a life of slavery. One act of love and generosity burned so hot in Jean Valjean's heart that he turned to God. He, in turn, extended that love and compassion to  many others, often costing him dearly, including his safety and freedom. It bought life and hope to those who could receive grace, but bought death to the one who was bound by law. 


Les Miserable is one of the most profound expressions of the gospel that I have seen. Better than any sermon I've heard or delivered. 


The film is based on the book of the same name written by Victor Hugo and published to 1862. Hugo was so sure of this book that he sold the publishing rights to the highest bidder! His writing was so powerful it forced the highlighted social issues onto the agenda of the National Assembly of France. But I doubt that he foresaw over 14 million people flocking to see the movie 150 years later. Nor did he expect it to speak into hearts over so many generations.


As I writer, I honour his skill and imagination. I would love to be able to encapsulate the love of God in such a story. Which raises a question. If any of us wrote a similar book today would it be accepted as a Christian fiction, or would it be considered too 'edgy', to risqué for  Christians to read? Or would it receive similar reviews to some given to Hugo's masterpiece, when it was first released. Lambasting its artificiality, one reviewer wrote, "neither truth nor greatness". Another, despite giving favourable reviews in newspapers, castigated it in private as "tasteless and inept".


My local radio station summarized the film as 'a convict rescuing a prostitute'. I was stunned, arguing that there wasn't a prostitute in the movie. Instead I saw a deeply devoted young mother who would do anything to keep her daughter alive. I was offended by the description and wondered if the reporter had viewed the same film. Which demonstrates that a great story tells a different tale to each individual , depending on the tint of the coloured glasses worn at the time. 


"Is not my word like fire," declares the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks a rock to pieces?"


Les Miserables has the Word of God hidden within its fast moving story, and three weeks later the hammer is still  pounding my heart, challenging me to walk every day in deep grace.


Oh, to be able to string words together with such skill and imagination. I'm determined to practice my word building until it brings such positive challenges, renewed hope and deep revelation! 


Lord take my heart, my mind and my words and let them be instruments in your hand. 


Jo Wanmer apologises for the highlighting! She had an argument with blogger and blogger won! Meanwhile she is working on her new book, praying that God will give her words that will bring life and a deeper experience of the amazing, powerful love of God. Her recent publication 'Though the Bud be Bruised' continues to challenge thinking and bring hope and healing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Inspiration.


As an author I aim to inspire pictures with my words. Readers rely on me to formulate the perfect balance of description to bring characters, scenes and conversations to life. But this week, I realised just how much I, as an author, rely on pictures to inspire my words.
An extract from my biography reads: ‘Rose is inspired by the love of her coastal home...’, and my recent trip to Cairns drove home to me just how true this statement is. As I walked the tropical settings of our north, I could literally feel the characters of my current work in progress come to life. I felt closer to them, as though I were seeing the settings through their eyes. I was inspired, and delighted by the new revelations I encountered in both my characters and storyline. I giggled to myself as my imagination conjured up a horrible predicament for an unlikable character, and I felt an affinity with another character as the sun set over a watery horizon.
After a week of inspiration it occurred to me that, as authors, we are all inspired by different things. For some it may be a time or place in history, for others it could be relationship dilemmas, and others draw on a fantastical imagination as inspiration. For me, I certainly draw on my surroundings. Below are some pictures that inspired me on my recent trip to Cairns. I would love to hear what inspires you. 













Rose Dee is the author of the 'Resolution' series. Visit her at:  http://rosedee.com/

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Those "Hit for Six" Kinda Days

When you have a headache, do you: 

a) lie down in a darkened room, doing your very best Freddy Krueger impression when the  hubby dares to peek through the window, letting in a splinter of light;

b) soldier on - willing, with every fibre of your being, for the pounding to ease up just long enough to get the last chapter of your award-winning novel completed, at least semi-coherently; or

c) run straight for the medicine cabinet for 2 paracetamol; after all, the commercials all assure you that they will, "work rapidly, allowing you to get on with your day!"

I never used to be a paracetamol girl; no, for many years I trooped on like a martyr, desperate to prove that I was strong enough to withstand the stabbing pain in my temples, trudging my way through the day, barely able to concentrate, let alone actually stay awake on the 45 minute bus ride home. Woe was I, and subtly, I made sure that everyone was aware of the humble sacrifice I was making for the sake of my job.

The other reason I avoided taking the Herron Blue or Panadol was I had a deep-seated distrust that they would actually work. I don't know why I felt that way, perhaps it was because I just didn't believe strongly enough in their advertising campaigns. I mean, it's not like one could feel the effects of the capsules' contents weaving their magic immediately after swallowing them; who was to say that they would actually do what they were intended to do?

