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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Changing our perspective

I had a dream last night. The details are fuzzy but it took place at a book launch. I was listening in to two women’s perspectives on the food being laid on. One wanted to make more sandwiches. The other said it would be a complete waste of food and there was no point cutting any more loaves. The first thought that the food could go to someone who needs it if it wasn’t all eaten at the launch. While she was frustrated inside, she relented and left the loaves alone…

A little later I was lying awake listening to my husband snoring. For me, after we’d both woken up at 5am, the sound of his snoring was intensely irritating. However, I didn’t dare move him to try and stop the snoring as I knew that he’d had night after night of waking around 4 or 5am and then not being able to get back to sleep. So, although I was desperate for more sleep, and everything in me was fighting the urge, I was trying to see things from my husband’s perspective and leave him in peace.

The Easter holiday was another test of me seeing things from others’ perspectives. It was also a time to try and teach my children to do the same. After a fraught last (half-term) holiday, in which I juggled too much work with trying to spend time with the kids, I had made the decision not to work as much in the Easter holiday.

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Francine Rivers on writing, faith and her new book

Bridge to haven coverFrancine Rivers has written over 20 bestselling Christian-themed novels (winning numerous awards), and regular readers eagerly anticipate each new publication. Her latest, Bridge to Haven certainly will not disappoint.

Based in 1950s Hollywood, it is the story of Abra and her journey to find true love and acceptance. Abandoned at birth and never truly finding her place in her home town of Haven, the naïve young woman is vulnerable to the charms of the fast-talking rich boy who lures her away to Hollywood.

Once there, Abra soon learns what is expected of a girl with ambitions of fame. The price she pays is huge, but Abra has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted and feels trapped as a consequence. If she were honest with herself she’d realise all she wants is a way back home…

I had the great opportunity of being able to ask Francine about the inspiration behind her new novel – and what she hopes her readers will glean from it:

You have written about such varied subjects – a retelling of Hosea; the persecution of Christians in Roman gladiator times; the tradition of the sin-eater in 1850s Appalachia. Each one of them is written so expertly it seems that you must have immersed yourself in the subject. How do you go about researching each new topic?

“Almost every story begins with a question or issue with which I’m struggling, and each story seems to dictate the time in which it needs to be told. For example, when I was struggling with the question of how to share my faith with unsaved family and friends who didn’t want to hear anything about Jesus, I thought of the early martyrs who died in Roman arenas. The result was A Voice in the Wind.

“The Scarlet Thread came from a study of sovereignty and a cross-country trip several friends and I took, following the Oregon Trail. Local museums showed story after story of people setting off to find a better life. Hardship and tragedy followed them across the prairie – along with the question: who is in control of our lives?

“What is the difference between guilt and conviction was a question that fit the Appalachian highlands custom of sin eating, a practice brought over in the early days from Scotland and Wales. The result was The Last Sin Eater. And The Shofar Blew came out of questions on how to build a church in modern times amidst massive building projects that often destroy congregations.

“In each case, once the time and place are set, it’s a matter of immersing myself in the time period, finding good books, finding pictures, making binders with dividers between subject matter – what people wore, what their homes and daily lives were like, the political atmosphere, music, customs, etc. I even listen to music that fits the time period while I’m working. The writing process is a quest for answers and a journey with characters that become real people to me. Writing a story is my way of worshipping and praising the Lord.”

To read the rest of my interview with Francine, please click here and for a review of the book please click herepic_full_Rivers_Francine

 

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Let us never lose the wonder – or our enthusiasm…

The school Easter holidays are now in full swing; it seems strange this year that Easter Sunday is right at the end of the holiday as it creates quite a build up – the kids were excited about Easter well before school broke up!

Writing for a range of ‘dated publications’ such as Bible study guides means that I actually spend time reflecting on Easter for months before it is upon us. I have a set of notes out for Easter but probably finished writing them well over six months ago. Such long lead times can mean you feel out of kilter with the calendar at times.

