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Last week I wrote my hundredth blog for this site – a milestone in my blogging ‘career’! So many of my thoughts have gone ‘out there’ into cyberspace since I began my weekly words of wisdom in July 2009 – but has it all been worth the time and effort put into it? My site stats tell me well over a hundred people decide for some reason to open my blog each week, with one amazing week recently when 375 people accessed it. What I write about is just something I consider might be worth sharing – nothing special. But each week I hope and pray these words convey some aspect of God’s heart – something that will encourage or challenge any who read them.

I like to think I have learnt a few things in this blogging journey of mine. I can certainly see via my site stats that some topics are more popular than others. I notice that those aimed more at other authors tend to lose or miss the mark with those who aren’t at all interested in writing. I’ve discovered it’s worth taking time to think up a good title for my blog – plus some sort of interesting and arresting comment to write on Facebook when I put my blog link up there each Tuesday morning. I’ve had some winners and some losers – some of my blogs have fizzled and some have, for no obvious reason, sparked a great deal of interest. Obviously, I still have a way to go to make my blogs consistently readable.

So I smiled when I realised this particular blog I am writing now is listed as ‘Blog 101’ on my computer. Even now, after writing a hundred blogs, I still feel I am in the basic learning stage of ‘Blogging 101’! There are so many skills and key aspects I’m sure I have overlooked and have yet to master. I think I often forget to keep my readership in mind and tend to use both personal examples and vocabulary that may not mean much to the average reader. I am frequently far too wordy. I play it safe at times and don’t honestly write what is on my heart to say on a given subject. I occasionally write my blogs when I’m too tired, with the result that my writing becomes stodgy and uninteresting. And some days I labour far too long over a blog, pouring time and effort that should be spent on my current novel-in-progress or talk I am preparing rather than ‘second guessing’ what originally came to me to blog about.

I hope my blogs will continue to improve. I don’t want to be lazy or shoddy in the way I write or too preoccupied with other matters that I don’t give my best effort to them. I want my current readers and supporters to keep on reading what I write, whatever the subject. I want new readers to find my blogs and be interested enough to return often to my site. I want to write with integrity, from the heart, about things I know are true and will hopefully build up and encourage others. But most of all, I want God to be glorified through the words I write.

So here I am by God’s grace, launching into my second ‘century’ of blogging, praying God’s wisdom and insight will flow through my words and the gifts of writing and of encouragement I believe God has given me will bear fruit.

May it be so, Lord!

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Well, I’ll admit it. One of the delights of the summer season for me is watching the tennis and cricket on TV. Some days both are on – and then I am faced with the excruciating dilemma of which to watch! Sometimes that’s an easy decision, according to who or which side is winning. Of course we all like to see our favourites or our home team win. But as I watch sportsmen and sportswomen expend their energies hour after hour on a hot playing field or tennis court, the sweat dripping off them, I find myself challenged by the effort they put into their game right to the bitter end. They might well know they don’t have a great chance of winning – but they keep trying, still determined to give of their best. And who knows? The tide might turn in their favour at any time and they might be able to fight back.

This determination to keep slogging it out challenges me in my own writing journey. I am halfway through writing my sixth novel. But largely because of a very busy past few months, I am only a chapter or two further advanced than I was around a year ago. Part of me can’t wait to get back to it and find out what my characters will end up doing and saying – but another part of me is definitely daunted by all the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ needed to complete the novel. You see, having written five novels already, I sense there is too much still to happen for this novel to fit into the word count usually required for books like mine. My main characters have grown and become more complex, with each needing space to resolve their personal and relational issues in a satisfactory way. So when I have finished the first draft, I know I will have to be brutal and throw out thousands of my precious words that I have slaved over these past months.

Yet I’m not planning to give up on this current novel. I’m in it too far to pull back. After all, my characters are real, so can’t possibly be left hanging in mid air! Besides, there are things I want to say through this novel, ways I want the storyline and the characters to impact my readers. And I am remembering too the words of Paul in Colossians 3:23-24:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

I have believed God has had a purpose for each of my novels and I believe this is true of the current one too. So in faithfulness I will keep writing away, endeavouring to make my runs, hit my boundaries and slog those aces! And however much I complain about the difficulties, I have to admit it is so enjoyable and fulfilling as well – and I am sure many of the elite sportsmen and women I watch so avidly would say the same.

