Writing a book could change your life… but not in the way you might think.

SarahThis week’s guest blogger is Joanne Gilchrist author of our latest new title Looking For Love

I started to write a book because I thought I had something to say. When I submitted it to Malcolm Down Publishing it was because I thought I had a finished product that was ready to be published. But it seems that God had a different idea.

Twice in my life I’ve encountered authors who have gone through the exact same experiences that they were writing about. One was writing about ‘living by faith’ in terms of finances and at the time everything seemed to go pear-shaped in their own finances – the result was a penultimate chapter called ‘What do to when it all goes wrong’. The other friend was writing about overcoming challenges and living the victorious life. He found out he had skin cancer and continued to write all through his treatment until he was cancer free. He told me he believed there would be an anointing on the book because of that.

At first, I was not very impressed when I submitted my darling, precious, ‘perfect-in-my-eyes’ manuscript to a publisher only to be told that they thought something was missing. They were right, of course, and all I could think was ‘Typical!’ At the time, there were a lot of significant issues in my life that God wanted me to deal with but I was doing a good job of ignoring Him. To be honest, I was content to struggle on through life, ignoring the issues and living with the pain – because facing it could be even more painful.

So I smiled because I thought – ‘It is just like God to do something like this!’ To provide for me that extra motivation to deal with my stuff, confront my pain and sort my life out. It wasn’t enough for me to face this stuff for my own sake, I needed nothing short of a potential publishing deal to motivate me!

Have you heard the story of the dog who sat yapping in his front yard till someone asked his owner ‘What’s up with your dog?’ and the owner said ‘He’s sitting on a rusty nail.’ The first guy asks, ‘Why doesn’t he just move?’ and the owner replied, ‘It doesn’t hurt that much.’ Sometimes we can be so stubborn or lazy or fearful or … whatever… that we put up with pain instead of finding a way to move on. But when we find the courage to do something about it, we realise it is possible.

For me, what followed was 8 months of ‘author coaching’/counselling and at the end, some re-writing. It was brilliant and painful and tiring and restful and strange and wonderful all at the same time. And it totally transformed me from the desperately sad place I was in at the start. My counsellor, Sarah Grace, would say ‘even if it wasn’t for the book, going through this process will turn out to be so worthwhile!’ It took a long time before I believed her. At first I thought ‘Yeah right! If it wasn’t for the book, there’s no way I’d be going through this.’ But by the end I completely agreed. Even if I didn’t have a book to show for it, the transformed life I will now live was well worth facing my pain and learning how to work through it and move on.

Towards the end of the 8 months, I looked back and saw something fascinating. I realised that God was taking me through very similar lessons that I had already written about in my manuscript – Looking for Love. I had written about the desperation of being single and wanting a husband and the process God took me through to see marriage as He sees it, to rely on Him as my Source and enjoy the gift a relationship brings without it being the crowning achievement in life. Now I found the same principles applied to my life in a different way. The first time around, in Looking for Love, God brought me to place where I could trust Jesus the friend and lover and Lord with my heart, my relationships and any future possible marriage. This time I needed to learn to trust God the Father with my life’s purpose and meaning and with my work, my time, the ‘stuff that I do’ while the kids are at school. Each time, it was about trusting God to take care of my needs and dealing with all the blockages in my life that were causing me to doubt that.

I don’t know that every writer has had or will have the same kind of experience as I did. But I do hope that what my old author friend told me was true – that as a result of living through what I was writing, Looking for Love will have a bigger impact on people’s lives than if I had ignored my publisher and stubbornly sat on my rusty nail.

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It’s a God Thing!

This week our guest blogger is Keith Gentry, author of Good Choices

I frequently hear the phrase, ‘it’s a God thing.’

‘It’s a God thing’ could be attributed to a modern saying when we are not totally sure if a miracle has occurred. Especially when compared to that of the parting of the Red Sea; a miracle which was an extraordinary, inexplicable event that defies natural or scientific laws. Yet we know God was in it – all the way.

Have you ever considered the gestures of goodwill that are sometimes bestowed on individuals? The provision of a meal when the fridge is empty; a lift to an interview when there is no alternative; prayers when someone is facing a health issue current health issue. These are everyday acts of kindness and generosity. However, Jesus is right in the midst of these loving gestures and prayer of faith.

