Sunday, 11 November 2012

Who has GOT your back?

Today is Remembrance Sunday here in Britain, when we honour all those who sacrificed  their ‘tomorrows’ in the First World War, and onwards through the years of continuing conflict, so that we could have our ‘todays.’

As we stood with heads bowed for the long, silent minute of the Act of Remembrance, in church this morning, I reflected on the sacrifice that others had made so that I could live in freedom. I was reminded of the words of Jesus in John 15:13 as he spelled out the true meaning of love.

 “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” he said, knowing what lay ahead of him. Years later, on the other side of the Cross and resurrection, the apostle John remembered those words and commented “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay our lives for our brothers.”

I never cease to be amazed at the total commitment soldiers seem to have to one another. They have shared so much, that even when they are injured, they are often utterly determined to return to their regiment as soon as possible. The phrase ‘I’ve got your back’ means that they can step out into danger, confident that the man behind them is on the alert keeping watch, sheltering them from the enemy that they can’t see. As the Three Musketeers used to say ‘One for all and all for one!’

Who looks after your back? As Christians we’re definitely in a war zone. We need those who ‘understand where we’re coming from’ and will pray for us and protect our backs. We need encouragement, a listening ear, and sometimes a hand to pull us up and get us back on the right path again. There’s no room for ego’s and personal kingdom building in God’s army. Satan loves it when we stumble and sometimes get wiped out altogether. 

When a soldier is hit by the enemy, the cry goes up ‘Man down.’ and immediately the whole focus is to get that soldier back on his feet and fit for battle.  I wrote this to honour those who have given their all, and to remind me that I have a responsibility, to watch out for those who seek to ‘fight the good fight’ by my side..

“Man Down!” That’s what they shout Lord,
when one of those they call ‘comrades in arms’
sprawls wounded on the desert sand,
or, worst of all, lies dead.
And this man was so young, dear Lord,
just three days short of twenty one.
But now he’ll have no use for gift wrapped packages
so neatly stowed beneath his army bunk….

In ambush, snipers watched and waited
while he, and many like him,
searched for, and then disarmed
those lethal IED’s.
He made the sandy path a little safer
for those who came behind,
hoping that by his skill and courage,
he would be able to prevent
another agonising shout -‘Man Down’ ….

You know about self sacrifice, dear Lord.
For ‘Greater love’ you said while here on earth
 ‘has no one showed than this,
That one man lay his life down for his friends.’
And that is what you did.

No bombs or bullets took your life.
But knowing very well what lay ahead
and sweating blood, you chose
the whip, the thorns, the spittle and the taunts,
and for Your enemies,
as well as for Your friends,
You chose the nails.

And now Lord you have called each one of us,
to fight against the enemy of souls.
Not flesh and blood,
but rulers, powers and evil spiritual force
in heavenly realms.
Unseen, but prowling nonetheless
to weaken and destroy.

Today please help us so to stand,
arms linked
strong in Your power,
protected by Your blood
so that whatever strategem he may employ,
 the shout will not go up from us
“Man Down!”

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Any time will do - or will it?

A centipede was happy until one day, in fun,
A toad said ‘Pray which leg goes after which?’
which strained his mind to such a pitch
he lay distracted in a ditch
considering how to run.

In writing circles, November is known as the month of NaNoWriMo, when many would be novelist, and probably as many published ones, set themselves the task of starting a new piece of work, and writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. This wouldn’t be sufficient for a full length novel, but should produce the raw material for the major part of one.

‘I’m going to write my Christmas novella’ predicted one prolific writing friend confidently. She has done it before and while others of us dither and try to decide if there is any hope of spending so many hours in front of the computer, she just gets on with it.

Are you a procrastinator? You may have read about the mule that had two bales of hay put into his stable. While he tried to decide which one of them to tackle first, he ate neither and starved to death!

Perhaps you don’t put things off altogether, but you never really throw your heart and soul into a project. I was challenged recently by the story in 2 Kings 13. The prophet Elisha was on his death bed and King Jehoash thought that he’d better consult the prophet while he was still alive. Elisha commanded the King to fire one arrow though the window, and then to bang the rest of his quiverful on the ground. We don’t know whether Jehoash felt embarrassed, got tired of the whole thing, or felt it was a pointless exercise. But after three hearty raps he gave up, and Elisha told him that in the light of that,God would only give him partial victory over the enemy.

