Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So over at Hey Look a Chicken yesterday, Billy Coffey did a post entitled Beautiful which I really encourage you to read.

He talks about trying to explain beauty to his daughter, and one of the lines : "She thinks everything is beautiful—sunrises, sunsets, and the puffy white seedlings atop dandelions come to mind—but she secretly fears she is not. I can understand. It’s hard to compete with sunrises, sunsets, and dandelions." reminded me of a scene I had written in one of my books. (As yet unpublished.)

In this moment, our hero is sitting at the beach with the FMC (female main character) watching a sunset. She is sharing about how she wishes she were beautiful, but she knows she isn't. She tells him how sick she is of hearing about inner beauty, because just once she would like to look into a mirror and see it. Main Character is in love with her, but can't think how to respond to this. He knows she has heard cliches all her life, and he can't just fob her off with "you are beautiful to me". He stares for a long time at the sunset, trying to think how to respond.

The scene is edited for ease of reading, and much of the action is left out.

"Sunsets are beautiful, aren't they. It's like God painted the sky with every colour he could find, and then designed a few more, just to surprise us."

"Do you know why I think sunsets are beautiful? It's not because they are perfect, or follow any rules of art or design. It's because when I look at the sunset.... when I'm sitting out here gazing at it..... I know there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be. Watching the colours dance in the sky, it makes me feel... "

"...it makes me feel like I am where I truly want to be, and nothing in creation could make me move from that spot or look anywhere else. They are beautiful, because I can see GOD shining through them, and know he is smiling at what he has created."

"When I look at you, when I look into your eyes, or see you smile.... There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than standing there, listening to you, and watching you smile. And I feel I hear GOD telling me how lucky I am to be seeing this unique creation he prepared."

"So tell me that's not beauty, and tell me you're not beautiful, because if your mirror is telling you something different, then you are listening to the wrong people."

At which point she dumps a cup of coffee over his head and tells hims he's full of crap.

But I think he might be onto something there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

RDM #18 – If it’s worth doing…

So here we are, on another fine Rainy Day Monday, and it is time to reach into the vaults for an old and undervalued post by a talented writer.
So I decided to use me today. :-)
On my other site, Seven’s Heaven, I have a series called Faith and Writing, where I examine the similarities between writing and being a Christian.  There are actually more than you might think.
Here’s an old post I did about perfection, and how it can be a bad thing.

Faith and Writing – If it’s worth doing…

I have heard it said that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.  My response to that is… Nonsense.

If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing badly. 
Particularly writing.
If you spend too much time agonising over every word, and getting it just right, then you will never finish anything.  There is a story told of James Joyce that one day a friend arrived at his house and found him crying over a manuscript.  He asked him, “What’s wrong.” 
“I wrote seven words today.”  He replied.
“Seven words?  But that’s good for you James!”
“Yes,” he replied, “but I don’t know what order they go in.”
writing We often get what might be called Paralysis by Analysis.  Where we are so intimidated by choosing the right first word, that we can’t even get to the second one.  So decide to use the wrong one, and then take it from there. Ray Bradbury said “Your creativity know what it wants to say, don’t get in the way.”
This I believe is the way to go forward.  People accept less than perfection in other areas, why not writing?  If I tell people I paint in my spare time, they are all impressed, regardless of the result.  If I take them to my study, and show them my paint-by-number set, they smile and say, “At least he’s happy.”  I play the guitar.  Really badly.  And people are okay with that.  As long as I don’t try and play for them.  So why do I feel I have to be perfect as a writer?  Why can’t I make mistakes, and learn from them.
The same with our faith.  Why do I feel like I have to get it right every time?  I know God told me to be perfect, but seriously! That’s not going to happen overnight.  If I make a mistake, and slip backwards, I beat myself up, and think I not be a real Christian, because I can’t get it right.  So what do I do?  I stop trying.

I fall back into an old habit or sin today, so I don’t even try and avoid it tomorrow.
But the secret is to keep learning and moving forward. 
To see every split infinitive and sin as an opportunity to become better.
Not to wallow in self-pity over spilled vowels and impure thoughts, but to vow to do better, recognising that nothing comes without effort.
To recognise that if I try so hard to be perfect, I will set myself up for a fall.
To know that if I wait until God’s voice is audible, or my creativity dictates the perfect book, I will have a long wait, but in the meantime, to just do the best with what I think I hear, and let him guide me to hear better next time.
So get out there and do it, even if you do it badly.