Funnily enough, becoming a mum was enough to tip the scales in the completely opposite direction! Suddenly pain relief was the number one item on my shopping list; adult strength, kids, (3 months - 2 years and 5 years +), orange, strawberry, banana or cherry, tablets, caplets, chewable and rapid release; you name it, we had it! 

So, why the change of heart? Simply because I no longer had the luxury of allowing a headache to knock me for six; I had a mission, a job to do, and there was no one else better qualified for the role than me. That meant I had to take a chance, to believe that, even though I couldn't feel the medicine working in me straight away, it was in fact working and would make a difference in my body, or at least in my pain levels.

And the more I live and write for Christ, the more I realise two specific things.

Firstly - spiritually I will have days when I feel 'hit for six,' when I just want to stay under the covers and not go to church, or make that phone call . . . or write that blog spot. Ahhh, yes, you know what I'm talking about, right?! Every single one of us will have these 'blah' days, the 'it's all too hard' days, the 'I feel like such a hypocrite' days. The days when we have a spiritual headache and just want to be left alone. 

Secondly - when these days come, we can do one of three things,

a) keep to ourselves, baring our teeth at anyone who dares to show us any kind of care or comfort;

b) muster up just enough energy and spirituality to do our ministry, quietly grumbling and groaning, just loud enough to be heard, thus garnishing just a little more 'martyr' status within the ranks of our fellow Christians; or,

c) we can admit that it's a tough day, that we cannot do it in our own strength, and we can kneel before the only one who can heal us, Jesus Christ. It is a step of faith, one that calls for us to believe that in spite of how we feel, the Holy Spirit is working in us, his beautiful soothing touch bringing us just enough strength to do what the Father has called us to do - just for that day.  And as we worship God, we can rest assured that He has heard our cries and will most assuredly forgive and heal and restore us from the inside out.

Dear friend, I wonder; how are you feeling today? 

He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.  Isaiah 40:29-31, The Message


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The "V" Word


 
I love true stories, so was looking forward to reading the autobiography of a well-known Christian leader I admired.  Although his ministry was inspiring, I had trouble connecting with him.  It seemed that his whole life went from one glorious victory to another, leaving me feeling inadequate.  In contrast, when I read autobiographies of people like Joni Eareckson, Corrie Ten Boom, and Billy Graham, I feel encouraged.  What’s the difference?  Well, I think it’s the “V” word – vulnerability.  Each of them has had an incredible ministry, yet they’re also honest about their shortcomings and challenges, and that gets me in.  I want to know more about people who have struggled and yet have journeyed on with God.  If He could use them with all of their weaknesses, maybe He could use me.

Mary Southerland notes that “everything that touches your life passes through God’s hands, with His permission and for a reason.  Writing is simply the record of God at work in your life, shared through your eyes and with your heart” (from For the Write Reason).  If we want to be authentic and touch people with stories of what God has done in our lives, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and that often goes against the grain in our society.  Aren’t we meant to be strong and independent?  Won’t it affect our witness if we share our doubts, insecurities, and failings?  If that’s all we share, then maybe it will.  But if we show how God met us where we were, accepted us, loved us, forgave us, and helped us move on, then our message will be more powerful than if we just shared the victories.

Some years ago, I was asked to contribute to a book called “The God Factor: 50 Scientists and Academics Explain Why They Believe in the God of the Universe”.  I’ve been a university lecturer in psychology for many years and I intended to write an academic article on the integration of psychology and Christianity.  However, when I prayed about it, God made it clear that He didn’t want me to write an academic article, but a personal story about my experiences as an adopted person.  I’d shared my adoption testimony to small Christian groups, but had never written about it for the public domain.  This was scary.  People would know personal stuff about me, my relatives might read it, the earth would open up and swallow me.  Aarrgghh!

However, I couldn’t get away from the fact that God wanted me to share my heart and so I did.  To my surprise, the earth didn’t cave in.  In fact, a few people contacted me to say how it had touched them, including the elderly daughter of a famous Australian who phoned to talk about her experiences as an adoptive mother.  After having another short piece on adoption published in a devotional magazine, I received a heartfelt letter from a birth mother on the other side of the world who wanted to share her experiences of being rejected by her daughter.  Wow!  God could actually use this stuff!

