Friday, April 27, 2007

I did it!

I did it! I said I would do it and I did! When I got home from school I wrote out a query letter, something you send to a publisher inviting them to publish your work! I say letter – it was an e-mail. I attached a selection of poems and sent it off. So the worm is in the water and I am waiting to see if the fish will bite!

Part of the conversation I had with my friend at the Bible study related to a meeting a number of years ago. I can’t remember where we were, but there was a prophetic element to the meeting. Words of knowledge were being tossed out to various people. It was very casual. There were a number of leaders present.

The word of knowledge for my friend was something along the lines that it was time that she wrote the book. Now, if the leader had said that to me, it would have been the perfect word. I had discovered that I had a talent for writing. The church was in need of a newsletter and I wrote one. For four years, every three months, I would harass people for articles and play around with fonts and columns and things. I was an explosion of words just waiting to happen. All I needed was someone to put a lighted match – or in this case – a prophetic word – and I would have been away. My friend just looked blankly at the man. Was there a book inside her, just itching to get written? She wasn’t sure!

I waited for the word of knowledge that was coming my way, and it was about stepping out and being confident in the prophetic realm.

Because he didn’t say anything about a book to me, but he said something to my friend, and as he was one the “big boys”, it was as if he had pricked a balloon and burst my dream of writing a book. My line of thinking was “Well, if he didn’t say it to me that must mean that I am not supposed to be a writer.” My confidence really took a dive. I did not stop writing, I just didn’t dream big any longer. I allowed what he didn’t say to colour my thinking about things. I am not quite sure exactly what i did with what he did say!

That was a long time ago and I have written a lot of things since and shared a lot of things too. Maybe what I just needed was time and it is only now, after all the FW challenges that I have confidence to believe that I am marketable!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Digging up and dusting off my talent

I made a decision on Monday.

On Monday night, the teachers/preachers in the church met together to work out the programme for the next month or so. We are hoping to base the next series of “sermons” (I hate that word but can’t think of another one) on the church described in Acts 2. It wasn’t about encouraging the congregation to drag their friends to a church meeting, but equipping the church so that they could take Jesus with them into their friendships. The phrase that I came up with – or rather, the Holy Spirit suggested – was “Take it home.” We have to work out how to take our faith outside the church setting and into our everyday lives.

Somewhere in all the chat of the evening, a friend told us a testimony of a woman. I can’t remember the details, but it was about doing what God asked you to do, not what you thought He might like you to do. It was something to do with a missionary, who had been on the mission field and seen lots of people come to a saving faith. However, God was not impressed because what He really asked her to do was to bring up her children. To be the missionary, she had put them into a boarding school and it was really left to someone else to do the bringing up.

I was convicted! It is not a case of “What if I am not doing what God asked me to do?” The week before, during the Bible study I have with a friend, the same thing came up. The study was about the value of work, and knowing that you were doing what God had set aside for you to do, and being fulfilled in that.

How many clues does a person really need before they catch on? Evidently, if you are me, then it’s quite a few! It was Tony Howson’s book that started it. My friend pointed out something at the end of the book about the publishers of the book being on the lookout for good Christian material to publish. Knowing that I have a passion for writing, my friend suggested that I might want to take them up on the offer. If they were looking for material to publish, and I had material just sitting around waiting to become a book – hey presto!

I also have the phone number of a publisher of Christian poetry that was passed on to me at a recent writer’s workshop. I am planning to attend another of the workshops later on next month. To have someone pass on a phone number, and for the person you passed it onto not to make use of it, you have to question the seriousness, or the hunger of the writer to want to see their stuff in print.

I am convicted that I am like the man with the talent that digs a hole and buries it. I could agonise about whether my writing is good enough – so many people have said that it is (and my friend has said she will buy a copy of the book when it is published!). I could also agonise about whether there is a market for Christian poetry books – apparently not if you were to go into a Christian bookshop and ask for poetry books! It is not about agonising but about obedience. If I have been given a talent then I it is not for just playing around with. There is an intention to use it and for the gifting to bear fruit. The fruit is not about me getting lost in my own private heaven for an hour or two – but about using whatever talent I have to reach out and touch people.

