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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How to be better at encouragement

smiley face

I’m terrible at encouragement. Particularly at encouraging my husband.

There, I’ve said it.

It’s a hard one to admit; particularly when it was the first thing I spoke on when I took over the women’s ministry at church. But I could see how we were all desperately crying out for more encouragement. When I started putting together my talk I began to realise how bad I was at encouraging those close to me.

I am married to a man whose primary love language is words of affirmation. And that is probably way down there on my list: practical help does it for me. (Isn’t it funny how God so often seems to pair us up with a life partner whose love languages are the opposite of our own? Is it His sense of humour or the best way to rub those rough edges off us? Probably both…)

Sometimes I have literally had to force myself to speak words of encouragement to my husband (not because he didn’t deserve them but because it doesn’t come naturally!). I’ve learned how important this is to him and it makes such a huge difference in our relationship. It’s a great discipline for all of us to cultivate, especially if you know encouragement is something you are not good at.

I also have to check myself – and I know I fall down all the time – as I have a tendency to nag. But, as I’m told so often, words of encouragement get better results than nagging…

So here are some things I’ve learned about the importance of encouragement:

The Bible teaches it

Throughout the Bible we can see examples of encouragement. So many of the main characters that we learn about in Sunday school had people around them to encourage them (think of how Jonathan rooted for David even when it pitted him against his father).

The New Testament letters often refer to building one another up. I love the Message translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:11: ‘So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.’

It makes a difference

Having someone consistently in your life that totally believes in you makes such a difference. In The Family You‘ve Always Wanted Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, recognises that: ‘From the smallest child to the oldest adult, when our fan club applauds us, we try harder.’

God wants us to become members of each other’s fan club, but how do we do that? Paul gave a good guideline when he wrote that everything we say should build up the one who is listening:

‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen’ (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).

Let’s get a bit more honest now. How often do we spend time with our friends moaning about various things or ‘sharing news’ (aka gossiping), when we could be using that time to build one another up?

To read the rest of this article, please click here.

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What one thing has God asked you to do today?

If you don’t know the answer to that question then perhaps, like me, you are a little too goal-orientated and focused on achieving rather than slowing down long enough to hear from God.

lady surrounded by technology

Often our priorities are not God’s, our ‘good ideas’ not ones that He’s dropped into our minds. I was really convicted by a daily devotional I read today, in which the author described herself as someone who is too busy to be interrupted. Too set on being productive and ‘useful’, she isn’t able to deal with the stress and emotions of her own life, let alone those of others.

I gulped. And then admitted to myself that she could have been describing me. So often people comment that I must be extremely busy helping others. As a pastor’s wife I do get my fair share of burdened people wanting a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and someone willing to pray with them. And I consider that a privilege.

The problem is, I have my own ideas about what I should focus my time on, which means that the hours my kids are at school are taken up with work. Of course, the majority of us have to work in order to live, so I don’t feel that that’s a problem. What is, though, is that niggling feeling I sometimes get. The feeling that tries to tell me I don’t need to work quite so much…

To read the rest of this article please click here.

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A day in the life of a jobbing writer

Today I am welcoming Edoardo Albert on my blog. He is a copywriter, editor and writer and his latest books, the series known as The Northumbrian Thrones, are published by Lion Fiction. The second book in the series, Oswald, has recently been published and, to celebrate, I invited Edoardo to give us some insights into his life as a writer.

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‘Alarm: 5am. But this morning, I didn’t need it. Son number three, two-year-old Isaac, had arrived in our bedroom at 1.30am, had settled in until 4.30am and then, with the hyperactive midsummer sun blasting through the curtains, woken up, thirsty, hungry and disinclined to go back to sleep. We got up. I fed and watered Isaac, and attempted to persuade him of the benefits of sleep. By 6am, he had agreed.

‘Luckily, I had switched off the alarm before heading downstairs, so wife number one and only was not disturbed. Sons numbers one and two had not stirred. The house was quiet, the street was quiet, I had an hour of calm to get some work done. The cat then came in, requiring breakfast.

‘This pretty well sums up the life of a modern-day writer: struggling desperately to fit some writing time in between the demands of family and making some actual, putting-food-on-the-kids’-plates money. Add to that long hours and every third person you meet telling you, ‘Oh, I’ve been meaning to write a book,’ and I sometimes wonder why I do it. But then there are times, as happened in the writing of Oswald: Return of the King, that you fall through the page into the story – it is as if a secret fire has lit inside the characters and, for want of any better way to describe it, they come alive.

