Category Archives: Books

We Are Satellites – An Interview with Martin Saunders

Ok, obvious one to start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wrote We Are Satellites?

I enjoy an obvious question. I’m Martin, and I’ve been involved in youth ministry for the last 20 years. I guess I have dedicated my entire working life to helping young people connect with Jesus, and to resourcing the amazing people who work with teenagers up-and-down the country. I work for an organisation called Youthscape, and I’m the youth minister at my church in Surrey. I’m also a parent of two teenagers (and two younger boys) and so I am massively invested – on a lot of levels – in helping young people understand that there really is a God who loves them and wants to be in relationship with them. I suppose this book is the obvious outworking of that passion.


And why is it called We Are Satellites?

The book has a single clear metaphor at its heart. It’s the same metaphor that we are using in the Satellites youth event (www.wearesatellites.com), which is launching next summer at the East of England Showground (taking some of the place of Soul Survivor). Here’s the idea in its simplest form: we tend as humans to put ourselves at the centre of our lives, and we think the world revolves around us. But ultimately we all know that that approach to life is flawed, and fails you in the end. Life in all its fullness is only ever found when we put God at the centre of our lives – and understand that we revolve around him, not the other way around. So the metaphor is about orbit and priorities, and then the book looks at what that means in practice.


What is your dream for young people?

I actually wrote this book with an individual in mind. My daughter is almost 13 years old, and had got to a point in her life where she was asking some big questions. Even though she has grown up in church, she admitted that she just didn’t really understand what this ‘God stuff’ was all about. So I asked her one day, if I wrote it down in a book, would she read it? She said that she would, and so I spent the next six months writing We Are Satellites. My dream for young people is encapsulated in my dream for my daughter: I hope that (and the book will only make a small contribution to this) they would know that God loves them just as they are, and that the meaning of life is found in knowing God and building everything around him. That’s the secret to true contentment – and so much of what I see in young people right now is discontent.

What were you like as a young person and what would you tell your younger self about coping with adolescence?

There is a fair amount of teenage Martin in the book actually! There’s no denying that I had a pretty tough time, particularly with bullying and self esteem issues. I guess if I could talk to that poor (somewhat attention-seeking) young lad right now, I’d try to convince him that honestly, God (and often other people) accepted him just as he was. I knew that as ‘head knowledge’ back then, but it took me years to be comfortable in my own skin. Oh, and I would tell myself that you don’t always have to make a joke out of absolutely everything.


We’ve heard a lot in the news lately seeming to blame young people for rising covid rates, what’s your response to that?

In a word: Grrr (I know that’s not a word). I take no pleasure in saying that I knew this would happen (and predicted it in an article months earlier). And I only knew that because I’ve been around long enough to know that history always repeats with the demonisation of young people. Every generation of youths since the 1950s have faced it (not that I was around that long ago) – as teenagers, they are no longer innocent little darlings, and not yet contributing fully to the economy; they’re everybody’s scapegoats. Sure, some young people have been irresponsible in their disregard for restrictions. But the beaches haven’t been full of teenage holidaymakers, and the pubs and restaurants (mostly) haven’t been full of young people. Young people are the easy target.

What do you think has been the effect of 2020 on young people, and how can we go forward?I honestly don’t think we know the full effects yet, and in the future we may be dealing with issues like PTSD when it comes to COVID-19. But right now I know that young people have serious emotional well-being needs which need to be on everybody’s agenda. Young people already felt betrayed by Brexit and hung out to dry by climate change – they are growing up believing they’re a forgotten generation. Everyone needs to be investing in our young people right now.


Out of your 13 books – which is your favourite?

I don’t want to be that guy, but ahem, it’s 15. But maybe you’re letting me forget my pre-evangelistic football novel, England’s Messiah. I feel pretty proud of the new book, but apart from that it’s probably my previous one – The Man You’re Made to Be, which is all about facing extended adolescence as a young man. I’ve had a lot of lovely messages about that over the past year – I think it connects with people who don’t identify with traditional masculine stereotypes. It’s also got more jokes in it. Maybe I haven’t grown up quite as much as I’d thought. 

