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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why scrubbing loos is a good idea

cleaning_the_toilet_s

What is it about the human condition that makes us look around the people we come into contact with day to day and compare ourselves to them? It is something we have to work really hard not to do, which means the comparison culture inevitably infiltrates our church communities too.

I’m sure we’ve all had those moments: times when we’ve see others in a role that we wish we had and felt slightly jealous. Perhaps we even feel entitled to that role – or think in our minds that we could do a much better job than the person currently doing it.

 Or perhaps we end up in the mindset that thinks we have to contribute to the service each week – by bringing another word or reading another portion of scripture out. Why do we do that? A desperate need within us to connect with God, or a deep-seated desire to look more holy than those around us?

I think we need to ask ourselves those difficult questions regularly about our motivations for serving within our church communities. None of us is immune to selfish ambition and desires, but it is much easier to nip them in the bud early rather than letting ourselves get carried away with them.

Indeed, in Philippians 2 we are told: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (v3-4).

Jesus had some really harsh words to say about those people who put on a show of holiness in church: “Everything they do is for men to see” (Matthew 23:5) and “Woe to you … you hypocrites!”, which he repeats in verses 13, 15, 23, 25, 27 and 29. With that amount of repetition I think we can see Jesus really wanted to get his message across!

Speaking about the teachers of the law, it was the difference between their public show of purity and piety and their everyday lives that angered Jesus the most. Indeed, He instructed His disciples and the crowds “you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (v3).

Ouch.

Harsh words or the simple, honest truth?

To read the rest of this post, please click here – where the reason for the title will become clear ;)

Leave a comment

Filed under Discipleship, Help I'm now a pastor's wife!, Leadership, Worship as a lifestyle

More than Writers site

I am really excited that today the first of my regular contributions to the Association of Christian Writers’ blog has gone live. The site is called More than Writers and already I have gleaned a wealth of encouragement and challenge from the bloggers this month. Please do check the site out – and comment on my post today if you want to, which is all about learning not to compare ourselves with others :)

comparison is the thief of joy

Leave a comment

Filed under Discipleship, On writing

God isn’t put off by our negative emotions

looking wistful out window

Recently I’ve been spending time reading psychology books, mainly about infant attachment and parenting styles, as research for my own book. I have been really struck about a particular aspect: how a secure self learns not to be threatened by negative feelings.

I’ve read how sensitive parenting allows a child to feel those negative emotions and also teaches him/her how to deal with them through both support (unconditional love and empathy) and challenge. The child is also reassured that the source of their security and love is not threatened by such negative emotions either.

I’ve looked at how behavioural patterns learned in childhood get transformed into our adult lives. They affect the way we respond to, and interpret, the actions and words of those around us.

I was challenged by one particular book that linked the way a child approaches negative feelings to the way we respond to God when we are experiencing negative emotions.

We are His children and yet has the parenting style we’ve experienced by our earthly parents affected the way we anticipate His responses? I’m sure it must do.

For example, if you are feeling angry, bitter or sad do you feel God will condemn you, pointing out all the reasons why you are feeling like that – and revealing that it is your fault?

To read the rest of this post please click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Being a woman, Discipleship, On parenting, Worship as a lifestyle

International Women’s Day

I love marking International Women’s Day each year because I feel my life is enriched and challenged by the women I not only have around me but those that I either read or write about around the world too. This year, I’ve created an acrostic poem to highlight some of the qualities I find truly inspiring about women in the world today.

pic of women

Incredible strength of character;

Not afraid to speak their minds;

Tough on the outside, but tender-hearted too,

Enriching the lives of others by what they do.

Reality for so many is not what it should be,

Never allowed to choose – to be free.

At times I ache for women trapped in unjust lives,

Terrified for them – and feeling helpless besides.

In their response to life they inspire me:

Once more facing the day with determination;

Not allowing circumstances to dominate;

Always responding with dignity;

Loving those around them with such grace and mercy.

 

Women around the world

Overcoming hardship, injustice and prejudice daily.

My own world is cossetted by comparison – but still I face obstacles;

Endurance and education is key for us all.

Not settling but pushing ourselves to go far;

Solid faith in who we are.

 

Don’t ever stop believing in yourself,

Always aim high – you have what it takes to see it through;

Your very existence spurs me on to be the best I can be too.

women-in-india

Leave a comment

Filed under Being a woman

Celebrating World Book Day

My kids have gone to school today armed with their favourite book to share with their class. It got me thinking about how I can celebrate World Book Day, so I want to share with you a few of the books that I have read recently, which I have enjoyed and been impacted by. The rest of the family have joined in too – while this is a fairly long blog post I hope there’s something in here for everyone to enjoy on World Book Day :)

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

This was written by the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Its full title is The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. As a busy working mother, pastor’s wife and worship leader my life can seem an unending ‘to do’ list. I think our culture perpetuates the myth that we always need to be doing (or at least be seen to be doing!). But God has been talking to me about that recently, nudging me gently to take stock, learn to prioritise and say no in order to spend time with Him – and find my ‘best yeses’. As soon as I opened this book it felt like it could have been written just for me – it resonated so deeply and the illustrations were of situations I could relate to directly.

