Welcome!

This is the website of Claire Musters, freelance writer and editor. Please feel free to look around – check out ‘About’ for more details of Claire’s publishing career.

Watch this space for some personal blogs from Claire on subjects ranging from juggling a writing career with young children to what life is like now her record-producing husband has become a full-time pastor!

Thanks for visiting the site – hope you enjoy it.

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Accepting God’s adventures

In the run up to the school summer holidays our daughter was able to take part in the special celebrations the Guides were having due to their 100th anniversary. She has been part of Brownies for almost three years now. Her first weekend away with them happened to coincide with my 40th birthday so I endured a weekend of worrying and wondering how she was!

My daughter is so much like me it can be quite scary. Confident, chatty and sociable within circles of people she feels secure with, she becomes a totally different person out of her comfort zone; shy, fearful and so, so quiet. She won’t take risks, drawing back into herself to keep safe.

So when it came time for this year’s adventure weekend she wasn’t sure she wanted to go. I really encouraged her to because it was a special celebration and I didn’t want her to miss out (and we had paid a fair amount of money for it!). Well, she totally blew us away with the vigour in which she grabbed hold of every element of the weekend.

Her leader captured her mood brilliantly in a picture that shows her dangling from a harness having just stacked and climbed crates – her face is beaming with a huge smile and she looks like she’s full-belly laughing. It was a joy to see – and even better when she said that that was what she had been like all weekend. She commented, “I now know the real girl, the one you’ve been telling me about all this time.”

A few weeks later, the Brownie pack spent a day in Windsor, bungee trampolining and zorbing. Again, I wasn’t sure how much she would join in, but apparently it was all brilliant fun and “zorbing was the best”!

Knowing that our daughter grabbed all the opportunities set before her and enjoyed them so much gave us such pleasure. And that’s how God responds when we really enjoy something He’s invited us to partake in.

To read the rest of this article please click here.

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How well do we support parents?

I recently attended a day at a nearby church focused on equipping Christian parents. Whole families were able to go, and the organisers did a fantastic job of keeping our children engaged and excited about the activities they did while we had teaching and discussions.

I was really struck by one of the questions we were asked:

“What is the best piece of advice you have been taught about parenting in church?”

We were then given a few moments to discuss it with the person next to us.

Those of us sat together all said the same thing – we couldn’t think of anything we had been specifically taught about parenting on a Sunday morning (apart from the few comments preachers had given about what they’ve learned about parenting from their own kids and their own mistakes). This made me wonder: how intentional are our churches about teaching and equipping parents?

To read the rest of this article please click here.

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Interview with Ready Writer Mag

I have had the pleasure of being interviewed by Ready Writer Mag about how I got into writing, what books I’ve just had published and what my future plans are. I also give advice to other budding writers. Here’s a little snippet:

How did you get your first commission?

I worked in a general reference department of a non-fiction publisher before going freelance – it was great to work in ‘integrated’ publishing. Once I was freelance, I worked for a range of publishers and one asked if I would help develop an illustrated Christian book list for them. It was a fantastic time of learning and I enjoyed it immensely. I was down to edit one of the titles that were commissioned from that time. But, when they received the manuscript they weren’t happy with it, so asked if I would consider writing it from scratch.

How did you feel?

I was totally blown away – and rather petrified! It helped that there was quite a specific breakdown of what content they wanted, although that did also feel like a little bit of a hindrance as I started writing. But it was great experience – and training – for what I was to do in later years (as that was back in 2003).

You can still buy the book – it’s called Taking Your Spiritual Pulse.

Did you think the millions would start rolling in after that first commission?

Um, certainly not – although I did wonder whether I would ever get to the stage of being able to command royalties, as that was done for a very small flat fee.

And did they, the millions come rolling in, I mean?

Well, I’m still waiting on those royalties! One of the things I was shocked by when I started writing, as well as editing, is how little authors are paid. Unless, of course, you are a Philip Yancey or Jeff Lucas, ‘jobbing’ writers as they are called, do not earn enough to live on. It was very eye-opening to realise I could earn more as an editor than a writer, which is one of the reasons I still do both. It is also the reason I write articles for magazines and online blogs, as they earn me a bit of extra money while I’m working on longer-term projects.

If you are interested in reading the full interview, please click here.

