Monday, 30 January 2017

Salted With Fire

'Everyone will be salted with fire’ Mark 9:49 NIV.

Preserving, seasoning, and healing—that’s what comes to mind when I think about salt. Apart from the fact that I love salt on everything (definitely one of my food vices), I know salt has been a vital contributor to humanity in general, and in spite of all our modern technology, we still need it. So what did Jesus mean when he said we would be salted with fire?

I have a strong feeling the answer will be unique to each one of us, but I did recently gain a greater perspective on what Jesus meant when I witnessed the effects of fire. One year ago, a savage bush fire raged through the area around our camp. Preparation, planning, and prayer saved our camp, but the consequences of the event made me contemplate this verse.

Fire destroys

There wasn’t a blade of grass left for miles. Anything dry, dead, or dying was swallowed by the flames. My husband, who was in the thick of the fire, spoke of it as a living, breathing creature, an all-consuming monster that powered up mountains, unstoppable, leaving carnage in its wake. All that remained was a blackened landscape. I was in tears to see my favourite Paperbark tree lying on the ground while red coals flickered inside. Before the fire, I had no idea that termites had been feeding at its core. In its weakened state, the tree couldn’t fight the embers that enveloped it.

My Paperbark Tree
My Paperbark, and many other trees, were still burning weeks after the fire had moved on. My son exclaimed that the land looked like a battlefield. The grey shapes on the ground—where trees had fallen and burned to ash—looked like fallen soldiers, or a crime scene cut-out. It hurt to witness my country so bare, without creatures to occupy it. Not even a bird.

Fire Clears the Land

After the shock wore off, some unforeseen advantages to the bereft land emerged. For the first time in all the years we had been in the area, we could clearly see the lie of the land. The removal of all the long grass and fallen debris revealed the slope of each gully, and the natural stacks of rock faces. We learned so much about the area—like where prospectors had been before us. Pieces of tin, old bottles, and even an antique stove top were among the treasures we discovered.

I wondered if sometimes God allows a fire to rage through us, to clean us out the way He cleaned our bushland. The overwhelming storm of emotions, the intense heat of situations that burn out of our control, the uncertainty of knowing if the hardships we are facing are going to consume and destroy us, or those around us. These times ravage us, but we know God has prepared us with His word. We devise a plan of faith, and we surrender it all to Him in prayer. He is faithful, He sees us through, every time.  He allows the fire to rage, to clean, to cleanse, and to reveal, but His word is a fire in itself that burns a circle around us. The raging inferno can only go so far.

"Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces.” Jeremiah 23:29 NIV

After the fire is extinguished, will we see ourselves more clearly? Will the fire clean out all within us that is dead and dying? Will it expose disease, like I discovered with my favourite tree? There are sure to be slow-burning embers long after the fire has powered through. There may even be mini flare-ups when the temperature rises again. Though the carnage will impact us, it cannot destroy us.

“ … when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 ESV

Fire Brings Renewal

My bushland remained blackened for three long weeks. The animals stayed away, as there was nothing left for them to hide behind, and not a drop of food or water. On the third week, it stormed. Lightning, thunder, and bucketing rain.  Green shoots started to peek out through the burned earth, and the green leaves of the trees heathy enough to have survived started to shine.

A week later, it looked as though the Lord had covered the land with a blanket of green. Mobs of kangaroos ran across our path. Plain turkeys took up residence at the dam, and birds of all kinds rebuilt their homes in the treetops. Animals we had never before seen in the area came to feed on the fresh grass. It was a renewal that delighted our hearts. We were witnessing a transformation.

Fire Transforms

Just as fire transformed my bushland, I know the Lord allows hardships in our lives to transform us.  The experience seasons us. This fire season we will be even better prepared than last year. My husband has installed a fire-fighting hose, and built a dam.

I believe the Lord salts us with fire for the same reason—to prepare us, strengthen us, and clean us out for His work.

