Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ripples of Knowledge Go On, and On, and On... by Janette Pepall



In my previous blog I discussed how my life changed with the adoption of 5 children in the 1970s and 80s (from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Australia) to join a birth son, and briefly how God took our family to Hong Kong as missionaries. This was the catalyst for my life now as an international trainer, consultant and author of children’s books and training packages, targeting those who work directly with children at risk.  I am joined by a wonderful team of 13 volunteers in 8 countries (Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, USA, India and Macau).

It was the writing of the module Care For Orphans and Vulnerable Children for Crisis Care Training International (USA) that promoted me to consider how He could use my personal parenting and social worker experiences in Australia and  Hong Kong,  to benefit those who care for God’s most vulnerable…..children at risk! The refugee, orphan, child prostitute, child soldier, child with HIV/AIDS, of abuse, with disabilities and the 8 million institutionalised children!

Many individuals, governments, non-government organisations and ministries, especially in the ‘developing world’, are struggling to come to terms with providing best care practice for these children.  While some training is available, it is often targeted to managers, administrators or social workers, and as such is too theoretical and impractical for child caregivers and others who may have limited literacy and and/or child care experience.
 
Our team’s motto is Child Caregivers are Our Heroes!
Our aim is to support and educate child caregivers and others directly involved with children, by providing skills training and resources, and to ultimately equip national trainers who will conduct training in their own language. 

My latest training packages are ‘National Training: Understanding and Responding to God’s Vulnerable Children’ (for churches, ministries) and ‘National Training: Understanding and Responding to Children At Risk’ (governments, non-government organisations).  
The modules cover foundational topics related to children in crisis, such as needs and rights of children, loss and grief, care models, communication with children, managing behavior and positive discipline, child development and  counseling children in trauma. We use role plays, case studies, and individual, small and large group exercises, culturally contextualized and all planned to be easily understood

As our ultimate aim is to see the material used by nationals, for nationals, we are training local social workers and others, and the modules are being translated from English into Chinese, Burmese and Thai. I am constantly asked, “Do you have the modules in African French, Hindi or Spanish?”

It took me three years to write the latest training packages. Why do it? Who would want the material? Wasn’t there enough training out there, so why more? God, there is only me (I didn’t have a team then). But I had a real sense of purpose, a burning in my heart and spirit that this is what He wanted me to do!

Now the resources have been used or are being taught in 17 countries, and we have trained over 3000 people in 13 countries. And as I write this blog, I am preparing for our 44th conference, this time in Sabah, Malaysia. 

Yes, I am of a ‘mature’ age, but God can and does use us all, male and female, children, adolescents, young adults and seniors, of all nationalities and experiences. 

Our team’s prayer is we that are joined by more volunteers; prayer partners, translators, trainers, sponsors and marketing people, all with a heart to make a difference in the lives of the children, by training and supporting their child caregivers.

We know firsthand that the ripples of knowledge go on, and on, and on.

You can check out our websites at www.nationaltrainingforchildrenatrisk and www.janettepepall.com


Thursday, December 25, 2014

OUR CHRISTMAS LAMB by Rita Stella Galieh

I heard a true story recently.

A young man shared how he worked on a farm in Paraguay. The farm had various crops and a few sheep. Now the ewes had just lambed and the farmer chose one and gave it into the young man's care. The farmer said as long as he fed and petted it, the lamb would follow him everywhere.

The farmer named it Navidad which is Spanish for the word Christmas. Sure enough that little lamb followed the young man everywhere and he grew very fond of it. He thought it must have been a special pet that the busy farmer had no time to look after. He formed a real bond with Navidad - similar to a man and his dog.

Time passed and as the end of the year approached, the young man had a disturbing thought. Had there been any particular reason why the lamb was named Christmas? Then the sad truth sank in. It all made sense now. Navidad was to be offered as their Christmas dinner. His little lamb to be killed just so they food to eat? He was truly saddened. Because the farm was poor, Navidad the little Christmas lamb must die ... so that they might live.

For the first time in his life he understood something of how God felt when His Son died on the cross taking on Himself the penalty of our sins. Jesus truly died that we might live. How deeply it cut the Father's heart to offer His own Son Jesus.

