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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TODAY’S PARABLES

Today we welcome guest blogger author Mel Menzies author of the novel Time to Shine.

I had the privilege, recently, of hearing David Coffey, the main speaker at Keswick in Devon, following which I was given a five minute slot to respond. Now with a string of credits to his name, David was once my pastor, and was hugely instrumental in encouraging my writing career. On the morning in question, which happened to be World Book Day, David had been speaking about Philip’s meeting with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40).   Two of his four points struck me as highly relevant.

Philip, he said, was opportunistic. In other words, he grabbed the moment. But also, far from wading in in a Bible-bashing manner, he was creative in his approach.

Yes, I thought. Isn’t that exactly my aim!

My earliest books, published in the 1980’s, were testimony: my own, and that of others. Commissions from Lion Publishing and Hodder & Stoughton followed, one of which reached No. 4 in the Sunday Times Bestseller List. My God-given commission, from the start, was to ‘comfort others with the comfort I had received’. (2 Cor 1:4 paraphrased). Given that I’d had a fifteen year unequally yoked marriage, divorce and near bankruptcy, a daughter who developed a thirteen year heroin addiction, reformed and was drug free for five years, then died as a result of a single morphine tablet dropped into her drink at a BBQ, I had plenty of God’s comfort to share.

‘Don’t hide your light under a bushel, it’s not your light to hide,’ I was told by David Coffey and Edward England when I resorted to the natural shrinking violet state encouraged in a culture of ‘children should be seen but not heard’.

Fifteen years later my writing career ended, temporarily, when the necessity of earning a living arose. For the next fourteen years I had the pleasure of working for Jubilate Hymns, with people like Michael Baughen, Michael Saward, Noel Tredinnick and others. Delightful though it was, on retirement I couldn’t wait to get back to writing.

Only – this time it was to be different. I distinctly heard God speak to me again. And though his original message to me was to remain intact, he was now turning me to fiction. Like Philip, I was to be both opportunistic and creative in my approach.

‘Entertain your readers,’ said the Lord, ‘and they will absorb truths they might otherwise resist.’

Isn’t this what Jesus did? He told stories. Parables. Because he knew they – rather than a didactic approach – would stick in people’s minds. Where preaching a sermon might incite resistance – even anger among non-believers – a story about people like ourselves resonates. So a ‘who do they think they are telling me what to do?’ or ‘hypocrites, they should practise what they preach’ reaction is replaced with an ‘mmm, sounds a bit like my life’ response.

With unchurched parents and sibs, my yearning had always been to reach out to non-believers; to those who would never deign to pick up one of my books of testimony. Which is why, in obedience to the Lord, I’ve begun a series of novels. Emulating Jodi Picoult’s style, they examine various moral circumstances: a broken marriage and the courage to discern and use one’s gifts in Time to Shine; a dark secret in a family where adoption seems rife, with a message that we should none of us be tethered to the expectations of others, in Chosen or Cheated? It’s no mistake that the protagonist of all these stories, counsellor, Evie Adams, is so named. She’s a flawed heroin – as are we.

Enough to say that I received a phone call on the evening of World Book Day, telling me that the bookstall at Keswick in Devon had sold out of Time to Shine. My hope is that the Christians who bought those books will pass them on to unbelieving friends; that questions will be raised; and curiosity aroused. That stories might be the gateway to the God’s Kingdom.

Like Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series, the Evie Adams books are set in Exeter’s Cathedral Green (and other parts of Devon and the UK). Chosen or Cheated is due for publication soon.

© Mel Menzies Aka Merrilyn Williams9781910786055

SINGLENESS AND EUNUCHS

Today we have the second of our posts from guest blogger and author Ennrich Krtizinger. His book Gender Plus was released this week

Jesus calls those who are not married eunuchs in Matthew 19:11-12! This is so interesting! It is not seen as a negative or spoken of as a lesser person. No, but there is room in God’s Kingdom for those who are not married!

Even more interesting are the reasons why… Some are born eunuchs, some are made so by others, and some choose it for the sake of the kingdom! So the kingdom of God does not only consist of married couples. There is room for singles or eunuchs as well. How amazing is our God to leave room for variety and diversity! He even goes further to give this promise to the eunuch in Isaiah 56:1-7… a name better than sons and daughters.

Being single comes with boundaries, just like marriage comes with its own boundaries! The Bible is also a textbook for life and living so dip in and read more about this. A great example of a single person is the apostle Paul who wrote almost two thirds of the New Testament! Wow. Thank you Lord that you are calling all people back to you, whether single, married, or eunuch. Now that’s some food for thought!

Gender Plus is available now from our website.

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AN ISSUE WITH A BROTHER

Today’s guest blogger is Ennrich Kritzinger who’s book Gender Plus is published today!

Forgiveness creates the way back to love — more so, to unconditional love!

Oh, where could I go with this thing called disappointment that was stuck in my heart? Would it be to the one I blamed for it being there in the first place? Surely not! An offence was taken, maybe not given, and I needed to let it go. I couldn’t and didn’t want to carry it any more by myself. It clouded my view, troubled my heart and yes, even quieted my voice from speaking. It hurt! It hurt like crazy!

So I went to Him, Jesus, who is forgiveness, and asked for His help. My question: how do I set things right with my brother? How can I even face him, speak to him with this thing in my heart, this beam stuck in my eye?

And so He lifted my head and said: ‘Give it to me. It was never yours to carry. Give me all your disappointment, anger, hurt, fear and unforgiveness! I carried it for you. Yes, 2000 years ago: now exchange the beam in your eye for forgiveness at the cross.’ How amazing that God gave Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins on a wooden cross so that we can have wooden beams of unforgiveness removed from our eyes. With his one act of love, it was done! Now I could go back to my brother, with a whole heart again — now you can speak again!

Thank you, Jesus. For you are forgiveness, you are truth, you are love, and you teach how to love unconditionally! You are the way and you teach me the way back to a brother!

Ennrich Kritzinger, author of Gender Plus published February 29 2016.

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Who can we trust to tell the truth?

So a group of Argentine Doctors have linked the larvacide chemical being used in Brazils water as a pesticide, as a possible cause of the birth defect known as Microcephaly, rather than the actual Zika virus caused by the very mosquitos the pesticide aims to control. Although researchers disagree on whether the chemical is a likely cause of the condition, the Brazilian government have taken the research seriously enough to ban the use of the pesticide. Now I’m no expert in such matters but one thing really troubles me and has done for some time.

Who can we trust to tell us the truth?

Governments, big business, religious organisations, among others have all let us down in the past as the pursuit of their own agenda’s sadly colour the shade of whatever particular ‘truth’ they seek to promote at any given time.

Thankfully in the person of Jesus Christ, who said “I am the way and the truth and the Life’ we have someone we can totally rely on. His words have stood the test of time and still provide the solid foundation upon which many societies seek to build their moral framework.

We may not always get our bit right in following his instructions but at least he is always true to his word.

‘I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’

To discover more about Jesus check out this lovely creative book by Sarah Woodall  Musings through Mark