Thursday, 30 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Begin With Me

As we move towards New Year and the ubiquitous resolutions, let me offer these thoughts:

I’m talking to the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
My message couldn’t get any clearer:
If you want to make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself and make the change.

So sang Michael Jackson, and he had a point. So much is wrong in our world. Crime, natural disasters, injustice. We say, “Somebody ought to do something” or blame it on the nebulous ‘they’. Campaigning for truth and justice is a noble thing. Not many of us can go off to Africa or Haiti or some inner city jungle and get personally involved. But what about closer to home? What could you do to change things, even something small?

Recently I watched the film of the Dr Seuss book 'Horton Hears a Who.' The world of Whoville is saved because one man believed and stood firm before the people, and one elephant believed and refused to let the animals destroy it, and one boy shouted loud enough for everyone to hear. What could you do or say that would change things for the better?

If enough people just started being kind to others, what would our country look like? If just you started being kind to others, or honest, or helpful, what difference would it make to your life and the life of those around you? In the words of another song:

Let there be peace on earth
But let it begin with me.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

We Should Let Our Light Shine

We should let our light shine every day for Jesus.

He should glow in our lives like a candle and we should stand firm in God and not let the enemy blow our light out, when the enemy tries to get at us through other people or through our emotions in life. The enemy can be so cunning that he can turn something small to something big, even bring back things from the past and try to make us think that we’re no good, not good enough for God. But this is not true.
When we come to God He forgives us every wrong in our lives. All we have to do is confess and ask Jesus to come in and He will heal us and make us whole. Jesus can take away every mountain in our lives. Jesus loves everybody, never mind what we have done in our lives, how wrong we may have been, Jesus forgives, sets the captives free.

God’s word says, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

When we come to God we open up the door and let God in. We now must trust and obey “for there is no other way but to trust and obey.” We need to pray and read God’s word more for growth in our lives, Christian growth, being whole again, free from bondage. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering... Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, … He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”(Isaiah 53:3-5)

So let us remember at this Christmas time, at the sharing of gifts and celebration, why Jesus came into the world as a babe at Bethlehem. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, … And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) It is the most wonderful precious gift anybody can have – that is the gift of God in their lives. Jesus shed his blood for us on the cross and all we have to do is let God into our lives.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He will change us, refresh us, cleanse us, and make us whole – a new creation. Amen.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Conviction vs Condemnation

Imagine that you decided to surprise your parents or your partner while they were out one day by spring cleaning the living room. All day you cleaned and polished. The picture rail, the lampshade, under all the furniture, in every corner. Then they came home and you showed them the room. How would you feel if they said “It’s a shame you didn’t put the rug back straight”?

That’s what the devil is like. He wants to bring you down and discourage you. Every cup is half empty and everything you do is less than perfect. We need to recognise our faults and failings, but it is important that we know the difference between conviction and condemnation. Satan is our accuser (Rev.12:10) but Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom.8:1). Condemnation brings feelings of hopelessness and despair. If you are feeling like that you need to reject it and look to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit brings conviction (John 16:8) – a sense that there is something wrong, but that we can do something about it. Related words are confidence, certainty, or reliance. The Holy Spirit tells us that the cup is half full, that God has brought you this far and will not let you down (Rom.8:2-4). He will work with you if you let Him.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Making a Happy Christmas

We all wish each other "Happy Christmas" at this time of year, but what do we mean? What is a happy Christmas? I would suggest that the key thing is our expectations. Kids are looking forward to Father Christmas; some of us are looking forward to someone's face when they open the present we have chosen so carefully; Mum is looking forward to having all the family together. And the happiness of Christmas will be how far those expectations are met.

So how do you make a happy Christmas? Perhaps you should start well before and find out what people's expectations are, and think about how you can see that they are fulfilled. Or maybe you need to gently help them to adjust their expectations, to avoid disappointment. But most of all, you need to look at your expectations. Are you hoping for too much? Are you asking everyone else to see to it that you have a happy Christmas?

Society today has become so materialistic, that it pains me to hear people, especially children and teenagers, express the thought that their Christmas cannot be happy unless they receive that one special present they are hoping for. The giving of gifts should be more about the expression of love than about the actual gift. I remember one year when our youngest daughter had no money, she gave us a photo frame with pictures of all our children, and a poem on the back. It meant so much because she had put so much thought and effort into it.

Christmas is about love. It all started because of the love of God, sending his only Son to rescue humanity when we couldn't do anything ourselves. The gifts we give, the visits we make, the food we cook, are all to reflect that love in the way we love each other. If we can remember that, we will have a happy Christmas.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Obooko

Obooko has two objectives; the first is to provide a free platform for new and established writers to showcase their work; the second is to offer people, regardless of their means, access to contemporary writing in a wide range of genres and categories. You retain all your rights and they will not offer your work for sale. There are no charges, no contracts to sign and you are free to promote your book wherever you wish.

Whether you are a new writer or an established author wishing to gauge reaction to a final draft, self- publishing on obooko is the perfect way to 'test the water' and receive feedback from members. What's more, because your book will be in digital format you can make corrections and upload new versions of your ebook whenever you wish.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Mary, Did You Know?

I wrote last week about not worrying about tomorrow, for God will give us the grace we need when the trial comes. Much as we would like to know the future, actually we only want to know as long as it's not bad news. We want to know who we'll marry, what job we will have, if we will pass our exams, if our children will do well in life. But would you want to know that you will be unhappy in your marriage, you will be unemployed, fail your exams. Would you want to know in advance that you or your loved ones will suffer, or die? I think not. Such knowledge would mar the good times in between. May even be too hard to bear.

At this Christmas season, we think about the birth of Christ, and sometimes realise what an uncomfortable place it was. Sometimes we think about why he was born, and the suffering that he would face on our behalf. There is a powerful song that ponders on how much Mary knew in advance of the destiny of her first child. Written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, it reminds us of the importance of this child, but stresses the joys to come, rather than the pain.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Ooo Ooo Ooo

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great I Am.

If you want to hear this song, click here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Fiction Factor

Fiction Factor descibes itself as an online magazine for fiction writers. Every month it features tips on writing better fiction, articles on improving your writing, tips on fiction writing, learn to write a novel and get stories published, promoting and marketing your fiction and much more!

The site is easy to navigate. You can browse some of the writing categories by using the drop-down menu, or if you prefer, you can use the navigation links at the bottom of the page.

There are also courses, a forum, and they also sell books on writing. Fiction Factor is also the home to 9 sister sites, each focusing on a specific fiction writing niche. Here you'll find descriptions of and links to Romance Factor, Sci-Fi Factor, Horror Factor, Fantasy Factor, Erotica Factor, Short-Fiction Factor, Children's Fiction Factor, Freelance Factor and Christian Fiction Factor.

You can subscribe on the site and receive a monthly newsletter. Each newsletter is filled with tips for getting published, articles on better fiction writing, recent updates and additions to the site, current market listings and hints especially for writers.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Do Not Worry About Tomorrow…

Worrying about tomorrow is something we all do, and I used to have trouble understanding Jesus' command that we should not. I used to think of planning: life would soon fall into chaos if I didn't think about tomorrow. But since I had my stroke, I have found myself thinking about tomorrow with fear. What if I never recover fully? What if I am permanently dependent on others for care? How will I bear it? And those thoughts are dangerous.

About 50% of stroke victims suffer depression, and I can understand why. With each disability, so much is lost, not only in the present, but in the future. So many plans and hopes will not now be realised. I have not suffered depression, but I feel what I call 'the black pit' looming just out of sight, to swallow me if I dwell on these things or begin to despair. Yet when I look back, the experience I went through in the early days after my stroke should have thrown me in the pit. Yet I bore it all, and even managed to smile.

As I thought of possible futures and how I could bear them, I looked back and thought of how I bore my previous suffering. Only through God's grace. I do not have the fortitude. In worldly terms, I couldn't bear it. But I did. So in the future, my only hope of bearing whatever comes is the same. I have to rely on God.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch lady whose family sheltered Jews during the German occupation and who were betrayed and sent to a concentration camp. I remember reading in one of her books that she asked her father what if they were sent to a concentration camp. He replied by asking her "When we go on a trip, when do I give you your train ticket?" She replied that he gave it to her when she reached the station. He said that, in the same way, God would give her the grace she needed when she needed it, and not before.