I have recently been studying the book of Esther. Surprisingly, the words ‘Jehovah’, ‘Lord’, ‘God’ and ‘prayer’ are never written within the text, and what is more, the New Testament never refers to the book of Esther. Many theologians suggest that the text is taken from a Persian government record and found its way into the Bible. However, throughout the meandering verses there is a spiritual parable about a young girl who represents the church preparing to be purified for her bridegroom.

After Esther was left behind following the captivity of the Persian Empire, Mordecai acted as her father – taking on the responsibility of looking after the fatherless. God was with this young, orphaned, Jewish girl, every step of the way. Esther was bold, confident. She visited the king without an invitation, and took advice from Mordecai, who said, ‘And who knows if you may have attained royal position for such a time as this?’.

In simple terms, we are all chosen to be used by God so that he can do ‘his thing’ in any way he chooses.

Going beyond one’s means, giving from one’s heart, empowering people to go beyond the normal in what they see, and walking in the will of God to be part of a God thing. This is my will to you all: allow God to do his thing in you and by you.

Good Choices is now available from all good bookstores and internet re-sellers.

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Fixed Lives

Fixed Lives tells the story of 13 people who were once caught in the cycle of addiction but who now are transformed. The stories are often shocking, always intriguing but fundamentally heart-warming.

Popular speaker and author J.John says, “To read this book is to come face to face perhaps uncomfortably with a lively, vigorous, full-strength faith in Christ: a religion of power, miracles and changed lives”.

Barry Woodward is one of those featured in the book. Barry was a heroin addict for 15 years. In 1996 a sequence of extraordinary events changed his life forever.

Barry founded a charity called Proclaim Trust. In 2013 Proclaim Trust hosted the very first Fixed conference. The conference was geared towards addicts, ex-addicts, recovering addicts and those with a heart for addicts. Among the hundreds who attended from all over the UK was Adelle Howells.

So often throughout Fixed Lives one is left with a feeling of hopelessness – how on earth could any of those people recounting their life stories ever hope to find a way out? The remarkable thing is that they all did. Adelle tells her story from when she listened to Barry speaking at that first ever Fixed conference…

“Before I knew it Barry was at the end of his talk, and then he invited people to say a prayer. Inside I was shaking: my emotions were all over the place. I needed to do this! Then Barry invited those who had said the prayer for the first time to come to the front. I flew from my seat and straight to the front. It was then that I felt the guilt that I’d lived with for years just lift straight off me. I was so relieved, and then I was filled with this amazing feeling of love. I’d been searching for that feeling of love all my life.”

Why not watch Adelle here.

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By Fixed Lives here or from your favourite bookstore or internet site.

Fixed Conference 2017

I recently attended what must be one of the most unusual, yet totally inspiring, church conferences that I have ever been to. Bolton, in Greater Manchester, may not be on everyone’s radar as the go-to place for spiritual enrichment, but Barry Woodward and his Proclaim Trust team managed to put on an amazing event which was so refreshingly different from the norm that one could not fail to be affected in some way.

What makes Fixed so different? With a gathering comprising mainly ex-addicts, those who care for addicts, and a good number of current addicts, these folks could really worship! I suspect that knowing exactly what they have been saved from brings out a greater degree of thankfulness than your average Sunday morning church crowd, but even allowing for this, the volume level seemed on a par with any of the local Premier League football grounds, including Old Trafford!

Story followed story of people whose lives had been transformed by encountering the love of Christ, often displayed through the love and dedication of Christians with a real heart for those struggling with addictions. At one point, there were no less than 13 people from the world of addiction on stage, all of whose stories are featured in the new book Fixed Lives. This book was launched on that day.

There were stories from around the country about some amazing work with addicts. Two of these were Ian Rothwell from the Turning Point church in Bournemouth and Joanne from Junction 42 in the North East. Ian and Joanne passionately shared their own experiences with projects in which they are involved to integrate addicts into local communities, giving them a real sense of worth and value.

Barry Woodward then incorporated elements of his own story in a talk that was entitled ‘Fingerprints’. His delivery was polished and would be the envy of many a comic. After Barry spoke, an appeal to others to find the salvation that he had found was met with an unprecedented response from over 70 people from the 500 attendees walking forward to give their lives to Christ.

Optional afternoon seminars were delivered by key individuals who work with people in the addiction community. John Edwards, Paul Lloyd, Gordon Cruden and Alison Fenning brought some excellent teaching. Moreover, Vicky Lloyd delivered a superb message which she called ‘Faultline’.