Martin Saunders is the Director of Satellites, a new event for young people launching August 2021, and Director of Innovation at Youthscape. You can buy Martin’s book from all good christian bookshops, amazon and if you buy it from BookshopUK I get a tiny percentage!

Two candles and a copy of Treasures in Dark Places by Liz Carter

The Riches of Darkness Guest Post by Liz Carter

When the clocks go back and the evenings draw in, so often life can seem murkier for many of us. Never more so, perhaps, than this year, with seemingly so little to look forward to, hope removed with anticipation ripped away from us. The world can feel a dark place for us. The world may have felt a dark place for some of us over years already – but the question is this: can good things come out of darkness?

I live with long-term lung disease and it’s always worse over the winter, so this season often ushers in a sense of dread for me, a sense of resignation and disappointment for all that I will miss. I’m often in hospital around Christmas or in January, and many times I’ve missed out on all the loveliness of Christmas I so crave, too sick to join in and be a part of it, sitting instead on the edges looking in. Now this year I’m finding the whole world joining me out there on the edges and I’m longing to journey with everyone to discover the hope that still lurks within the shadows, the hope that sometimes breaks through in dazzling light. The hope of knowing that God is here within the darkness with us. Because Jesus suffered the greatest agony we could imagine, darkness is not unfamiliar to God – in fact, as it says in Psalm 139, 

‘Even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.’ (v12)

I’m so captured by this imagery of the night shining like the day. This weekend is Halloween, which so often seems to prioritise the celebration of darker things, yet originates in the celebration of All Saints Day and those who have gone before. In the gloom of All Hallows Eve we find glimpses of the light of God’s glorious kingdom, which seem all the more bursting with luminosity for the darker backdrop.

I love the little book The Cloud of Unknowing which is by an unknown author, written in the fourteenth century. The central theme of this work is that we encounter God more in the dark, in the unknown places, as we surrender our control and take God out of the boxes we put him in:

“For if ever thou shalt see him or feel him, as it may be here, it must always be in this cloud and in this darkness.”

Is it possible that the darkness isn’t always a bad thing, but in fact becomes a place to meet with God, to encounter the shekinah presence of God, to be filled once again with the Spirit of God who breathes through that darkness? Is it possible that it is actually in the very darkest places we more easily catch hold of the glimmers of light – and encounter the God who holds us within that darkness?

I think that it is when we admit to the darkness and the pain that we begin to journey into freedom. Too often as Christians we have been led to believe that our lives should look all sorted out, we should look healed and whole, mentally and physically – and so when we are still in distress we hide it away, ashamed before God and others. But the Bible does not allow for this falsehood and instead calls us to honesty and lament when times are tough. I think the Church is waking up to this and we are beginning to share our despair in ever more helpful and creative ways, and as we share it encourages others that they are not alone, either. So many of the Psalms give us a model for lament, using words that are stark in their agony – such as Psalm 42 where the author grieves that he is alone in the desert, away from the temple where he loved to worship (Psalm 42 is a wonderful song to reflect on during the pandemic – you’ll see why.) Scripture is full of lament, of groans too deep for words, of rage and weariness and confusion before God, and we would do well to not only notice them, but to use them to help us in our own depths of emotions and pain. I have found countless times, that in the very centre of the worst pain God is still there, abiding, sometimes silently and with very little tangible presence, but there, constant and unchanging, a rock and a fortress, my home when I am at the end of myself. 

I was shielding over almost five months earlier this year, living in my room, unable to touch or hug my family. In this time lament became even more important for me as I poured out my sadness and frailty before a God who understands. I was living in the shadows, yet was reminded that shadows cannot exist without light and darkness itself is not malevolent, but can instead be where we discover great treasure troves that lift us and fire us with hope. I found that my sadness began to come out in poetry and short re-imaginings of encounters with Jesus, and so my new book Treasure in Dark Places was born. My prayer is that it will draw you closer to God even when you are hurting, and resonate with you in your struggle. I’d like to share a poem from it written for All Hallows Eve, reminding us of the importance of laying out our pain before God and then turning to him within it.