It’s easy to give up too soon. For it’s not just the opportunity, but the attitude with which we meet that opportunity, which determines the size of our victory. It may be sticking to a diet, getting our Christmas shopping done before the hordes descend on the shops, or writing 50,000 words in a month.

How would things be different if for 30 days, we invested our most valuable resource, our time, into our most important possession, the opportunities that God has given us? NaNoWriMo anyone? 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

How much would you pay?



I’ve just come back from a trip to America. I don’t rate flying very highly, but we got on the plane, had a seat each, if rather a small one, were fed and watered and arrived safely at our destination.

 We took a train from Chicago to Grand Rapids which was very different from travelling on British Rail. Because there are few protected level crossings, the Amtrak train was sounding a mournful horn almost all the way. But the seats were comfortable and the journey, if slow was safe enough.

Later in the trip we went from San Francisco to Monterey for a Writer’s Retreat. The bus broke down, but we sat in a comfortable hotel garden until a replacement came. Some people had lost their luggage on their journey, others had experienced delays of all sorts. But none of the journeys compared to this one being undertaken by a man in Africa en route for Media Associates Littworld conference in Kenya, this coming week. This is what he wrote:

Thank you so much for the sacrifices made to help me attend this conference. By the Grace of our God, I have the ticket and will start the journey from tomorrow; Wednesday 24 Oct. I will sleep at Kigali(Rwanda) and Thursday morning, I will take the bus from Kigali to Kampala(Uganda) hopefully, around 03h00’P/M, I will be connected to another Bus from Kampala and I will get at Nairobi Friday morning. The problem is that; I don’t know the Bus companies I will be using, especially the one from Kampala to Nairobi!

Buses in Africa are not comfortable and the roads can be potholed and very dangerous. You might well share your seat with livestock or someone else’s luggage. Breakdowns and accidents are frequent occurences. And yet … for this African writer the chance to meet others and to learn writing and publishing skills so that he can spread God’s word in his own country is so compelling that he is more than willing to pay the price.

Which makes me ask myself ‘How much am I prepared to pay in order to obey God”
Not in money perhaps but in time and effort. What about you?

For more information about Littworld go to 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Leaving a Legacy

It’s over! Well nearly! Slowly the excitement of the Olympic Games is dying away, and the question that all of the great and the good seem to be asking is ‘Will the Games leave a legacy?  Will all the positive feelings and excitement translate into a fitter  nation, where talented children get the opportunity to do sport at the highest level and everyone else has the opportunity to take part?’ At the moment we have no way of knowing, but it has set me thinking about the legacy that I would like to leave.

One of my favourite modern worship songs talks about ‘serving the Kingdom of God in my generation,’ and ‘giving my life, for something that will last forever’ – the question is   … what will that be?

 As a writer, I hope that my words will linger in the minds of some of my readers, and perhaps make a difference to the way that they live or serve God. It’s like tossing a stone into a pond. The ripples spread outwards and you have no idea how far they will spread.

 Ethel and I started a coffee morning to share our faith with our neighbours.  Many  good things came out of that five years. People were encouraged and strengthened in their spiritual journey, but, as far as I know, no one met Jesus for the first time.So I was thrilled when I read a review of my book ‘What Me Lord?’ I wrote it because other people caught the vision of using their homes for evangelism, and I was asked to write about how we had done it. The lady who had written the review hadn’t even bought the book, but found it in the library. She was excited and challenged by the ideas it contained and gathered some friends to begin a coffee morning in her village.

A number of people came to faith over the years that she opened her home to her neighbours, including her husband. Then she moved and left her friends to carry on what she had begun, while she started again in her new area. The she moved again  I met her when she invited me to speak to the third group she’d formed – she had cancer and died a few months later, but what a legacy she left behind her! And I had a small share in that legacy, even if it was once removed.

So how do you create a legacy? A successful writer in the USA, Cec Murphy, gives hundreds of dollars away each year to allow beginning writers to go to a writer’s conference. Other experienced writers invest time in helping the less experienced put their dreams into words. But of course it isn’t just writers who leave a legacy. We all leave something behind us – the question is will it be for good or for ill?