Jesus said:

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49 ESV

Expect the fires to come—and with them, the salt that will season your life, and your faith.

… each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 1 Corinthians 3:13 ESV.

Rose was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her Resolution series. 
Two of the three Resolution novels have won Australian CALEB awards. She has also released The Greenfield Legacy, a collaborative novel highlighting the pain of Australia’s past policy of forced adoption, as well as standalone novel, Ehvah After. Her most recent release is A Christmas Resolution, which is part of the novella box set, An Aussie Summer Christmas.

Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and her desire to produce stories that point readers to Jesus. Rose holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, and resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband and son.

Visit Rose at:

As previously published in Book Fun Magazine:

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Omega Writers Needs You

Hello CWD people. 

Let me introduce myself, if you haven’t run across me before. My name is Meredith Resce, and I am the new president of Omega Writers—a formal members group who seeks to connect writers from around the Australasian region, and to put them in touch with resources and educational programs.

I first became aware of Omega Writers about nine years ago, and at that time it was a Christian writers’ group based only in Queensland. They invited me as a guest speaker from South Australia to one of the initial writers’ conferences, and it was the first time I had connected with other Christian writers in Australia.

From that time to this, Omega Writers has expanded at a steady rate. One of the affiliated resource/Face Book groups is ChristianWriters Downunder, and I don’t need to tell you how valuable this group is. I might take this opportunity to congratulate Jeanette, Anusha and Paula on the opportunity they create to connect, engage and discuss writing issues, and they do this making it freely available to us as Christian writers.
We are all part of a large body of writers—a team, if you like—who unselfishly work to encourage and assist other writers to improve their craft and find success in their dream of being published.

Omega Writers as a group has been working to increase the benefits of membership. There are not nearly as many paid up members as there are Australian and New Zealand Christian writers, and I would like to take this opportunity to again encourage you to become a financial member. Well how does that benefit me? You may well ask. There are a number of things that are accessible to you as a member:

1.       If you are a writer, publisher, editor or illustrator you may give us your profile, details and picture to add to our resource directory.
2.       You will receive discount on conference registration, CALEB prize entry fee, and a number of editing services will offer a discount to OMEGA members.
3.       You will receive a 25% discount to become a member of the Australian Writers’ Guild.
4.       There have been some substantial discounts offered from Day Translators (a reputable translating group) for OMEGA members.
5.       You will get information on groups that are forming in your region, or who are aimed specifically at your genre. (eg state chapters, the screenwriters group, the science fiction group etc)

Other ideas have been floated that would add value to your membership, but I need to remind everyone, that this organisation is run by volunteers, who give up time and effort to pull all of these resources and opportunities together.

                Being a financial member helps us pay the bills, and at times we would like to be able to remunerate certain volunteers who pour months of work into the jobs done.

                Next month, I will be initiating a fund-raising strategy (currently being prepared by a fund-raising professional, free of charge). We want to bring some better known writing specialists to our next conference, and this of course takes money. We would also like to offer some good prizes for our writing competition, while at the same time being able to offer some remuneration to the judges and other hard working officials.

                What do Omega Writers need you for? Well at the very least, if you would consider becoming a paid up member, that would encourage us, and give us a little bit more in the kitty. But wait, there is more you could do for us. We need judges for the CALEB prize; We need enthusiastic, confident members who will help enact the fund-raising strategy; We need conference help volunteers.

                One thing I’ve learned from over twenty years in the Australian writing scene, if we don’t band together, and each carry some of the load, there won’t be an Australian or Australasian writing scene. We do not have the huge Christian population of the US, and we have to fight for every small thing we achieve. Will you become part of the team?

                Omega Writers needs you!

                Check out this short promo video I made last year.

Blessings and looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Dictation - by Adam David Collings

Everyone seems to be talking about dictation these days. A number of big-name indie authors swear by it, crediting it for improved efficiency and the high volume of output necessary to reach their level of success. The idea is simple. You talk to your phone or computer, and your voice is converted to text.