REMEMBER

Walls press in on me

fear is a gag, biting my flesh

dread shrinks me into cages of terror

shakes my grounds as hope impounds

in my night of despair

Lost in labyrinths of what might be

pinned under roaring anxiety

I pray and call, but do you hear?

I pray and cry, but are you here?

Adrift in a fog of bitter despond

a heavy cloak of gloom’s dejection

nothing lives here but agony’s grief

horror’s dancers escaping my dreams,

and mocking my screams

I turn and remember with anguish of soul

laid out in a pit of shadows in murk

where monsters lurk

I turn and remember and 

wait for the Lord

I sink to my knees and

praise in the storm

Your breath sweeps my silence and 

soars through my veins 

I sit with the pain

and remember again.

Liz Carter writes about finding gold in the pain and struggles of life, and is the author of Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places. (affiliate links)

A copy of the book "Deborah and Jael' on a shelf

How Do You Teach ‘difficult’ Bible Stories to Children? Guest Post by Lucy Rycroft

“She put WHAT through his forehead?!”

“The FAT closed over the SWORD??!!

The Bible is full of colourful stories. Some of them seem to have ended up in a sort of ‘children’s canon’, a repertoire we are happy to teach to our kids, stories which publishers are eager to bring to life again and again and again.

But some of them have not.

I wonder who decided which stories made acceptable reading for children? And who decided that certain stories should Absolutely Never Ever Be Told?

I’m sure that part of the answer is blood and guts. 

Stories like Jael putting a tent peg through Sisera’s forehead, or Ehud plunging a sword into the belly of Fat King Eglon (that’s how the Bible describes him, anyway) are likely to induce nightmares in sensitive children.

But I think there’s another reason. Many of the most interesting and lesser-known stories in the Bible raise questions which are difficult for adults to comprehend, let alone children.

  • Why does God kill Uzzah, simply for steadying the ark of the covenant on its journey back to Jerusalem? Is He a cruel and vengeful God?
  • Why does God command Joshua and his army to kill, destroy and plunder those who are living in the land God has set aside for the Israelites? Does God have favourites?
  • Why is the servant who hides his one talent thrown ‘into the darkness’ with ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’? Does God value risky investment over safe stewardship?
  • Why does Jesus send demons into the pigs, which cause them to fall into water and drown? Does God not care for the animals He has created?

Let’s be honest – when do busy parents have time to wrestle with these questions for themselves, let alone with their children? As an exhausted, time-starved mum of four, I can tell you it’s not an appealing prospect.

And yet I wonder whether we’re missing a trick with sticking to the ‘safe’ stories? I wonder whether our children need to hear a fuller story of God’s movements through history, in order to grow in their love for, and relationship with, Him?

With that in mind, here are some thoughts about how we can approach the teaching of difficult Bible stories:

  1. Get to know them yourself

It’s slowly dawned on me that most Bible reading notes or devotional books focus on the New Testament, or well-known passages of the Old Testament like Psalms and Isaiah. Fair enough – these are more easily applied to our lives.

But if we never expose ourselves to the difficult historical books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, we’re not going to be able to share these stories with our children. So: read some different parts of the Bible. Learn a new story or two. Share with your kids what you’ve been reading.

  1. Seek out books which tell these stories

Of course, when family busyness and parent fatigue kick in (like, when do they not kick in?), it’s helpful just to have a few ‘go-to’ Bible story books which can do the heavy lifting for us.

So deliberately look for children’s books which tell the hard, or lesser known, stories! My book, Deborah and Jael, is a retelling of this heroic and exciting story from Judges, written in rhyme with beautiful illustrations. It’s not the only book you could get to redress the balance, but it’s a start.