Mercifully the little lamb didn't know what would happen as it went quietly to be slaughtered ... but Jesus did and His suffering was great. Earlier in His ministry, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and cried out, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' His amazing sacrifice was foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the Holy Bible. ( Isa.53:5-7.)

This is the reason why Jesus was born in that manger so long ago.

We wish you a blessed Christmas from all your friends at Christian Writers Down Under!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Risky Writing

By Charis Joy Jackson

Being creative is what I live for. Whether it’s writing, acting or making movies. I love it and I’m blessed to work in a film office where I get to do these things.

One of my responsibilities is to supervise the film interns in their writing. I give them feedback on their screenplays and over the last few months the feedback has been the same on every story. It got me thinking, these are important things for every writer to know so I thought I’d share them with you. It’s not an extensive list, but I think it will challenge more than just your writing.

1. Take a risk - Make it personal
 
    Christmas is only a few days away and every year I can't help but think of the risk Jesus took in coming to earth as a baby.  Talk about being vulnerable. We should be vulnerable too.

    Whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction or a screenplay make it personal. The more vulnerable you are in your writing the more appealing it is to read. It helps the characters you write to feel fleshed out and whole, less like two-dimensional pieces of cardboard. It adds complexity to your story and helps you find lots of little subplots to keep your reader engaged.

    If you’re writing a work of non-fiction don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself and share embarrassing stories. It allows your reader to be vulnerable too. It gives them that “Ha!-I-totally-do-that/ I-thought-I-was-the-only-one type of moment. Your reader is more likely to want to hear what you have to say because who wants to listen to a know it all who never does anything wrong!?

2. Take a death-defying jump - Bring something new

    Every single one of us is unique. No fingerprint or snowflake is the same and no writer is the same.

    No one can tell a story like you.

    Working with Youth With a Mission I get asked to teach on different schools and topics. One topic was Intercession - the act of standing in the gap through prayer. I really didn’t want to study more into the topic. Intercession often seems stale and boring, sitting for long hours in a stuffy room while people repeat the same prayer over and over again. When I sat down to prepare my teaching I knew I had to change my perspective and this question popped into my head, “Why was I asked to speak about this and not someone else? What unique way do I view the world?”

     I speak through stories and symbolism.

    Thus began a long search for how I could show the exciting and even a little frightening side of intercession. In the end I showed the class a short video of a waterfall in Africa where people go to jump into the flowing water right at the edge of the falls. The place is called the Devil's Pool. It’s totally a death-defying experience. The current is strong and if you aren’t careful you will fall over the edge, but under the water there is a ridge that acts like a railing of rock to keep everyone safe inside the pool. The wall of rock literally stands in the gap. Just like we do when we intercede.

     This waterfall analogy is an example of how each of us adds something different to story as well. We could all sit down and write the story of Cinderella and on the surface they’d all be the same "waterfall". Yet in the details (under the water), my version would look different to yours, just as yours would look different to another author.

    My point of this list?

   The best way to be brave in your writing is to be brave in life.

   Take more risks, it kills fear. I’m always afraid I’ll get my characters stuck in a situation I won’t know how to write them out of, but when I’m brave enough to take those risks, I find my story is actually more appealing.

   What are some risky tips you’ve used to help your readers engage more in your work?

~

Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Living a writer's life – together.