Now I understand what Jesus meant. If I worry about future suffering, it will ruin my present, because I am trying to bear something that has not yet happened and I have not yet received grace for. I receive grace today to bear today's trouble.

Matt.6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
2 Cor.12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Scribbling Saturday: NaNoWriMo: The End

Well, NaNoWriMo is over for another year. I took part for the first time, and I didn't win - or did I? The strict definition of winning is to write 50,000 words in a month, and get your word count validated on the web site. I managed 37,045 words, so I didn't win. But the benefits have been enormous, so I feel like a winner.

For one thing, I have never written that number of words in that short a time before - so that's a winner.

The story I wrote was another about my space ship the Kestrel. All previous stories have been around 25,000 words after a couple of drafts. This one was 37,045 after the initial write and a quick review - so that's a winner.

I write when the fancy takes me, sometimes not for days. I just wrote hundreds of words every day for 30 days - that's a winner.

The outline for my stories has been the overall plot and a few cardboard characters, which causes long pauses in writing while I decide each set of details as I come to them. This story was outlined in detail during the month before - so that's a winner.

And the biggest winner was my confidence. Even if my Kestrel stories are never good enough to publish, I have proved to myself that I can come up with ideas and I have the self discipline to work every day, which I am certain will carry over into other areas of my life.

So, all things considered. I'm a winner!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: In Christ and Into Action

God has no special favourites. He is willing to work through any person who is willing to let him. God has no plans outside of Jesus Christ, and we share in the outworking of those plans by virtue of being 'in Christ'.

When a person becomes a Christian, there are two things which take place in their experience: Christ comes to live in them, and they come to live in Christ.

Col.1:27 … Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Col.3:3 … your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Your body is the means whereby the real you, who lives within it, is able to be expressed, through which your thoughts are spoken, your plans fulfilled, and your work done. Without a body none of these things would take place. When we become a Christian, we become part of Christ's body, through which he will speak and act.

1 Cor.12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.
Eph.5:30 … for we are members of his body

Serving the Lord Jesus Christ is not an 'optional extra' to the Christian life, but is an inevitable part of the relationship with Christ into which we have been brought.

Eph.4:16 From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.

God does not want us primarily to be dedicated to causes, but to be available to Christ! He may call us to give our lives in the interest of some particular cause, but our commitment is primarily to Christ, and consequently, to anything he has given us to do. Every new morning we can anticipate that the Lord Jesus Christ will be free to express himself through us that day, and accomplish some aspect of his work, whether we can identify that he has done or not. This is our privilege, and this is our responsibility.

For Christ to be in us gives us power. But for us to be in Christ gives us purpose.
For Christ to be in us gives us resources. But for us to be in Christ gives us responsibilities.
For Christ to be in us is dynamic. But for us to be in Christ is demanding.

This is the Christian life. Having faced our failure to express his likeness and image in the world, we come to the cross for forgiveness, to become the vehicle for the expression of his life and purpose.

The world desperately needs to know this, but will have no grounds on which to believe it until they see the life and character of Jesus Christ lived out in your life and mine. This is God's purpose for you! It was his purpose when he first created man, and is therefore the only thing that makes life make sense in any ultimate way. Have you found reality in Jesus Christ, or have you substituted it with something else?

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Write Space

Subtitled 'Capture Your Creative Sparkle' this is a simple website with inspiration and advice for writers. Vanda Inman lives in Cornwall and has taught creative writing and english literature, and has had lots of short stories published, mainly in women's magazines. Her web site has details of her distance learning courses and critique service, and copies of her 'Quick Fix' articles which are published as a monthly column in Writers Forum magazine. Well worth a look.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Thinking Thursday: Living By Faith

What is faith?
1. Faith is not a mystical power that makes things happen by the sheer force of belief.
2. Faith is not a substitute for facts – a willingness to believe in things that cannot be substantiated.

Rom.14:23 'everything that does not come from faith is sin.'
Therefore every Christian has to 'live by faith,' otherwise he is 'living by sin.'

The all-important thing is not the quantity of our faith, but the quality of the object in which our faith is going to be placed. Small faith in a strong object will still enable that object to work.
Faith in God is an attitude of trust in God which enables him to work.

What is needed on our part to enable God to work?
1. Obedience to what God says.
2. Trust in who God is.

John 9:4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Authonomy

This is a site for authors to share their work and get feedback. If you are a reader you can also use the site to read original work. Some sites insist that you read others' work to earn credits to get your own work reviewed. This site has no criteria to make anyone read any work. So there is no cumpulsion, but you may not get many people read yours.

You can leave messages for people, and comment on their work. Put books you are interested in on your watchlist. Put your favourite 5 books on your bookshelf. Hopefully others will do the same for yours. At the end of each month the top five books on the most bookshelves get read by the editors at Harper Collins.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Thinking Thursday: Marks of the Holy Spirit

Acts 19:2 … "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
Rom.8:16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
1 John 3:24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.
1 John 4:13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

It is not 'being a Christian' that gives you the right to have the Holy Spirit, it is having the Holy Spirit within that gives you the right to be a Christian.

Three things that show the Holy Spirit's presence:
a. A hunger to know Jesus Christ
1 Cor.12:3 … no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 15:26 When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
John 16:14-15 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and making it known to you.
This includes a hunger for the Bible, which teaches us about Him.

b. A hunger to be like Jesus Christ.
Gal.5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
The fruit of the Spirit produce character, and a changed character will be expressed in three ways:
a. A changed attitude to people
John 13:35 All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.
Phil.2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
1 Cor.13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Fruit: love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness
b. A changed attitude to circumstances
Phil.4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always.
Neh.8:10 … Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Phil.4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rom.5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Fruit: joy, peace, patience
c. A changed attitude to ourselves
Prov.25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Fruit: self-control
Note: These are fruit, not flowers. Flowers are decorative, fruits are for consumption. We are not talking about qualities that make Christians nice to look at, but that enable them to meet the needs of others.

We also have to remember these qualities are fruit, which is a natural result of growth. We are not being asked to manufacture these qualities in our own lives, we are being asked to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow him to grow these qualities in us, as we participate in the divine nature.

2 Pet.1:3-7 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

And these spiritual gifts are not just for our benefit.
1 Pet.4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
1 Cor.12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good

c. A hunger to serve Jesus Christ
John 7:37-39 … "If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Scribbling Saturday: yWriter software

This is a fabulous piece of software written by a writer especially for writing novels. It would be worth paying for, but it's free to download. (Click the title to go straight there.)

Create your chapters and split each chapter into scenes. Each scene has a description, which is your outline, and content, which is your actual writing. Keep records of your characters, locations and items and assign them to each scene so you can keep track of what appears where.

Record details for each scene of how much humour, tension etc., point of view, goals, timeline and set the status to outline, 1st edit etc., to keep track of your progress. Reports give you the synopsis in various forms and daily writing targets.

Since I discovered it, I have used nothing else for my writing, and I am writing my NaNoWriMo novel on it, after planning the outline scene by scene last month. Heartily recommended.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Thinking Thursday: The Spirit Within You

We are Christians because we have the Holy Spirit, not because we are forgiven.
Rom.8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.

So if he has control of us, who is the Holy Spirit?

He is the Spirit of truth: John 16:13 'the Spirit of truth'
He is the Counsellor: John 14:26 'the Counsellor'

He is a person:
a. He thinks: 1 Cor.2:11-12 … no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
b. He feels: Rom.15:30 … by the love of the Spirit …
Eph.4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God

c. He decides: 1 Cor.12:11 … he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
d. He speaks: Acts 13:2 … the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for work to which I have called them."
e. He teaches: John 14:26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
f. He intercedes: Rom.8:26-27 … We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
g. He guides: John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.
h. He commands: Acts 16:6-7 Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
i. He appoints: Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
j. He can be insulted: Heb.10:29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished … who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
k. He can be lied to: Acts 5:3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit …?"

Seeing him as a person rather than a force causes us to ask not 'How can I use him?' but 'How can he use me?'