  1. Go with your kids’ interests and personalities

Sometimes we assume that children are super-sensitive. But children are just like adults – they have varying trigger levels when it comes to graphic scenes.

I was persuaded, when writing Deborah and Jael, to gloss over the tent-peg scene, and I think this was a good call. After all, I don’t want any child to be excluded from enjoying this story, and parents can decide whether or not to share more detail. But my kids love a bit of gruesome; their eyes light up whenever we share with them a particularly yucky bit of Scripture!

  1. Edits are OK

Likewise, it is fine to edit out the more extreme details of a difficult Bible story if you know it will upset your child. It’s better than not telling a story at all!

Remember, your children probably have plenty of years ahead of them to revisit Bible stories, going deeper each time. They don’t need to know all the details now. Focus on the main facts of the story, gloss over any details which they might find traumatic, and share instead what we learn about God from the passage in question.

  1. It’s OK not to have the ‘answer’

As parents, we get used to answering every question, from “Why is grass green?” to “Do starfish have eyes?”. We’re expected to just know the answers. When I tell my kids I can’t explain why the tide goes in and out because I was never very good at science or geography, and my degree was in music, they look at me like I’ve been washed up in said tide. Thank goodness for Auntie Google.

But when it comes to sharing the Bible with our kids, it’s perfectly OK not to know the answer to a difficult question. We can turn it around by saying, “What do you think?” or “Maybe we should think about this over the next few days” or “Shall we chat to God about that and see if He helps us to understand?”

It’s healthy for our children to know, even from a young age, that some questions are big and don’t have easy answers. And that we, their grown-ups, are on a journey of faith too.

***

Teaching difficult Bible stories to children is not going to be easy – the clue is in the word ‘difficult’! But it’s also not something to be afraid of. 

As we explore the full richness of Scripture for ourselves – yes, even if that’s in a snatched 5 minutes, once a month – we can know God’s favour as we share these stories naturally with the next generation.

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

Lucy blogs at The Hope-Filled Family and is the author of Redeeming Advent and Deborah and Jael. She lives in York with her husband and four children.

30 Books That Have Shaped My 30 Years

As I hurtle towards my thirtieth birthday, I decided to put aside by 1/3 life crisis (it’s not a thing – but I’m feeling it!) and think about the 30 books* which I have loved the most and which have been the most influential in my own writing. I haven’t ranked them because that would be utterly impossible, and they are a mixture of children’s books, memoirs, theology and fiction. I hope it may give you some inspiration for your next read.

The Bible: Okay, this is probably obvious, but the Bible has been the backbone of my reading for my whole life – whether it’s been read to me, I’ve read it devotionally or studied it for an essay it has more than influenced me, but been part of the trellis of my life.

The Butterfly Lion, Michael Morpurgo. When I first read this, I was yet to develop my love of butterflies, but something about the ache for home expressed by Morpurgo stuck with me and it was one of the first books I chose to re-read multiple times.

Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson. Simply a lovely story, beautifully written and one I carried around in my school bag often so that I could read it in every spare moment.

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. It’s possible that this was the book which crystallised my wish to become a writer – and it certainly inspired me to start writing a diary – although never from a kitchen sink like this protagonist did – I definitely tried, though!

Soul Sista, Beth Redman. This was the first christian book I read as a teenager and I devoured it! I haven’t read it in many years, but I remember how much it pointed me to reading the Bible myself and trying to sort through the muddle of my heart as I entered my teenage years.

July, Karen Roberts. I read this story after returning from a trip to Sri Lanka with my family aged twelve; I came away still not really understanding the country half of my family were from, but this book gave me a peek. It’s not an easy read, it’s violent at times but it taught me more about the Sri Lankan civil war and enabled me to find myself in the country my Dad grew up in.

Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian. Oh how I loved this; and it was this book which began my love affair with books set in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s also has one of the few TV adaptations which I loved as much as I loved the book.

The Magician’s Nephew, CS Lewis. A world which is sung into being was always going to resonate with me! And in later years, I have loved discovering the rich theology that underlies not just this book, but the whole Narnia chronicles.