By Cate McKeown
I've always loved writing, as I'm sure most of you who are reading this have done. Writing is the sort of thing that is engrained into a person; like an everlasting mosquito bite you have to scratch, because no matter how much you try lathering it in spit, relief will only come when you rub profusely over the little red dot, preferably with a nice long sharp fingernail.
And happy I was, sitting at my laptop writing for my own amusement, way back in 2012. Were you ever content with your own words, happy to keep them to yourself, happy to achieve your goals in silence, leaving the world oblivious to your secret, inner, writing life?
Well, I was.
Until one day when I felt a nudge – you know the kind. The one where you sense God tugging on something in your heart that lets you know he has bigger plans for you – uncomfortable plans that will lead you out of your comfort zone and place all that is sacred to you on display for the world to see. The kind of plans that you push aside as nonsense until you step out and start telling people that you believe God might be calling you to write – and suddenly everyone is supportive and championing you and you swallow hard and take a deep breath and think those three magical words: well now what?
*Sigh* Those were hard days.
Faith is an interesting thing. Trust God with my three daughters? Sure! Trust him with my hubby's (seemingly) mediocre income while I write rather than work? Not a problem. Trust him with our health and happiness and for miraculous intervention into the lives of friends around me? Okey dokey, can do. But trust him with my words being put out for the world to see, to be judged, to be criticised not only as a writer, but as a Christian writer? Ah – can I take a rain-check on that one, Lord?
What a steep learning curve the past two years have been. From learning about showing not telling, to not using 'that' as a conjunction all.the.time, to cutting out the thousand+ adverbs from my first manuscript.
But then came deeper issues – how do you not preach, and yet get a message across in Christian fiction? And should we even be attempting to get such a message out there? What is Christian fiction, who reads it, and how do we cater for the non Christian who may pick up the book to read? It's a complicated world out there, and with every new step I take I feel I am even more a novice than I was yesterday.
But that's why groups like CWD are so valuable. We need each other. We need the help and the support and anyone and everyone to join our cheer-squad to get us over the line. And we need to be this for others, too. It's a tough world out there, and sometimes the red dot we're itching bleeds.
What about you - are you published and on your way to becoming the Christian equivalent of the next JK Rowling, ready to mentor an upcoming writer? Or perhaps you're back at the starting line, wondering what that ear-piercing sound was that made everyone else take off running, hoping for someone to reach out and grab your hand to pull you along for a bit. I'd love to hear how you're going on your writing journey at the moment.
Catriona McKeown has a list of identities as long as her arm, three feet in four pies and a call write. Her first manuscript, Damaging Exchanges, was a finalist in the unpublished section of the 2014 CALEB awards. She has also enjoyed some small successes in short story writing competitions this year. Her current WIP, The Boy In The Hoody, is written with middle year children (9 – 13 year olds) in mind. You can follower her writer's page on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Catriona-McKeown/1476417415932100.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Write, Write, Write by Jo Wanmer

"Write, write, write."

These prophetic words were spoken over me by Isobel Allum, a Canadian speaker, who visited our church about a month ago. She didn't know anything about me. The message continued...
"For there is a lot of treasure in you, many things people won't know. Things will disappear if you don't write them, for others will forget them. They are very, very important, for God is going to use you to show the journey of many. You're going to help people."

Ready for another day.
I believe this is an important word for all Australian authors. Australia is in a transition period spiritually. It is an exciting time for God is bringing forth a new thing. The prophets have spoken about it. Events in the churches have been heralding change, often not comfortable . And things are changing in the world of Christian writing, even in the short time I've been involved.

Transition is always difficult. The only person who's happy about transition is the midwife. She is excited because she knows the birth is close, new life is imminent. Holy Spirit is hovering over our nation, excitedly awaiting for the birth of a new thing. Like an baby it is still undefinable, as its not yet seen, but it is coming.

So write, Aussie writers. Write your books, your blogs, your posts...and write in your journals, your diaries. Write the change. Now you may not notice it  in the moment, but when you look back you will see it.

Jesus came into the world, born into controversy and danger, his very life entrusted to a young maiden and a young man who listened to God. That event changed world history. How do we know? It is recorded, written by two gospel authors. 

Steve writes and writes.
One day these words will
be in print, I hope.
Our faith is based on the ten commandments. How do we know them? Moses was a prolific writer. God instructed him to write down what happened. 

Apostle John, exiled to Patmos was told to record what he saw and sent it to the churches and so to this day we ponder his Revelation.

Today, we have an incredible opportunity to record the new thing in journals, blogs, posts and books, even fiction books. Some of us will like what is happening. Many will oppose it. The debate and differences will refine and define the move.

Write, write, write. God has called you for this time.

Jo Wanmer dug out her mother's dusty old diaries when researching 'Though the Bud be Bruised.' They were an invaluable help. The book was published in 2012, twelve years after the author of these records had passed away. Jo should have a web page, but until then you can follow her on Face Book.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

What I've Learnt From Failure

I must start by saying I feel very guilty posting here today; for the past ... um, do I really want to put a number on this? ... maybe three - maybe four - months, I've ignored my own blog. All the great writerly advice I've given people for the past two years on building an audience and online presence has been ignored while I deal with life: writing a new 200,000 word serial, adapting to my new full time job, continuing to settle into a new city, and all the general things of life. So I wonder if it is hypocritical of me to appear here now to offer advice.