He is God:
a. He receives divine acclaim: Acts 5:3-4 … you have lied to the Holy Spirit … You have not lied to men but to God.

b. He possesses divine attributes:
* He is all-powerful (omnipotent): Luke 1:35-37 … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
* He is all-knowing (omniscient): 1 Cor.2:10-11 … The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
The Spirit who indwells us knows everything there is to know, will never be taken by surprise or caught unaware of, or unprepared for, any event that we pass through.
* He is in all places (omnipresent): Psa.139:7-10 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? etc.
* He is eternal: Heb.9:14 … the eternal Spirit

c. He performs divine activities:
* He creates:
Gen.1:2 … the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Psa.104:30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
* He regenerates:
John 3:5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Rom.8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
* He is sovereign: 1 Cor.12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
* He is the author of prophecy: 2 Peter 1:21 … men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

d. He participates in divine authority:
* Matt.28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …
* 2 Cor.13:14 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

The Holy Spirit and Christ:

John 14:16-17 … another Counsellor

Greek word used (allos) means 'another of the same sort'. Alternative word is (heteros) which means 'another of a different sort'. The Holy Spirit's identity and ministry is the same as that of Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who lives the life of Jesus Christ within us, and who desires to express the character of Jesus Christ within us.

See John 16:13-14 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you.

1 Cor.12:3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Scribbling Saturday: NaNoWriMo Week One

My first week of National Novel Writers Month is almost over, and it has been quite an experience. I thought it would be hard to write 1700 words in one go. That turned out to be quite easy. What is hard is doing it day after day. I thought I might struggle after a couple of weeks. Actually I struggled after three days!

But I still determined. The discipline is good for me. My characters are coming alive for me and I already have a few conversations that I didn't anticipate. I hope the inspiration lasts!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Thinking Thursday: Forgiveness and the Justice of God

Awareness of guilt can be an awful thing.
Psa.32:3-4 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

There are two ways to cope with guilt:
1. Redefine it so as to reduce personal responsibility and personal failure
2. Face up to it as a reality, accept responsibility for it, and cope with it from a position of responsibility Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven."

Conviction or Condemnation
We have to be careful to distinguish between conviction and condemnation. The devil will condemn us, and make us feel hopeless. The Holy Spirit will convict us and give us the power to deal with our sin.

John 16:8 When he comes, (the Holy Spirit) he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin.
the devil is 'the accuser of our brothers'
John 8:44
the devil is a liar: When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The Basis of Forgiveness
We can be confident that forgiveness is available to us, because of the basis of forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 on the basis of justice, not mercy: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

With the demands of the law satisfied by Christ's death, God is legally and morally obligated to forgive us.

The Unforgiveable Sin
One thing that bothers many people is the question of the unforgiveable sin.

Mark 3:29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

The Holy Spirit convicts us and points the way to forgiveness. To resist the working of the Holy Spirit therefore closes the way to forgiveness. Thus the unforgiveable sin is not an act one can commit in a moment but is a refusal to accept the only means of obtaining forgiveness.

1 John 1:7 'the blood of Jesus … cleanses us from all sin'
Rom.8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
See also 1 John 1:9 above

What God Does with our Sin
Ps.103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
East and west are non-existent points. In travelling east you never meet west.

Isa.38:17 … you have put all my sins behind your back
God sees everywhere, so this has to be very far indeed – outside existence!

Isa.43:25 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers them no more
God knows all things and cannot forget. He deliberately refuses to recall our sins.

Rom.8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Only Satan brings condemnation.

1 John 4:17 Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him.
Why will we have confidence? Because in this world, we are like him.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: My Writers Circle

This site is a forum for discussion and help with all things connected with writing. As well as general discussion boards, there are boards for grammar and editing, job ads, web resources, writing games and challenges.

Also: "Many members join MWC with a view to getting feedback on their writing. That's fine, and we have various boards dedicated to this purpose: Review My Work for Prose, Review My Poetry and Poetry Workshop for poems, and Review My Script for TV, film, radio and stage scripts. We do, however, suggest that before you post your work for review, you take the time to read and comment on at least three items submitted by other members. This is partly a simple courtesy; but, in addition, seeing how other people present their work can be very helpful in deciding how to post your own writing when the time comes."

So this is a resource for your writing, with tips and advice, and also somewhere you can get comments on your work. I haven't used it myself yet, but it looks like a good site.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Thinking Thursday: A Change of Mind

When we become Christians, we don't just do some things differently, we have a complete change of mind. That is the meaning of the word 'repent.' The first word of Peter to the people (Acts 2:38), of John the Baptist (Matt.3:1-2), and of Jesus to the people (Matt.4:17) was 'repent.' Only as people see the sheer goodness and glory of Christ, do they see themselves in a true light and become aware of the real nature of their sin and need. They need to change their mind about a lot of things.

Rom.12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind
Prov.23:7 AV As he thinketh in his heart so is he

Only God can read our hearts. The way we tell that a person has truly repented is because of a change of behaviour as evidence of a change of heart. The first thing is confession of sins. The second is fruit.

Matt.3:6 Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River
Luke 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance

Our inward change should show outwardly in our lives and our behaviour.

Luke 3:10-11 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
Matt.25:35-36, 40 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." … "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

In business:
Luke 3:12-13 Tax collectors also came to be baptised. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
Luke 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
Eph.6:7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.

With money:
Luke 3:14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely – be content with your pay."
1 Tim.6:10-11 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Mark 10:23 … "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

These are just a few examples of the changes that should be seen in a genuinely transformed life. That is why James said, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" (James 2:14) This has been greatly misunderstood. James is not saying that deeds save you, but if you are truly saved, if you have a changed heart, then it will show in the things you do. The faith that is claimed but has no fruit is no real faith.

There was an old question that said, "If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" Has your behaviour proved your change of mind?

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Monday, 25 October 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Sixty Minute Story

This is a site of short stories which can be read in sixty minutes. Good for readers and writers - accepts submissions. From the site:

The aim of

•To provide a book format standard and SMS quality mark for books with specific characteristics, designed and optimised for reading on digital devices.

•To help writers by providing resources, tips and tools to help write and publish their Sixty Minute Story.

•To provide readers with resources to find and download Sixty Minute Stories which are readable on cellphones, computers, e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, as well as the iPhone and iPod touch.

•To act as a resource of news and developments with the Sixty Minute Story.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Thinking Thursday: Living on God's Terms

The terms of Christian living are not up for debate or for negotiation. I live the Christian life on God's terms, or I do not live it at all. Salvation may be free, but you have to surrender your life to get it.

Matt.6:24 No one can serve two masters
Rom.14:9 … so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living
2 Cor.5:15 … no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them

Do we want Christ as our servant but not as our master? To meet our needs but not tell us what to do? That is not the way it works.

Acts 2:36 God made this Jesus … both Lord and Christ
Phil.2:9-10 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow …

The issue is not one of 'making' Christ Lord of our lives, God has already made him Lord. We have to submit to him as Lord, and allow him to direct our lives. When Jesus said:

Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.

There is nothing wrong with these relationships, they are important and good, but Christ takes priority over good things as well as bad. In the same way, when Jesus said:

Luke 14:33 Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple

It does not mean that Jesus will take everything away, but that it will now function under his authority and be conducive to his purposes. If that seems hard, and we do not trust him to direct our lives, it is because we do not know God well enough.

2 Tim.1:12 I know whom I have believed … I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him
John 17:3 eternal life is knowing God and Christ
Rom.12:2 his good, pleasing and perfect will

Sometimes the plans of God have taken his people through pain and suffering as they have allowed themselves to be the means of his will being accomplished. There is a price to pay for obedience. It takes us to the front line of the battle with Satan and his cohorts, and we are not exempt from danger, tears or pain. But through it, beyond the immediate suffering, beyond the unanswered questions, beyond the pain of battle, there is good that God is accomplishing, and it is perfect, and when we see the whole picture there will be no doubt that it is pleasing.

Gen.50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good
Job 23:10 He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold
Job 2:10 Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

We are never told in scripture to ask God to show us his will for our personal lives.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths (Prov.3:6).