 As I watch children passing our house on their way to school I’m reminded of the elderly lady who prayed for a group of teenaged boys who scuffled their way to a school near her home. One of them was George Verwer, a teenager who came to faith and a within a short time started Operation Mobilisation . This organisation now  has 6.100 people working in 110 countries reaching out to people through literature, the creative arts, relief and development work, and so many other ways, to tell people how their lives can be changed when they meet Jesus.

One elderly lady. I wonder if she felt that there was little she could do?  Maybe she was housebound. I’m not sure if she ever knew what her prayers had been the foundation for. But she did what she could, where she could, by using whatever she had. And God increased her giving a hundredfold.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Digging ditches

I’m not much of a one for digging in the garden. A combination of a creaky back acquired from heavy lifting in my working life as a physiotherapist [no slings to move the patients around in those days] and our heavy clay soil, makes it a daunting task.

So I have a lot of sympathy for the soldiers in 2 Kings chapter 3. The three kings whom they served had taken them on a route march through the wilderness in order to creep up on the King of Moab. But after seven days of trudging through the sandy wastes, they arrived at their destination to find that the river had dried up and there was no water for the men or their animals. It was a very uncomfortable place to be.

Wisely, one of the kings consulted the prophet Elisha and was told that the soldiers were to dig ditches in the river bed. And although they wouldn’t hear wind or see rain, by the morning the ditches would be filled.

I wonder what the soldiers thought of that idea. Dig ditches? What with? They could have said that they didn’t have the tools, didn’t know about the technology of ditch digging in sand, and anyway it wasn’t what they were trained for. Whatever they thought, they had to get on with the job, and next morning the ditches were indeed full of water.

If we take on any task for God, it can seem as if we’re marching through the wilderness without a sign of obvious progress. It’s easy to doubt and ask ourselves if the enemy is going to get the upper hand. Like many other writers I’ve asked ‘who reads blogs?’ ‘How can I get my new book to the people for whom it’s intended, in a world where there are thousands of competing titles? God has said to me, ‘Dig ditches. If you will do the basic work required, I will fill them with water.

Have you had a ‘How on earth do I do this Lord?’ moment recently? If you feel that you’re stuck in the ‘Help! what do I do now wilderness’ ask God how you should go about digging the ditches to receive the water of His blessing, and then stand back and watch Him provide. Perhaps you’ve already done that. If so I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, 27 August 2012

One toe in ...

One toe in
What if … God has called me to something but it looks as if it might be a total waste of time, and end in tears? Have you ever grappled with that thought?

When I began writing I thought that I would be writing fiction for children, but after 3 children’s books, the direction of my writing took a very definite turn towards non-fiction, and for years that is what I did. There were plenty of gaps in the market that needed filling and God blessed my efforts.

Then about 5 years ago I went to a conference about friendship evangelism – something I’d done a number of times in the past. It was a great conference and there was a lot of laughter and helpful teaching. But somehow I felt detached. ‘Lord,’ I prayed on Sunday morning ‘What am I doing here? I’ve been here, done all the things they’re suggesting and even written a book about it. Is this a waste of time and money for me? Did I make a mistake in coming?’

‘I want you to write about it again’ God seemed to whisper. ‘But this time make it fiction and make it fun.’ I shook my head, wondering if my imagination was working over time. ‘Fiction and FUN?’ What on earth did that mean?   I knew that ‘inspirational fiction’ was a rapidly growing genre in America, but in Britain Christians were used to borrowing their fiction from their local library, which, for the most part, ‘didn’t  do inspirational’.  For that and other reasons, British publishers were not interested in publishing it. So to write the kind of book that God seemed to be suggesting looked like a spending time and effort on something that would definitely result in a dead end.