When I first started hearing about this new fad I wasn't overly interested. After all, I can type reasonably quickly, and I enjoy the feel of the keys beneath my fingers. Talking is not something that comes naturally to me, so why go down that path?

But there are some potential health benefit to dictation. Those who suffer from RSI in their wrists may find a great deal of relief. Then, there is the ability to walk while you work.

I used to do a lot of walking. I'd walk 15 mins from the car park into work, and then 15 mins back again. This daily ritual began to fade as I found myself working from home more often. My fitness has definitely gone down, and my clothes are getting too tight. Time to get back into exercise. But when? I was recently bemoaning to myself about lack of time. Sure, I could fit more walking into my day, but it's time-consuming, and I'm already trying to squeeze time into my day for writing. Then I remembered the dictation craze. Maybe there was something in this after all. Could I possibly kill two birds with one cliche?

But What about Cost?

The tool that everybody seems to be using is Dragon Dictate/Naturally Speaking. A quick check indicates you'll be out of pocket over $100. A reasonable investment, especially since many have a lot of trouble training the software to effectively recognise their voice. However, there are free options. Modern-day smartphones do a great job of understanding speech without training through products such as Google Now, Siri, and Cortana. It seems Google have been leveraging that technology toward dictation. Google Documents now has a voice typing mode. Another reason to love this free tool, and you can always copy the transcribed text into Scrivener or Word afterward.

What about mobile?

That's all well and good, but you don't want to lug a laptop around with you while you walk, so I had a look to see if I could use the phone app for google documents to dictate. The mobile app doesn't make mention of voice typing itself, but the standard google keyboard has a microphone button, which enables voice typing mode.

I'm using the Android platform, but a quick search indicates that both iPhone and Windows phone also have voice typing options. After a quick experiment, I found that Google voice typing did a pretty good job of understanding my speech. There was an incorrect word here and there, but no less than the inevitable typos that creep into my writing anyway. Getting the punctuation right might be a bit of a pain, but in a recent podcast, author Joanna Penn indicated she planned to dictate without any punctuation, and sort that out at the computer later.

Proponents of dictation often suggest you start by dictating an outline or brainstorming notes, rather than launching straight into first-draft material. This sounds like a good idea. I plan to give this a go sometime soon. With 24 planned episodes in my episodic serial, I have plenty of outlining ahead of me.

Dictation won't be for everyone, it might not even be for me, I don't know yet, but it seems there are no longer any barriers to giving it a go. The only problem that I have yet to find a solution to, is not a technical problem. The issue is that of self-consciousness. Namely, when you bump into someone during your walk, and they notice you talking into your phone. I think a quiet area where you're unlikely to come across other people might be wise.

So what about you? Have you tried dictation? Does it sound like something you might want to try?

Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.

Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam discusses these on his own youTube show – Stories with Adam Collings.

Find him at or sign up to his email list for a free short story.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Read Outside the Box by Nola Passmore

Author:      I’ve just written a groundbreaking novel that’s bound to be a bestseller.
Publisher:  What’s so innovative about it?
Author:      There’s this teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire.
Publisher:  Um … it’s been done before.  You’ve heard of the Twilight series?
Author:      Is that a TV show?
Publisher:  It’s a series of young-adult novels that’s sold millions.
Author:      I don’t read much fiction.  Most of it's not to my taste.  But my novel is different.
Publisher:  How do you know it’s different if you’re not reading in the area?
Author:      Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean.  
                  (Author shoves manuscript under publisher’s nose).
Publisher:  Oh it’s an historical novel?
Author:      No, contemporary.
Publisher:  Then why does the teenage girl sound like someone out of an Austen novel?
Author:      I like Pride and Prejudice and I thought I’d do something similar.
Publisher:  With vampires?

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you’re a writer, you ARE reading in your genre.  If you’re not, you may face the pitfalls of our hapless wannabe-novelist. 

