Friday, February 16, 2018

Walking In Faith


Lorraine Hossington | @lorrainehossing



Faith is stepping out when you are not sure what is going to happen. Making the decision to trust in God no matter where it may lead or what consequences may occur. But knowing that he will show us the way. In Hebrews 11:8 (NIV) it tells us that Abraham obeyed God in faith and went, even though he didn’t know where he was going.

It sounds so simple until it comes to ourselves. Last year I moved from the city to the countryside. For a few years I had felt God speaking to me about moving and had a sense that it wasn’t the right time. Then last year I moved knowing it was the right time and everything fell into place. I had a lot of decluttering to do which stopped me putting my property up for sale straight away. Ten years of hoarding seemed to take ages to sort out, but finally I managed to get rid of it all. And I will be honest and say it was not an easy thing to do as there were lots of memories that had to be dealt with, some were good, others quite painful. But through this process God had a plan for me. I realised that as I was decluttering the physical, God was helping me to declutter the spiritual. I felt a cleansing and a renewal in my life that was just the start of what he had planned for me.

There have been times when I’ve felt a bit like Peter walking on water. (Mat 14:25-31 NIV) He was bold enough to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus, then he became frightened and began to sink. That has been me, looking at The Lord, then for whatever reason I lose focus and start sinking. But when we seek him he is always there to hold us up.

Perseverance


Faith can sometimes be a difficult road to walk. We start out okay, everything is fine. Then out of nowhere comes the trials which can be frustrating and at times painful. When I’ve been going through these times I’ve cried out and said, where are you God? Yet at the end of a difficult time I have looked back and realised that he has been with me all the time. But by going through these times it gives us the strength and perseverance to go carry on our journey.

Trials


We have testing times that we have to go through. A few years ago I went through a dark time in my life. I suffered with depression and wanted to end my life. It was so hard, yet God stepped in. I was in the bath and thought this is the end. Then God spoke to me, not through scripture but with a worship song. It was by Gloria and Bill Gaither called God sent His Son. The chorus of this song tells about facing tomorrow because Jesus lives. I had only heard this song once, but God used it to speak to me. I went to my Gp who recommended counselling. I’m a different person from who I used to be. There is no more depression in my life and I feel so filled with joy and free. In John 10:10 (AMP) it tells us that Jesus came so that we may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance. Going through this trial has helped me to help other people. What the enemy used to try and destroy me God has taken and used for his Glory. These trials have helped me to walk in faith because I know through personal experience that God has never left me alone but has always been with me.

Are you going through a hard time? I want to encourage you to hold on, God is with you. Joshua 1:9 (AMP) be courageous and do not fear. He is with you.

Lorraine Hossington lives in the Gower Peninsular in Wales. She writes contemporary Christian Fiction. And loves nature and being able to see the wild ponies and sheep on the hills in the area she lives in. As she used to live in the city, but loves where God has put her in the country.
Twitter @lorrainehossing Facebook Lorraine Hossington

Thursday, February 15, 2018

My story is being written while I write my story



By David Rawlings (@DavidJRawlings)

I’ve just done a blog post for Almost An Author talking about how I got my agent, which is a story in itself.

So I’ve been reflecting on my journey as a writer, as early in the piece as it is. It turns out that while I’m writing a story, another story is developing. A story with its own twists and turns, plot developments and characters that sweep in and out of it.

Mine.

While I write, there are things happening that I will look back on and read like a novel.  Like the time the protagonist (me) took the plunge into writing with no guarantees of anything being published. Or the days the protagonist nearly shelved it because it wasn’t working.  Or the joys of that last thread from a Conference turning into a key partnership with someone who would prove very important later in the story.

On Day 1 of my fiction writing journey, I decided to journal as I went, noting key events or dates when significant events happened. I wanted to be able to see how my writing developed. And reading it back, with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve found a couple of things that might relate to your own writing journey.