I read my stuff and I get touched.

So my intention is to dig out my poems, phone up the publisher and see where it all takes me. That is my weekend plan.

“And about time too…” I hear some of you say. I am making myself accountable. Feel free to nag me if you think I am playing chicken! I seriously cannot bear for God to say to me, “I asked for a poetry book, Mel. Where is it?”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stained glass windows

After dropping Joe off at work this morning, I went for a walk along the river and then stopped off at the Cathedral. It is not really that much bigger than a parish church so how it gets to be called a cathedral I am not sure. (That’s a shocking confession from a RE teacher!)

I like stained glass windows. A friend of mine bought a house a number of years ago. It was in a bad state of repair, so he got grants to help with renovations. In one of the bedrooms there was a round window. He had a special stained glass window made of a ship or a sailing boat tossed about on the waves. When he went into the bedroom to admire the window, he discovered that they had put it in upside down. They had not recognised what the picture was and just assumed it was a pretty pattern!

When we were in Durham Cathedral a few years ago, they had some very modern windows portraying all the different trades or guilds in Durham. The ones in the Inverness cathedral were just your run of the mill depictions of the life of Jesus. There were four windows on each side of the building, apart from the ones in the chapels. Each window comprised of two separate panels side by side. They covered the annunciation of Jesus’ birth, up to his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. May be the crucifixion and resurrection were depicted elsewhere.

As soon as I worked out that these eight windows were the life of Jesus, I began guessing which bits. One pair had me a little mystified – one the right hand panel was Jesus reaching down to a man half lying, half sitting on the ground. I figured it was Jesus because he had a halo. On the left hand panel was what looked like Jesus giving a drink of water to a man who was draped across his knees. Again, it was the halo that made me think it was Jesus. I did a trawl through the memory to match it with a gospel story. I couldn’t come up with anything that fitted, and finally read the words at the base of the window – “He showed compassion”. It wasn’t Jesus at all, but the parable of the Good Samaritan. The halo threw me!

I liked the thinking behind one pair of windows. On the left hand panel was the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was surrounded by people. He seemed to be holding what looked like a bible in his hand. Underneath the window were the words “Blessed are the pure in heart”. The next panel was one of the Transfiguration. Moses was easily identifiable by the tow ten commandment stones he held in his hand. Elijah got to hold and unrolled scroll with his name on it, just in case people were wondering who he was. James, Peter and John were at the bottom, looking freaked out. The sentence beneath the window continued “For they shall see God”. I liked the balance of the two pictures and the illustration that, yes, we do get to see God. Jesus at His transfiguration was as God as he could get at that moment. All the “man” part of him took a step backwards to allow all the “God” part to be revealed.

I discovered a book in my efforts at spring cleaning. "Discipleship" by David Watson, has wonderful chapter on life in the Spirit. He says that trying to explain what life in the Spirit is all about is like someone trying to describe the stained glass windows of a church to someone standing on the outside of the building. No matter how eloquently you describe them - it is only by being inside that you really get it. Until we step into God's Kingdom by being born again we cannot see spiritual truths but are blind to them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Helper

On one of the rare mornings, on our holiday, earmarked for doing our own stuff, Joe went off the get a hair cut while I took mum around Sainsbury’s supermarket.

We don’t have a Sainsbury’s in Inverness. There are a number of Tesco shops, a Morrisons, and a Co-op.

Being as mum is a little shaky on her feet, we commandeered a wheelchair and she balanced a basket on her knee. There wasn’t much on the list, just enough to see her through to the weekend – bread and milk and other necessities. My niece, Kelly does the proper weekly shop with her at the weekend.