Now I’m going to go out on a bigger limb and suggest that you should also be reading OUTSIDE your genre.  If you have eclectic tastes in literature, that won’t be a problem for you.  However, a lot of us tend to stick within the confines of our preferred style.  We only read murder mysteries or romances or Christian biographies or Amish steampunk.  It’s comfortable in our little genre box.  We know what to expect.  We don’t have to do any unwelcome stretching.  We don’t get lumbered with a book we’re not going to enjoy.  Why try the baklava when you can eat the lamington?

But what if you peeked out of your genre box and sampled a different taste?  There are at least three benefits.

It exposes you to other possibilities.  You may find another genre or sub-genre that you enjoy reading.  You may even try writing in that genre and discover you’re good at it.  I spent eight years struggling with watercolours before stepping out and doing an acrylics workshop.  I had instant success and have even sold one of my paintings.  If I’d never looked beyond by watercolour palette, I wouldn’t have discovered that I’m better suited to acrylics and mixed media.  You could make a similar discovery with your writing.

It helps you to engage with a broader readership and learn what sells.  Do you have a Christian message that you want to get out to a mainstream audience?  How are you going to do that if you don’t know what themes and styles are popular in mainstream literature?  Do you want to write a fantasy novel with universal themes?  How are you going to do that if you’ve never read a novel set in a different kind of world than your own? A popular catchphrase at the moment is ‘join the conversation’.  If you read outside your genre, you’ll be able to participate in more of those conversations. 

It can help improve your writing in your preferred genre.  Here are some of the strengths of different genres that we can apply to our own manuscripts.

  • Suspense/thriller – hooks the reader by getting straight into the action; has good pacing that keeps the story moving; ends each chapter with a page-turning sentence or phrase.
  • Romance – develops characters we care about; delves into relationships and family issues; offers hope.
  • Science fiction/fantasy – stretches the imagination and shows what’s possible; builds a world that supports and enhances the story.
  • Literary fiction – uses beautiful language; adds layers to the plot through nuance; explores deeper themes; provokes thought.
  • Historical fiction – uses background research to enhance a story; shows how to use setting to create the story world; explores the past through the eyes of the present; experiments with alternative interpretations of history.
  • Memoir – shows how to take the main character on a journey; connects with the reader emotionally; explores universal themes.
  • Creative non-fiction – shows how to make facts entertaining and accessible.
  • Poetry – reduces ideas to their essence; expertly uses language and imagery for maximum impact; allows for expression and exploration of different forms.
  • Humour – relieves stress and entertains; provides lighter moments for more serious works; can be used to critique and question systems or ideologies (e.g. through satire).
  • Children’s literature – stretches the imagination; shows how visual and textual material work together; helps us to get in touch with our own inner child; explains key concepts simply; explores values.

This list is certainly not exhaustive and many of the strengths cross over into different genres.  Can you think of others?

Set a Goal

You’re more likely to read outside of your genre if you have a specific goal.  You might identity a couple of genres or sub-genres that you would like to try and then set yourself a goal to read a certain number of books in each.  Although you might want to start with something close to your literary home, I’d encourage you to aim a little broader than that – fiction, non-fiction and poetry; contemporary and historical; realist and speculative; Christian and mainstream; bestsellers and award winners; books for adults, young adults and children.

There are also many established reading lists you can use.  For the last two years, I’ve participated in the Popsugar Reading Challenge in which you read books from different categories.  Some are specific (e.g. an espionage thriller), but most of the categories are quite broad (e.g. a book with a red spine), so you have a lot of scope in your selections. I’m part of a Facebook group that discusses books we’re reading and it’s been a great way to learn about different genres and styles. I’ve come across a few duds, but I’ve also discovered many gems I wouldn’t have read otherwise.  If you’d like to try this year’s challenge, you can find the 2017 list here.