So leave a comment, and if you are also doing a Rainy Day Monday post, leave a link.  I know one day it will catch on.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Biblios Hokku – 1 Corinthians

And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Paul makes this promise to his readers at the end of 12 chapters of writing about sin and Christ-like behaviour.  He then launches into an explanation of this most excellent way, by giving us 1 Corinthians 13.  (Love is patient… love is kind… love does not… love does…. if I have no love… and the greatest of these is love… )

All this to cap off a book that starts with quite a dramatic promise :

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18)


The Power of God?
Love – A most excellent way:
The way of the cross

For a full list of books, and their corresponding haiku, go here

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review : 5 Cities that ruled the world



I got this book as a free review copy from Thomas Nelson, and you can find it either on their product page, or at Amazon or here.

The book describes itself as “The gripping and illuminative story of how five cities—Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York—shaped the course of global history.”

It is a short book, about 200 pages of material, so if you are expecting a lot of insight and detail you will be disappointed.  Instead it devotes about 40 pages to each city, and the role it has played in world history, including its spiritual influences.

I enjoyed the book, although I found it a little short of detail.  It does however make an excellent case for showing how the cities fitted together, particularly time-wise.  It was very readable, and I took about two days to finish it.  It did seem that there was less detail about the later cities than the earlier ones, and by the time we got to New York it felt like we were rushing too finish.

Don’t expect too much new, but it might just inspire you to go out and buy some more books about the subject.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faith and Writing : Where the heart is

For lent in the past, I have given up reading, television, internet and other things.  I have done this in addition to any other fasting or self-denial, in order to give myself time to pray and study the word.  It’s hard to say “I don’t have time to pray” when you pull two hours of TV out of your day.

And I struggle with it.  After a few days, I lie down, and reach for a good book, only to remember I am only supposed to be reading The Good Book.  I say “40 days is a long time, I am not sure I can do this.”  I start feeling tired from getting up early to pray.

But that’s normal, right?

I don’t know.  If you recall I am also an amateur writer; and every November I take part in something called NaNoWriMo.  This means that during the 30 days of November I try to write a 50,000 word novel. 

Last year I cruised through it.  I wrote late at night, early in the morning.  I don’t think I read a single book the whole month, and maybe watched 5 hours of TV. (usually with my note book next to me to make notes)  I spent a couple of hours a day writing, and if I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, I would do a few pages before going back to sleep.

And I did this for 30 straight days without batting an eyelid.  I mean it wasn’t easy, but I was determined!!!

So today is day 30 of lent, and I don’t think I can say I have given the same level of dedication to these past 30 days as I did to NaNoWriMo.

But it just goes to show how easy it can be, if you really want it.

So why do I find it easier to be a writer than a Christian? 

Why can’t I apply that same level of dedication and sacrifice to my Lenten discipline?

Monday, March 22, 2010

RDM 17 – Chew on this


Another Rainy Day Monday post, and today it’s a short one.  This post has the distinction of being the first post I ever did that got a comment.  It was supposed to be longer, but nothing I typed actually made the post any better, so I just left it as the quote.

Chew on this for a minute

"Gandhi tried to follow Jesus without being a Christian.
Today, we try to be Christians without following Jesus"
Brian McLaren.

I haven’t used a Mr Linky this week, because it seems an awful lot of work when no one has used it in the last year I have been doing RDM posts.  If anyone else IS taking part, feel free to post your link in the comment section. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Biblios Hokku - Romans

I have no proof of this, but I would imagine that Romans is one of the most quoted books in the Bible, after the stories of Jesus.  Let me give you some examples, and see if they ring a bell:

All have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of GOD (3:23)

The wages of Sin is death; but the gift of GOD is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (6:23)

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (5:8)

Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:1)

Paul wrote this letter to a church he had never visited, and we don’t know if he ever did.  So it contains more theological insight than any of his other letters.  A sort of textbook of salvation as it were, showing that faith in Christ is our only salvation.

So short do we fall.
Justification and Peace
come only through faith.

To read the whole Bible in Haiku, go here.  Stay tuned for more of Paul this week.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Biblios Hokku - Acts

I am back to posting about my Biblios Hokku, and I have actually finished the whole Bible now.  That's right, all 66 books in Haiku.