A well-written story has ups-and-downs. So does my writing story. As much as I don’t like it, there are times when I’m in a down phase, where the words aren’t coming, the connections aren’t connecting or I feel like I’m wading in quicksand. But the downs are usually followed by ups.

I have as much knowledge of what’s coming as my protagonist does. When I write, I deliberately hold back key information until Act 3, leaving my protagonist in the dark. In my own story, that’s no different. I left a key ACFW Conference with 10 leads to connect with a publisher or agent. One by one they dropped off until there were none left … but one Facebook message lead me to a mentor, who lead me to an agent. But I didn’t know that as the last lead was snuffed out.

Bad things may not be bad in the long run. That rejection I got from an agent was soul-crushing. But I now know it wasn’t the right opportunity. I know that … now. But I didn’t then. And it lead me to write something else, which is attracting more interest than I ever thought.

I can see God’s hand weaving through my story, like a conductor’s baton ducking softly at times and cutting swathes through the air at others. But at the time, all I could picture was playing that one note or stanza. And I was wondering why I was playing it softly. Now I know how that quiet stanza fit into the wider song.


I would encourage you to track your own story too. We’re on quite a roller-coaster if we’re writing, and I can now see how taking a longer-term view of things helps to put each moment in perspective. It's helped me see that the individual moments we have need to be treated as if they're part of a larger story.

Mine.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wandering Wednesday: Auckland, New Zealand

By Cindy Williams @nutritionchic 


Land of the Long White Cloud

The greenness of New Zealand surprises me every time I return, and then I remember… green means rain. Aotearoa - The Land of the Long White Cloud - is rarely thirsty.

‘Buy a raincoat,’ my friend advised me, when after twelve years overseas I moved back to Auckland. ‘If you want to stay fit, you can’t wait for fine weather.’ That raincoat had a good workout for the year I lived there.



A Prophetic Vision 

Most mornings I jogged around the waterfront, past the trendy cafes of St Heliers, Kohimarama, Mission Bay and up steep steps tucked into the hillside of Bastion Point. Finally at the top, the dew laden grass dusting droplets on my shoes, I would stop to catch my breath and drink in the scene before me – islands, sea and sky - tinged in Monet tones. 

Over two hundred years earlier, the Maori prophet, Titahi, stood on this same hillside and saw a vision of three nautilus shells sailing up the Auckland Harbour. He foretold they would bring both good and trouble. Several years later Captain Cook sailed up the harbour, indeed fulfilling the prophecy. The characters in ‘The Pounamu Prophecy’ are from the same tribe as Titahi, and live on the same land. They too experience the good and the trouble from the arrival of a new people. 



Auckland of a hundred lovers 

The Maori name for Auckland is ‘Tamaki Makaurau’ or ‘Tamaki of a hundred lovers’. Situated on a fertile isthmus, where the Manakau Harbour on the west is little more than a kilometre (3/4 of a mile) from the Waitemata Harbour on the east, it was highly strategic. Tribes fought over the land until, in a move to prosper and protect themselves, the Ngati Whatua chief invited New Zealand’s first British governor to site the capital there. It was 1840. 

Over the next fifty years dubious government deals whittled away their ownership of the land until all that remained was a small village at Okahu Bay. In 1951 the government burned down the houses to 'tidy up'. The novel opens with this scene.



City of Volcanoes

Auckland sits on over fifty dormant volcanoes. The experts say the area could erupt again but no-one seems too worried. Across the lower slopes of these hills houses cluster, sheep graze, people picnic and stroll. 

The last eruption was 600 years ago. It formed Rangitoto Island, which features on the cover of ‘The Pounamu Prophecy’. Mere describes it as she digs kumara to feed the protesters who in 1977 camped on Bastion Point for 506 days to protect their land against the government’s plan to subdivide this prime piece of real estate. 