We are not told to pray for guidance, but to acknowledge him. Directing our paths is God's responsibility, and God is under no obligation to explain what he is doing. Every day is in his hands and he is never caught unaware.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review:

Every writer needs a good dictionary, so I recommend a good dictionary site. This site is much more than a dictionary. It has a Thesaurus, Flashcards for building your vocabulary, a section on Quotes, and an Encyclopaedia. There is also a blog. A site well worth bookmarking for when you need it, as well as browsing through to improve your vocabulary.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Thinking Thursday: Catalogue Mentality

The Bible contains much encouragement and many promises. New Christians need to be guided in understanding verses like 'Ask and it will be given to you' (Matt.7:7). It is easy to get the idea that the Bible is like a catalogue. You study the Bible to find out all the wonderful things God has in store for you, put in your order through prayer, and it is the job of the Holy Spirit to bring them to you. The only thing is that they don't last, so you have to request them again at frequent intervals.

In reality, the things God has in store for us are not commodities, but character. The things asked for are to be an active expression of the presence of God in your life. He wants to bring out his qualities in your life.

2 Cor.4:11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
Eph.2:10 For we are God's workmanship …

The idea that God will give us anything we want falls down when bad things happen and trials come. We would not wish for them so we can start to wonder if we are being punished for being unfaithful in some way. This is dangerous thinking. Even the bad things in our lives can be used by God for our benefit.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be pure and complete, not lacking anything.

James goes on to say, 'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.' (James 1:5). Understanding why we do not get all we ask for and the place of suffering in our lives is important to prevent discouragement. Ask God to help you understand.

Another mistake is to try and do things for God, instead of letting him do things through you.

1 Thess.5:24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Phil.2:12-13 … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Exodus 14:13-14 … Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Heb.12:1-2 … let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …
Phil.1:6 … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

If you have given your life to Jesus, be sure he will keep it safe. But he wants to perfect it for you to present it before God at the end.

2 Cor.3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Scribbling Saturday: NaNoWriMo

I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. Click the title for the web site. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, November. It works out at about 1700 words a day. I always said if I had time, I would write. Now, I have no excuse.

The idea is just to write. No judgement, no editing, no checking. Just write. You are allowed to plan - outline, chapters, character studies. But you do all the actual writing in November. I figure that even if I don't succeed, I will have several thousand words of a new novel.

I am going to write a new Kestrel novel. I think it will give me a head start to use existing characters. For those who don't know, the Kestrel is a fast response spaceship with a crew of twelve, which works for the Planetary Alliance for Cooperation and Trade. I have written two novels which are in various stages of editing. Whether any of them will ever be good enough to publish, but I have lots of fun writing them.

In the past I have written in fits and starts with very little planning, so the whole exercise will be good discipline for me. I am using October to plan, so wish me luck. Anyone who also wants to get involved, do leave me your details so we can encourage each other.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Thinking Thursday: God's Glory In Us

No matter how good we feel about ourselves, we don't have the right perspective until we can see that we are actually no good at all. Created in God's image, we may have the capacity for goodness, but we lack the capability to do it.

Rom.7:15-18 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

No matter how hard we try, we will always fall short.

Rom.3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This is not to say that we are almost there, as in "If I had got one more question right, I would have passed the exam." The word 'sin' is an archery term, and means 'to miss the target'. There is a show on TV called Total Wipeout in which contestants have to complete an obstacle course. One of the obstacles is to get from a springboard to a platform via a trapeze. So many contestants miss the trapeze, and fall in the mud. Even if they get their fingers to it, if they do not have a strong grip, they fail. It is the same with our lives – all or nothing. God's glory demands perfection because God's character is perfection.

But many people today don't see this. Although they would admit they are not perfect, they think they are doing quite well. We cannot recognise sin until we recognise the target. Have you ever aimed at something, like in the shooting gallery at the Fair, missed, and joked with your friends, "I meant to do that." Until you acknowledge what the target actually is, you will not be able to recognise that you have missed it, fallen short. And only then can you accept that you need help.

But Paul is telling us that we have fallen short of the glory of God. So our target is 'the glory of God.' What is that? How can we know what that looks like?

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Heb.1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being …

So Jesus showed us God's glory. That is why Jesus lived as he did.

John 5:19 the Son can do nothing by himself… only what he sees the Father doing
John 8:28 I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father taught me
John 14:10 it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work

Like an electric light bulb, which by itself can do nothing. It will not give light when placed on the table, it will only give light when electric current flows through it. So in the same way, God's glory shone through Jesus because of his relationship with God. And the same can be true for us. Jesus told us:

John 15:5 Apart from me you can do nothing

and Paul said:

Phil.4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength

Everything is not whatever we wish to do, but all that God has planned and intends for us. Indeed, Jesus also said:

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God

To be indwelt by God, giving him the freedom to be at work in us and through us makes 'nothing' an impossibility. Before, it was impossible to do anything, now it is impossible to do nothing! When we enter into that right relationship with God, Paul tells us:

1 Thess.5:9-10 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Col.1:27 Christ in you, the hope of glory

'Glory' is not heaven, but that which we have sinned and come short of – the character of God.

2 Cor.3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Stroke Recovery: Walking Outside

I have done it - I am walking outside. Only slowly, and not far, but I go every day, and as my legs get stronger, I go further. Apart from the distance, something people may not realise is that it is dangerous. What you take for granted, for me, after walking on carpet, the ground outside is very uneven. My toe catches on the slightest thing, even indoors, and I am liable to lose my balance.

Anyway, I am doing it. I have got up enough confidence, and my balance and walking have improved to the point that I decided to give it a go. I live on a street of terraced houses, so decided to count gates to measure the distance, but Michael paced it out and we think one gate is about five yards (or metres). In addition I walk from the living room to the front door and down the path to the street, which is another five yards out and five yards back again.

The first day I had no idea how far I could go, so Michael walked behind me with the wheelchair. I walked six gates before I got tired and sat down. Michael wheeled me back again and I walked into the house. Total distance about 40 yards. The second day I walked three gates out, turned round and walked three back, and into the house. Total distance 40 yards without a sit down in the middle. Not only does it make my legs ache, my arm aches from leaning on my stick. Goal - not to lean so heavily or so long.

Then I did four gates on two days, and today I did five. Distance today 60 yards. When I was in hospital learning to walk, Michael used to joke with the physiotherapists that he was going to put my name down for the Swansea 10k race (which is next Sunday as it happens). Well, by next year I might surprise him!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Stroke Recovery: Three Firsts

Had a great two days, Thursday and Friday. On Thursday I decided it was time to start walking outside. I wasn't sure how far I could walk, so I went as far as I could and Michael came behind with the wheelchair to take me back. I counted gates, since I live on street of terraced houses, and I walked 6 gates. This is in addition to walking out of the house and back in again afterwards.

On Friday, instead of having my normal strip wash, I had my first shower! Our shower is over the bath, but Michael found the bath seat, and helped me swing my legs over the side of the bath. It was so wonderful to be under the running water.

Then on Friday night it was my daughter Aggi's birthday gig, held in a place upstairs with no disabled access. I not only walked in, I climbed one long flight and two short flights all in one go. After sitting for two hours, I then walked down again in one go too. It was a lovely evening, made all the more special for me because I was able to be there.

So, I am more and more mobile. It won't be long before I can walk outside on my own - I am determined. I also have a goal to give up my quad stick and only need an ordinary stick. Watch me go!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Stroke Recovery: Exercise Therapy At Last

I finally got to start my exercise therapy, but I had to go via the doctor first. It was quite funny actually, as the doctor checked me out thoroughly and said she could find nothing wrong. So it is official - there's nothing wrong with me! But I still have a high pulse rate, just over 100. She took some advice and talked to the exercise therapist. He pointed out that right now I'm not up to doing anything that's going to raise my pulse rate anyway!

So I was allowed to go, and started right away. The great thing is that I was attending exercise therapy for a few years before my stroke, so I know the therapist and the gym well. Familiarity really helps when you're nervous and feeling vulnerable.

We worked first on my bad arm, which the physiotherapists ignored after the first 6 weeks, so it was pretty stiff. But we were amazed at how much it improved, even though there is still no life in it - yet! He showed Michael how to do the stretches for me so we can do them every day.

