To Nano or Not?

Next month is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which should now really be called InNoWriMo because the movement is now an international one. I’ve participated in the last two Novembers, each one successfully writing the requisite 50,000 words leading up to what exists as an unfinished over 100,000 word novel on my hard-drive. This year I’m busier than ever and in the throes of a fascinating course on Shakespeare and his world alongside all the usual pressures of family and work as Christmas rapidly approaches. Leaves me with a question to answer in the next two days – do I go for it again? If so, what do I do? Do I continue my previous story, ‘The Roar of the Lion‘ and see if I can finally finish it, or do I do something new – I have the beginnings of a sci-fi novel rumbling about in my head all of a sudden. I really shouldn’t do it, but I’ve got this nagging suspicion I’m going to dive into the heady waters of the NaNoWriMo sea and see what comes out at the other end…

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Back to the Book

Back in November I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote over 50,000 words of a novel set in Sierra Leone, ‘The Roar of the Lion‘. It started off thinking it was going to be a sci-fi novel but quickly became something completely different. It was a highly enjoyable process, and one I shall certainly do again. The story, however, proved to be much larger than the 50,000 words would accommodate, in fact it might only be half way through, and has since sat languishing on my desktop waiting for me to find some time to devote to it. Christmas got in the way, and I lost the habit of regular writing that NaNoWriMo encouraged. The New Year proved to be a busy one, fairly continually until just now when the last of the big projects for the year, The BIGPicnic, has just gone. Now at last I am determined to get back to it and see if I can knock it into shape, setting aside some time each day this month. Target: 500 words a day. Not as many as during NaNoWriMo where I was aiming for 1,500, but possibly more realistic for this month with some editing included.

Word count: 50135 total at the start of the day

I Wish I Knew

Over the last few weeks I have been beavering away doing the layout for and organising publication of a collection of poems by a Sierra Leonian friend of mine, Rev. Sylvanus Alaba Nicol, called ‘I Wish I Knew’.

At last it’s complete, and available for purchase at £4.99+postage from Lulu. Of this £2.56 goes towards the Sierra Leone Mission which supports the work of the church that Sylvanus belongs to.

SPECIAL OFFER: If you are going to attend the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion Conference next week, you can pick up copies from me and so save postage (a flat rate of £5 to save me messing around with change).

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Review: Trash

Trash
Trash by Andy Mulligan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every year our daughter’s secondary school encourages the school family (pupils and their fami lies) to read the same book. This year’s was ‘Trash’, about the exploits of three boys scrapping out a living on a rubbish heap in a place called Behala.

This was a delightful, feel good novel, which I read today over couple of Tube trips. It’s story resonated with the experiences I have of people living a similar life in Sierra Leone in West Africa. It is well written wih a warm and playful style. Recommended!

View all my reviews

A Cash Conundrum

Since coming back from Sierra Leone, I’ve found myself in a bit of a conundrum…

Not surprisingly I’ve been thinking a lot about money; how to raise it, how to give it to our friends there, and how to enable them to become more self-sufficient. One story that keeps coming to mind, however, is that of the widow giving her mite in the Temple (Mark 12:41-44). Why does Jesus single this particular woman out? As a widow in a society without the Welfare State she was vulnerable and clearly poor and yet, despite her situation, her she is giving sacrificially. The amount may be small to those around her, but to her parting with those small coins costs dearly. You could read this passage and hear Jesus’ praising her generosity, or encouraging us to tithe. But is he? I’m not so sure. If you read it in its context, a very different picture emerges. Jesus has just been criticising the religious leaders of his day for the way that they flaunt their status and live easy lives on the back of sacrifices of others (check out his stinging criticism in the previous verses, Mark 12:38-40). Having denounced them for this, he then turns around and points out the poor widow who is paying her Temple Tax although it is more than she can really afford. It doesn’t say she does it willingly. Rather it implies that she does it out of a sense of duty enforced by those who will benefit.

The New Testament promotes a very different attitude to wealth. It encourages us to give to those that have need, not because we have to, but because we want to. We are encouraged to give because God has generously given to us and so we should reflect that generosity. We give because it is an example of the Kingdom that has drawn near in Christ. We don’t give because we are told to or have to. As Paul writes, ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)

…and there is the conundrum. I want to encourage the church to give to our family in Sierra Leone, and other local causes such as Young Life, and I want to encourage you to give to the church so that we can do this, and yet by asking I run the risk of falling into the trap of the Widow’s Mite!

Church Newsletter Article for Sunday 6th February

Kate Middleton Barred from Facebook!

Kate Middleton
Not this Kate Middleton!

No, not that Kate Middleton, rather Kate Middleton from Pembury, Kent. After two years of holding an account in her name on the famous social networking site, she tried to log on one day only to find her way barred. The reason given by Facebook? Her account was disabled as she was faking her identity, impersonating her now more famous namesake, the fiancée of Prince William. Facebook are reported as having apologised and looking into her case.

An easy mistake to make perhaps, although a quick trawl through Facebook reveals that there are plenty of other accounts belonging to Kate Middleton – it would seem that they have their work cut out if they are going to go through them all to work out if any are impersonators of either Kate Middleton future royal or from Pembury.

Impersonation is becoming a serious issue, especially in this digital age. Identity theft with the resultant potential financial fraud and embarrassment is on the increase, and we are often reminded to be vigilant regarding what we reveal about ourselves online and in the ‘real’ world so that we don’t unintentionally let slip anything that others can use against us (as football pundit Andy Gray found out this week with his ‘off-air’ comments about female linesmen).

As many of you will know, I’m a fan of social networking. I’ve got both a Facebook and Twitter account and use them to keep in touch with friends old and new and indeed all around the world. I also run a number of websites (church and hobby related) and a blog (online journal). During the next couple of weeks I shall be using both my Twitter account and the SLM site to let people know how we’re getting on in Sierra Leone – do pop by and say hello! I’ve become increasingly aware how careful you have to be in what you post as once something you’ve written is out there it can’t be retracted, and often there is the illusion that you’re conducting a private conversation when what you write is open for all sorts of people to read (the things I see revealed on Facebook for example are staggering sometimes, things people wouldn’t say in public, and yet write for all the world to see causing hurt, confusion and embarrassment!)

As a Christian minister, however, I want to encourage identity theft! There is a form of impersonation that is to be encouraged, that in fact is fundamental to being followers of Jesus. Paul repeatedly refers to our identity as being ‘in Christ’. He says that when we were baptised, we clothed ourselves in him (Gal. 3:27) and that we should put him on rather than our fallen nature (Romans 13:14). It is a challenge, although fortunately we have the gift of the Spirit to help us, but wouldn’t be wonderful if our Facebook accounts were disabled because people thought we were committing this particular identity fraud.

Church Newsletter Article for Sunday 30th January