9781400205851_image

Lysa explains the idea behind the book: ‘In the Spring of 2013, I sat down with 100 women from across America ranging from early twenties to retirement. I asked them their deepest needs and desires, challenging them to name the real struggles they face in striving to live well and follow Jesus.

‘The answer that surfaced over and over: feeling overwhelmed and empty in not knowing how to make wise decisions in the midst of endless demands. As I listened to them I thought, “me too”. I knew this was the next issue I must tackle in my writing.’

There is a LOT of wisdom within the pages of this book about the reasons behind why we always feel the need to say yes, and why saying no is so important. I hope that I remember and implement as much of the advice as possible as I know it will do me – and those around me – good. I heartily recommend this book if you regularly feel overwhelmed by the pace of your life.

Forgetful Heart by Lucy Mills

A fellow member of the Association of Christian Writers, I had already come across Lucy’s writing in other forms so was intrigued to see what her first book would be like. The subject matter already had my interest as I know I have a forgetful heart (as well as mind!), and that it can be difficult to connect with God in our busy, distracted world.

FH high res

Here is Lucy on the inspiration behind the book: ‘There were three main threads that came together to inspire and form Forgetful Heart. One was a recognition of my own spiritual forgetfulness, a confession of my own weakness. Another was the result of exploration – reading through scriptures that called on the people of God to remember him, not to forget the One in whom they found their very identity. The third thread was a fascination with how our minds work, how we retain and retrieve information. Together, these wound themselves into an idea that would not let me go. The book had to be written, regardless of whether anyone else cared to read it. I needed to make that journey.’

I love the way that Lucy writes with real honesty but also allows the grace of God to shine through the book. Unpacking what our memories are, why they are important, what causes us to forget and how we can learn to remember God, she definitely takes us on a journey – through her own experiences and those of biblical people. Each chapter ends with a poem she has penned herself – a beautiful touch and a great way of helping us to make things personal too as so many read like psalms or prayers. She also provides the reader with questions to ponder. There is a real richness to this book, and I am convinced it is one that I will come back to time and time again.

And now for something completely different…

A Killer’s Countdown by Wendy Jones

Wendy is the webmaster of the Association of Christian Writers and also provides information for Christian ebook downloads on Facebook. I have gotten to know her via these forums over the past few years. When her debut novel came out towards the end of last year I was excited to read it, especially as I know it is the type of book that I enjoy but very rarely go out of my way to get hold of. For the majority of time, my reading consists of reading non-fiction Christian books ‘for a reason’ – to review, for research, to help me develop, to help me lead others, and so it was refreshing to read something purely for pleasure, which I knew I wasn’t supposed to be learning from! ;) It is the first in a series of books about Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie. She is new to the job so has something to prove – which she does in admirable fashion.

KillerCountdown-WEB

Wendy explains why she chose to write crime fiction: ‘I have been a lifelong reader of mysteries and also enjoy writing. So my writing a murder mystery was a natural progression from that. I wanted to write a crime book that could be read by anyone so avoided the swearing and sex which is in so many books these days. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t realistic as it is gritty and somewhat gruesome in places. Although I am a Christian the book isn’t overly Christian but written for a crossover market.’

Wendy paints a great picture of DI McKenzie’s life as a detective within the Scottish backdrop (she had obviously done her research into the subject), as well as building tension perfectly. Even once you know who the killer is, the cat and mouse game has you turning pages more and more quickly as the suspense grips you. If you like crime / detective stories I would recommend you get hold of this book, as I’m sure you’ll enjoy it immensely.

My family’s choices…

My son, age 6, loves The Book with No Pictures because it makes parents say silly stuff when they are reading it to their kids. The premise of the book is the explanation it gives of how books work: ‘Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say’. Such as: ‘my head is made of blueberry pizza’. Yes, this book brings lots of giggles to our house – thanks to their auntie who bought it for Christmas :)

topz secret diaries

My daughter, age 9, loves the whole Jane Blonde series. A young girl, she becomes an agent and, along with her friends and her family, try to stop her evil uncle Copernicus. The books are about her missions.

She also loves the Topz Secret Diaries. Topz is the daily Bible reading notes produced by CWR, which she also enjoys, and the books focus on particular characters – revealing their secret thoughts about friends and God as well as details of their everyday lives in diary form.

A recommendation from my husband: The Father Heart of God by Floyd McClung. This is a well known classic, which he read again recently while preparing for our Father Heart of God preaching series. It really brought home how fundamental it is to be assured of, and secure in, the Father’s total love and acceptance.