I went on the cycle and then he made me sit on a high seat and stand up and sit down without holding on - 10 times! It was hard work but I felt great afterwards.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Stroke Recovery: Exercise Therapy Assessment

This has been a busy week. The most significant thing was my Exercise Therapy assessment on Tuesday. I have been looking forward to this, as my physiotherapy has finished and now I need strength in my legs. As far as I was concerned, the assessment was a formality, to determine the programme of exercise that I need. However, it didn't turn out that way.

First the good news: I have lost a few pounds since last week, my muscles % is right, and my blood pressure is OK.

The bad news: My resting pulse rate is 104 and they won't let anyone do Exercise Therapy with a pulse over 100. It was a real surprise as it was OK in hospital. The problem is that exercise raises the pulse rate, and if it's high already, that is dangerous. The Exercise Therapist is going to talk to the doctor and let me know. The only treatment is more walking to strengthen my heart or medication. There is no appointment available at the doctor's until next Wednesday.

So I am trying to walk about more, and waiting until next Wednesday. Please pray for me, that my pulse rate will come down, and I have the chance to get fitter under supervision.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Escape

I wrote this a month after coming home, as I was making such good progress.


Trapped in the house by a wonky leg,
Always looking at the same four walls.
Walking cautious leaning on a stick,
Cannot go when the outside calls.

Physiotherapists come into my home,
Teach me tricks for how to get about.
Give me exercises, practice every day,
Giving me advice when I'm in doubt.

Walking stronger out into the hall,
Step over the sill at the front door,
Turn round backwards to get in the car,
Now I'm free to get out and explore.

Last big hurdle: learn to climb the stairs –
Practice on the bottom step for days.
Use the strong leg one step at a time,
Bedroom here I come, a cheer I'll raise.

Still walk slowly, have to take my time,
Can't do everything yet on my own.
Gaining freedom one step at a time.
Thank God I have never been alone.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Almost Back to Normal

Yesterday our son Daniel helped my husband Michael to put the bed upstairs and put the sofa back in the living room. I sleep upstairs and wash in the bathroom, and because I am upstairs I can choose my own clothes in the mornings. It's wonderful to be nearly back to normal. I still need my commode until I can climb the stairs on my own, but I am determined it won't be long.

We went out to see the stroke nurse this morning in awful rain, and coming back Michael left my cane behind. I used his walking stick to get back in the house, then he went back for it. But good came out of it because I walked successfully with an ordinary walking stick rather than a four-legged cane. I have also been taking tiny steps with no support.

I just need to get my legs stronger, and help for that comes along next week when I go to exercise therapy. I have been going to the exercise therapy gym at the doctor's for several years because of my fibromyalgia, and the exercise therapist there is marvellous. As soon as he heard about my stroke he said to get referred to him again and he would look after me. My assessment is next Tuesday (31st August) and he will work out a program of exercise, for me to attend once or twice a week. I can't wait.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Going Home

It's funny how your attitude can change when you view things from a different perspective...

There are three poems on going home that show a progression of feelings. Waiting to go home once you are well is so hard because you are so bored in hospital. Every little annoyance gets multiplied (like no one coming when you buzz) and home looks very inviting.

Going Home 1

The hours seem to pass so slow,
It's harder on my own.
While I wait for that special day
When I am going home.

So many things to organise,
And so much to arrange,
Equipment to be ordered in,
And things at home to change.

I know I'm going very soon,
But I don't have a date.
And all of this uncertainty
Makes it so hard to wait.

Each little irritation seems
A massive thing to bear.
Each hour of waiting seems to be
An hour more of care.

I think that when the date is set,
T'will be the hardest known
To bear the wait until the day
When I am going home.

This is the second of my poems about going home. Having longed for it so much, at the last minute my thoughts did a complete reversal, to my surprise. I suddenly realised how hard it could be for us to cope on our own. We would not have nurses available at the press of a buzzer. Going home became a scary prospect.

Going Home 2

As the long-awaited day approaches:
Hospital release and going home,
Suddenly a new thought rises:
Going to the great unknown.

Frustrated by the endless hours
Waiting with nothing to do,
Suddenly it's so familiar,
Safe and routine, tried and true.

Home, long-missed and fond remembered,
Now looked on with great unease.
Things have changed, my life is different.
Sudden fears begin to seize.

Unexpected feelings surface,
Want to go but fearful too.
Then appears the thought that comforts:
I am going home to you.

This is the last of the going home trilogy. First I looked forward to going home, and then I was afraid. But then came the day that it actually happened.

Going Home 3

The great day comes for new adventure –
Going home to start a new life.
Go from doctors, friendly nurses,
To just us, husband and wife.

Home, familiar, sweet-remembered,
Is an alien landscape now.
Bed downstairs with new equipment.
Find a new routine somehow.

Journey home is over-tiring,
Husband has so much to do.
But very soon we discover
How to work with just we two.

Very soon the routine settles,
Alien is familiar now.
We can start the new adventure.
Future's not so scary now.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Problems With Staffing In Hospital

We had a lot of problems in hospital because they are so short staffed and the nurses have to do a lot of non-nursing things like serve the food and pour glasses of water. A lot of patients are elderly and confused and buzz just to ask where they are and if they've had their tea yet. Many times I was upset because I pressed the buzzer and was left for some time before anyone came. If you wanted the toilet, you just had to go in the bed, and then the nurses had more work to do cleaning you up and changing the sheets. They welcomed it when we said we were lodging a formal complaint, because no one listens to them when they ask for extra staff.

Why Press The Buzzer?

Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?
Other patients need her and she's only one.
Not enough nurses to see to everyone.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

The nurses treat us with patience and care,
But how can they minister when they're not there?
And what about the little things that ease each one?
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

How can they see to so many needs:
A pillow, a drink, a pain, a feed?
The old lady looking for her mum.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

They put you in a pad so you can go
To the toilet when the nurses are slow.
Just soil yourself and they'll later clean your bum.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

Better hope it's not urgent when you call the nurse,
There's too many patients, and some of them worse.
They've only got time to see to some.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

Equipment and supplies run short,
Then there's a crisis and all is fraught.
It's lonely and frightening when no one comes.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Patience

I was determined that after all my suffering, especially the stuff not related directly to my stroke, future suffering would be much easier to bear in comparison. I vowed I would never be impatient again. However, when I got better, I found waiting around just as hard to bear as before. God is good, and makes the memory of bad times fade, so we do not spoil the present with pain from the past. This is great, but makes my promise hard to keep.


When I suffered, I declared:
Nothing else would make me scared.
Longest hours when not in pain,
Never would make me complain.
Patience had been learned well.
Complaint would I never tell.

But the bad is soon forgot,
So that we remember not
Hours of sickness or of pain,
So we can have joy again.
Makes my promise hard to keep –
Over little things I weep.

Help me, Lord, to keep this skill,
Learned so hard, so long, so still.
Help me, Lord, to watch and wait,
Not allow things to frustrate,
But to bear them patiently,
And always to lean on Thee.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Future

[Written in hospital]

If you are going to a place you don't know, it's a good idea to get a book about it or speak to someone who has been there, to prepare yourself for what you will find. The future is somewhere we are all going, and no one has ever come back to tell us what to expect. We guess the future based on the present and our plans, but we cannot guarantee anything. We simply hope. 'Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?' [Ecclesiastes 8:7].

Most of the time we expect our lives to go according to plan, but sometimes it changes beyond what we can cope with with minor adjustments. We have to do a major rethink. I recently had a stroke. There was no warning, and my whole life stopped. No going to work, no visiting my family and friends, no going anywhere. I completely lost control of my life. Now someone else decided when I should get up and go to bed, what I should eat. Gradually I am getting a little control, but I still can't get out of bed on my own.

The Christian faith gives a bedrock at a time when all else is shifting sand. We do not know the future, but we know Someone who does, and although He doesn't tell us what it will be, we know that He will look after us. 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.' [Romans 8:28].

The other thing God is that He has a track record. He has always been faithful and we can rely on that for the future. Paul said, 'My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.' [Philippians 4:19]. He doesn't always meet our needs in the way we would like him to, but when we look back we can see that He worked for our good.