Set Boundaries

While it’s good to read widely, it’s also wise to determine the types of books that you’re not going to include.  I don’t read erotica, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a book with one or two sex scenes.  It depends how they’re done and their importance to the story.  I don’t read grisly horror or books with strong occult or paranormal themes because I know they affect me negatively.  However, I’m not averse to the odd ghost, werewolf or magical twist. The list will be different for everyone, but you should still be left with dozens of genres and sub-genres that you can happily explore.

Do you read outside your genre?  Has it helped in your writing?  What pearls have you discovered?  I’ll be back later to respond to your comments, but right now I have to check out steampunk titles on Goodreads.  Will I choose Beauty and the Clockwork Beast or stick with a classic like H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine?  Perhaps I’ll read them both.

Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 140 short pieces published, including devotionals, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog at their website:  

Monday, 16 January 2017

Keeping that Focus

by Pamela Heemskerk

Courtesy of  luigi diamanti /

I’ve been through three computers in the last three months - enough to make any writer remove their hair in handfuls!! So I’ve turned on today and gone back through the last few CWD blogs. And I am blessed to know so many people who write from the heart in ways that have changed my life. Thank you.

I know many who had a difficult 2016 – my annus horribilis was 2015.   So last year I was confronted with all the baggage from the year before. (Such fun!) My relationship with God deepened last year, and He gently and persistently placed my reactions, thoughts and feelings from 2015 to the forefront of my life to sort them through from His perspective.

He showed me where I reacted out of fear and failed to trust Him – fear undermines our belief in God’s sovereignty. He showed me where I had harboured anger and resentment; where I’d clung to my position of ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’. But most of all, He showed me where I had lost my focus on Him. Instead, I had focussed on all the issues surrounding me and on trying to solve them.

You see, our Father has a goal – to make us into the image of His Son, so that we reflect His holy and loving nature to the world. Our lives become the story of His goodness, mercy and power working through us. He will do whatever it takes to strip away anything that detracts from this goal of changing us to be like Him.

The one thing that will most effectively accomplish this change is our deliberate and sustained focus on His Person through worship, prayer, reading, meditation. Even when we don’t want to.
So 2016 for me, was a year of cleaning out and of changing focus. When we focus on the things that bother us, it shifts our focus off God and His purposes, and onto ourselves. It ‘muddies the waters’ and we cannot see where we are meant to be heading.  When our focus shifts back onto worship, it changes our perspective. The ‘big issues’ become little in the light of God’s glory.
So how does this apply to writing?

As God’s royal priesthood, we reflect His nature to the world in our lives and our writing. We have a goal, a focus for our words. We want to convey something clearly to our readers. Our editors, beta readers and writing friends can often see where we’re straying away from our goal. They help us to clean-up and restore focus.  No detours, no distractions, no red herrings – just good writing with a clear end-point. Part of our walk towards perfection.

Pamela is a non-fiction writer who has had a number of short pieces published. Her booklet on hearing loss – Rather a Small Chicken…A guide to hearing loss for family and friends - was launched last year, and she is now on a (slow) journey of discovery into the marketing world.

Email –

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Visual Inspiration and the Heart Within

by Josephine-Anne Griffiths

I never wondered where the writer’s inspiration came from. I suppose since I’ve been good at telling a tall tale since childhood, it didn’t occur to me to ponder. Over the years, I’ve developed my own style for drawing upon my imagination, combined with other techniques to achieve that inspiration, that powerful idea that would become a story, article, or perhaps a book one day … the arrival of the muse.

As a younger person, I was always the shy, quiet one in the group. This isn’t so much the case these days, if I feel safe within a group, I’ll usually find something to talk about. Until that comfort comes however, I am quiet and reserved … but I believe that’s okay. As a child, my quiet nature seemed to be a problem for others more than for me. I did become the victim of cruel bullying in and out of school, and as such began to feel that there was something wrong with me, something lacking in my personality.

One day towards the end of fourth form (called year ten these days), a sweet and caring Nun at the school I was attending, wrote in my treasured autograph book.

‘If silence be golden, then I think your thoughts must be of that variety.’