But I can also find that social media can be awash with too much information about a certain event in the Church calendar. That, coupled with our general over-busyness, could mean that, while we see all the articles and postings about Easter, it leaves us somewhat untouched and unchanged.

What a shame, because this truly is the pivotal part of our story as believers. Without Jesus’ resolute determination to see His destiny completed we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the grace-filled relationship with God we have as Christians. I know you know that – but I also know how easy it is to say it and not be affected by it.

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Celebrating mothers – and my mum in particular :)

mum and ClaireAs we approach Mother’s Day, it felt appropriate for me to focus on motherhood – and the huge impact our mothers have on us. When I wrote about International Women’s Day, which we also celebrated this month, I spoke about what a privilege it is to be a mother to my own daughter, but what a challenge it is to bring her up in today’s society too.

I’m so grateful for the wisdom of the other women I have around me – who not only help me when I’m in those ‘tearing my hair out’ moments with my kids, but who also challenge me and push me not to settle for the mundane status quo. They continually urge me to seek hard after God and His purposes for my life and not to allow my insecurities to stop me from being all God wants me to be.

Those women include some great, close friends within my church, who I simply couldn’t cope without (hence I view them as God’s gift to me) as well as those I’m privileged enough to work with within my Christian publishing career. As women I think we often do a brilliant job of supporting one another. I mentioned in a previous post too that my sister also often ‘tells it like it is’ to me – while we may not see each other that often we speak words of truth into each other’s lives, and we know we are always there for each other.

Today, however, my focus has got to be on the one woman who has not only influenced me the most but also inspired me the most too: my mum. What a testimony she is to a life of faithfulness in the midst of suffering.

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The church is the hope of the world

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Danny Webster on my blog today. Danny is one of three bloggers currently in Cambodia visiting communities that are being transformed by local churches in partnership with Tearfund. Danny, Anita Mathias and Rich Wells are blogging about their daily experiences and interactions. To follow their journey you can also take a look here.

tilling ground

I’m in Cambodia with Tearfund to visit and write about a major project they support working in communities across this country. The work is done through the church, a vital part of how Tearfund work wherever in the world they are working, and seeing it in action has shown me why this matters and the difference it makes.

I spent last night in the pastor’s house in a community about an hour to the south of Phnom Penh. I watched the sun turn deep red as it dipped beneath the horizon leaving only a golden hue of fading light in its trail. And I saw the sun rise this morning, as it appeared through the morning haze – a late arrival to the bustle of activity already alive on the street. The cockerels started about 4, the dogs soon after, the neighbour got up and his music drifted effortlessly onto the balcony where we spent the night shielded with a mosquito net now littered with bugs. The pastor told us yesterday he got up around 4 most days; I struggled to believe it, but getting up at 6.30 having been awake the past two hours makes me a more wretched laggard than the sun.

The village I’m staying in, Tonle Batie, is one which supporters of Tearfund can stay in touch with through their See For Yourself initiative. You can see the highs and lows of their experiences, the successes and failures, the joy at crops growing, pigs getting pregnant and the sorrow of chickens falling prey to disease, taking a familiy’s livelihood in a single swoop.

The way Tearfund work in this village–  and many not just in Cambodia but across the world – is by mobilising the church, and in turn mobilising the community. It’s through a programme called umoja – based on a Swahili word meaning togetherness – that helps communities recognise the resources they already have and their own ability to respond to the problems in their community.

Yesterday Rich and I, who were spending the night in the village, sat down to pray with the pastor and a couple of workers for International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC), the local charity Tearfund partner with. Style is different, language is a barrier but the experience of praying with Christians across the world is always a privilege.

There is something about coming together that makes a difference. Whether it is Christians from different continents sharing meals and prayers, or members of a village coming together to improve their community’s livelihood. Earlier yesterday we helped the umoja group in Tonle Bati till the soil in a section of the church land ready for planting bell peppers today. There were men and women, young and old, English and Cambodian, working together on the soil. Admittedly, their hands were more used to the work and won’t be sporting the same blisters as mine this morning.