The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling. I know it’s seven books – but I refuse to pick a favourite! I have read these more times than any other, and listened to Stephen Fry reading them as I fell asleep for many years on audio cassette, CD and mp3, but I don’t get bored, it simply feels like coming home.

Mocha with Max, Max Lucado. We used to visit my local christian bookshop at least once a month, and I chose this because I thought the idea of a mocha sounded interesting! It was one I returned again and again to, as I found so much comfort and hope in the way Max shared stories of Jesus.

Cafe Theology, Michael Lloyd. The book that began my love of theology. I bought this from the aforementioned bookshop and it made me want to be a theologian – I began to read the Bible differently from then on.

God on Mute, Pete Greig. I read this the Easter after I first developed depression, and the idea of Holy Saturday, the day heaven fell silent captivated and comforted me in equal parts.

Secret Scars, Abigail Robson. I was given this memoir about self-harm after I disclosed it to my boyfriend at the time, he gave me this, signed by Abbie and years later I attended a retreat she ran and we became friends. Abbie’s honesty and hope was a beacon to me and I continue to recommend this first for a christian struggling with self-harm.

Wasted, Marya Hornbacher. If Abbie’s book gave me hope; this told me I was not alone. The writing is breathtakingly brutal and brilliant, and Marya put into words feelings I’d never been able to articulate.

A Grief Observed, CS Lewis. I credit this book for getting me my place at the London School of Theology. When asked what I thought about Lewis’ “The Problem with Pain”, I replied that it was best read in conjunction with this slim volume written in the wake of his wife’s death to best understand the breadth and depth of the problem of evil. It’s a thought I stand by over a decade later!

The Island, Victoria Hislop. A holiday read that remained with me long past turning the last page, it made me want to learn more about leprosy, about Spinalonga and I’m very excited that a sequel has been announced for later this year.

The Other Hand, Chris Cleave. This is a masterclass in writing and Cleave’s writing on scars has had a profound impact on the way I understood my scars.

A Psychology of Hope, Kaplan and Schwartz. I saw this book in Foyles the summer before I began my degree and I decided there and then that I would write my dissertation on how christians can respond to those who are suicidal – I didn’t know how much of my work this project would spark.

Mud and Stars, Robert Twycross. I was given this book before I embarked on a summer placement working alongside mental health chaplains and it struck me for perhaps the first time how beauty and pain are so often intertwined.

Night Falls Fast, Kay Redfield Jamison. A exploration on suicide, this is not what I’d call an enjoyable read, but it’s hopeful and helpful.

Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen. This classic has underlined much of my approach to my work and theology, that the pain we live through can be used a fuel for our fire.

Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff. A heartbreaking book written in the aftermath of his son’s death, this was the book that began my journey looking at lament.

The Message of the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann. A theologically rich reflection on my favourite book in the Bible.

Resurrecting the Person, John Swinton. Another writer who has had a huge influence on my own theology, Swinton’s concept of coming alongside someone who is drowning in their mental health problems to see them become more like themselves again is wonderful.

Faith in the Fog, Jeff Lucas. I love a lot of Jeff’s books, but this one has a special place in my heart – I particularly love the way he expounds the reinstating of Peter after that BBQ on the beach with Jesus.

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi. This began my love affair with memoirs, it’s a celebration of life and love in the midst of death.

Finding God in the Ruins, Matt Bays. A recommendation by Tanya Marlow, I love Bays’ writing but also how he casts a vision of God who, through Jesus delves into our deepest pain alongside us.

Those Who Wait, Tanya Marlow. This advent reflection came into my life as we were trying for a baby and then subsequently suffering a miscarriage and her pastoral and wise look at the waiting was a great comfort.

Rejoicing in Lament, J Todd Billings. A true ‘theology from the middle’, this book recounts the author’s journey with terminal illness and rich theological insight into lament.