The day concluded with a roof-lifting workship celebration which was led by Mark Stevens and Anthony Farrell. More personal and inspiring stories were shared by Daz Armstrong, David Taylor-Lewis, Stuart Patterson and others. Then, Jay Fallon brought the final keynote to all those in attendance.

Overall, it was somewhat encouraging to know that even in the most hopeless of cases, there is always hope and there are still people around who care. Really care.

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AFTER THE FALL

This week’s guest blogger is Dr Mark Stibbe  author of Home At Last

As readers of my books will know, in 2012 I had a moral fall which caused a lot of pain to a lot of people, especially those I love. In 2013 I came to my senses and owned what I had done and, like King David, discovered that godly sorrow brings restoration. Shortly after, I began to engage in a two-year process of counselling. About three months in, the Father began to open up a locked trunk in my heart – a trunk full of hurts of abandonment and abuse going back to my ten years at boarding school. Once opened, I began to see how the agony of being left at prep school on my eighth birthday, along with the abuse that followed, had caused me to board up my heart – so much so that I was later unable to show my emotions properly to those I love, nor enjoy joyful intimacy and express healthy empathy.

As I began to unravel all of this with my counsellor, and those to whom I am accountable, the Father gave me supernatural keys to unlock my chains. And not just my chains but other peoples’ too. My latest book, Home at Last, is my attempt not only to tell my story but to offer healing to the thousands who, like me, became disengaged and disintegrated at boarding school, often to the detriment of their marriages and families as adults.

I wrote Home at Last for two reasons: Firstly, because there is a growing awareness in popular culture of the emotional damage done at boarding school. Secondly, because there is no other book or ministry that is specifically dedicated to bringing heaven’s help to those suffering the agony of long-lasting boarding school pain.

My prayer is that it will bring freedom to thousands of people living with a long-term legacy of pain and that it will be used to bring emotional health to those wounded by their boarding school experience.

Dr Mark Stibbe

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The Migrant in the Mirror

This weeks guest blog is by Patrick Johnstone with Dean Merrill

The migrant crisis is bigger now than ever before, with some sixty million men, women, and children on the move. ‘We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,’ said António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

And I have news for you. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Our world is full of war, poverty, terrorism, corruption, failed states, and ecological disasters, all of which uproot people and send them searching for a better life.

Some people respond to the tragedy with a shrug. Others shed an occasional tear, particularly when confronted with heartbreaking images, like photos showing infants lying facedown in the surf, dead after a long, harrowing water journey. Still others respond with anger or fear, threatening to round up the outsiders and either send them back to where they came from or lock them up and throw away the key.

Today, followers of Jesus find themselves in all three of these emotional camps. I am writing to help Christians understand the challenges our world faces and respond to these challenges in Christ-honoring ways.

Them or Us?

If you’re fortunate enough to have a roof over your head and a reliable income, it’s only natural for you to think of today’s refugees as “those people.”

But let’s take a moment and look in the mirror. What do you see? When I look, I see an immigrant staring back at me.

It’s easy for us to forget that our ancestors probably looked like “those people” when they made their journeys from the old countries to new lands in Europe or the “New World.”

The United States is rightly called ‘a nation of immigrants’ but even card-carrying Europeans like me need to admit that nearly all of us arrived after the last Ice Age!

I am culturally English today, but I’m the product of immigration. My Irish grandparents emigrated from poverty-stricken County Cavan to England in 1899, where there were more opportunities for a young doctor and his wife. They were not the only Johnstones to scatter across the world in those years.

Flowing in my veins is Celtic blood, Dutch blood, Viking blood—and not a drop of English blood so far as I know. My boyhood schoolmates quickly seized on my obviously Irish name, ‘Patrick,’ and teased me mercilessly, even bullying me. To them, I was one of ‘those people.’

The migrants scrambling today to reach our borders are no different.

Immigrants and Refugees

There are so many terms being thrown around. So who’s who, and what’s what?

Immigrant: Someone who has relocated (for whatever reason) to a new country.

Emigrant: Same as above, only viewed from the opposite end—someone who has left for a new country. In 1933 Albert Einstein emigrated from Nazi Germany. He immigrated to the United States.

Internally displaced person (IDP): Someone who has fled their home but is still inside their country’s borders. (IDPs account for two-thirds of today’s 60 million on the move, in fact.)

Refugee: Someone who has left their home country to escape war, natural disaster, or the fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, or political opinion—AND has been registered as such in a receiving country.