But how about you? What is God calling you to work at with all your heart this year? Whatever it is, may God enable you to press on with passion and determination – and may you find great joy and fulfilment as you hit those aces and make those runs in the process!  

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Not long ago I was driving home from the city when a large sign painted roughly on a fence caught my eye:

A life lived in fear is a life half lived

I jotted it down at the next red light and then thought about it all way home.  It brought back memories of my own mother, whose life at times was quite overruled by worry and fear about many things and who, as a result, found herself limited in what opportunities she could grasp and what experiences she could fully enjoy.  It also reminded me of a poem by Davna Markova I was given many years ago:

I will not die an unlived life,

I will not go in fear

Of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

To allow my living to open to me,

To make me less afraid,

More accessible,

To loosen my heart

Until it becomes a wing,

A torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance:

To live.

So that which came to me as seed,

Goes to the next as blossom,

And that which came to me as blossom,

Goes on as fruit.

I want to ‘inhabit my days’ too, don’t you?  I want to be fully the person God intends and has gifted me to be and not to be limited by fear of what might or might not happen.   I don’t want to get to the end of my life here on earth and realise how much I missed out on because I was unprepared to take a risk or two and step out into new territory for God.  Only to ‘half-live’ our lives seems such a waste to me – and to be honest, almost an insult to our God who created us.

Yet sometimes when I’m confronted with a particularly daunting challenge, I do feel that old fear I observed in my mother rising up in me as well.  And it’s then that I have to take a deep breath, remember I am being held in the incredibly loving arms of God and step out in his strength, knowing God will never let me falter and fall.   After all, I have the Word of God on that.  In Psalm 34:4, David testifies:  I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears, while in Psalm 27:1, he states confidently:  The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?   

I want the seed of the gifts God has given me to germinate fully, to blossom into something beautiful that will touch and encourage others, and to bear much fruit under God’s hand, just as the poet expresses above.  I might not be the most gifted or the most widely read novelist on this planet, but at the end of my life I want to be able to look back and say that at least I tried.  At least I took up God’s challenge to write, pouring my heart into the characters and storylines I created, labouring as best I could to reveal more of the heart of God to my readers.

And who knows?  Maybe, by God’s grace, there will even be the ones and twos whose lives have been touched and changed as a result.

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Take a moment to sit and reflect on your life.  Really reflect, I mean.  What drives you and motivates you?  Who or what is at the back of your thoughts, as you go about your day?  Is it your work itself – is that what gives meaning and purpose to your life?  Is it your family or friends?  Is it your hobbies and pastimes perhaps?  All of these are key parts of our lives – but what if one or more were taken away?  Is there something underneath or beyond it all that would still make life worth living?  Who or what holds supremacy in life for you?

You know, sometimes I think we believe we’ve answered this question for ourselves, only to find that over time, our priorities begin to change and the lines somehow become a little blurred.  We embark on a whole new part of our lives – perhaps marriage or children or new career or retirement – fully believing we have everything in the right balance.  But then gradually we experience a vague dissatisfaction or disquiet, even perhaps frustration, as we go about our days.  What has happened?  What have we perhaps lost sight of, even if momentarily?

I say this with feeling, because I have to keep a watchful eye on this myself.  As a writer, I can easily slip into believing that my novels, plus the accompanying speaking and promotional work, are the ‘be all and end all’ for me.  And that can lead me down a rocky path fraught with danger.  For starters, it leaves me open to huge self-doubt when bookstores decide not to stock my books or when the novel I’m working on refuses to come together or when the speaking engagement I hoped would emerge doesn’t.  Don’t get me wrong – I love being an author and all that comes with it, but in the end, that can’t be what I live for.  It can’t have final supremacy in my life, otherwise I will find myself on shaky ground.  Instead, as I was reminded of so powerfully from Scripture this morning, for me Jesus Christ has to be the one who remains supreme.

In Colossians 1:17-18, we find these words:

He [Jesus Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In everything.  That means, for me, every part of my life – including my writing.  Once I get that straight, things begin to fall into perspective again.  Then I know who I belong to, I know who I’m really writing for, I know who tells me my true value – and it’s not publishers or booksellers or even my readers!  They are all very important to me – but I can’t stake my life and my wellbeing on their opinion of me, however wonderful it is.  With all my heart, I want Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life, to have supremacy over everything else.  After all, he made me, he knows me through and through, he loves me unconditionally, he died for me – and he is completely trustworthy.

How about you?  Who or what has supremacy in your life?

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