The wheelchair wasn’t heavy to push, but there were lost of trolleys and lots of shelf stackers to get in the way. In Tesco I might have been able to navigate blindfolded to the UHT milk, but not in Sainsbury’s. Rather than toil up and down the aisles looking for what we needed, I kept tapping the shelf stackers on the shoulder and asking them for directions. They were incredibly well informed. Such and such an item was on aisle 37, or aisle 24 or whatever. My mum was very impressed with how swiftly we got around and finished the shopping.

The shelf stackers knew exactly where everything was and in some cases, rather than just tell me, they walked beside me till we got to the right place. Without their help we could have been wandering around aimlessly for ages, perhaps giving up altogether!

I have just been reading about the Holy Spirit.

How often are we like the shoppers in a supermarket, endlessly trailing up and down the aisles trying to track down some obscure ingredient for a dish? Asking the person who knows where we will find what we are looking for makes things so much easier. Likewise, we stumble through life, looking for answers, scraping our spiritual knees in the process when we could ask the One who knows!

Jesus does not call the Holy Spirit the Helper without a good reason. How sad that He gives us a Helper, and we don’t ask for help! Our walk with Jesus could be a really vibrant experience if we used the help the Holy Spirit offers.

It is not enough really to merely comment that we need to use the help the Holy Spirit offers. What am I going to ask Him to help me with?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Holiday snapshots

I have just arrived home from a visit down south to see family. The rest of the this blog could be the equivalent of digging out the holiday photos and showing you endless pictures of people you are never likely to meet. So, I will hand out a few awards instead!

The award for the least stressful day – there wasn’t one! When you have a huge family and feel obliged to make sure that you visit each and every member and they don’t live near each other it is stressful. The one day that we did not visit anyone – the Monday – that was stressful because of all the phone calls I had to make to arrange who to visit and when!

The award for the most stressful day – take your pick! I am opting for Thursday – visiting my sister in Northampton. She has moved house, not that I could ever find her previous house either. Northampton isn’t a part of the UK that I know well. I had been to the library earlier on in the week and downloaded an AA route to the house. It worked up to a point. There were considerably more traffic lights than the route mentioned. Once we found the place, we had a great time, catching up with the news and re-acquainting myself with nieces and nephews. They told me a quicker way home, which might have actually been quicker in daylight! Driving around Northamptonshire villages late at night is not fun.

Award for the best family cooked meal – there were a lot of cooked meals to chomp our way through. Every sibling invited us to dinner! I have no wish to eat pasta for quite a while - that seemed to be the staple ingredient for most meals. The prize goes to my brother who cooked a wonderful chicken and rice meal with spinach. He also let us join in on the preparation of the desert – a wonderful lime cheesecake. I de-rinded the limes! Second prize, if there was one, goes to my youngest sister. It was the opposite of the feeding of the five thousand with the loaves and fishes. She had cooked to feed the five thousand, and half a dozen of us polished the lot off.

Award for most entertaining company – not relatives at all this time, but a very good friend. That is not to say that visiting the family was not entertaining because it was. It is just that my family don’t do magic tricks and these folks do. On a previous visit, many years ago, their younger son, practically set himself on fire juggling with lighted batons! This time he kept the repertoire down to card tricks. It is all about miss direction and having the right kind of patter!

Award for nicest niece or nephew – they are all rather wonderful people and a real credit to their parents. I have to admit that my personal favourite is Harriet – not for anything she did this time round, but on a previous visit. She had been extraordinarily kind and like an elephant, I don’t forget! She is a person that looks out for others and makes people feel comfortable and at ease. Her sister, Charlotte, is wonderful too! She loves poetry! She is the one most likely to change the world – lots of opinions about what is wrong and what needs to be done to improve things. Most likely to make it to the Olympics, if they have women’s rugby as a sport, is my niece Emma who is going to a rugby festival in Great Yarmouth this Easter weekend.