The Girl Deconstruction Project, Rachel Gardner. Last but by no means least, this has a place not only because it’s the heart pouring of a very dear friend who writes of joy in the way she lives out joy, but also because it was the very first time my own words appeared in a real, hardback book!

*Please note, affiliate links have been used, if you’d prefer not to, don’t click on my link, but open a new tab and search from there 🙂

Baby Change, by Anne Calver – Review

Usually these days I find myself reading books in fits and starts, frequently having to re-read the pages as I’m snatching moments when my own baby (well – racing toddler is more apt) is asleep.

As it happens however, I read this in just over a day as I was stuck in bed unwell and unable to do much else but read.

Anne eloquently echoed many of my own feelings about motherhood, especially the tensions between calling and working out what that looks like as a stay at home mum.

I found the stories of other mums really helped to shape the book – proving once again that there is no “right” way to do things – that motherhood looks as different as we all do! The only criticism I would possibly level is that there was little recognition, or inclusion of a story from a Mum who’s doing it alone, whether through family breakdown, being widowed or solo adoption – but perhaps that’s another book.

The interweaving of Anne’s own experience with her biblical reflections produced some really valuable wisdom. I loved her thoughts on 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 which reads:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Anne writes:

“Baby Change does not equal persecution, but it can make you feel perplexed, out of your depth, weak, crushed and alone…Our feelings do not limit [God’s] power.”

This served as a potent reminder for all of us, whether parents or not that God reigns, that as tough as things are (and they are feeling pretty tough this year, aren’t they?) God is stronger than anything and everything we face (although we should continue to do our part).

I’d really recommend this book for Mums in their first few years of parenting – I’ve got a 15 month old and found it a valuable read.

You can buy it anywhere that sells books including Eden and Bookshop* and SPCK currently have 50% off all ebooks on their site until 25th March.

*Affiliate link

Breaking the Mould by Jules Middleton: Book Review

As someone still early on in the journey of motherhood and my own multi-hyphenated job title, I was intrigued to read Jules Middleton’s reflections on life as a “ministry mum” ordained with the Church of England and leading a church on the south coast.

“Breaking the Mould” is part memoir, part navigation guide for the weird and wonderful world of being a parent in a ministry context – however that looks.

Jules writes with warmth and humour, without dodging the sometimes difficult realities of parenthood and life as a minister. Although the initial premise of the book seems quite niche, I found so much wisdom and information in it that I think would be valuable to any parent whether or not you work in full time christian ministry.

I particularly valued the nuggets of biblical reflection and wisdom interweaved throughout; Jules’ reflections on the (in)famous passage of Jeremiah 29, so often pasted onto posters and fridge magnets was refreshing and encouraging. She writes:

“The word for God for the exiles is to embrace where God had put them…to essentially bloom where they are planted – to embrace where they are put; to settle, to build, to forge ties and pray for the area.”

In my own hinterland as stay at home Mum/author/speaker/charity founder, the book was one which inspired me to work in and with what I have at the moment in terms of time and circumstance. I was reminded once again that God doesn’t wait to call us and use us when it’s most convenient (in fact, He usually does the opposite), but that’s what allows us to keep relying on His grace and timing.

Jules’ thinking around the Sabbath rest were also hugely helpful; it’s something I’ve struggled with, to carve out time for a Sabbath when you don’t actually get a day off from parenthood! Again, the reflections in the book don’t ignore the difficult reality, cliched answers are avoided and intensely practical suggestions for recognising the deep spirituality in everyday life are worth their weight in gold.

Whether you’re a stay at home Mum, work full time, study full time or a mixture all of your own, I highly recommend “Breaking the Mould” – especially if you’re relatively new to the wonderful world of the ministry mum life.

You can buy Breaking the Mould from your local Christian bookshop or on Bookshop.*

*Affiliate link

Cold Cups of Tea and Hiding in the Loo – An Honest Conversation About Motherhood

Before you become a Mum, you’re told lots of things:

“Don’t rock the baby to sleep – it’s a rod for your own back”

“Never let your baby use a dummy”

“Breastfeeding is the most natural thing ever – it’s a breeze!”