Jesus told us not to worry: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life … Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.' [Matthew 6:25,27,31,32]. He was not saying we should be careless about making provision, but we should trust God for the future. Notice also the mention of what we say. Negative talk feeds our fears, whereas positive speech about trusting God feeds a positive attitude. God should be in our plans as well as in our actions. Ask Him to be with us as we plan, but then get with making the best of what comes.

The future is a scary place, especially when life takes a left turn. A reassurance that Someone is watching over it with our benefit at heart makes a big difference.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (4)

It's only 12 days since my last list of milestones, but they are coming so thick and fast I thought I had better post some more. This brings it right up to today:

Day 82 What a day! Went to Aggi's flat and didn't know she had 3 steps outside. Held on to Michael and walked up and in the door up another step. A bit hairy but I did it. Walked from the kitchen to see the bathroom, and back. Then walked out again, the first time going down steps. OK but bad leg hangs in the middle so I have to step left, then shuffle right again to have room to take the next step. Then we went to church. And I got out of the wheelchair into a seat. It was so good to be there that I cried. It was a real blessing for those who have been praying for me too. Really tired afterwards though.
Day 83 No after effects from yesterday! Physio's came and I walked up the stairs! Sat on a chair on the landing for a rest and then walked down again.
Day 84 Practiced on the bottom step. 7 repeats.
Day 85 The Physio's took me on the stairs all the way up to the bedroom! I rested on the landing and sitting on the bed and then walked down again. Then they said I can sleep upstairs because I only have to tackle one way at a time. We were stunned. I've only been home a month. Have to arrange some things first.
Day 86 Julian and family came to visit and I got up to open the door to them.
Day 87 Went upstairs and pottered around in the back bedroom then in the middle bedroom and found some things I wanted then came downstairs. It was great. My leg didn't waver once.
Day 88 Went to the door for Dan Anna and James.
Day 89 Church again.
Day 90 Commode for bedroom arrived.
Day 91 I was concerned about being too tired at the end of the day to climb the stairs, so we tried it tonight and I was fine.
Day 92 Physio's discovered I can lift my knee when laying on my back and a little when standing. Previously couldn't fight gravity. Then went out and tried out a scooter from Shopmobility. It was great. No more wheelchair in town!
Day 93 Went upstairs to wash and dress in the bathroom. Will do that in future.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: The Phoenix

This poem was actually inspired by a tv programme. I watched an old episode of 'Lewis' one evening which featured a group who used the phoenix as a symbol of what they were trying to do for people. And it got me thinking …


See flames burning their way through my life,
See all my old plans go up in smoke,
See the ashes of my life crumble.
Will this be the end of all my hopes?

Yet amid the ashes see the egg –
Symbol of the new life that can rise,
Born of fire, purified and stronger,
Looking on to where the future lies.

See my life begin again anew,
Rising like a phoenix from the flames.
New plans, new hopes, new determination.
Who knows if anything will be the same.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Not a Victim

My husband Michael was very careful to be positive in all discussions about my future. He was determined to keep me from slipping into a 'poor me' mindset. This made me think about allowing people or circumstances to make you a victim, and this poem is the result.


You don't have to be a victim
When life gets really bad.
'Victim' is an attitude
Which you don't have to have.

Sometimes life is very cruel.
Unfair troubles come around.
People take you for a fool,
Try to break your spirit down.

In your head you can be free,
Keep your dignity and pride.
No matter what externally,
You can still be strong inside.

So never be a 'victim',
Or fall in pity's way.
Keep determination,
Hold your head high today.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Night Hours

Things are going so well it's difficult to remember the hard times in hospital. The night hours could be long and lonely, not just as a result of the stroke. I suffered a lot of nausea and involuntary spasms which kept me awake. This is how I coped. I was never keen on blank verse before, but I suddenly discovered the power of it.

Night Hours

In the long hours of the night
I practice patience.
Weave each minute into the tapestry
Of time passing.

A whole night is unthinkable.
An hour may be unbearable.
But a minute I can manage.
One at a time.

Trace a pattern on the wall.
Listen to the weather through the window.
Recall long-forgotten memories.
Write poetry.

All serve to pass the time,
Tick off the minutes to build into hours.
But when all else fails
Reach out in the darkness
And hold the hand of God.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Upstairs

The Physio's came today and were so pleased with my progress that they got me to walk all the way upstairs to the bedroom! I rested on a chair on the half landing and then climbed the rest of the way and sat on the bed. After another rest I did the same in reverse. I was very tired afterwards.

The Physio's said this means I can now sleep upstairs, which was a real surprise. They pointed out that I would only have to go upstairs at night and downstairs in the morning, not do both together as I did today. When I calmed down from my delight I realised there are a few logistic problems, so it may be a while before I can actually sleep upstairs. We will have to work it out.

It does mean that I have access to the upstairs. Up until now I have had to ask Michael to fetch things, and I can't always remember where they are. So the limits of my world continue to expand.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Further Milestones

My progress continues to be remarkable. It's only 12 weeks since my stroke, and two weeks ago the physio's taught me how to get in and out of the car, and last week they taught me how to climb a stair - but I've only practiced on one step.

Well, yesterday afternoon I went to visit my daughter's new flat which is on the ground floor. What I didn't know was that it has 3 steps outside. Well, I walked up the steps! There was a hairy moment, but I did it. In the flat, the wheelchair wouldn't go in the bathroom when I had the tour, so I got out and walked into the bathroom and back. And then when we left, I walked down the steps, which is the first time I've walked down.

Added to this is that every time I go out I walk from the front room out of the front door onto the path and sit in my wheelchair, and back when I come home. Yesterday I came back, grabbed a few minutes rest and then went out again.

After twelve weeks, I went to church! Michael came too, and he hasn't been to church either because he has been too exhausted with visiting me and looking after me. I got quite emotional, because it was so lovely to be in church after the way God has looked after me - which was a problem because one of the effects of the stroke is that I can't control my emotions. I can't have a little giggle or shed a little tear, I go completely to pieces. Luckily I managed to stop before I made too much noise!

I hadn't thought what effect it would have on the people in church to see me there. Everyone has been praying for me, and I am in the notices for prayer every week. So when I arrived there was great rejoicing at the evidence of prayers answered. It was lovely to see them and to bring such a blessing.

Who knows what next!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (3)

Progress since coming home:
Day 59 Went round the block in my wheelchair.
Day 63 Physio really good. Movement in hamstrings and lifting knee. Standing more on right leg.
Day 65 Good response in knee. Rest but no sleep this afternoon (so staying awake all day now).
Day 69 Did exercises and walked across room and back with Michael.
Day 70 Physio practiced standing without bad knee going towards the good one. Walked across room and back twice.
Day 72 The physio's showed me how to get out the front door and into the car. I'm free! And I walked to the front door and back.
Day 73 Went out in the car today to Mumbles, parked on the sea front and had an ice cream. Didn't feel tired.
Day 76 More confident in walking so walked around the room on my own.
Day 77 Physio taught me how to tackle stairs. Can't come for a week so practice on one step until can do 10 in a row. Then I can tackle our stairs!
Day 78 Practiced on step. Went to town in the car and wheelchair. Went ok. Walking in room a little.
Day 79 Walking round the room more.
Day 80 Walked round the room twice.
Day 81 Practice: 5 stairs, 2 sets of 10 knee lifts, 10 leg extensions.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (2)

Here's some more of my progress, up to when I went home:
Day 26 Did lots of speech therapy exercises and got my vocal range from 13 notes to 15.
Day 27 Physio tried to make my chair sitting easier and gave me tips on laying on my side.
Day 28 Good physio walking with a tripod cane.
Day 29 Physios got me walking with tripod cane in my room out to the corridor.
Day 30 Washing and dressing assessment good – put my own knickers on and washed my legs.
Day 31 Physio - walking with tripod cane unassisted except for positioning my foot. Have strap to keep my foot up.
Day 35 At home physio will not be every day and only for 6 weeks. Good to stay to take advantage of physio every day, but weigh that against morale. Physio convinced I will do well anyway as I am so determined.
Day 36 Practiced transfer between bed and chair on my own. Can do most except get my bad leg on the bed. Fitted for splint on arm to wear at night.
Day 37 Went down to the flat and practiced on the bed. Can get in on left side but not on right, but they have gadgets they will show me. Bed lever on left works well. Can manage without on right.
Day 41 Walked from bed all the way to the doors for the men's side.
Day 43 OT practice transfer to commode – good. Good walking practice with physio.
Day 45 Commode in room so I can go by myself.
Day 49 Walked all the way from my bed to the couch in physio and over half the way back.
Day 52 Home.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (1)

On the advice of my best friend, I kept a diary of my progress after my stroke. I still keep it every day. Here is the record for the first 25 days. A little explanation: a Stedy stand is a clever piece of equipment for moving patients from place to place, for example to take you to the toilet. It has a platform you stand on and then a seat folds down behind you and you wedge your knees against a panel in front, so if you only have one leg working you can't fall.