Award for best family pet – apart from one cat and a guinea pig, they are all into dogs. I think there are as many dogs as there are nieces and nephews. We only had brief glimpses of some of them – like Bailey, the bulldog. He belongs to Kelly who bought him and then discovered she was pregnant. She is optimistic that there won’t be any problems. Jethro, who belongs to my sister Sharon, has to be the most laid back and relaxed of them all. He hangs around horses most of the day. Bob gets the prize though. He belongs to another sister, Carla, a black Labrador, endlessly patient and mild mannered. We took him out for a walk, or a “pull”. The village playing field was overrun with children learning how to play football, so we found an old footpath and took him down there. Lots of puddles to throw sticks into that Bob gloriously chased down!

Holiday snapshots

I have just arrived home from a visit down south to see family. The rest of the this blog could be the equivalent of digging out the holiday photos and showing you endless pictures of people you are never likely to meet. So, I will hand out a few awards instead!

The award for the least stressful day – there wasn’t one! When you have a huge family and feel obliged to make sure that you visit each and every member and they don’t live near each other it is stressful. The one day that we did not visit anyone – the Monday – that was stressful because of all the phone calls I had to make to arrange who to visit and when!

The award for the most stressful day – take your pick! I am opting for Thursday – visiting my sister in Northampton. She has moved house, not that I could ever find her previous house either. Northampton isn’t a part of the UK that I know well. I had been to the library earlier on in the week and downloaded an AA route to the house. I worked up to a point. There were considerably more traffic lights than the route mentioned. Once we found the place, we had a great time, catching up with the news and re-acquainting myself with nieces and nephews. They told me a quicker way home, which might have actually been quicker in daylight! Driving around Northamptonshire villages late at night is not fun.

Award for the best family cooked meal – there were a lot of cooked meals to chomp our way through. Every sibling invited us to dinner! I have no wish to eat pasta for quite a while - that seemed to be the staple ingredient for most meals. The prize goes to my brother who cooked a wonderful chicken and rice meal with spinach. He also let us join in on the preparation of the desert – a wonderful lime cheesecake. I de-rinded the limes! Second prize, if there was one, goes to my youngest sister. It was the opposite of the feeding of the five thousand with the loaves and fishes. She had cooked to feed the five thousand, and half a dozen of us polished the lot off.

Award for most entertaining company – not relatives at all this time, but a very good friend. That is not to say that visiting the family was not entertaining because it was. It is just that my family don’t do magic tricks and these folks do. On a previous visit, many years ago, their younger son, practically set himself on fire juggling with lighted batons! This time he kept the repertoire down to card tricks. It is all about miss direction and having the right kind of patter!

Award for nicest niece or nephew – they are all rather wonderful people and a real credit to their parents. I have to admit that my personal favourite is Harriet – not for anything she did this time round, but on a previous visit. She had been extraordinarily kind and like an elephant, I don’t forget! She is a person that looks out for others and makes people feel comfortable and at ease. Her sister, Charlotte, is wonderful too! She loves poetry! She is the one most likely to change the world – lots of opinions about what is wrong and what needs to be done to improve things. Most likely to make it to the Olympics, if they have women’s rugby as a sport, is my niece Emma who is going to a rugby festival in Great Yarmouth this Easter weekend.

Award for best family pet – apart from one cat and a guinea pig, they are all into dogs. I think there are as many dogs as there are nieces and nephews. We only had brief glimpses of some of them – like Bailey, the bulldog. He belongs to Kelly who bought him and then discovered she was pregnant. She is optimistic that there won’t be any problems. Jethro, who belongs to my sister Sharon, has to be the most laid back and relaxed of them all. He hangs around horses most of the day. Bob gets the prize though. He belongs to another sister, Carla, a black Labrador, endlessly patient and mild mannered. We took him out for a walk, or a “pull”. The village playing field was overrun with children learning how to play football, so we found an old footpath and took him down there. Lots of puddles to throw sticks into that Bob gloriously chased down!