“You’ll never sleep again”

But no matter how much advice (helpful or otherwise), no matter how many books you read or how many children you’re around, you can’t really prepare yourself for it. (That’s another thing you hear, isn’t it!?)

One of the best pieces of advice I was given, was to be honest about the reality of motherhood – the dizzying highs and the desperate lows and it’s advice echoed in Annie’s book. She writes:

“When we choose vulnerability, connection can happen i the messiness of everyday life.”

So, inspired by this and taking my own advice, here are my honest confessions about motherhood, a year in.

  1. Personally I’m finding parenting a toddler harder than having a newborn. (This one depends completely on your child – some breeze through babyhood, others are beset with colic and constipation – my son was what some might call an “easy baby”, but the same cannot be said for toddlerdom.)
  2. There have been times when I’ve missed my old life, particularly the freedom I had to work when I wanted and take every opportunity going.
  3. Making sure I take a book wherever I go is great for those car naps I don’t want to waste!
  4. I fall too easily into the trap of the “who’s more tired game?”
  5. Teething is a sure sign of the Fall and I’ve sometimes counted the minutes until I can administer the next dose of Calpol.
  6. Sometimes I regret making my son give up his dummy at six months old.
  7. On difficult days, nap times are my favourite time of the day.
  8. I quite enjoy daytime TV as company as a backdrop to pottering and parenting.
  9. I love going to work.
  10. Being a Mum is the most ridiculous, difficult, hope-filled, despair-making, contradictory, frustrating, heart breaking and joyful thing I’ve ever done.

“Cold Cups of Tea and Hiding in the Loo” is available to buy now from Bookshop* and christian book shops. *Affiliate link Head over to my Instagram and Facebook to get the chance to win a free copy!

I also heartily encourage you to head over to Annie’s blog Honest Conversation – it’s great.

Book Review: Redeeming Advent

We are well and truly into November now, so I finally feel happy to start talking about the upcoming festive season (in my house, I don’t start thinking about Christmas until after my husband’s November birthday, but now that’s passed it’s time to look forward to the celebrations).

So as we do all the practical things to prepare, it’s important that we also prepare our hearts amidst all the busyness and Lucy’s book is a great way to spend a bit of time each day to reflect and reorientate ourselves back to Christ.

One of the most beautiful parts of the book is the way in which Lucy reflects on her experience of adopting her two youngest children and how that, in turn, reflects our relationship with God.

She writes:

Advent, like adoption, opens our eyes to a new place, a better place, where the sin and suffering of the last place will be no more. Advent, like adoption, reminds us not to cling to our old home – not to get too settled here – because it’s not where we belong. Advent, like adoption, tells us that the tragedies of this life are not supposed to bring us down, but to make us look up…Advent, like adoption, brings hope and a new start and a secure future. Advent, like adoption, prepares us for that glorious day when we will be with our true, heavenly Father.”

Lucy’s writing is warm and easy to read, but it is also profound and communicates some really important theological truths in a really accessible way and includes some very practical challenges.

One of the clearest examples for me, is this:

“I don’t want anyone who enters our home this season to be in any doubt about what we’re celebrating.”

As someone who loves to co-ordinate my wrapping paper with my decorations(!) I’ve been challenged to ensure that my home doesn’t just look pretty (although I still want it to look as good as it can with a one year old running amok!) Alongside the prettiness, I want it to be clear that the beauty in my home reflects the beauty of the gospel, not just my interior design skills.

On a practical level, “Redeeming Advent” is set out in short and readable chapter for every day in Advent that can be consumed with your morning coffee and advent calendar chocolate – and I think you should!

If you’d like to buy a copy of Redeeming Advent, you can get one at Eden Books, Bookshop* and real life christian bookshops. You can also be in with a chance to win a signed copy over on my Instagram and Facebook!