The church is vital, but it is not the extent of the work. These projects can never just be for the church; they start there, but they do not end there. Umoja is a long process, it is about finding and feeding a vision in the church to come together, to build relationships with the community, to find out what their family and neighbours needs are, and how they can respond to them.

We met a lady so involved in the work of the umoja group, and who was helping on the land yesterday, she didn’t realise she wasn’t formally part of the group. We met an elderly lady whose daughter is part of the group. Mostly house bound she’ll go into the forest when she can to collect wood, which she’ll bundle up and then offer for sale as firewood.

Together the community is helping itself, and in a selfless way, serving one another and supporting families when they go through times of need.

boy with chicken

I’ve been inspired while being out here, by the people and by the refusal to give into easy simplistic

chickens etc-jpegsolutions but commit to long-term sustainable development. I would love it if you could support Tearfund by giving £3 a month to help more communities be transformed, follow all of our blogs and find out how you can give at www.tearfund.org/bloggers.

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Learning to be vulnerable

Our church is currently doing a preaching series based on Phil Moore’s brilliantly provocative book Gagging Jesus: things Jesus said we wish he hadn’t. Last Sunday my husband preached about sexuality and what Jesus said about it. We looked at sex within marriage (how different a starting point we have to our society on this subject), same-sex attraction, lust, adultery and pornography. Possibly not the most usual material for a Sunday morning sermon! And yet how important.

I was struck about how little we Christians talk about sex (and in our small group during the week so many people said they are saddened that the Church doesn’t celebrate good sex). We also don’t like engaging with the ‘hot potato’ issues such as porn or homosexuality. And yet what does that do to our churches? They are so often places that are rife with hidden sins – but why? I was leading the worship times before and after the preach and at one point I heard myself saying, ‘Church is full of sin because we are all too scared to open up and admit our failings. And so often when others do we judge them. Shame on us. Shame on us for creating an environment where no one feels comfortable enough to be open.’

Shame on us, also, for allowing sins to go on either undetected or unchallenged. Of course this isn’t just about sexual sin, but every other sin too (another point made in the preach). What about anger, bitterness, gossip, fear, making money an idol etc? Every single one of them takes us further away from God. Surely the point of being part of a church family is that we are able to walk closely with those we see regularly (I’m not saying we should be shouting our sins out to the whole congregation!). We are there to support but also confront our friends when necessary. But that isn’t going to happen if no one is willing to take off their ‘I’m fine’ mask and be real.

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International Women’s Day 2014

Happy International Women’s Day! We have so much to be thankful for – but there’s also much to reflect upon. I have had the huge privilege of writing some of my own reflections about IWD2014 for Christian Today. You can read them here.

Charlie_Davies_with_leatherworkers

I was also able to spend some time this week gathering quotes from some amazing, inspirational women who told me what IWD2014 means to them – either a day to celebrate or a day to think about a particular issue. One such woman is Dr Ruth Valerio, Churches and Theology Director, A Rocha UK, who told me that:

I’d like IWD to be a day when we celebrate the role of women in producing our food. Did you know that 60–80% of food in most developing countries is grown and/or processed by women and that women are the main producers of the world’s staple crops (rice, wheat and maize)? And yet, shockingly, they only own 2% of the world’s land. Let’s give thanks today for the women around the world who grow our food and use that to remind us to be mindful of each mouthful that we eat.

And here is what Julia Immonen, founder of Sport For Freedom, said:

International Women’s Day is a really exciting opportunity to celebrate what it is to be a woman – gentle, yet strong and determined, and to be thankful for those who have gone before to make so much possible and achievable for us as women today. It is also a day where we can stop to recognise the fact that many women within the UK and throughout the world are still subject to terrible injustices. Our work at Sport For Freedom focusses specifically on the injustice of human trafficking in the UK that we long to cease to exist by seeing an end to modern-day slavery in our generation. I believe that we all have a role to play in this mission; we can’t all do everything, but we can all do something. Let’s celebrate this International Women’s Day and also be challenged to use our freedom to fight for those who do not have theirs.

To read what the others shared with me please click here.

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