You’d have thought that I would have learned by now. There have been many times in my life when God has seemed to ask me to do the impossible. But for some reason I’ve been firmly stuck on this one … arguing, stalling, putting it off … that is until I read these words :-

“It isn’t necessary to understand the whole journey, in order to obey and take the first step. Surrendered people obey God even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
      Abraham followed God without knowing WHERE it would take him.
              Hannah waited for God’s timing without knowing WHEN.
                    Mary expected a miracle without knowing HOW.
              Joseph trusted God’s plan without knowing WHY circumstances happened as they did.
Hmm! My delaying tactics and arguing would seem to be saying only one thing … how about you?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Something beautiful for God

What  if … I obey God’s prompting, and step out in faith, but nothing seems to happen as a result? I saw a beautiful example of the kind of dogged determination that ‘keeps on keeping on and gives up giving up’ when I was in Bulgaria last year. It moved me so much that I wrote about it in the form of a prayer for my new book ‘It’s just You and Me God’ published by Discovery House in a few weeks time.

Huddled against the early April chill
she sat there in the doorway of that little church
muffled in gloves and scarf,
her shabby winter coat was barely thick enough
to keep her warm.
And yet she sat there in the early morning chill
pulling the rope that reached the bell tower,
so that the single bell tolled out its message,
‘The church is here
God is waiting
Come and worship’.

The building has survived dear Lord
throughout the years
that  aetheistic forces ruled the land.
But now perhaps God seems quite unfamiliar
and  church attendance,
is deemed both dull and out of date,
 to those who’d never known you.
For though I watched her for at least an hour,
as far as I could tell from where I sat ….,
no one came.

Did her arms ache, dear Lord
and was her heart discouraged?
Feeling perhaps
 that it was hardly worth enduring
the cold, the early rising,
the tuneless clanging
of that solitary bell,
when no one came?

For Lord you couldn’t say it was a lovely sound.
Unlike the joyous peals that thunder out
from churches and cathedrals,
created by a team of eager ‘campanologists’,
a thing of beauty in and of itself,
Especially when in this small village
 no one came.
And little seemed to happen
to reward her work.

And yet Lord
when you whispered to my heart
“You don’t see what is going on
 within the hearts of those who hear”
I realised 
that at the very least
she had an audience
of two.
You, Lord, who saw her sacrifice of love
and treasured it.
And me,
to whom you spoke so clearly.

So thank you Lord
 for all the hidden people,
who faithfully rise early
and labour late,
doing the little things you’ve called them to,
in spite of difficulties and disappointments.
‘Tolling’  their particular bell,
so that the people all around them,
whether they seem to listen and respond
or not,
can know that God is here.

They faithfully repeat the news
He loves and values them
And waits with arms outstretched
For them to find their way back home,
To worship.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Taking a Risk

What If … God seems to be prompting you to do something that is way beyond your current ‘pay grade’! Can you step out in faith without ending up in a horrible mess? My friends Daniella and Svetlana would say ‘Yes! Absolutely!’

There were all sorts of reasons why, humanly speaking , it was not a good idea to start a woman’s magazine in a post communist country, in the late 1990’s. At that time Christians in Bulgaria, were often poor and there were virtually no book shops in which to sell a magazine. Everything would have to be done by subscription through the churches, but this was a risky strategy, because culturally people weren’t used to subscribing. The communist years had left a legacy of distrust in authorities; why would you give money for something you might never receive? Would women take that step of trust, with the little money they had? And who would write the articles? Apart from Daniella, who could do the editing, they knew of no Bulgarian Christian writers. So they would have to find suitable articles from Christian magazines in the West, and get permission to translate them.

Despite all these difficulties these two brave women inched their way forward as God opened one door after another. Other editors did give them permission to use their articles initially. They were both able to attend Media Associates Littworld conference [ ] in England, where editors, writers and publishers from all over the world came together to learn how to produce literature for their own cultures.

In the bookshop at the conference centre, they discovered a book by Joyce Chaplin, a former ‘literature missionary’ who had created a Christian publishing house in Ghana , and trained local writers to write for it. Daniella and Svetlana took her ‘Christian Writers Club’ home with them, translated it into Bulgarian, and set about training a group of a dozen women who loved the idea of writing for Leah, but had no idea how to do it. Little by little these fledgling writers gained skills and confidence, others went through the training process, and now, after ten years, the quarterly magazine is entirely written by local contributors.

What was their secret? They believed that they had heard God speak, they took one step at a time, and in spite of Daniella’s serious illness, the challenge of getting women to commit their money, and a steep learning curve for all involved, Leah has changed the lives of many many women. And the next challenge? A Leah Library of Bulgarian authored books for women so that they can grow and flourish as Christians.