For more from Lucy you can find her at Desertmum, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

*affiliate link

We Need to Talk About Race – Book Review

If I was pushed to describe this book in two words it would be uncomfortable and hopeful and the challenge of the book can be summed up by the words of Augustine which are quoted:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

I felt uncomfortable as I read, mainly because my own conscience was pricked. I have been guilty of believing that as a mixed race woman, I wasn’t complicit in racism, but what Ben does so beautifully in this book is confront false beliefs whilst pointing to the way forward full of hope. The way forward is based not on tokenism or shows of diversity; but the kind of radical inclusion that Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry.

This has to begin with a recognition of how the church has been complicit not only in historic racism, but in perpetuating oppression; through whitewashing of biblical characters (spoiler – Jesus was middle eastern and therefore not white!) and conforming christianity to white culture, rather than allowing it to be a diverse, inclusive movement.

He also highlights and explains the difficulties many black christians face within white majority or white led churches:

“The paradox for some black people is this: loving Jesus and understanding his amazing grace is one thing; loving the church, with its complicated racial history can be problematic.”

How can church be a safe place when it’s been so complicit in causing pain?

The best parts of “We Need to Talk About Race” are those which present how we can best serve those in minority communities – from ensuring that our leadership reflects our desire for inclusiveness (rather than having a token minority to salve our consciences), to not expecting people to leave their own cultures at the door and conform to how ‘we’ do church.

As the church, we must challenge racism in our pews and communities, because if we remain silent, we are perpetuating injustice that has been present for hundreds of years.

We have a lot of work to do, and Ben’s book is a brilliant starting point and manifesto should be on your summer reading list.

We Need To Talk About Race is published on the 18th July. You can buy it on Bookshop through this link (affiliate).

The Man I Pray You’ll Be – Reflections on Martin Saunders’ “The Man You’re Made to Be”

I’m trying to imagine the world that my son will be living in by the time he’s old enough to read a book like “The Man You’re Made to Be”. It’s probably very different to the one he’s been born in. I hope that Brexit is no longer in the news in 2024! 

I often wonder who my little boy will grow up to be; I can already see that he is funny and cheeky and often hungry, but I hope many things for him, many of which are reflected in Martin’s brilliant book. 

I hope that he grows to put his hope and trust in the Lord; that he will put God first even when times are difficult. I pray that he knows he is loved; by God, by his Dad and I, by our wider family and friends. 

When I was pregnant, the thing I prayed for the most is that he will be kind. We are so often told that we can and should be anything, and I don’t mind what career path (or paths) he chooses, but I pray that he will be known for his kindness. The Bible talks many times about God’s hesed, His loving kindness and I pray that as he grows to know God, he grows in kindness. 

I hope that by the time he’s grown, there will be no stigma around mental illness (and that I will then have found a new job to do if that is the case!) I hope that he knows there is nothing shameful about expressions of emotion; of tears and frustration and shouts of joy, but that these emotions can be expressed healthily or unhealthily – with any luck we’ll model some of the healthy expressions, but I know that if he looks to Jesus he will find a clear picture of how we can cope with our feelings. As Martin writes:

“In a culture of bottled up male emotions, Jesus is a breath of fresh air: a blue print for a healthier kind of masculinity.”

I hope that my little boy will know how incredible our bodies are and that will inform how he treats his own body and how he treats everyone else. That he will use what power he has to encourage and build people up, rather than tear them down. 

I would love him to know the joy of books and reading, his Dad would probably like him to love cycling (I’m ambivalent about that one!) 

I hope that he has friends who bring out the best of one another; that they will go on adventures together, have fun and be able to rely upon one another in harder times. 

And I’d like to echo the final words of Martin’s:

“I pray that you will be able to draw your identity as a man not from past experiences, genetics or decisions you’ve made, but from the unswerving know­ ledge that you were handmade by a God who says to you, day after day, and minute after minute of your life: I love you man.”

Martin Saunders is the Deputy CEO of Youthscape and you can buy his book from the Youthscape store Bookshop* or other good bookshops.

*affiliate link