How much longer would this go on? I wiped a calloused hand across my forehead and rested my wheezing bulk on the rusty garden fork. My gaze swept across the panorama below. To my left stood the city centre – short, squat and tall sleek buildings sandwiched together, their stainless steel and glass shimmering in the afternoon heat… 

Across the harbour entrance was Rangitoto Island. Like a stretched out triangle, perfectly symmetrical, it looked so close I could almost touch it. In front of the island a ferry cut a white trail through the deep blue of the harbour. A light scatter of yachts and fishing boats dotted the sea in between distant green islands of rich farmland and native bush. This was the view that the thieving government was trying to get its dirty hands on. This was why I was digging kumara in the scorching afternoon heat and not greeting the kids with pikelets and raspberry cordial when they arrived home, hot and tired after school. 



Gateway to New Zealand 

Auckland boasts wonderful beaches, bush walks and cafes but there's so much more. Within a few hours you can be floating on a rubber tube through underground glow worm caves, rafting over waterfalls, eating corn straight from a steaming thermal hole in the ground, walking on a live volcano, or strolling along an almost deserted beach. Take your raincoat and enjoy!


 About Cindy Williams

With degrees in Nutrition, Public Health and Communication Cindy has worked for many years as a dietitian for sports teams, food industry, media, and as a nutrition writer and speaker.

Her first novel, The Pounamu Prophecy, was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize. She is currently editing her second novel about a woman who had five husbands.

Cindy grew up in a culturally rich part of New Zealand. Now she lives in Sydney with her husband and son, writing stories of flawed women who battle injustice... and sometimes find romance. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bookish Tuesday: Rome, Paul, and Success

By Nathan D Maki | @NathanDMaki


What does success look like? 


What if you’re a Christian, does the definition change? What if you’re a Christian writer?


In December 2016 my wife and I splurged on a trip to Rome to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. We walked the ancient cobblestone streets and craned to look up at pillars and palaces, arenas and theatres, made all the more thrilling for me because I had researched and written about these places but never actually seen them, touched them, experienced them. At that point I’d written the four books of my War Within series and was in the process of finishing the first draft of my now soon-to-be-released novel The Keeper’s Crown.



I left Rome even more determined to bring that ancient world to life for modern-day readers and believers. To raise the fallen pillars in their mind’s eye, smooth the cracked and heaved pavement, restore the mosaics to vivid color, and bring those long-dead saints and tyrants to life again so their stories will never die.

Paul walked those stones. Those pillars once cast their shade over him. There, just across the Forum was the dungeon where he spent his last days before Nero dragged him from that hole and marched him out to be beheaded.

The Keeper’s Crown began as a quest to answer questions about Paul’s later life.


Why did Luke end the book of Acts so abruptly, simply saying that Paul spent two whole years under house arrest with a soldier that kept him? What would it be like to be that soldier, chained to the Apostle for two years? What happened after those two years were up? Was Paul executed then? Or was he released for a time? What sudden emergency caused him to leave his precious books and parchments behind at Troas, leaving so quickly that he didn’t even have time to grab his cloak? What was his thorn in the flesh?


Yet even as I delved into the pages of the Pauline Epistles, records of early church historians, and the histories written by experts on the Apostle Paul to answer these questions, a deeper question imposed itself on the novel.

What does godly success look like?


About Paul


Paul began his life as the son of a prosperous Jewish businessman, a Pharisee living in the intellectual and influential city of Tarsus. He was both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He was sent to Jerusalem to be schooled by Gamaliel, one of the foremost leaders and thinkers in Jewish society and one of the 70 elders who made up the Sanhedrin, Israel’s highest governing body.

By the time the Early Church began, Paul had risen to prominence in Jewish society. Evidence suggests that he could even have been a member of the Sanhedrin himself. Paul wrote to the Galatians that he “profited in the Jews religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”

Fast forward to the time of his execution. Paul was penniless, relying on church charity to sustain him during his imprisonment. He was all but friendless, writing to Timothy that only Luke was with him and all others had forsaken him. He was broken physically, the result of his thorn in the flesh and innumerable punishments and hardships. And ultimately he was beheaded by the Emperor Nero outside the walls of Rome.