Allowing myself to be vulnerable wasn’t easy because I value my privacy.  As I’ve shared the things God has laid on my heart, however, I’ve learned to trust that He will use them to bless someone going through the same issues and it blesses me in return.  It’s still a learning curve though.  I have a couple of other personal issues on the backburner that I know God will prompt me to write about at some stage, but they’re still a bit raw at the moment.  One day.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”  (NIV).  Do you have a personal story that could bless others?  If that idea’s a bit scary at the moment, just start putting your thoughts in a journal and God will show you when it’s time to share them more widely.  As we share the “V” word of our vulnerabilities, God may just turn them into the “V” word of victory.
___
 
Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 80 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction).  She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragment"). 
 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Go to the ant

Compared to their size ants have the biggest brains of all animals. Yet we barely take any notice of them, except when they turn up in plague proportions and we try to eradicate them!

There are two verses in the Bible where God uses ants to teach us some valuable lessons. Proverbs 30:24-25 tells us that ants are extremely wise, have little strength, yet store up their food in the summer. Proverbs 6:6-8 also tells us that ants are wise and store provisions in summer plus they have no commander or overseer.

Ants are wise because they understand if you do small amounts on a regular basis you will end up accomplishing a lot. They don’t need someone to tell them what to do or coach them from the sidelines. It seems the coming winter is motivation enough.

Once I worked at a university library which bought some new shelving. The new shelving was added to the end of each row which meant a large number of books had to be moved so the Dewey numbers ran in order. It was going to be a huge task and I wondered how we would ever get it done. However five of us spent an hour a day and after six weeks the books were moved. Like the ant doing a little often gets the job done.

Most prolific writers will tell you they aim to write a certain number of words per day. For example Stephen King aims to write 2,000 words a day so after 100 days he has a book 200,000 words long. When I read this some years ago my goal was to write a book of 50,000 words. I suddenly realized I only needed to write 1,000 words a day for 50 days. Suddenly it seemed achievable. (Though the re-writing is another story!) Whether the goal is to write a book, read a book, or something physical like getting fit or eating healthier, the trick is to do a little, but do it often.

Unfortunately though we are often unwilling to make the small changes or take on the small tasks because they don’t seem to be significant. We tend to opt for the ‘quick fix.’ We get impatient when we don’t see immediate or measurable results. At such time we need to "Go to the ant … consider its ways and be wise!” (Proverbs 6:6). As we make small incremental changes in our lives they can add up to a considerable differences over time.

*****


Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at: http://abooklook.blogspot.com.au

Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year's Gift from Dotti



Happy New Year… and welcome to another twelve months in the life of Aussie authors, here at Christian Writers Dowunder. There’s much to look forward to as the year cranks into gear. Before we know it, the lazy days of summer will shift to familiar routines. School terms will shape the months for many of us, and even those who don’t march to the school bell will faithfully follow their schedules.


I’m a creature of habit. I love routine. I like to see the diary pages coloured in the predictable, with just enough white paper for a few surprises to sneak in.

Some days, though, I find myself stuck. Held back not by busyness or opportunity, but by inspiration. The calendar says I must write a blog post, but there’s nothing in my head or heart for it.  

Last March, I followed a list of prompts by Fat Mum Slim. She releases a monthly photography challenge and it hooked me at first glance.

I took on the challenge, and turned it into my blogging inspiration. For every picture I took, I wrote a blog post to fit with my love of all things romantic and old fashioned. As inspiration, it worked a treat. I had no trouble coming up with a blog post for 31 days straight, as the topic for each day bubbled away in my head, thanks to Fat Mum Slim’s list.

And I’ve been wondering how to make use of such prodding ever since. 

If you’re like me, stuck for blogging inspiration on occasion, I may have something for you. A gift, for the New Year. 

In 2013 I’m introducing a topic on my blog, Ink Dots, for each Friday of the year called 52 Steps to Yesteryear. I’ve plotted my topics right through to year’s end, and you’re invited to come along. You don’t need to be besotted by all things old, the way I am. All you need is a writer’s imagination.

Less daunting than a monthly challenge, this game is on only once a week. If Fridays come too soon and you’re not sure what to write, take my prompt and turn it into something incredible for next week. Write the first 300 words which come to mind. Imagine the myriad of thoughts we could share, all stemming from the one prompt, as various and flavoursome as the offerings in an ice-cream shop window. You can load them to your blog and I’ll have a linky button set up by next week for you to share them at Ink Dots as well.

I launched my 52 Steps to Yesteryear today. I’m hoping it’ll be a fun way to travel the new year together. I hope you’ll join me for inspiration with a dash of nostalgia and the occasional rosy ribbon of romance at Ink Dots

*****

Dorothy Adamek lives at Crabapple House with her Beloved, their three teenagers and five pampered backyard chickens. She writes historical romance, Aussie style. Follow her love of all thing yesteryear at Ink Dots.