Asylum seeker: Someone who appears to be a refugee but hasn’t yet been officially evaluated.

In the years after World War II, Europeans largely welcomed the war’s refugees. The same happened in the U.S. in the years after the Vietnam war. United States accepted more than a million refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

But today, refugees often receive a chillier welcome.

Are Christians Really More Negative About Immigrants?

I can understand why some people fear refugees and want to “throw the bums out.” But I’m surprised when Christians embrace that approach.

This article was excerpted from Serving God in a Migrant Crisis: Ministry to People on the Move by Johnstone and Merrill. Now available from all good bookstores.

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Almost exactly 21 ½ years old

This week we feature the second guest blog from author Emily Owen…

Pardon? What?

If it were possible to wear words out through overuse, I would have single-handedly rendered these two extinct.

But until I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old, I rarely said “What?”

Or “Pardon?”

In fact, they may have been in danger of extinction through lack of use.

The hearing in my right ear was perfect so, despite being deaf in my left, as long as I positioned myself correctly I could hear a proverbial pin drop.

And I was expert at positioning myself correctly.

I had to be, my innate nosiness demanded that I didn’t miss a thing.

Then, when I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old, “What?” and ”Pardon?” became my mantra.

Due to a condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2, I lost all my hearing. In my case (though not necessarily typically), overnight.

A benign tumour pressing on my auditory nerve had to be surgically removed.

When it left, silence moved in.

Slightly unexpectedly for me, when the tumour left it was accompanied by my confidence. I’d anticipated that I’d struggle, just not how much.

I didn’t want to leave the house.

I didn’t want to see friends.

I just wanted to hide from the sounds I couldn’t hear.

Gradually, very gradually, confidence decided to move back in.

One step at a time.

I was brave enough to leave the house.

I began to see friends.

I began to meet stranger’s eyes as I passed them, rather than pointedly stare at the pavement.

The day I not only met their eyes but said “Good Morning” to someone as we walked our dogs in the park was a momentous day indeed. And yes, I did hurry on so there would be no follow up chat – one step at a time…

It was not long before my two-word mantra grew. What and Pardon were joined by “No.”

Friends began to say, “you should write your Autobiography.”

I laughed. Apart from anything else, who would want to read it?!

“No.”

Then strangers began to say, “you should write your story.”

I didn’t laugh then. Outwardly, anyway. I was politer with strangers than I was with friends.

Still: ”No.”

I did begin writing.

Just not writing about me.

And that’s how I liked it.

Publishers suggested I write my story.

“No.”

I started speaking to groups about my story, many of whom suggested I write the book.

“No.” No, no, no, no, no.

But, in the end, beginning to lose count, I thought: ‘how many no’s does it take to make a yes?’

And I realised it was the exact number of no’s I’d said.

So, albeit reluctantly, I made a yes.

And I began to write my story so far.

If you want a synopsis well, I guess you’ve just read it.

If you’d like to know more, I’d be honoured if you read the book. I promise it’s not simply a more detailed description of the momentous day I walked my dog in the park (although, thinking about it, perhaps it could have been: Jasper was a very special dog).

My memoir is called: ‘Still Emily – Seeing rainbows in the silence’.

Life changed that day when I was almost exactly 21 ½ years old.

I didn’t only lose my hearing and my confidence.

I lost myself.

I lost who I was.

Eventually, through pain-full times, I came to realise that I was still there.

Still Emily will be published on May 11th 2016.

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Book launch in Leicester – everyone welcome! Details here.

Check out Emily’s promotional video here

Start with a Smile

This weeks guest blogger is Emily Owen author of her autobiography ‘Still Emily’ which is due for publication on May 11th.

Start with a Smile

I could hear.

Then I couldn’t.

Overnight, I’d lost my hearing.

All of it.

I was deaf (still am).

I joined the 11 million people in the UK who have less than perfect hearing.

When I eventually began to emerge from the shock and depression and scariness of sudden silence, I picked up my ‘surviving hearing loss in a hearing world’ guidebook.

Or I would have done, had such a book existed….

The first time I told an assistant in a shop, “I’m deaf”, she looked terrified.

It was like looking in a mirror: I was terrified, too.

Where did we go after “I’m deaf”?

Neither of us knew.

I knew I could verbally tell her, “I’m deaf,” because I grew up with hearing and speech.

She knew she could hear me say, “I’m deaf,” because, well, she could hear.