Yet Paul wrote to Timothy just before his death and said this: 

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing.”


Paul obviously viewed himself as a success despite all outward evidence to the contrary. He turned his world upside down. He founded churches across the Roman Empire, preached to the foremost thinkers of his day, and testified before governors, kings, and even Emperor Nero himself. And now, almost 2000 years later, we still read the words God inspired him to write. His epistles have shaped the direction and theology of the church perhaps more than any other writer.

No Christian, and few others, would ever argue that Paul was anything less than a world-changing success.

So what was his secret? 


At the end of the day, it’s very simple. Paul did what God called him to do, no matter the cost. No matter the result, that qualifies as success.


God has called me to write, and so I offer The Keeper’s Crown, the story of the great Apostle’s final sprint to the finish line, as seen through the eyes of the young soldier chained to him for those final days. In Quintus I see myself, struggling for success by the world’s standards only to come to the challenging realization that true success, lasting success, is something quite different entirely.

I hope you will too.


About Nathan D Maki

Nathan Maki lives in Prescott, Ontario, Canada with his wife Rachel and son Alexander. In his rare spare time between pastoring a small, rural church and managing his own landscaping business, Nathan has squeezed in the time to write The War Within series, four novels about the Early Church period in ancient Rome.

His latest book, The Keeper's Crown, a stand-alone novel about the Apostle Paul will be released later this month. Nathan likes to say he pastors to touch souls, writes to touch hearts, and landscapes to keep food on the table.

You can find Nathan online at

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Reckless Extravagant Love


By Keona Tann @ICFWriters

When my son, Jake, was 5 I enrolled him in swimming lessons. We were spending a lot of time around water and in boats so it was important for him to have water skills. One day we arrived and Jake was actually excited about his lesson, this was a huge milestone as he had previously not enjoyed them. As we walked past the deep end, to join his group on the other side of the pool, another excited child ran past Jake. I’m not sure how it happened, but next thing I knew Jake was in the deep end and sinking! I had one of those slow-motion moments. With great clarity I saw Jake sinking; I heard the gasps from the mums at the opposite end of the pool and saw their horrified faces; I saw the swimming teacher turn and start her way towards Jake but I felt she was going to be too late.
I felt as if I was moving too slow but I knew that I HAD to act. I took my handbag off my shoulder and placed it on top of Sarah (my daughter who was 3 at the time) and as I pushed her to the ground I yelled: ‘stay!’. Then without thinking I laid flat on my tummy and reached my arm in (jumper and all) to grab Jake. As I was reaching down I saw Jake sinking deeper and deeper. Just before Jake slipped out of reach I somehow grabbed him and pulled him out one handed, the strength to do that was simply divine intervention. As I hugged a wet crying Jake I wept tears of relief. I was hesitant that he would want to get back in the pool but thankfully he had a great lesson. I was so grateful that he was ok and I didn’t mind sitting there with a soggy jumper for the entire lesson.

Recently I was reflecting upon that story with Sarah (now 15) and talking about how instincts simply ‘kick in’ and you act without thinking. Sarah had a similar incident with her cousin, she was with family at a pool and her cousin was walking on the ledge between the spa and the pool when he tumbled in. Sarah said she quickly reached for him and grabbed him, scraping her leg on the pool edge in the process. At the time she didn’t feel the scrape but when things settled down her leg started stinging. Sarah’s cousin was fine thanks to her quick reaction and actions.

I’m sure you can easily think of stories where people have reacted out of instinct to rescue a loved one or even acted to save the life of a complete stranger. But the greatest story of all, for me, is the actions that Jesus took to set me free.