Day 1/2 Got up in chair using Stedy stand already. My hips good and brain clear. Failed swallow test first day but passed second, so allowed to drink and progress to eat.
Day 3 Really impressed with me at physio and speech therapy.
Day 8 First speech therapy – lots of exercises.
Day 9 My knee straightened on its own and my arm stretched more than yesterday.
Day 11 My leg moved!
Day 20 Out in chair for 4 hours. More movement in leg and less tightness in arm.
Day 21 Physiotherapy brilliant and I walked a long way in a stand!
Day 22 First writing practice legible.
Day 23 Physio walking and standing. Getting it sussed.
Day 24 Physio on standing and reaching.
Day 25 Michael took me out in a wheelchair for the first time.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

23rd Psalm

Many people find the 23rd Psalm a great comfort. The reassurance of God's constancy and care is a lifeline in all the situations we meet. We hold on to the images of green pastures and still waters, of oil overflowing and goodness and love following.

But in all the uplifting words we must remember that it is promising help in trouble – which means there will be trouble. The table is spread in the presence of enemies, and the rod and staff comfort in the valley of the shadow of death. Some Christians think that they should be protected from troubles, but Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble.'

He went on to say, 'Fear not, I have overcome the world,' which is a great comfort like that in the 23rd Psalm, but it does not promise to prevent the troubles. We must not let it shake our confidence when troubles come. An old saying in motivational circles says, 'Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.' The same applies to troubles. How can you enjoy the table spread before you if you're watching your enemies?

The sheep get through their troubles by keeping their eyes on the Shepherd.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Escape From The House

I have escaped from the house! We went for a drive to Mumbles today and parked on the sea front and had an ice cream. It was so good to go out, and it was relatively easy.

The weather finally stayed fine for the physiotherapists' visit yesterday, and they taught me how to negotiate the sill at the front door, and how to get in and out of the car. And I managed to walk to the front door and back!

The secret is to put the wheelchair outside the front door, rather than trying to negotiate it over the sill with me in it. I walk to the front door and just need help to get my right foot over the sill, then I turn round and sit in the wheelchair. The secret to getting in the car is to get out of the wheelchair and turn backwards to the car and sit down. Then I have help to get my feet in.

We are now making plans for where we want to go. And as you can see, my walking is getting more confident. Praise God!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: One Small Step

Had physiotherapy again today, which went very well. Concentrating on walking, and although I am currently rather nervous, they assured me that I will be walking confidently in the end. What a great relief. My knee has started working, so I don't have to hitch from the hip so much.

Here is another poem about physiotherapy, this time about learning to walk and what it meant to me. Until you have lost the ability, you can't imagine how it feels to be up on your own feet and moving under your own power.

One Small Step

Learning to walk again.
The minute details of muscle and balance,
Learned and mastered,
One move at a time.

Straighten the knee.
No, straighten the knee.
Hold it there, but not too straight.
Don't let it give – pure willpower.

Oh the joy of standing!
Looking people in the eye –
Not a cripple for that moment.
Taking charge.

Stand up straight,
Shoulders down, bottom in,
Now transfer your weight,
And keep that knee straight!

Can it take my weight?
Can I keep that knee straight?
Am I stable enough?
For one small step.

One small step.
Like Armstrong's giant leap.
The start of something big.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Speech Therapy

Having written two poems about physiotherapy, I set my mind to writing about speech therapy. The exercises, both massage and spoken (and sung!), are truly beneficial.

Speech Therapy

You take it for granted until it's gone:
To ask for what you want.
You know the words but they won't come out,
Try to speak and you can't.

If you're lucky your speech is only slurred
And still your mind is clear.
And now you have to figure out
How to make the words appear.

Along comes the friendly speech therapist
To show you how it's done.
Massage your face to wake it up,
They even make it fun.

Take your time to enunciate clear,
Practice all the word lists,
Sing your scales to improve your pitch,
Listen to your therapist.

They'll help you every step of the way,
To talk and keep in touch.
At last you can make yourself understood.
So thank them very much.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Learning to Walk

I have just had a stroke and am learning to walk again. This involves not just getting the muscles working but I have to learn to do consciously what I have done instinctively since I first walked as a baby. It’s a bit like when I learned to drive. I had to do different things with each foot, had to steer with one hand to change gear with the other, and had so many things to look out for, that I thought I would never get the hang of it. But as I practiced, things got better until some of them became automatic and I could devote more of my attention to other things.

We think that walking is just putting one foot in front of the other, but that is the least of it. Having got the foot forward, you have to straighten the leg carefully so as not to lock out the knee, then shift your weight onto it. Your weight must be transferred not just sideways but forward, so that you do not fall backwards. With a bit of luck, now you take a step. The balance also involves the position of your upper body and your hips, all of which you have to consciously monitor and adjust while especially paying attention to your leg, because if you take your attention off it for a second the tension will go and it will give way. And you thought walking was easy!

I expect that, like driving, it will get easier and my instinct will take over eventually, but I would not be surprised if I can never take it for granted again. And I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it would do us all good to walk at a slower pace and think about things more. Maybe it would do us all good to go back to basics on other things too and look at how they really work and think about how we are doing.

Think about relationships for example. At the beginning they are new and frail and we have to pay them a lot of attention. Such little things can spoil them. You have to learn more about each other each day. You come to realise how precious the other one is to you and you nurture the relationship carefully. But how does it look further down the line? Different I hope. But have we come to take too much for granted? Think for a moment about how it was in the early days, and think WHY it was. If this is important are you taking the same care? It would be wise to take a look at yourself, even if you think the other person is at fault, before words are said that may spoil it forever. Maybe their behaviour is a reaction to a change in you. Maybe you don't even realise the change.

This can be applied to all relationships: our parents, our children, our friends, even our relationship with God. He will patiently forgive our neglect, but not forever. Is he still the most important thing in your life? Does it show? Let us learn to walk again with care and attention to detail, and make sure we are doing it right.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Physiotherapy

Light-hearted thoughts about physiotherapy. The pain is manageable, as they seek to find the limits to your movement and to encourage the muscles to stretch further. As soon as it hurts, they back off and seek to find another way. But it is important because this is how you will get your mobility back.


Come to physiotherapy
It's as easy and A-B-C
We'll get you fixed up just you see
But it's more like A-B-Ouch!

Ouch! We'll stretch that muscle so tight
Ouch! Make those limbs put up a fight
Ouch! Work hard and get it right
Not much fun this A-B-Ouch!

But in physiotherapy
Lies your chance of normality
Just work hard and you will see
It's worth A-B-Ouch!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: On Being There

Written in hospital:

We look to God and ask Him to keep us from, 'all the ills that flesh is heir to', but Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble.' We cannot know why he allows some things to happen to us and protects us from others, but James in particular lays down some general principles about the development of character through trials and perseverance [James 1:2-4]. It is easy to overlook also that in the many commands in Scripture to help the suffering, that means someone, even 'good' people, has to be suffering for us to do so.

So suffering will come to all of us in some measure and it is counterproductive to ask why this particular suffering and not that. There are three ways in which we can profitably respond when suffering comes: draw near to God, learn and grow, and allow others to serve.