What we didn’t know was how to bridge the hearing/deaf divide.

How to meet in the middle.

How to co-exist.

Since that day, I’ve had two choices.

  1. Become a hermit.
  2. Compile a bit of a guidebook of my own.

Tempting though option 1 often is, I went for option 2 (most of the time).

The first entry in my guidebook says, ‘remove the full stop after “I’m deaf.”’

Here are three tips for (hearing) people when they are met with the terror of hearing, “I’m deaf.”

Three tips for removing that full stop.

  1. Remember to relax.

Unless you happen to have a PHD or equivalent in communication, no one expects you to be an expert in dialoguing with deaf people.

We get that you are probably out of your comfort zone when you meet us.

Believe it or not, so are we when we meet you!

We don’t automatically know how to bridge that divide either.

But let’s start with a smile.

  1. Remember that communicating is about getting a message across.

If you and I can work out how you and I can bridge that deaf/hearing divide, that’s enough.

I speak a bit of sign language. My god-daughter doesn’t.

One day, in an effort to get me to understand the thrilling-to-a-three year old tale I kept misunderstanding, she resorted to waving her arms around.

She was trying to copy sign language.

She looked more like an over worked windmill.

But the combination of seeing her lips and seeing the windmill actually helped me.

To my shame, I can’t now recall this story that so obviously rocked her little world.

But I know I understood it at the time.

I’m also pretty sure that not many people use the windmill method.

And that’s ok.

In our own way, message was received and understood.

  1. Remember that we’re all different.

So you met someone last week who was deaf? And they could lipread what you said to them? Well that’s great. But, guess what?

We can’t all lipread.

A bit like just because some people can sing Opera, it doesn’t mean everyone can.

Some of us who can’t hear prefer to lipread, some prefer things written down, some prefer sign language, some prefer typing, some prefer….

Obviously, unless possibly you have the aforementioned PHD, no one expects you to be fluent in sign language but we’re pretty sure you can write things down. Or type them into your phone.

A good way to get started is to write/type, “how do you prefer to communicate?”

*note the question mark, not full stop*

And don’t forget your smile……

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Silencing the Truth

As a publisher I’m always intrigued as to which books generate publicity. I was fascinated therefore by this article about a book which, despite media silence, still managed to climb its way to the top of the best seller charts. The book in question is written by a top psychiatrist who became disenchanted with her professions over dependency on prescription drugs.

You see what Dr Kelly Brogan discovered is that she could treat her depressed patients more successfully through vitamin supplementation and good nutrition than ever she could through expensive pharmaceutical drugs. If you think about it the implications of this are huge. Drug companies actually have no interest in our health at all. They are motivated primarily by the need to make money for their shareholders. which is why when a book comes along that challenges the need for their products they start getting uptight and finding all kinds of ways of silencing their critics.

Media companies who often derive much of their advertising income from the same companies simply fall into line to appease their paymasters. Times are changing however and fortunately there are now enough people who realise they have been taken for a ride for too long who through a numerous health and lifestyle networks can still bring the truth to light.

Check out A Mind of Your Own here.

Cold and Roofless

This weeks guest blogger is Michael McMillan, a singer songwriter from Glasgow who has recorded three albums. His story and lyrics are reproduced in his book In His Eyes – Stories from the Heart of the Street.

Many people don’t understand the difference between homeless and roofless people. Homeless people may still have a roof over the heads, by staying with friends (sofa surfing) or living in hostel and/or homeless accommodation. But roofless people have nothing. They live on the streets under bridges, under cardboard or wherever else they can shelter from the cold rain and dangers they might face.

It seems that things have not improved one bit over the years and are steadily getting worse. Child prostitution, human trafficking and the steady flow of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants have all added to the problem. Lack of adequate and appropriate housing, apprenticeship training and employment opportunities for our young people and the constant draw towards escapism through drugs, alcohol and crime compound the steadily deteriorating situation. Suicide among young men in the West of Scotland is at its worst levels as hopelessness and despair eat away day after day and night after night. Recent BBC figures show that millions of children in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are living in or on the brink of poverty. How can that be in ‘Great’ Britain a powerful and rich nation where a  income of £30,000 means you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world.

I remember praying and getting angry with God about all of this going on in my country and in many other places in the world. I indignantly asked him why did you not doing anything about this. He replied loud and clear… ‘I did, I made you!’

Michael McMillan, is a singer/songwriter and the author of  In His Eyes9781910786031