Today we look at Acts.  I don't think I need to say much about this book.  It follows on from the Gospels, most particularly from Luke's Gospel, and tells the story of how the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, and empowered them to build a church.

A church arises
Soaked in the Word and Spirit
Power from on high.

To read the whole Bible in Haiku, go here.  Otherwise stick around, and we'll go through the rest of the books one by one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Preacher-at-Pulpit-copy I mentioned earlier this week that I had done my first Church sermon on Sunday evening.  The total congregation was 61 according to the usher’s count.  That’s about 10 more than I was expecting at an evening service.  That 61 includes: me; my mother, who is contractually obliged to praise anything I do; at least three little old ladies who are so blind they wouldn’t even now it was me up front; some families in the back with kids so loud they wouldn’t even hear me.

And I was scared witless.


So what am I doing this weekend?

Well, tomorrow I will be entering a speech contest.  Which is to say that I will be entering the next level of a speech contest that I already won at club level.  On Saturday 20 March I will be competing against some of the best speakers in my hometown to see who goes on to represent us at the regional level.  Then if I do well at these level, I could be going up against some of the best speakers in Southern Africa in May for the privilege of competing in the World Championships of Public Speaking in the US.   

Am I nervous?  Not a bit.

Why? Because I do this all the time.  I have never made it to the WCPS yet, but my year will come, and I have routinely made it to the highest domestic levels, and competed in front of hundreds of people.

So why was I so nervous about sharing with 50 people last week?

Because it’s not about the numbers.  I can speak as comfortably in front of 1000 people as in front of 50.  There’s only one person I was afraid of; GOD.  Afraid that my message would not be what he wanted me to share; afraid that he would not be pleased with my efforts; afraid that I was speaking from my own heart, and not his.

I was nervous when I first started public speaking, but I got over it by doing it so often that it became routine. 

I pray that I never get over this fear of preaching.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Preaching, take one.

cake-or-death-cartoon-125-cartoon-texting-august-13-2009(Click here for more Cake or Death)

I did my first sermon on Sunday night, and boy are my fins tired. :-)

Okay, I think that joke lost something in the translation.  Like a lot of things.  But I digress.  (Frequently)

As I was saying: First Sermon -  And I think it went very well.  I got a lot of positive feedback afterwards, and most of it seemed sincere.  I was a little concerned because my voice is not one of my favourite features; I often come across high-pitched and whiney when I use a microphone.  (And am frequently mistaken for a woman on the phone.)  But my church recorded my message, and I finally had the courage to listen to the CD today, and I think it sounded good.  Deep and authoritative, not at all like the scared little boy I felt like as I was saying it. 

What made the night even more special, was that the worship leader that night was none other than my sister.  I think it is the first time our church has ever had a brother and sister team on the worship and the message.  It meant we had a lot of interesting discussions and planning sessions before hand about what music I wanted, and what songs she would be using.

But more than the fact that it felt good to be preaching, or the fact that people seemed to enjoy it, it felt… right.  It felt somehow like it was what I was meant to be doing at that moment.  It felt like…

…like it wasn’t all me.

Which had been my concern from the start; that I would lose sight of what I was supposed to be doing, and who I was doing it for.  I can handle people saying “What a terrible sermon.” if they take something away from it, but I would really hate people to say “That was a great sermon,” and get nothing out of it except entertainment. 

So thank you for all your prayers and support. 

And watch this space for news about my future plans.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pray for me … Twice


As I mentioned recently, I am going to be presenting my first sermon on Sunday night.  I am still a little nervous, and unsure of myself. 

But rather than spend the weekend sitting around re-writing and perfecting it, I am going camping.  Hoo Ha Ha!!!

In fact by the time you read this, I may already be on the road. 

Of course you may recall what happened the last time I went camping

So this time I have triple checked that I have my allergy medication, and will try not to die while I am away.  We get back on Sunday afternoon, which should give me enough time to shower, shave and nap before my big moment.

So please pray for me on Sunday night, and that I don’t die before that.  I think if I don’t turn up my rector might have some words with GOD about letting me into Heaven.

For those of you who follow me on FISH for Lent, I have pre-set the next few days posts, so there won’t be a gap.  For the rest of you, I’ll see you on Rainy Day Monday.