But perhaps not.

Perhaps there is some invaluable piece of advice hidden in my experience.

Well, now you mention it...

It all comes down to: promote now, because later you're going to be even busier.

If you want to be a writer, start as early as you can building up your online presence. No effort is wasted. Put everything you can into it at the beginning, because the internet is very forgiving, as long as you get in and start. And, as I learnt, the sooner you get in, the more credit you'll have in the bank in case you need to back off later.

For the past few months I've done absolutely no book promotion. I didn't blog, or tweet, promote my facebook page or do any tours. I didn't even bring out a new book. However, I continued to get sales. My books continue to sell at roughly the same rate they have been for the past six months, which I admit is not a huge amount, but has been consistent for over a year, which is more than a lot of people can claim. That was all possible because I had done so much at the beginning.

For the first year I did everything I could. I listened to podcasts on self-publishing, internet marketing, platform building, and writing. Then I implemented as much of that advice as I could. At times it seemed a bit silly; I didn't even have a book out when I started. But luckily I didn't let that stop me.

So no matter where you are now in your writing journey throw yourself into promotion, because by the time it comes to actually promoting your book all these efforts will pay off. And they will continue to pay off even afterwards, when you may be too engrossed in writing the sequel to keep it all up. Trust me, if you're in this for the long haul, you're not going to have more time later, just more drafts to edit and books to promote.

So stop reading this and do one thing today to promote yourself as a writer. Or if you need more ideas, drop by my blog for the two years' of great advice (and eventually something new).

Buffy Greentree
www.100firstdrafts.com

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Keep on Swimming. . .

We've all seen, or at the very least heard the Finding Nemo tale. It's a cute story with cute characters, each with their own features and flaws.

Of all the cast it is Dory that I am most like. Ahhh yes, quirky, forgetful Dory. She brings such innocence to the movie, doesn't she? It's her catch-cry, "Just keep swimming" that resonates most within me. 

I had such a beautfiul moment whilst swimming recently which reminded me a little of Dory. Exhausted from swimming the entire length of the 50m pool, (thank the Lord for the great, big "SLOW PACE LANE" sign on the pool's edge), I decided to try a bit of a half-swim/half-float back stroke thingy. Yes, it looked as awkward as you are probably imagining right now. Picture a bowling alley with the gutter guards in place, and a ball zig-zagging down the lane as it alternately hits the left, then the right sides. Seeing it? Then yes, you've got the idea. So much for my relaxing stint down the pool.

I must confess, I did contemplate exiting via the stairs and making the 50-metre return journey on foot, but my towel was at the other end, and ...well let's just say, water can hide all kinds of evils, (need I say more?!). And so I prepared to push off ..."Helen, lay on your back and try again." Pffft! Seriously, Holy Spirit, I'm trying to exercise here! (Yeah, I'm pretty sure I heard a few angels giggling at this point; hope their wings got wet!). Okay, I guess it won't hurt.  A little tentatively I readied myself to leave the security of the pool's side. "Helen, place your hand gently on the lane divider; this will guide you, and keep you on a straight course." It was such a simple thing, really, I was surprised I hadn't thought of it earlier.

The further I swam, the more relaxed I felt. By mid-way I had been transported into a place of quiet worship; yes, in the middle of the swimming centre!  Finally, I reached the end of the lane. I opened my eyes and stood in the shallow water and looked back at where I'd come from. 

"MEDIUM PACED LANE."

What?! Didn't I start in the slow lane? Perhaps I swam over the divider? Quickly dismissing this as just silly I thought about it rationally. I was, or course, in the same lane as where I started, but as I'd been swimming someone had changed the lane's definition, thereby altering my position in the process.

I could do little more than stand and smile at the most amazing lesson God had given me. Here it is, broken down into easy to see points:

* Just keep swimming - don't give up! No matter how slow you feel you are going, keep on going! 

* Always keep your hand on the Holy Spirit, in his hand or on his shoulder, clutching the bottom of his coat if need be! - he is our guide here on earth and will always - ALWAYS - keep us on track, according to the Father's wishes.

*Worship - in the fear, in the frustration, in the quiet times of relaxation; whatever the circumstance we find ourselves in, worship the Lord. Don't worry about who's watching, (or who's 'not' watching); worshipping God is what matters, and it is where we find our rest, our strength, our spiritual tenacity to keep on going.