From that very moment, I felt a warm glow inside and thought how lovely it was that someone would see my quietness as an asset. I would often just sit and quietly listen and observe people. I had no idea that what I was doing had a name … ‘people watching’.

Writers over the decades and longer have used this as a technique, to draw stories out of what and who they see and hear. You’d be amazed at some of the scandalous but interesting conversations one can overhear in a cafĂ© (one of my favourite places to write).

When the day came that I had no choice but to retire from full-time work, I began to take some courses in Creative Writing techniques and read a lot on the craft of writing. I continue to read as there is so much to learn. I’m certain that I’ll be learning the whole of my life. When I combined what, I was learning with my love of the written word, and entwined it with the blessed talents I had so graciously been gifted with, I found that I had a lot to say, and write about.

Many writers have applied the art of seeing a possible scenario or story within a picture or photograph. I did toy with this technique while I was an active member of the Australian Writers’ Centre Graduates Writing Group. Although my activity was short-lived due to ill health, I got the idea. They are such a lovely bunch of people, it’s a pity I couldn’t have continued … who knows, maybe one day.

It is amazing how many different stories and points of view, can emerge from one picture. Just prior to Christmas, while on a cruise to Tasmania with some members of my family, my husband and I attended an onboard art auction. We did win a couple of bids and are now impatiently awaiting their arrival. With one of those artworks, in particular, I've fallen completely in love.

'La Liciana'
~ Csaba Markus
It is a beautiful painting by Csaba Markus, called ‘La Liciana’. One of the most significant moments for me at that art auction was the previewing period. It was as though I was walking through a gorgeous garden of imagery and light, with so many delights to feast my eyes on. Of course, there were some paintings I really did not like, taste in art is an individual thing. The same thing applies to writers, we are all very different in what we like to both read and write. There were quite a few paintings that sang to me, but this one by Markus captured my imagination. I had to get to know this young woman. She is so beautiful, innocent and regal.

~ Csaba Markus

I placed my preference stickers on her frame as well as another of his artworks,  ‘Aurora’.

They were both so beautiful, and I knew that Leon had always wanted a tasteful semi-nude, but it was Liciana who was singing to me. She wants me to write her story.

One of the most famous paintings, let alone a portrait of a woman, is da Vinci’s 'Mona Lisa.' Markus poses the question: What is the secret to Mona Lisa being so famous?

'It is not because she is beautiful, because she is not that beautiful, and it wasn’t a big picture.' ~ Csaba Markus.

Markus took it upon himself to study the 'Mona Lisa,' as well as da Vinci’s notes to unlock the secret, and what he learned was that there was more to Mona Lisa than her smile.

'There is balance, there is grace, there is femininity,” ~ Csaba Markus

During and after the Second World War, women began to take on more and different roles, whether it was in the workforce or politics. This redefined women, and Markus wanted to capture that spirit in his art. His artwork certainly captured my imagination, so much so that a story was already forming in my mind. I shall bring my Liciana to life within a story one day soon.

Another painting we acquired while on holiday was a gorgeous Thomas Kinkade called 'Cobblestone Bridge'. Always known as 'the Painter of Light', Kinkade has been a firm favourite of mine. I remember one day, completing a jig-saw puzzle based on a painting of his. There was a lighthouse near the cliff's edge, the waves of the ocean below were crashing and bubbling way up high upon the rocks. It appeared to be a lonely place except for the winding stone path which led up to a cute, well-lit cottage with a pretty red roof. I remember seeing a story within that picture and wondering who might be living there.

Well, now I have my story nutted out in my mind, still needing to put the words on paper. Liciana is indeed very beautiful, and yes she has something to do with that cobblestone bridge and the illuminated buildings behind it. So who is she? What happens? You'll have to read my story once it's written.

All artists, whether they be musicians, painters, photographers, or indeed writers have been given this wonderful privilege to be able to create from their own inspired imagination. Ah, but where does all this inspiration come from, you ask? It had to start somewhere.