Monday, March 8, 2010

RDM #16 - Sand Dollar


It is the beginning of the week, and that means a Rainy Day Monday post.  For those of you new to my blog, this is where I pull a blog post out of the archives, and share it with you. 

Today I have the privilege of sharing with you a post by my blogging buddy Sarah Salter over at Living Between the Lines. If you aren’t following her blog, you really should be.  She is a very thought-provoking writer, and many of her posts have stayed with me for a long time.  One such piece, that she shared with us a year ago, was entitled The Sand Dollars, and I can never go to the beach without thinking about it.  Once you’ve read it, go over to her blog and say hi.

The Sand Dollars


When I was a little bitty girl, I began a personal quest: to find an unbroken sand dollar. Anybody can go buy one from one of those tourist-trappy little stores. But I was determined to examine every shell on the coast of NC until I found one myself.

When I told my mother of my quest, she told me that I’d never find one. According to Mama, by the time a sand dollar makes it to the shore, the waves have beaten it and abused it so much that there’s very little chance that it would come to rest on the shore all in one piece. She was born on the Crystal Coast. She had been raised with sand in her bathing suit and hermit crabs nibbling at her toes. She certainly knew what she was talking about. But still, a trip to the beach never passed without me scanning the sand for a whole sand dollar. And just as Mama said, I only ever found broken-up fragments.

I have a lot of happy memories from childhood. Most of them include being at my grandmother’s house at the coast and being sunburned, playing with my brother and cousins. But along with the happy memories, there are a lot of unhappy memories—many of them that I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I won’t bring up again now. And at some point in my life, the unhappy times replaced the happy ones in my mind and the sadness began to take over—pushing me very near to suicide.

I can’t remember which Christmas it was. But it’s been within the last few years… My mother, her older brother, her baby sister, and I decided that the best way to walk off Christmas Dinner was a nice, brisk walk on the beach. It was a cold day and the wind was sharp, blowing in off the waves. But you couldn’t’ve dragged me off that beach with wild horses. We bundled up until we looked ridiculous and took off walking down the beach.

I’m the shorty (5”2) in a family of extra-tall people. I guess I got the recessive genes… Which must also be where I got the blonde hair… But because I have short legs, when we walk, I quickly get left behind. Normally, I’ll sprint to catch up or call out to them to slow down. But on this particular day, I found myself enraptured by the sound of the waves and hypnotized by the waving grasses on the nearby dunes. I let Mama and the others walk ahead. I slowed to a stop, looked out at the ocean and was so completely overtaken by a sense of the glory of God that I thought time had stopped.

Mama’s voice broke into my thoughts. ”You okay back there?”

“Yeah, Mama. Go ahead. Catch me on the way back.”

I began plodding along slowly, watching the waves lick the sand, wetting it and then sliding back out to let the sand dry. My mind was wandering when I noticed that the last wave had carried something in and deposited it on the sand. I took a few small steps and then, I saw it: a small, perfect sand dollar. In awe, I pulled my warm hand out of my pocket and picked it up. It was just the size of my small palm and I turned it over and over again, studying it, wet, sticky, and sandy against my skin.

See, I had a Christmas gift for you today. I felt the voice of the LORD in my heart as clear as any spoken voice I’d ever heard before. I stood, frozen to my spot and looked out across the waves at the horizon.

For me, Lord? I blinked back tears and softly brushed the salt and sand off of the sand dollar.

This creature has been buffeted and beaten by the most brutal of waves. It has crashed into the sand. But it has not been broken.

Ever since I received that gift from God, I have kept the sand dollar and treasured it. I still occasionally hold it in my palm and feel the majesty of God and the overwhelming love. But that wasn’t the only lesson for me.

A couple of years ago, I went to the beach with a group of my friends from church. We spent a weekend and had a great time, even though it was still too early to swim. I watched my crazy guy friends “walk” down the sand on their hands and chase each other. And I watched the girls walk the beach, picking up only the most perfect of shells. The group had spread out all over the beach and I found myself alone, near the water, feeling the frigid water wash up over my feet and seeing what broken-up shells the tide brought with it.

The wind whipped my hair around wildly and I reached to hold it back with one hand. Then, looking down, I saw a sand dollar sticking up out of the sand, I excited reached down to pick it up.

LORD, another one?!

But when I pulled the shell out of the sand, I saw that the shell was broken almost exactly in half. Disappointed, I instinctively began to let it fall from my hand back into the surf when a small voice stopped me.