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Let justice roll…

“Let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)

This weekend I finally caught up with the rest of the world and watched Philomena. It wasn’t something my husband really fancied watching and so it hadn’t been that high on our list of films to rent. But when it came on he sat there transfixed. The story was incredible, the acting superb and the subject matter chilling. So often we hear about the older generation yearning to go back to the ‘good old days’ and yet, however much we may mourn some of the directions are society is going in, it is important to remember that the past wasn’t perfect.

I wasn’t going to blog about the film, thinking I’d missed the boat months ago, and then I watched the news last night. As you are undoubtedly aware there are currently two inquiries looking into the area of historical child abuse scandals due to claims of an ‘establishment cover-up’. As BBC News reported:

“One is an overarching inquiry into the way public bodies and other important institutions have handled child sex abuse claims. The other will look at how the Home Office dealt with allegations about powerful figures and paedophilia in the 1980s.”

I know that we are still reeling from the facts revealed in the Jimmy Savile case. And the inquiry into whether there was historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland children’s homes and other institutions was first set up in 2012.  I find it incredible that there is a possibility that child abuse was going on at a high level within government. Today the BBC reported:

“Last week, Amnesty’s NI director, Patrick Corrigan said there were fears that there were ‘many more victims and abusers’ at Kincora [children's home] during the period between 1960 and 1980.

He said: ‘Allegations have persisted that paedophilia at Kincora was linked to British intelligence services, with claims that visitors to the home included members of the military, politicians and civil servants, and that police investigations into abuse at Kincora were blocked by the Ministry of Defence and MI5.’

It is not the specifics of child abuse cover-up that I want to talk about here, as I am at a complete loss to know quite how to respond (I also know that I am not qualified to share a well-rounded opinion as I know so little of the history). All I can do is describe the overriding sense of sorrow I felt when watching Philomena and then, subsequently, the news. Because last night it was also announced:

“Judge Yvonne Murphy will chair an inquiry into church-run ‘mother and baby homes’ in the Republic of Ireland. The Commission of Investigation was set up after the remains of almost 800 children were found in Tuam, County Galway, earlier this year. It was one of 10 institutions in which about 35,000 unmarried mothers – so-called fallen women – are thought to have been sent.”

However those young pregnant women arrived at the mother and baby homes, they ended up as mothers. I understand that some would have preferred not to have had their children. I also know that others would have realised they didn’t have the means to look after their children. But the point is, both in the film (based on a true story) and on the news last night, it was made very clear that mothers were sometimes either coerced into signing legal documents to say they no longer had any rights to their child or their child was sold without their prior knowledge or agreement. And often their children ended up in America or Australia, making it almost impossible for the young mothers to track their children down.

I know that as a mum myself my emotions really come into play when I watch things about children being taken from their parents, and so my heart bled as I watched the Judi Dench character in Philomena being told her son was being taken and she tried desperately to reach him before it was too late.

I am not standing in judgement on anyone – the nuns in the homes, the government who must have known what was happening. I do not have all the facts in front of me and I am not in a position to be able to do anything about it anyway. However I do believe that we should continue to push for the facts to be made known. It is scandalous that a lot of records were destroyed – that kind of action tends to knock any argument about people doing what they felt was best at the time out the water as that is deliberate cover-up. To hear that there may have been drug trials undertaken on children in institutional homes is yet another can of worms that needs investigating. How horrific.

What struck and pained me most last night is that so many of those mothers never found their children – Philomena at least learned of the successful life her son had had, but the news last night interviewed Helen Murphy, who found out her mother had been in the same city as her all along – Cork – but died three weeks before she tracked her down. How tragic. And how unjust.

Terri Harrison, who was sent to a mother and baby home in 1973 aged 18, told BBC News last night that the girls were repeatedly told, “You are here because nobody wants you… you are here because you sinned.”

What message would that have driven into the very souls of those girls, which would no doubt have lasted far longer than their time in the institution? Being told they were unwanted over and over again would have affected their identity and self-esteem. I am not condoning the fact that these girls were unwed mothers, but it does make me wonder what Jesus would have said to them – I suspect his message would have been very different…

As Christians we are called to “let justice roll like a river”. I think that when we hear of unjust issues like this we have a responsibility, first and foremost, to pray. Pray for that justice and pray for all those involved. Because they all need God’s intervention.