‘Now, this is particularly precious but, also, particularly perilous for me, since what I am doing with Oswald and the first volume in the trilogy, Edwin: High King of Britain, is writing imaginative history. In most historical fiction, the history is the backdrop in front of which invented characters play out an invented story – sort of science fiction of the past. That’s all well and good, and at its best makes for wonderfully entertaining reading, but too often it slides into wish fulfilment. What I am trying to do with The Northumbrian Thrones trilogy is to take real people and actual events and show why they happened in a manner that is artistically satisfying and historically plausible. So it is a great privilege when these characters, most of whom were once real, living people, come to life in my mind, but a temptation too, for they are imaginings. Yet, at one level, I suppose if asked I would say that yes, I really do think Oswald was as I portray him: Tolkien, as he wrote the stories of Middle-earth, began more and more to believe that he was discovering rather than inventing. I am no Tolkien, but on the other hand seventh-century Northumbria lies on a somewhat firmer foundation of fact than Middle-earth.

‘As far as bringing this world to life, a great advantage is the fact that I have already written a book about the history and archaeology of the time – Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom, with archaeologist Paul Gething. Paul is director of the Bamburgh Research Project, which has been excavating in Bamburgh for over a decade now, and through writing and talking with him I gained the sort of insight that is simply impossible to find in books alone. For if I am trying to write imaginative history, Paul is doing imaginative and experimental archaeology, down to gathering bog ore from sites around Bamburgh, smelting and smithing it, to see if he can recreate the extraordinary weapon, the Bamburgh sword, that they rediscovered at the castle.

‘All this has gone into writing Oswald: Return of the King. I hope it doesn’t show (at least, not in a flashy, look-at-me sense, although I hope it appears in a sensed authenticity of detail).

‘As for my writing day, I squeezed in 45 minutes before catching the tube in to work. You think writing pays the bills? Think again.

‘There are some days I can devote entirely to writing, but these mainly result from not being able to find any better paying work for the day. Most often, I catch an early tube train in to work at Time Out or one of the other magazines where I play catch with my cash flow, settling in there for a day spent staring at a screen. This is good work for a writer: editing other people’s work, from the excellent to the barely competent, and marvelling how some writers, hardly able to craft a sentence, have managed to pursue careers in publishing.

‘The great joy of working in central London is the tube journey, for it offers uninterrupted reading time. As with all professions, increasing proficiency often entails doing less of what drew you to the subject in the first place. I became a writer, first and foremost, because I loved stories but, being a writer, I have less and less time to actually read any stories. Hence, all glory, laud and honour to TFL, and may their trains continue to take half an hour to get me in to central London: an hour’s reading a day is the vital word infusion that keeps the words fresh and renews the love of story.

‘So, there you have it, a writer’s day: words and screens, family and work, all in all not so different from other people. But I’ve done other jobs – deliveries, TV repairs, office work – and believe me, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about with words.’

Oswald cover

Edoardo’s first book in the series, Edwin: High King of Britain, is currently on sale in ebook form at a reduced price. It is also available in paperback.

To buy Edoardo’s new book, Oswald, please click here.

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How well do we listen?

the-art-of-listening pic

I have been struck recently with how bad I can be at listening. So often I am catching people at church, while needing to speak to countless others, so I can have half an ear on what they are saying, my eyes wandering around to catch the next person on my list – and of course a necessary eye on what my children are doing too. But God has been teaching me how bad a model that is.

Listening is a skill that needs to be learnt well. As the old saying goes, “You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.”

Who is it that you would say listens to you best? The person who grabs you quickly while on the way elsewhere, asks how you are and nods and smiles before zooming off? The one that takes more time, stands and listens but then begins to interrupt with their own story or advice on what you should do? Or the person who makes a particular arrangement to meet you, sits down, gives you their full attention by looking in your eyes and then simply sits quietly, taking it all in?
Being listened to is one of the main ways we can feel cared for. It gives us a sense of validation because another is interested in hearing about how we truly are.
Please click here for eight practical listening tips.