* Watch and see - as we do these things, and often when we least expect it, God commands a shift in the spiritual realms that brings change in our world. Whether our path be a few short metres, one 50-metre length of an olympic-sized swimming pool, or many tiring, tedious laps over and over, it is in the keeping on, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and with worship in our heart that our slow, plodding lane of obedience can suddenly be transformed into a steady-paced stream of opportunities that we never thought we'd see! 

It is both exciting and liberating, and as I'm learning of late, incredibly daunting; much like the parallel storyline of Nemo's dad, Marlin, in Finding Nemo . . . but that, my friends, is a whole other devotional. 

Blessings, 


Helen (aka Dory) Curtis

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thank You, Lord!

by Margaret Lepke


This year has been full of ups and downs for me. There have been times when I felt like a spring chicken - ready to chirp and run and play - but also times when I felt like a tired old mare, ready to be put out to pasture. Too much to do, too many things to contend with, never enough time. Just stop the world, I want to get off... But through it all I have tried to thank the Lord in (not necessarily for :) all circumstances and kept reminding myself of two things: that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13), and that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). Thank You, Lord, that You know best how to order our lives. 

http://1thessalonians417.wordpress.com/tag/thank-you-lord/

One of my Bible studies this year focused on the book of Job and I concluded that I am blessed beyond measure. Thank You, Lord! This patriarch suffered terribly for almost a year. His repeated cries for help seemed to fall on deaf ears, his questions were left unanswered, and the heavenly scene that could have explained it all was hidden from his sight. In other words, God seemed to be absent. Did Job curse Him and die as his wife suggested? No, his faith endured despite incredible heartache and physical pain.

When Satan was allowed to remove Job's worldly attachments, Job’s faith did not crumble. When Satan attacked Job’s body with almost unendurable pain, Job remained steadfast. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? And throughout all of this Job did not sin in what he said (Job.2:10)! What an example to us... thank You, Lord!

Then the final test arrived: a prolonged attack on Job’s integrity by those whom he counted his friends. Their psychological assaults would have hurt just as much as the physical and emotional pain Job endured. If only they had remained silent! But when his time of trial was finally over, Job’s faith had grown and his understanding of God had deepened. In his suffering he had sought God like never before, and his reward was a more intimate knowledge of the Almighty as well as physical blessings. His attitude would have been, "Thank You, Lord!"

I am so glad that God answered Job’s cry, Oh, that my words were written! That they were inscribed in a book! (Job 19:23). The record of this faithful man encourages those who suffer and gives a rare insight into Satan's involvement in human affairs.

Satan was given power over the elements, marauding people and physical illness, and he was able to use Job's friends for an attack on his integrity. While their assumptions were well meant and based on cultural norms, their reasoning couldn’t have been more wrong in this particular case. Let’s remember not to be like them when we take on the role of comforter. Let’s never assume, never offer cliché answers, and instead be willing to listen without judgement and to love without giving advice.
 
Friends that are tuned to God are worth their weight in gold. They accept one another, help one another and love one another at all times (Prov.17:17). The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov. 27:5-6). Two are better than one, and they have a better return for their labor. If either of them falls (or is discouraged, or goes down the wrong path), one can help the other up (Ecc. 4:9-10). 
 
We all need friends like that in our lives. People who influence us to become what God intended us to be, who fill us up when we are empty; people whom we can trust and be ourselves with, and those who encourage us to stretch and expand not only our faith but also our God-given abilities. We can thank the Lord for each true friend He has given us.
 
And this is where I would like to take the opportunity to thank you, dear writers, for your encouraging, inspiring, insightful and soul-searching blog contributions throughout the year. As fellow travelers along the narrow road, I count you my friends. And while I rarely have time to comment (and for that I apologize!) I do read your posts when they arrive via email. 
 
Please know that your thoughts and challenges have left their mark... As the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it: As iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other (Prov. 27:17). I believe that this writers' blog is capable of sharpening minds and encouraging hearts, and for that, too, I thank You, Lord.



Margaret Lepke is a Christian educator, counselor, naturopath and freelance writer. Enjoy the resources on her website.  http://drlepke.com.au