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A journey of faith

As I’ve mentioned before, our church is in the process of buying the lease on a council-owned building. We’ve been in that process for over three years now. It has been a long, hard road…

It started with what seemed like a miracle. We were given the heads up about a community hall that is based right in the centre of the borough we meet in. And then, amazingly our (now retired) pastor was offered it at an incredible price (they were almost giving it away), he shook hands and walked away believing we had just acquired a home for our church.

You can imagine the celebrating that Sunday! We couldn’t believe how, after quite a few months of searching, that God seemed to have delivered something straight into our laps. What a blessing.

Then we heard back from the lease owners to say they had decided to open the process up to others. What seemed like premature celebrations ceased and we started to wonder why this had happened. And, of course, some of us doubted whether it was the right building. We also had comments from some of our members asking why on earth did we need a building anyway?

What followed was an intense period of fervent prayer and nail-biting waits. We lost out twice during bidding processes, pipped to the post at the last minute with bids only just above our own.

At the end of each of those processes we should have been automatically disqualified, and yet both times (praise God!) we were invited to continue on and bid again with an ever-smaller group of bidders. Finally, after an interview process where I was suddenly asked to help pitch (yikes that was scary), we were picked to be the next leaseholders.

I have to admit I have found the whole journey incredibly emotional. It has stretched my faith almost to breaking point at times. I can still remember the sinking feeling I had when we found out our first bid hadn’t been enough to secure the lease.

The very next morning I was at a women’s breakfast and I can still remember thinking “I don’t want to go. I don’t feel strong enough for all the questions there will be, all the disappointed faces. I can’t get my own head around it, I certainly can’t carry anyone else.”

To read the rest of this piece please click here.

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Life is short…

Memorial services are great for bringing perspective.

I recently attended one for a dear guy who, at one stage of our lives, was extremely instrumental in our continuing faith journey. He was the first small group leader we had in the church we attended more than 20 years ago. We’ve since moved on from that church, moving home to help start another church in a nearby community.

What shocked us about this situation was that his death was sudden – and he was so young (just four years older than my husband). So there we were, a group of people that had come back together from various corners of the country to celebrate and acknowledge the life of this unassuming man who had had an impact on us.

He had been a somewhat clumsy, awkward guy, but so friendly and gentle. Everyone who paid tribute to him recognised those qualities. But they also talked about his absolute assurance of the truth of the gospel. Although a scientist, he had had no problem marrying his faith with scientific fact, and his faith had been the stronger for it.

As I sat listening to people speaking that day, I suddenly heard a gentle whisper:

What would people be saying if it were you? How would people describe you?

I know that the word ‘gentle’ would certainly not be among the words used. Unfortunately that’s not a natural character trait for me…

But would there be the things I would hope for, such as: kind, loyal, honest, authentic, faith-filled, inspiring, encouraging? Or would there be, as I suspect I’m viewed as currently: over-busy, stressed, aloof, overbearing, difficult to approach, emotional?

I know I’m overstating the case somewhat, but sitting there that day made me take stock:

What is it I’m investing my time and efforts in, and are they worthwhile?

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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Managing conflict

We all face situations that escalate and cause conflict; whether in the workplace, socially or at home. Whether we are instrumental in starting the conflict, or just get caught up in it, the way that we deal with it is down to us. So do you allow anger to rise up, or are you the sort of person that can’t start confrontation so do everything you can to dispel it?

managing conflict coverInsight Into Managing Conflict is the latest book I have had the pleasure of helping to put together. Based on a CWR training day that Chris Ledger ran, it combines personal and professional experience to reveal the factors that characterise conflict and offers practical and spiritual help so that we can learn to ‘handle conflict well’.

As I say in the introduction: ‘I learned a lot about my responses to conflict while putting this book together – and how I tend to allow anger to overwhelm me and cloud my overall judgement. I truly believe working on this book has given me some new and creative ways to approach conflict, and living a godly life generally. My prayer is that it will do the same for you.’

Conflict doesn’t always have to be negative and destructive – there are times when it is necessary and good because it can initiate positive change. In order for that to happen we need to understand our own behaviour and why we respond in the ways that we do, and look to God for creative ways to approach conflict management and resolution. If you want to go on that journey with Chris and I, please do consider buying a copy of the book – it is available here.

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