Yes, it did! Our Masterful Creator is responsible for the creation of all things beautiful, and it is up to us to use those incredible talents that He has gifted us with to create our own beauty for others to enjoy.

La Liciana, like the Mona Lisa, follows you around the room with her eyes. She doesn’t let you escape. She captivates your imagination to the extent that you must do something about it. In fact, ‘La Liciana’ is often called the modern day ‘Mona Lisa’.

Markus says that there is so much bad news in the world, and he didn’t want his art to be one of the ‘bad channels’ broadcasting negativity. Instead, he always strives to give people hope and beauty. By painting his 21st century Mona Lisa’s, Markus hopes to honour his muse and put smiles on his audience’s faces.

In the same way, we writers should want to please our audience, and what better way than to be doing what we love. What do you think? Where does your inspiration come from? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment below.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Be Prepared

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that inspiration often strikes in the most unexpected places. I remember driving from Blenheim to Christchurch after a work trip and along the way the inspiration for my latest novel, Broken Shells, blossomed in my mind. Think turquoise seas, vineyards, clusters of grapes and braided rivers. I kept pulling off the road to make notes and by the time I arrived home, the book was outlined. 

On another occasion, I was flying home from Auckland to Christchurch and I felt the Lord whisper to me that I should compile a book of true short stories about lessons I’ve learned in the sky. By the time we landed, the chapters of Fly with Me were growing in my heart.

I’ve learnt that I need to have a notebook and pen with me at all times. This is not just for writing purposes but also to record those moments when God speaks directly to my heart. In September last year, I was on a business trip to Houston. I had a free evening and after doing some research, I found that Lakewood Church (Joel and Victoria Osteen) had a writing group that was meeting at the church that evening. I emailed the group leader and asked if I could join them. I had a great time with them, was introduced to one of the pastors, and they asked for a photo with me as they’d never had a writer from New Zealand visit before.

On my way out, I asked if I could have a look at the auditorium. The pastor took me downstairs and explained a meeting was underway but I was welcome to join in. There were about 300 people clustered in the front and a woman was leading worship from the stage. It was a celebration service for people recovering from addictions so I thought I’d just stay for a few minutes and then catch an Uber ride back to my hotel. The music came to an end and a big black guy got up to preach – he was articulate, loud, and mopped his head with a large hanky every couple of minutes. I was thinking of leaving when he said something that stopped me in my tracks. God was speaking directly to me – and although I’d just been to a writer’s group I didn’t have a notebook and pen with me. Not even a scrap of paper to write on! I pulled my phone out and started taking notes on it. It wasn’t ideal but I captured the basics and those words have had a profound effect on my life.

I’m more careful these days and my notebook goes everywhere with me. It’s full of random thoughts, impressions, ideas and inspiration that the Lord drops into my heart. Some of it may never end up in a book but it’s my life story. It’s what God is saying to me, things He’s showing me, corrections He’s bringing and whispers of love for me.

I encourage you to start recording what the Lord says to you. Be prepared, take notes, look for the gold in every situation, and expect to see God. I’ve discovered the more I anticipate, the more I see and discover!

Monday, 2 January 2017

The New and the Old

by Jeanette O'Hagan

On the Shores of Galilee

One day, Jesus is speaking to a crowded house when the cry goes up, ‘Jesus, your mother, sisters and brothers are outside. They want to talk to you.’

Jesus stops, looks around at the hushed listeners. Perhaps the crowd expect him to
 dismiss them and rush outside and offer his family refreshments. They expect him to invite his family in and spend time with them. But he doesn’t, or at least, not at first. Perhaps because he knew his family feared he’d was crazy and they had come to take him home. Instead, he says to the crowd, ‘Who is my family? You are, if you do God’s will.’

Later that day, Jesus asks a disciple to push a boat out into the gently lapping waters of Lake Galilee. He settles down on the sun-bleached deck and spends several hours telling stories about sowing seeds, growing plants, treasures in fields, and fishing nets.  