What are you hesitating over today? I love the quote about commitment that urges us to just take that step and see what happens.

‘Until one is COMMITTED there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth – that the moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise not have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, BEGIN IT.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Monday, 6 August 2012

One thing leads to another

One thing leads to another

Bulgaria in the early 1990’s was a very different place from the country it is today. Grim grey blocks of apartments dominated the skyline and packs of dogs roamed the city streets, turned out to fend for themselves by owners who could no longer afford to feed or look after them. But the people were warm and friendly, with the same problems of rebellious teenagers, and husbands who were not prepared to share their wives’ attention with a ‘God’ whom they could neither understand, nor see any need for. Women have the same hopes and fears the world over.

Over those ten days we visited 5 different churches, one of which was still under construction. The highlight of my trip was the night we spent with an old lady who had used her home out in the country for meetings of the underground church during the Communist era. What an honour to sleep under the same roof as someone who had risked her life for her Saviour, even if she did wake us at 5 a.m because she had invited the leading ladies of the church to come and have breakfast before they went to work!

The time flew past and as I said goodbye, God seemed to put a thought into my mind that I should share with my hosts from Mission Possible. “I’ve loved speaking to the women in your churches “I said tentatively,  “But they need so much more. Have you thought of sending out a monthly letter [ no email then] with some suggestions for bible studies or answers to their leadership questions?’

Daniella, who was the editor of their magazine for teenagers, went somewhat pale but made polite noises! I flew home and for 18 months heard nothing. Then I had a letter which set both them and me on a new path. “You suggested a Newsletter” wrote Daniella. “But God has shown us that we should make a magazine for women. We think we will call it Leah, because women are looked down on in many churches and in society. And Leah was the less favoured wife of Jacob. Can you help us?”

Do you have instances in your life when God has taken you in a totally unexpected direction? What happened? I’d love to know.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Stepping Sideways

Stepping sideways

The message left on the telephone was brief but to the point. ‘I’m a missionary in Bulgaria’ said a woman’s voice. ‘I have just been asked by my mission to train women to lead bible studies and work with other women in their local churches. I need material. Can you help?’

Needing to consult an atlas before I was even sure where Bulgaria is, [I have always been geographically challenged!] I returned the call and invited V. to visit me as she drove south from a conference. I sorted out the various addresses where women’s study material could be obtained, and some samples of what I’d used successfully, and spent a fascinating evening hearing how God had moved after the fall of Communism [this was the early 90’s] and how many women had come to faith. But their husbands hadn’t joined them, and the churches were very patriarchal, so even though the women formed about 75% of the congregation, they were very closely overseen.

I added a copy of ‘I love God and my Husband' to the pile of paperwork that I gave to my new friend, waved her goodbye, and apart from an occasional prayer didn’t think much more about it. Eighteen months later I had a letter. ‘Could you come to Bulgaria this summer for 10 days?’ V. asked. ‘We want to train some of the women who have leadership gifts, and we also want to help women who have not yet believing husbands. Could you come and run some seminars for them? You could stay with me and I could translate for you. We would visit 5 different churches in different parts of the country. How would you feel about that?’

How would I feel? Shocked and daunted was the honest answer. Staying for ten days with someone I had only met for a couple of hours? This was certainly unfamiliar territory. I had spoken quite frequently over the past few years about the needs of women who were lone worshippers, but not overseas, and not through a translator. This was definitely water-walking stuff.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

It was from a little acorn ...

A word from God, reluctant obedience, little obvious fruit … is that the end of the story? Sometimes! But  not in this case.
When I felt God challenge me to write a book for women who were lone worshippers, I had written two novels for children, winning a competition for new writers when I did so, and fully expected that to be my writing journey. I had no thought of writing non-fiction, although I had written a few articles in between the books and having babies! But a book on a subject of which I had no first hand knowledge seemed a very tall order.
I knew enough about the writing business by then, to query a publisher before spending lots of time on a project that might have no future.  The first publisher to whom I wrote, came back to me with a resounding ‘No’.  ‘’We wouldn’t publish a book on such a topic” the editor replied “for two reasons. First  it is a very sensitive subject and for a woman to have a book about it lying around the house, might be unhelpful if her husband picked it up. And secondly there aren’t many women in this position!”