There is a song which I absolutely love that talks about the extravagant love of God, it’s a song called “Reckless Love”. I listened to one YouTube version where the songwriter, Cory Asbury, explained his thoughts behind the song. He opens with the passage from Luke‬ ‭15:1-7,‬ which is a parable of a shepherd who leaves behind 99 of his sheep in search of a missing sheep. When the shepherd finds his lost sheep he joyfully carries the sheep back to the others. Then Cory goes on to explain his lyrics: “When we use the phrase ‘the reckless love of God’, we are not saying that God Himself is reckless, He’s not crazy. We are however saying that the way He loves is in many regards quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort and wellbeing…” Cory finishes declaring that Jesus laid His life down for us in pursuit of our hearts.‬‬‬

Jesus did not just react out of instinct, He knew the path set before Him and walked it with great obedience. He responded out of pure love and a desire to save us. Jesus knew that it would cost Him everything! In John 10:10 Jesus explains that he had come to give us life in abundance, He gave His all for us so that we could walk in divine freedom. It’s a powerful and life changing promise!

I pray that today, right now, you can know the One who laid down His life for You. That You can realise that God is with you, as promised in ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭7:14. Grasp hold of the truth that Jesus offers you life in abundance, as promised in John 10:10. Know that Holy Spirit is ready and waiting to be your Helper, Comforter, Advocate and Intercessor, as promised in John 14:26.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Many blessings, Keona

For most of my life I struggled with sickness. The 2 dominant afflictions were endometriosis (for 28 years) and adrenal fatigue (I was severely debilitated for 28 months and the recovery has been a journey of 11 months so far). In September 2016 God declared healing over my life. This set me on a path of restoration and transformation. My passion for writing was reignighted and I wrote the following mission statement: I desire to impact the world through the words I share. I long to enrich, empower and encourage others whilst delivering my stories with empathy and understanding. “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬ I've started a weekly blog which you can find at: https://keonajtann.wordpress.com/ I'm currently working on my testimony as well as my journey with endometriosis and adrenal fatigue. I hope that I'll launch my first book soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wandering Wednesday: Glastonbury—Holiest Earth in England


By Donna Fletcher Crow @DonnaFletcherCr

 I don’t remember where I first read those above words, but I’ll never forget the impact they made on me. As a devout Anglophile who prays daily for spiritual renewal in England, I knew Glastonbury would be an important place to me.

 And then the wonderful “Chariots of Fire” movie came out, popularizing “Jerusalem” also known as “The Glastonbury Hymn” from the William Blake poem:

        And did those feet in ancient time
        Walk upon England’s mountains green:
        And was the holy Lamb of God,
        On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

 I wasn’t sure what it meant, but somehow it gripped me.

 My first opportunity to walk upon Glastonbury’s green mountains came in 1985 when I was in the west of England with my then editor researching what has become my Where There is Love series. I included a side trip to Glastonbury in our itinerary.




My epic novel Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England, was born as we were leaving when my editor read aloud from a pamphlet she had picked up at a bookstall:


“‘Did our Lord ever come to Glastonbury as a lad? The story lingers not only here, but elsewhere as well. The tradition is that our Lord, entrusted to the care of his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea by his mother Mary, daughter of Joseph’s elder brother, accompanied Joseph on one of his expeditions to Britain to seek metals for his flourishing trading company.’”

 I gave a shout of laughter. “What? That’s crazy!”

 But Carole kept on. “No, wait, this is interesting. It says, ‘Perhaps there is some truth in the tradition which still lingers in Somerset that St. Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain first as a metal merchant seeking tin from the Scilly Isles and Cornwall, and lead, copper, and other metals from the hills of Somerset, and that our Lord Himself came with him as a boy. The tradition is so startling that the first impulse is to reject it summarily as ridiculous.’”

“It sure is,” I said.

 But Carole kept on. “‘Amongst the old tin-workers, who always observed a certain mystery in their rites, there was regularly a moment when they interrupted their work to sing a quaint song beginning, “Joseph was in the tin trade.”