Wait. Keep it. This one’s beautiful too—because it has a story. It has a lesson to teach. It has a purpose. Its survival makes it beautiful.

For most of my life, I’ve been afraid for people to see my brokenness. But God is showing me that although sometimes we can weather the storms without being broken, sometimes it’s okay to be broken. A broken life—like mine—is beautiful too. My life has a story. It has a lesson to teach. It has a purpose. And its survival makes it beautiful.

So you know the drill. Leave a comment, and if you're also taking part in Rainy Day Monday then leave a link in the Mr Linky Widget below. Please link to the post with the Rainy Day Monday in it, not just your blog address.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Church is not perfect. I know this. You know this.

As a Church we make a lot of mistake, sometimes life-changing.

In a little over a weeks time we will get a chance to find out just how bad a mistake they could make. My home parish have taken the potentially dangerous decision to let me test my calling to preach. That's right, they've given me a slot on the 14th of March, with the understanding that if we all feel that this might be part of my calling, I will be doing so on a regular basis.

I am quite nervous about this. So pray for me, and for the people who are coming to church on the night of the 14th, having no idea what is in store for them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Long time, no sea.

It seems like I have been neglecting this blog a leetle beet. Two posts in the last 10 days, and they're both repeats or someone else's words. The truth is that I have been spending a bit more time than I expected on my new blog project, but I will try and remedy that in the next few days.
So stay tuned for:
  1. More Biblios Hokku. I finally finished all the books, and will be publishing the poems soon;
  2. A post about why lent is like writing a book, and why I am better at being a writer than a Christian;
  3. A new, quite unique, blog award I have designed;
  4. Pictures of naked fish. (If that's your sort of thing)
  5. News about a scary new adventure I will be 'testing' soon.

I hope I have wet (sic) your appetite, and that you will be back soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

RDM #15 – Jumping Jesus


Time for another Rainy Day Monday post, this time from my own archives.  I posted this one about a year ago, and thought it could do with a dust off.  Be warned, contents may offend sensitive viewers, or those not easily amused by pictures of Jesus on a hopscotch court. 

Jumping Jesus

As you might recall, I was whining a while ago about being funnier and more interesting on other people's blogs. Well here it happens again. :-0

Matt over at The Church of No People did a post yesterday about the poem Footprints. You know the one I mean. When I was young, I thought that to be a real Christian, you needed to memorise the whole Bible, be able to pray in tongues, and have at least one copy of Footprints stuck to your wall in each room. On the off chance that you have never actually met a Christian in your entire life, and thus do not know what I am talking about, click on the image and enlarge the poem.

Beautiful, ain't it?

But I digress. Matt posted an awesome post about how we sometimes see Jesus wrong because of this poem. I agreed, but what blew me away, was the comment by Jane D, she suggests that Jesus' response to the accusation about why there was only one set of footprints was "Because that's when we were hopping!"

How. Awesome. Is. That.????

I suggest you go and read all the comments, as there are some interesting and touching insights there. The simple comment about hopping, which gave me much laughter, also gave me pause for thought. It actually was a lot more profound than I gave it credit for.

So here was my response.

As humorous as Jane D's answer was, and it had me laughing out loud for a while, I think I like it the most. The idea that Jesus doesn't pick us up, but he says "Your leg doesn't work, that's fine. I've got a strong leg. Lean on me and we'll hop for a while. No, I'm not going to carry you, where's the fun in that? You can borrow my strength for a while. Okay, you lead the way. Of course I know how to hop, see, I can lift my leg as well. Anything you have to do, I did first. So I know how to hop. "Or maybe it's just the image of Jesus lifting up his white robes (not besmirched with damp sand of course) and hopping on an imaginary hopscotch court.Sorry if I made a perfectly humorous comment a little too serious.

I think for me there is some merit in that comment. Jesus doesn't carry us, he walks with us, and lets us rest our weight on him. If he didn't already know how to hop, how to walk with one bad leg, he would never be able to help us to do the same thing. Isn't it awesome that our GOD can hop with us?

I know a jumping Jesus, do you?


Don’t forget to leave a comment in the comment section below, and if you are also taking part in Rainy Day Monday then put a link to your RDM post either in the comment section, or in the Mister Linky Widget (if it is working).