I don’t know what planet he was living on! My experience before and since has demonstrated that this is a very common situation that many women face, and most of them wouldn’t leave a book around if they thought that it would increase rather than lessen tension in their marriage. However I couldn’t argue and normally would have been sufficiently discouraged to close the door on the project.
 But God … Once again He kept reminding me of Doreen and the things she had shared, and so I approached a second small publisher. This time there was cautious encouragement. “ We agree that there is a need.”,” they said “Write the book … and we’ll see.”
Exciting stuff! But where on earth could I begin?

I prayed and as I did so, I realised that I now knew a few people who had been vocal at the Coffee Morning and to whom I could talk. I discovered women’s groups in various churches, whose members were prepared to fill in questionnaires – and pass them on to others. One group met in a country farmhouse and recorded their answers to the questions I’d asked. I believe that statistically you’re lucky if you get around a 10% response to questionnaires. I must have had about 50% returned. I was in business.
It was only a little book. 25,000 or so words long. But it was published and women pounced on it. It was published in America and sold some 75,000 copies in 12 years. Suddenly I was an ‘expert!’   But that book wasn’t the only fruit …!
Do you remember that old hymn ‘O Love that will not let me go’… In it is the line ‘I trace the rainbow through the rain.’ What rainbows can you trace, especially if you have written something short or long? I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

One step at a time ....

And so the adventure with God began. Graciously He had gone before us. When I mentioned the Coffee Morning to my next door neighbour, I discovered that not only did she share my faith, but that she would be delighted to come and make the coffee. Ethel recruited Mary, a toddler loving friend, whose own children were at school, and we bought a bargain box of mugs. We were in business!

For two years we jogged along happily, meeting fortnightly during term time. There were a few ‘interesting’ moments. One morning the speaker’s daughter managed to lock herself in the downstairs toilet, and had to be rescued by me squeezing through the open window, while her mother chatted happily to the assembled guests, completely unaware of the excitement in the hall. We hung the key on a hook on the wall after that!

The children did get sick occasionally. All of my three contracted chicken pox, and spent the morning tucked up in our double bed, while I ran up and down stairs for a visit every few minutes, and were none the worse for the experience. But nothing obvious HAPPENED spiritually until Doreen came to speak to us.

She had come to faith eight years after she was married and her husband was deeply unimpressed by this new passion in her life. She told us about the ways this personal relationship with Jesus had impacted her marriage, and her audience hung on her every word. We always had an opportunity for questions, but normally our guests just chatted among themselves. Not on that occasion. She was bombarded with questions.

‘What do you do about the children?’ asked one.

‘I’d love to have a faith but I’m afraid of what it would do to my marriage!’ said another.

‘What do you do about going to church when he wants to go out for the day?’

‘My husband reckons that the church is just after your money. I don’t have any money of my own so how could I give?’

On and on the questions flowed until finally I asked the assembled company ‘Isn’t there a book that looks at marriage from this perspective?’

‘Oh no!’ they assured me ‘All the books on marriage we’ve seen, assume that you share your faith.’

They just haven’t looked in the right place, I thought to myself. But when I began to research the subject I found it was true. There was one book available from the US at that time called ‘Unequally yoked Wives’ with a rather unhelpful cover decorated with chains, and that was that.

‘You write a book for these women’ God whispered.

‘How can I?’ I protested, not really believing what I was hearing ‘Gordon and I were both Christians when we got married. What do I know about such a challenging situation? Anyway I write fiction for children, not adult non-fiction.’

‘Step out in faith and I will help you’

It was another ‘I am sending you to Pharaoh’ moment. I wriggled and struggled but this time I wasn’t quite so slow to respond, even thought I hadn’t the slightest idea how to set about it..

Monday, 9 July 2012


I argued with God about it all summer.

“But Father “I prayed “most people think that talking about you belongs in church.”

“What did Jesus do? God whispered.

I thought about that for a while. There’s no doubt that Jesus often taught in homes and that one of his most powerful encounters was while he was just sitting by a well when his disciples went shopping. [John 4.] We don’t have any wells where I live but there are supermarkets where women gather. I shuddered. A coffee morning sounded easier.