A final word from me…

There is a wealth of reading material out there – and so much treasure to discover. For instance, drawing on books I read more than a few months ago: of the novels I love (actually I ‘devour’) CF Dunn’s ‘The Secret of the Journal’ series; I also found Sisters of Lazarus by Paula K. Parker a refreshing take on a familiar subject. I was challenged and undone by Krish and Miriam Kandiah’s book on adoption and fostering Home for Good, and spurred on and encouraged by Chine Mbubaegbu’s Am I Beautiful? (a book I edited a couple of years ago, but which is definitely staying on my shelf for my daughter to read in her tweens). I laughed and learned through Rob Parsons’ new book The Wisdom House, thoroughly agreed with Philip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace and have also gleaned so much from Jeff Lucas’ latest title, which I have had the privilege of editing recently (called There are No Ordinary People it is due out in May).

As someone who reviews books it gives me such joy to feast my eyes on the piles of books I have waiting for me to dive into – I’m thrilled to have received Cathy Madavan’s first book Digging for Diamonds this morning – I just know that’s going to be a good one :) So, whether you are an avid reader or not, can I encourage you to pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read today and get stuck into it?!

Happy World Book Day x

2 Comments

Filed under Discipleship, Reading

Fasting: why do I bother with it?

Fasting_4-Fasting-a-glass-of-water-on-an-empty-plate

The rumble of my stomach, the light wooziness I’m feeling in my head, the need for mints while I drink endless water and tea…

That’s right, I’m fasting.

 No, I’m not super holy and yes, I do struggle with it.

I’ve tried to build fasting into my life regularly over the last few years but today it feels particularly difficult. It may be due to the amount of exercise I did last night, general tiredness, feeling a little under the weather…

Whatever the reasons it feels hard today. But, let’s face it, fasting is hard. And I think that’s part of the point – it isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s about focusing our attention; using that time that we would normally be eating to come before God.

Now that in itself can be quite a challenge. I have skipped breakfast, but I certainly didn’t have time to pour out my heart in prayer to God while making sure the kids got ready for school. It’s now, after the school run, that I have a bit of space and that I can focus on coming before Him.

Fasting is one of those strange disciplines isn’t it? We are under grace, so we don’t have to do it, but, if we look at what Jesus said about fasting He referred to ‘when you fast’ rather than ‘if’, which means He expected it to be a part of the disciples’ lives.

To read the rest of this article please click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Discipleship, Worship as a lifestyle

Let’s celebrate – and fight for – marriage

As we are in the middle of Marriage Week in the UK, and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, I spent time reflecting on what marriage means to me in my latest column for Christian Today. To read the article please click here. If you enjoy it, or find it useful, please could you indicate by using the ‘like’ button on their webpage. Thanks so much.

I ended up with far too much material for that piece, so I’ve collected some of my other thoughts below. (They will make most sense read alongside the Christian Today column.) As you’ll see, I’ve learned a lot about my own weaknesses through being married: I certainly believe marriage holds up a mirror to the ugliest parts of our character. It does give us the opportunity to grow and change though, thankfully. Marriage also does not make us immune to the difficulties and trials we inevitably encounter in this life, but hopefully we learn to help one another up those mountains when they come…

couple-climbing-a-mountain

As a couple, we’ve certainly been through some crazy and difficult adventures. I’ve said before that one of the biggest surprises and challenges for me was when my husband became a pastor – I didn’t sign up for that, and really struggled to accept it to begin with. Now I view it as a privilege to be a part of his calling, as well as following my own wholeheartedly.

So here’s those points that didn’t make it into my latest column…

My husband needs me to learn to keep my mouth shut in public

I can be quite sarcastic and my humour often involves winding up people that I’m close to. But I have learned over time that my husband finds it incredibly difficult if I am sarcastic or make a joke of something he’s done or the way he’s been in front of other people.

I am also one that can’t bottle up my feelings but being angry or having an argument with my husband in public does not do our marriage any good. Keeping quiet while in public also gives me a chance to calm down and be a bit more objective – which I’ve never been that great at! ;)

Fighting for ways to feel connected is so important

There can be times when I’m at the end of myself – juggling work, looking after my kids, my roles within church and as a school governor can totally wring out me out to the point that I feel I have little left to give. I know as a busy pastor my husband can often feel wrung out by the end of a day too. And yet it is so so important to keep fighting for those moments of connection. We can work hard both separately and together. In those seasons when we are both focused on very different things, it can almost feel like we are like ships that pass in the night – roomies at best, strangers in the worst moments. But if we just stop for a few moments and check in with one another we both instantly feel like we are working towards a common goal and can support and understand where the other one is at. Somehow it lifts what can be a time of struggle, as we realise afresh that we are not alone.

We need to fight for marriage

I could make all sorts of points here about the way that society is diluting marriage, or how high the divorce rate is – but, while that’s all true, it’s not what I’m focusing on. While writing this I was reminded of a stark image I saw firsthand while visiting friends in another part of London. Right the way down a street were bits of ribbon tied to the telephone lines. I asked what they were, and was gobsmacked by the answer: each ribbon represented a Christian couple. Apparently there was a high proportion of witches in the area and they very openly shared that they cursed Christian marriages and called on powers to break them up. That really shook me, and made me realise the spiritual battle that we can be in as married couples. If we aren’t praying and fighting for our marriages then who will?

2 Comments

Filed under Help I'm now a pastor's wife!, On marriage, Worship as a lifestyle