When I had my stroke and I lay helpless in the doctors' hands, my mind reached out and begged God to fix it. He didn't, but in yielding to His will I felt wrapped in safety. I understood the 'peace which passes understanding' [Philippians 4:7], because in those hours when I could have died, when I had no idea how disabled I would be, or even if I would have enough sense to comprehend, let alone worry about the impact on my family, I didn't once feel scared. It didn't make sense at all, but I was safe. For that, I am immeasurably grateful.

Now the crisis is over I have to get the best out of it. There is a truth that sometimes we are sent trials to refine us, but it can be counterproductive to tear yourself apart looking for faults. Paul famously said that God works in all things for the good of those who love Him [Romans 8:28]. Whether the suffering was sent for a purpose or just happened, seek to get the most benefit from it. Maybe you can learn more patience, more sympathy, or reassess your priorities. Maybe it will result in a whole new approach or just changes within. When you draw near to God, let Him show you.

And He can do the same for others, through your suffering. Today's world says, 'Be independent, don't let your weaknesses show.' But suffering is a chance to reach out to one another and learn and grow together. Don't deny others the blessing of helping you. Don't deny family and friends the comfort of feeling useful and showing their love for you [Galatians 6:9]. They may find new qualities and resources in themselves and there will be a special bond between you.

'In this world you will have trouble,' but let us throw it back in defiance and use it to build.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: The Tunnel

Here's the first poem I wrote in the early days after my stroke:

The Tunnel

I've driven down a tunnel
And I can't get out.
I don't know how I got here,
But there's no doubt
Although right now I'm a bit lost,
I've got to work it out.

My hand doesn't work,
That can't be right.
I'll make a joke but what's this?
To speak is a fight.
My leg's gone too, now I'm
In the tunnel with no light.

But into hospital,
Doctors get busy:
X-rays, Cat scans,
I'm in a tizzy.
Then it's over
And it's down to physi-o.

I'm still in the tunnel,
But now I can see
The lie of the land
And where I want to be.
There's a light shining,
Soon I will be free.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Stroke & Stroke Recovery

To all my friends and blog followers: for anyone who doesn't know, I had a stroke 11th May. I was in work, at 9.30, when it happened and I was very lucky that my team leader immediately called the first aider, and he recognised the signs and immediately called the ambulance.

There is a new treatment which breaks up clots, but it has to be given within 3 hours of the stroke. Thanks to the quick thinking in work and the efficiency of the doctors in Morriston Hospital, they gave me the treatment after 2 hours 50 minutes. It did not save my arm and leg, but who knows what else may have been affected without it?

My speech was slurred but is well on the way to recovery, my right leg lost all movement but is coming back and I have started taking a few steps, and I lost all movement in my right arm which has not yet recovered. But it could have been so much worse. Especially, my brain function was not affected at all, for which I praise God.

In the long hours in hospital, I began to write poetry on my mobile phone. I have written poetry before, but occasionally. Now it poured out of me, 23 poems to date. Verse, doggerel, blank verse. About my stroke, my treatment, my faith, and totally random things like the rain outside my window. I plan to share some of them with you in future.

A dear friend says I should write a book, and maybe I will. I also wrote some Christian articles about suffering, which I hope may help other people. So watch this space.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Thinking Thursday: Deceptive Questions

I have been reading some very popular books by Brian D McLaren, a trilogy called 'A New Kind of Christian.' In these books he proposes a new way of looking at Christianity and being a Christian. The books are written as novels, detailing discussions between an unhappy pastor named Daniel and various other people with unorthodox views, particularly an ex-pastor turned science teacher called Neil.

The format lifts the thinking beyond dry exposition into a very moving story which draws you in and arouses your sympathy for Daniel. In this way, the drama and emotion can easily bypass the reader's judgement, and allow ideas to be absorbed without critical consideration. That is why I stopped and went back through each of the books and identified some of the ideas which gave cause for concern.

As I look at these over the next few weeks I want to encourage you not only to think about these questions, but to sharpen your thinking to look out for deceptive questions you may find elsewhere. Here is the first sample:

From 'A New Kind of Christian' p.185:
The way conservative Christians talk about "personal salvation" seems to me to try to persuade by exclusion. In other words, the argument says, "You, the 'unsaved', are on the outside and I'm on the inside. I'll tell you how to get inside if you want." I think we would be more in line with the spirit of the gospel if we invite by inclusion, saying, "God loves you. God accepts you. Are you ready to accept your acceptance and live in reconciliation with God?"

This sounds like the old "God loves you and has a plan for your life", without the mention of sin and repentance. The old saying 'God hates the sin but loves the sinner' is not really right, because in many places in the Bible it says that God hates the sinner because of his sin.
Ps.5:5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
Ps.31:23 The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full.
Pr.6:16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissention among brothers.

It also says in scripture that God is not willing that any man should perish, but also that there is only one way to be saved. 'Accepting God's acceptance' is not it.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Thinking Thursday: Some Thoughts on Super Heroes - 1 Peter 1:3-11

In a recent film, one of the characters was musing on super heroes and their alter egos – their other identities. Spiderman, for example, is Peter Parker, and Superman is Clark Kent. But there is a major difference between them.

Peter Parker was an ordinary guy until he was bitten by a radioactive spider and acquired some of its powers. He became Spiderman – but his true identity is really Peter Parker.

Superman, however, was born a superman on the planet Krypton. All his powers are natural to him. Clark Kent is the identity he assumes so he can mingle with ordinary human beings. His true identity is really Superman.

And what about the rest of us? Here we are, ordinary human beings, flawed and struggling. Sometimes we rise above ourselves and can do great things. There are countless stories of people who have dedicated their lives to alleviating suffering or caring for others. There are superb teachers and doctors who deserve our praise and thanks. But no matter what great things they do, their true identity is human beings, and they can never be anything else.

But when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, something amazing happens. The Bible tells us that we are a new creation – the old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor.5: 17). So what happens to our old self? Are we like Spiderman in that we are still Peter Parker but now we have special powers to do things that ordinary human beings cannot do? Some might think so. But God is not in the business of patching up or refurbishing our old lives. We are born again. And what are we born as? “To all who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1: 12).

Our very nature changes. We once were in Adam, that is identified with Adam. Now we are in Christ, that is identified with Christ. We are now new creatures, sons of God. We are like Superman, who dresses as Clark Kent to mix with ordinary people, but is extraordinary in reality. We may still look like ordinary people, but we are not. What a shame that so many of us don’t quite believe it and carry on living like before, carry on expecting things to be like before, but maybe with an extra bit of help.

Do you know your real identity? Do you live every day knowing you are a son of God and that he has given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)? Would it make a difference if you did?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Positive Critiques of Short Stories

I know it's Thinking Thursday, but I'm too excited to do that. I have been writing for a while, and not been able to get anyone to give me a serious critique of any of my work. I don't know whether I should look on it as something I enjoy but can never do anything with, or whether I have any talent. Most competitions give no feedback unless you win, and those who do offer critiques, charge for it.

But I recently found a competition which offered free critiques for every entry, so I sent two short stories, and the critiques arrived today. I opened the envelope with trembling hands... and they loved them! I was so relieved that I cried. I know it's boasting, but I'm going to share a bit with you.

'All In The Mind' is about an ordinary guy who gets a visit one morning from men who offer to tell him about his real parents, who died when he was five. They take him away, but he is questioned and tortured, with no explanation why. I won't tell you the ending, it would spoil the surprise. The judge said "A familiar theme, more in respect of films than books or stories, but good for all that. The author cleverly avoids any swashbuckling or blockbusting action and opts for a calmer, more believable sequence of events in the affair of Gareth Campbell... the last two lines which will give any reader a frisson of expectation for the future. There is nothing at all wrong with the plot and the dialogue is good and natural."

'Phase Shift' is set in the future, about a doctor called to treat a patient who is out of phase with the current time and place. Again, I won't give too much away. The judge said "A science fiction story... the first and perhaps the only, one of the competition... and welcome. Judging entails manuscript, notebook, reading and making notes. A tribute to this story is that not one note was made. It was consumed start to finish in one uninterrupted swallow... The story is written in the style of Ray Bradbury, but with a flavour all its own...The end is imaginative... Good story."

My ststus update on Facebook says it all: Today my self confidence crawled out of the shadows and stood tall.