“But Father “I said “who would I ask? And what would I say?”

“Trust Me. I’ll point you to the people and give you the words.”

“But Father we have 6 children under 5 years old between us. You know what it’s like in winter. What if they get sick? We’d have to cancel.”

“Trust Me.”

“Who could we find to run a creche and make the coffee?  We’d need two people without children … and anyway “I pointed out, clinching the argument. “ I wouldn’t have enough cups!”

The summer slipped by and I kept pushing all thoughts of coffee mornings to the back of my mind. Then, for the first time ever we went to stay with my sister in her London flat, and were able to attend Westminster Chapel, one of London’s famous churches, There was no crèche for the Sunday morning service so my husband took the children for a walk while I stayed to hear the sermon.

The reading from Exodus 3 and 4 was uncomfortably familiar. As I listened to the reasons Moses advanced for not being the person to confront Pharaoh, I heard my own voice. I squirmed uncomfortably as Moses pleaded ‘Lord please! Send anyone else!’

“Ok! I get the message” I prayed rather ungraciously “but You’ll have to do it Lord, because I can’t see how it will work.”

So I went home and Ethel and I started putting the arrangements into motion. I had no idea then that that grudging step of obedience would set my life on a new path.

Come back next week to find out how it happened.

Monday, 2 July 2012

What if ... God really speaks to individuals today

What if … God really speaks to individuals … today?

Some people would deny it of course, and say that ‘voices in your mind’ require prompt medical attention! Others would call it wishful thinking or an overly vivid imagination. But there have been a few times, usually when I’m simply getting on with my day to day routine, when God has spoken and the direction of my life has been changed.

I remember the first time as if it was yesterday. Ethel and I were walking back home from the shops, marshalling our gang of under fives as they toddled along, picking weeds from the grass verge, collecting stones and petting the neighbour’s cat.

As we reached my front gate, Ethel eyed her two year old twin sons and her three year old daughter and heaved a sigh. “I thought I was going to be a missionary” she said “and look at me now! Where do you find the ‘missionary’ bit in drinking coffee with other mums and discussing potty training?” Then her face brightened. “But I think God has given me an idea“  she said. “Why don’t we invite our friends and neighbours to a coffee morning and have a speaker who is a Christian.  She could speak about anything, but it would be from a Christian world view. I’m sure they’d come – even if they never go to church – because it would get them out of the house.”

“Good idea” I said only half listening, as my four year old pedalled his bike dangerously near to the road. “Where would we have it?”

“Oh at your house of course.” she replied “You have a large sitting room and a room we could use for the crèche.”

Now that was entirely different. My neighbours knew that I went to church but a coffee morning with a speaker … that was rather too public a step of faith. “  With three children under five,  lots of church activities and the beginning of a writing career to nurture I had plenty to do. “We’d have to wait till the autumn “ I said quickly. I looked at my 3 month old daughter cooing happily in her pram. “ I couldn’t do anything till Joanna has given up her 10 a.m feed.” [we fed by the clock in those days!]

I hoped that Ethel would have forgotten by then, and she may have done so. But God did not…

Come back soon for the rest of the story

Friday, 8 June 2012

Beginning again!

When I was a child my mother often refered to me as the 'Elephant's Child' - not I hasten to say because my nose was overlarge or my girth too expansive but because, like Kipling's character, I had such 'satious curtiosity'. My favourite word appears to have been 'why', repeated until the poor distracted soul resorted to the 'cover all' answer of all desperate parents 'Because I say so!'

But asking questions ... and listening to the answers ... is an essential quality for a writer to have.  Novelists get the creative juices flowing by asking 'What if ... such a thing happened ' and if their characters are to live and dance on the page, they need to know 'why' a character behaves in the way that he or she does.  And non-fiction topics are usually explored to provide answers that someone needs. Most of my books have stemmed from questions. 'What do you say to help the relatives of those who have cancer? What might happen if I began a faith journey that my husband doesn't currently share? How do I keep my marriage  fresh or my life in balance? Questions,questions,questions.

I'd love to have your questions - or listen to your solutions as we ask 'What If ... week by week. So watch this space as I attempt to explore life's big questions ... and some of the smaller ones too!