“‘If this is so, it is quite natural to believe that after the crucifixion, when the church was dispersing under persecution and in answer to the Great Commission, Joseph and his party would come to this land with which Joseph was already acquainted.

 “‘Among the cherished possessions the little band brought with them was the cup used at the Last Supper in Joseph of Arimathea’s Jerusalem residence, an ordinary cup in everyday use in his house, now become a sacred treasure, since with this cup of olivewood our Lord had inaugurated the new covenant.’”

Now my imagination was captured as I mused, “What a novel that would make!”


Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of some 40 novels, mostly dealing with British Christian History. The Arthurian epic Glastonbury is her best-known work. She currently authors 3 mystery series:The Monastery Murders,The Elizabeth and Richard Literary Suspense Series, and Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime novels. You can see more on her website.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Devotion: Three Bridges and a Shelter



by Sherma Webbe Clarke @sdwc8181 


Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

What is your favorite thing to do when you travel to someplace new? Is it meeting people? Enjoying nature? Sightseeing? May I claim all of the above? 

While on a trip to North Carolina, my husband and I visited the Smoky Mountains for the first time. With miles of trails to accommodate every activity level, the mountains offered a peaceful break from the busyness that often distracts us from God's creation. One morning, we decided on a short, leisurely path of about two miles to the Kephart Shelter. 



Here's what the visitor information said: “The hike to the Kephart Shelter at the end of the Kephart Prong Trail begins by crossing a footbridge over the (Oh-kon-a-luf-tee) Oconaluftee River.” 

No problem. 

The wide, sturdy footbridge was the perfect beginning for a scenic trail. We stopped to take pictures and admire the varieties of green and the sun’s rays cutting through the trees. 

The next bridge was narrower than the first but broad enough for us to cross it while walking shoulder to shoulder. It stretched over a stream and was supported by rocks and logs. It had a thin log railing on one side. 

The last bridge was a moss-covered log, suitable for one person at a time placing one foot in front of the other. 



For balance, the bridge provided an awkwardly positioned log railing, slightly tilted. Not the easiest way to cross a stream of rushing water. Images of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk over Niagara Falls crossed my mind. I have to admit, I hesitated. It almost looked safer to wade across the stream than take a chance on that bridge. 



We walked and watched out for the shelter. A couple of times we considered turning back. We met others who had. “We couldn't find it,” they told us on their retreat to the Visitors’ Center. I enjoyed walking among the trees, snapping photographs, and occasionally chatting with others along the trail, but where was the Kephart Shelter? 

More from disappointment than fatigue, I sat on a rock to rest before suggesting we turn back. I struggled with that idea and continued a few more steps around a bend in the path. Nothing. Then a few more steps. Still nothing. Then it seemed as if a small voice whispered, “Look around this corner.” That's when I saw a sliver that might be something manmade. Finally, we found it. A shelter in the middle of nowhere. 



Whenever I remember that I had considered turning back because it didn’t seem we were going to reach the shelter, I think about what it means to have faith and to trust in God. Even when the bridge looks like a moss-covered log with a tilted railing and we become unsure about reaching our destination, we can hold onto our faith in God’s leading. We can find security in His promise to be our refuge: You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (Psalm 119:114). And His word, the Bible, is our roadmap and trail guide. When God puts you on a path, keep following as He leads, even if you think you’ve walked long enough. 

How does God encourage you to keep going when you can’t see the see the goal? How can you encourage others when they are thinking about turning back? 

Thanks to Ricardo Clarke for the use of his photographs.


About Sherma... 


SHERMA WEBBE CLARKE is a contemporary fiction writer and a 2017 ACFW First Impressions Finalist. Her inspirational writing has been included in Christian devotional books: Grace Notes and Blessed. She loves to take her husband by the hand to explore nearby and far-flung areas of the globe. This wanderlust has its perks. She credits many of her story ideas to these adventures. Quiet, early-morning walks along the railroad trails on her home island of Bermuda provide inspiration when she is homebound.