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What I’ve been reading: May and June…

I’ve decided to create another category on my blog in order to share my thoughts on the books I’ve been reading. As a book reviewer and interviewer I love receiving a range of complimentary titles, and I thought it was about time I highlighted a few of them for you. Some of them will be titles I’ve been reading for work purposes (in order to interview the author for example, or to research a subject area) while others have simply caught my eye. So here’s a selection of titles that I’ve read in the last couple of months.

savor cover

Savor by Shauna Niequist

This is a daily devotional that covers a whole year, so I’m certainly not finished with it yet, but it has been a real welcome addition to my time with God each morning. While Shauna covers general everyday life issues (parenting, friendship, self-image etc) with great honestly and integrity I’ve been especially encouraged and enriched by the comments she makes about being a writer. It almost makes it feel like I’ve pulled up a chair at her kitchen table and she is openly sharing the things most on her heart. I’d definitely recommend the book – and it would also make a lovely gift. It includes some extra little touches – some of her favourite recipes. I’m always a sucker for some of those :)

the hole in our holiness coverThe hole in our holiness by Kevin DeYoung

I really get a lot out of Kevin’s books, and definitely wanted to read this as, when I first stumbled upon it, I was writing a set of Bible study notes on holiness (for CWR’s Inspiring Women Every Day – due out in 2016). The book is a very clear, challenging, truth-filled look at why we seem to miss the mark on holiness so often. With a loving but balanced approach, Kevin reminds us that the point is not to be legalistic nor should we be ambivalent about sin, but that, through Jesus, all of us can be holy. The mystery of how grace and holiness work together is beautifully described in this book.

chosen coverdesired coverChosen and Desired by Ginger Garrett

I have to confess I picked these up when they were free Kindle downloads. Ever since reading Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love I’ve been exploring other fiction that retells biblical stories. Of course, there is a plethora of such books out there and some are much better than others. Ginger has a great imagination and really transports you into the lives of Esther and Delilah in these two books. There was certainly much that made me think, although I didn’t always feel that the portrayals were as I would have imagined them. I enjoyed the Esther book – Chosen – more than Desired, although the latter interestingly moved between Delilah narrating her own story and Samson’s mother sharing hers.


ultimate justice cover kicking tree coverThe Kicking Tree and Ultimate Justice by Trevor Stubbs

Described as fantasy adventure fiction these books are part of the White Gates Adventure series and are aimed at people aged 14+. I have read them in order to interview Trevor (the interview will appear in the Sept/Oct issue of Families First magazine). I have to admit I don’t know a lot about fantasy fiction, and it isn’t a genre that I would have chosen to read from. However I was fascinated to see how Trevor would provide the ‘spiritual heart’ that he says is in his books. The first story is based around two young people from different worlds that travel through mysterious white gates that transport them to different places. Once they meet, they find that each time they are transported it is for a particular reason; the Creator has chosen them to help others. I know my 15-year-old niece loves fantasy fiction and so I was interested in passing them on to her. While reading, I did wonder if the books are a little basic, naïve even, when compared to something like The Hunger Games trilogy, which I know my niece has read (I’m making no comment about that fact!). However I will give them to her, as I’d like to hear what she thinks of them. I do also like the way that Trevor has managed to really inject the big questions of life into his writing, such as what makes us human?, why do we suffer?, as well as tackling issues such as justice, power and free choice. Even with my reservations, I have to admit I was eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens!

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Learning how to ‘one another’

many hands together: group of people joining hands showing unity and support

‘One anothering’ is a term I have heard since the early days of our church (which started in 2003). While it may seem slightly strange – even old-fashioned perhaps – it is still one that continues to challenge and motivate me today.

So why ‘one anothering’?

There are 100 instances of the phrase ‘one another’ in the New Testament, with almost half of them being direct instructions to the church.

A third of those instances are about loving one another, while another third instruct us on unity. I really believe that God wants us to take these verses seriously and wake up to the fact that being a Christian isn’t about being isolated, focusing on what we feel we want to do in order to express our faith. It is about being together, and learning to look out for one another.

We’ve already seen how caring for each other, yes even those we may find difficult, is actually a way that we grow into maturity as a Christian, but it’s more than that. One anothering expresses God’s heart for His community.

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

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Church: God’s design for caring community

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Churches are really unique places aren’t they? There are very few other places where you will find people from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, stages of life coming etc together regularly. I personally think the more varied a church is the more it is a wonderful picture of God’s grace and design.

However, the diversity within churches does bring a unique challenge. Jesus prayed to His Father: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23).

Reflecting on this is pretty humbling. Jesus is basically saying that the way in which we model unity speaks to the world the truth of the gospel. And how do we become unified? Through showing love and care to one another, choosing to lay down any petty squabbles in order to see the best in one another.

In a church full of variety there are going to be those that we are naturally drawn to, as well as others that we find difficult. I think part of God’s wisdom in this is that our own rough edges and foibles, which are such a part of us we don’t really see them, can be taken off as we rub up against those that are different to us. Indeed Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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