Jesus spoke in parables – stories or word images – that conveyed deeper truths of the Kingdom. Was his family among the people crowding around the shore to hear each word? Or where they back in the house fretting because he wasn't packing to come home? Perhaps. 

As the day draws to the close. Jesus sums up:

"Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." Matt 13:52  NIV

The scribes were versed in the Law – the Old Covenant – while Jesus brings a new understanding and a new work and a new relationship with God in the New Covenant. 

Matthew Henry explains it this way:

"... a good householder, who brings forth fruits of last year's growth and this year's gathering, abundance and variety, to entertain his friends. Old experiences and new observations, all have their use. Our place is at Christ's feet, and we must daily learn old lessons over again, and new ones also."  Matthew 13, Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible by Matthew Henry (cited in Biblehub). 

While this passage has deep theological truths about the relationship of Old and New Testaments (or Covenants) and perhaps the nature of theology itself and our walk with Jesus, I’d like to draw two related points. 

Jesus the Storyteller

Firstly, the importance of storytelling in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus didn’t always use stories (parables) but it does seem his preferred way of engaging the sceptical crowds, hooking their interest, drawing them in with stories about farming, running a household or kingdom, or about family life - stories that they could all relate to. No doubt some of these stories were based on actual occurrences or regular activities but others probably weren’t or they used symbolism rather than realism to make his point. And often that point was subtle – not immediately obvious, requiring explanation or reflection to understand fully.

I find it encouraging that, as storytellers, we follow in Jesus’ footsteps. 

Last Year's Growth; this Year's Gathering

Secondly, at the beginning of 2017, perhaps we too could be like the householder ‘who brings forth fruits of last year's growth and this year's gathering’.

We look at the old – the past. 

For many, 2016 has been a bad year, a disturbing year, a year full of strife and uncertainty. We’ve had a swag of much loved celebrities’ deaths; there seems to be greater division between different viewpoints and ideas about what’s important in our society & less ability to engage in reasoned debate; there’s been terrorist attacks and horrific wars and an overwhelming refugee crisis. Dark clouds seem to wreath the horizon.  

Despite this gloomy picture – much good has happened too. While the media loves to major on the negative (the disasters, conflicts and controversies), we need to remember that God is seated on the throne, that He works all things for good. He flips the script, so that what was meant for evil ultimately accomplishes His plans for good. God asks us to be faithful, to be beacons of His love and goodness and light - and to believe.

For some of you 2016 has been a tough year personally. For others, it may have been a great year or a mixed year. But even in the worst years, God is still at work in our lives – and showers us many good gifts that we often take for granted, not least His presence.

One of my highest spiritual moments, when I was swept up in an exhilarating experience of God’s deep love and bountiful joy, came at one of my lowest points - after thing after thing after thing went wrong. And while my circumstances didn’t change instantly, the wonderful sense of His presence was enough. Without the low point, would I have experienced that high? Maybe not.

Like the householder, we can look at what the year has brought us and, through it all, thank God for the many good gifts He has given us.

And when we look at even our difficult times with gratitude, we can also see the new things He wishes to do in, through, and for us. Only after my attitude changed was I able to walk through into the future God had been offering me but I'd been too jaded to accept. 

Let’s be open to new treasures as well as old.


So I challenge you to prayerfully make some lists:

Five things that I can be grateful from 2016
Five hope or dreams that God has laid on my heart for 2017

If you feel comfortable, share a couple of the new and old in the comments below. 

Oh, and by the way, I was tickled to notice that after Jesus finished his storytelling, he went home with his family - at least for a season but that didn't stop him from completing his God-given mission. He honoured the old while giving space to the new.

"When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown." Matt 13:53, 54a, NIV

Wishing you all a wonderful, faith-filled, adventurous 2017

Scripture cited Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Images  © Jeanette O'Hagan

Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Jeanette is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. She recently launched Heart of the Mountain: a short novella and The Herbalist's Daughter: a short story. Other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .