Thursday, 25 May 2017

Interview with my Publishing Agent


AGENT: I've been studying your files. Tell me, how many books have you written so far?

VIC M: Twenty-two. Some in paperback, some in Kindle and some in PDF format available FREE from my website.

AGENT: Great ... available FREE. No wonder I am earning peanuts as your agent. And the other books in paperback and Kindle are selling at a very low price indeed. What are you up to?

VIC M: Well ... the idea is not to make money. But to make sure that what I write, especially the Christian books, reach as many people as possible.

AGENT: Are you a Charity?

VIC M: No I am not. I just write books and hope that people enjoy them, that's all.

AGENT: Are you making a monkey out of me? As your Agent I should get 10% of your royalties, and according to my calculations 10% of Zero is still Zero. Understand? And if you pay your Agent in peanuts you get ...

VIC M: A very good agent. I know you're trying your best Bonzo ...

AGENT: Mr Bookshelf, to you. Bonzo Bookshelf ... that's my name.

VIC M: Mr Bookshelf, I appreciate you being my Agent and a good job you do too; but as I explained, my aim is to recover printing and sales costs, not to make money. That's why the book prices are so low, and some are FREE.

AGENT: As laughable as your Business Model and Strategy may be; I suggest we ... you ... do something to get more people to read your books. To reach a wider audience, or readership, as they say.

VIC M: What do you suggest I do?

AGENT: Have you thought of starting a Book Club?

VIC M: What's that?

AGENT: Get people to read your books and discuss them amongst themselves.

VIC M: You mean get them to meet at my house?

AGENT: No you idiot ... honestly ... you have the brain power of a lame pigeon. Your readers are from all over the place, America, Britain, Australia and so on. That's the beauty of AMAZON. You can't expect your readers to travel to your house. But you can get them to read a book and discuss it with you via e-mail. That's a one-to-one personal Book Club with the author. I bet not many authors do that. Your readers can write to you about a specific book you wrote and ask you about the plot, how you developed the characters, are they based on real people you know, and any other things they have gleaned from your books ... including the ones you so stupidly give away for FREE.

VIC M: That's not a bad idea.

AGENT: I'm not just a pretty face ... although some would dispute the aesthetics of my face. Have you got an e-mail address?

VIC M: Yes ... it's enquiries@holyvisions.co.uk ... all e-mails come straight to my desk.

AGENT: Great ... so let's do that ... From now on your readers can contact you with their comments, views, opinions and so on on the books they have read, and you promise to reply to each one. Agreed?

VIC M: Yes ...

AGENT: Next, you need to tell people about this new Book Club you have just launched.

VIC M: How do I do that?

AGENT: Listen lame pigeon ... Post something based on our discussion on your Blog. Encourage people to comment in the comments box. They can say anything; even just "Hello!" Encourage them to encourage other people, like their friends and relatives, to comment too.

Perhaps your readers can mention this on their Blogs and get their readers to visit you and comment too.

Put all the names of those who have commented in a hat. Draw out one name and give the winner one of your paperback books. Any book. They can choose.

And if everyone who comments says they were sent to your Blog by someone else then you put the name of the person who invited them in the hat too. So people can have their names in the hat more than once. Once for commenting, and another time when visitors say they were sent to your Blog by those people.

And also ... wait for it ... wait for it ... If anyone writes a Customer Review on AMAZON and tells you about it you put their name in the hat too.

VIC M: I'll have to write all this down.

AGENT: Here ... let me do it for you!

HOW DO I GET MY NAME IN THE HAT 
FOR THIS COMPETITION?

1   Write a comment below. Any comment - not anonymous. (Your name is in the hat).

2   Tell your friends and relatives to do the same and mention your name. (Their name and yours is in the hat once again. Every time someone mentions you, their name and yours is in the hat again).

3   Write an article on your Blog about this competition. (Your name is in the hat).

4   Write a Customer Review on AMAZON. (Your name is in the hat).

That's four ways you can get your name in the hat over and over again. For example, write two Customer Reviews and your name is in the hat twice. More chances to win the draw and get ONE of the paperbacks sent to you. You choose which one you want. One person will win one book of their choice.

Also, anyone can join the Book Club by writing to enquiries@holyvisions.co.uk

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Doubting God's Love


Father Ignatius sat in his favourite armchair next to the roaring log fireplace holding a cup of hot chocolate drink and enjoying a football game on TV.

Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, entered the large room in the Parish House and said that there is someone outside wanting to see the priest urgently.

"Let him in ... let him in!" said Father Ignatius as he switched off the TV, "don't keep him out in the freezing cold."

Moments later, Jason, a young parishioner came in and sat on the couch opposite the priest. He was obviously very distraught and within seconds he poured out his heart to the kind old priest who sat there listening quietly. It wasn't a major problem or difficulty as such, but in the eyes of a young man, his personal crisis at the time seemed insurmountable.

"To be honest, Father," ended Jason, "I doubt very much that God loves me. Don't misunderstand me. I believe in God all right; I just think He is not as loving or caring as we are led to believe! Otherwise I would not be in this situation."

Father Ignatius waited for a second or two until Jason had calmed down and then asked him, "Does your father love you?"

"Of course," replied the young man.

"How do you know?" asked the priest.

"Well ... I just know. It is obvious that he does!" Jason said somewhat irritated.

"That's good," continued Father Ignatius gently, "you know your father loves you because of what he does, and because of his loving behaviour towards you?"

Jason nodded silently.

"And right now," the priest went on, "you do not have that same feeling towards God. You do not see any evidence of His love for you. You feel He has let you down. Abandoned you. Jesus felt like that on the Cross, you know."

Jason nodded again.

"We often feel that the love of God is far away from us," said the priest, "we do not feel as protected and sheltered from evil things as we would like. Let's try a little experiment. Let's see things from God's perspective, not that this is possible. He is God and we are not. So we can't possibly see things from His perspective. But let's try ...

"Imagine for a moment that you are God. There's a building site somewhere with bad safety procedures. A major accident happens and many are dead and injured. People blame God, you, for allowing it to happen. How do you feel?"

"Well ..." hesitated Jason, "you said it had a bad safety system, so I think it's not God's fault really ..."

"Exactly," Father Ignatius continued calmly, "we tend to blame God for allowing bad things to happen but we don't see our contribution to those happenings. But that aside, let's look at what choice God has. He could do nothing and allow bad things to happen sometimes. Or He could do something about it. He could somehow get the building site managers to see the error of their ways, and if they don't react positively, He could somehow let their bosses know ... you understand what I mean?"

Jason nodded.

"But if God were to do that," said the priest, "then He would be a kind of Superman like in the movies, flying from one place to another putting things to right and stopping wrong from happening. Hardly free will for us, is it? We would all be like little robots reacting to His every decision and action.

"But God loves us ... even if we don't feel it sometimes, like you right now for example. He sometimes pulls back and allows bad things to happen. It doesn't mean that He doesn't love us. Of course He does, and He hurts with us when bad things like disasters happen. But there is a very fine line between interfering and stopping bad things from happening, and being there alongside us to comfort us, to help us and to love us when they do.

"God loves you, Jason. He knows you are suffering right now and He wants you to trust Him. You can't understand why He allows some things to happen, but then, He never asked us to understand Him, but to trust Him and love Him in return."

Jason wiped the corner of his eye with his sleeve.

"Let us say a prayer together," continued Father Ignatius, "in the sure knowledge that God's love will find a way to comfort you and help you in your situation."

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE

Monday, 22 May 2017

God is getting old.

Father Ignatius’s car had broken down just on the day he had to drive to the City miles away. Somehow he was glad this had happened because in all honesty he hated to drive long distances, especially when it involved negotiating busy traffic in the City.

He phoned his local garage for help and just as luck would have it, or was it a God-incidence, one of the managers was due to travel to the City that very day and he was happy to take Father Ignatius to his Conference and drive him back the same evening.

Oh what a God send Gerald was as he and the priest set off on the long journey. For once Father Ignatius could relax and not worry about the driving.

A few minutes into the journey Gerald started the conversation.

“I was thinking Father,” he said, “do you reckon that God has mellowed with age?”

“What do you mean?” enquired the priest.

“Well …” continued Gerald, “in the Old Testament we see Him full of wrath and anger sending floods everywhere and pestilence on the Egyptians and all sorts of bad things to those who did not tow the line. He behaved like a right monster at times, thumping people on the head if they did not obey Him.

“And now we’re told He’s a loving, caring, forgiving Father who has our best interests at heart. Why do you think He changed strategy? Did His first plans not work?”

Father Ignatius laughed.

“I’m amused that you think I know all about God’s plans,” he said, “the Almighty does not confide in me you know …”

“Maybe not Father! But you must admit it is a total change of tactics from anger and wrath … and you must admit the Bible says in the Old Testament things like vengeance is mine … and I am a jealous God … and all that. And now it’s all gentleness and sweet love … at least that’s what you priests lead us to believe.

“Why doesn’t God thump people on the head and into line these days? The world is going to ruin and His sweet love will get us nowhere …”

The priest laughed again at Gerald’s direct and forthright way of putting things.

“OK … let’s analyze what you’ve been saying …” said Father Ignatius, “on the face of it … it does appear that there’s a great contrast between the description of God in the Old Testament and the description in the New Testament.

“Now what I’m saying here is purely my opinion, you understand. I don’t have a hotline to God and I’m not privy to His strategies and plans …”

Gerald smiled and nodded.

“We tend to see God from our human perspective,” continued the priest, “we see Him with human understanding and we attribute to Him human qualities, plans, strategies, emotions and so on.

“But God is God. And man is man. We cannot possibly understand Him from our viewpoint, nor should we attempt to do so.

“Now it could well be … and this is me guessing here you understand Gerald … it could well be that the people at the time of the Old Testament were accustomed to being led … being guided … and told what to do.

“Can you imagine for instance one man … Moses … guiding a multitude of people out of Egypt, promising them a better life elsewhere, and going round in circles in the desert for forty years?

"This wouldn't happen today.

“In modern times people would have set up committees to discuss the project, appointed several managers to chair sub-committees and devised multiple budgetary plans and operational strategies … all before their poor overworked wives had time to pack the luggage and prepare the kids to leave Cairo.

“Yet in the Old Testament one man said let’s go … and they all went.

“True … they argued and rebelled along the way … and Moses dealt with it in a forthright manner as you advocate …”

Gerald laughed.

“So it could well be that God treated people in the Old Testament days the way they expected to be lead and the way they understood,” said Father Ignatius, “With firmness where necessary … yet at all times with fairness and compassion.

“This is only my opinion … as I said.

“And it could be that in His own time, according to His will, God decided to send Jesus to us in human form to teach us … to show us God’s infinite love, and to forgive and redeem us through His death and Resurrection.

“Jesus in human form had to be kind, and gentle and compassionate to portray God’s infinite love. And He taught us in the Lord’s Prayer about a loving Father caring for His children and always ready to provide for them.

"It would have been pointless to have a ruthless commanding Jesus forcing people to obey Him. This does not depict God's love for us, which is so infinite, that He gave up His own Son to die for us.

“Hence the contrast between the Old and New Testaments …”

At this point a huge truck overtook their car and moved back into lane so close that Gerald had to swerve sharply in order to avoid a collision.

“Stupid idiot …” shouted Gerald, and then muttered something else unrepeatable under his breath.

After a moment or two as the two men calmed down a little Gerald continued, “There are times Father, when I wish God would deal with people the old fashioned Old Testament way!”

Father Ignatius said nothing but prayed silently that God may forgive Gerald for his immediate reaction under pressure.

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Advocate? What Advocate?

John 14:15-17
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.'

Who is this Advocate? Some might ask.

Jesus here is speaking of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, and Jesus Himself, who will come down from Heaven at Pentecost and be within the disciples.

There's often confusion in people's minds about the Holy Spirit. Who is He exactly?

We are taught about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit … He doesn’t seem to have a title or description.

St Hilary of Poitiers, a Bishop in the 3rd Century AD, described the Holy Spirit as “the Gift”.

He is the gift given to us by God after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

He is the very Spirit of God, God Himself, come back to us on earth to dwell within us and to help us in our Christian life.

That’s why He is sometimes referred to as the Helper, the Counselor, God’s own Being living within us.

The Holy Spirit didn't just descend on the disciples at Pentecost and that's it. A once in a lifetime event. He is present here and now today and is within some people who ask for His presence within them.

Now that last fact itself, God's own Being living within us, causes even more confusion amongst Christians and non-Christians alike.

Sure, Christians believe the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost teaching them what to say in various languages and how to proclaim the Good News to all. But now? Today? Does the Holy Spirit enter our very souls today?

Can you imagine that?

God. Living within us. Guiding us. Helping us. Teaching us. Advising us when to speak and when to remain silent. What to say and what to do.

Isn’t that wonderful? Or is it too difficult to imagine or believe?

If you were to say to a non-Christian that God is living within you in the form of the Holy Spirit they would most probably scoff, or smile politely or perhaps think you've lost your mind.

The very concept is difficult for many Christians to believe; never mind those who don't believe at all.

And yet ... Isn’t it a tragedy that in this day and age, when many are too willing to believe that the devil can possess an individual unwillingly and reap havoc in their lives; many people find it difficult to understand that the Spirit of God is willing to abide within us and lead us to an eternal better life in Heaven.

But only if we ask Him.

Unlike the devil, the Holy Spirit will not abide in a person unless He is asked. Unless He is invited.

All we have to do is to believe and to invite the Holy Spirit to be within us.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

What's your attitude?


I don't know if it's my imagination, but a lot of people are going around these days with a face as if they have a permanent bad smell under their nose.

I know it is not possible to be always happy and cheerful and go along singing and shouting "Praise the Lord!". But some people I know seem to be permanently gloomy as if they're carrying the world's garbage on their shoulders. I accept that at times we all have our bad hair day, the days when things aren't as they should be; that's natural and to be expected. But let's not make a habit of always looking like a mouldy ten year old sandwich in a caffeteria.

Imagine a party, or a barbeque, where everyone is happy and chatty, and the food and drink are perfect, and the weather is wonderful, and the music is playing, and ... one sour faced person looking as if they have just tasted a vinaigrette gateau - if there is such a thing. And if there isn't, then there should be to help me make my point.

That person's attitude will spoil the whole event for everyone. People will remember their face, their behaviour, their demeanour for years to come. If any one is taking photos then that will be permanently recorded for posteriority too. (I know there is no such word - I've just made it up to add effect to my writing).

So let's look in the mirror more often and watch our attitude. Is the person looking back at us the sort of person we'd like to meet? Does he or she make us happy?

Even if it is difficult, which I accept it sometimes is for some, let's make an effort to break a smile. I said break a smile; not break wind. That's an all together different story for another day.

Let's smile more often. If not for us, then for others. A smile every now and then makes someone else happy. Let's tickle ourselves to make ourselves smile. I always carry a feather in my trouser pocket for such a purpose. (Please don't make up your own jokes at my expense.)

Let's watch our attitude.

The other day the postman dropped his hat accidentally and my dog rushed upon it and tore it to pieces. The postman complained to me saying "Your dog chewed my hat!"

I remembered my attitude and smiled broadly.

He said, "I don't like your attitude!"

I replied "It's not my 'at he chewed. It's your 'at he chewed!"

Keep smiling.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Prayers and Actions


There are times
when God
requires some action
from us.

"My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” — if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead." James 2:14-17. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

I am God personified


John 14:6-14
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does His works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

This is perhaps a little bit confusing at first, and we probably read the passage and move on to something else. The message we get, at first sight, is that Jesus says He is at one with the Father; God.

But let's analyse what He says a bit more.

Here Jesus is saying something that the disciples do not understand. They think He is saying that He is the Son of God, He is at one with God. But what He is in fact saying is "I am God. I am God, personified. I am God in the shape of a human."

Jesus often taught people to refer to God as the Father. And He often said that He is the Son of God. This must have scandalised the Jews and their elders who crucified Him for the blasphemy of saying He is the Son of God.

Can you imagine their reaction had He said outright, "I am God!"

This is the closest He comes to saying just that. And His disciples still did not understand.

"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," meaning "I am God personified."

He goes on to say, "I am in the Father and the Father is in me," again, explaining that they are one, He is God in human form.

He repeats this message and explains that the works He has done (miracles) are done through God Who lives in Him.

From olden times, as far back as Abraham, Moses and the prophets, the Jews believed in God. One God. One living God.

Other people had many deities like the Romans and the Greeks for instance.

The Jews had one living God. The God of Abraham and Moses Who spoke through the prophets.

Then Jesus came on the scene. He said He was the Son of God; and in time, many Jews accepted this. In their minds there was a living God in Heaven, and this Jesus, His only Son. Albeit, right now in this passage, He is telling them He is God, (i.e. part of the Trinity), but they don't see it or understand it.

After His death and resurrection the early Christians came to associate God and Jesus together. In their minds, and central to their faith, there was a living God, and this man Jesus who died and was raised from the dead was (is) His only Son.

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, as promised, He sent down His Holy Spirit, (the Spirit of God), to dwell within the disciples and to open their eyes and minds and to understand.

To understand that the three, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, are indeed one.

God - an invisible living Being, Creator of all and everything, somewhere in Heaven.

Jesus - God personified. Appearing on earth as a human being. The only Son of God.

The Holy Spirit - The Spirit (soul) of God. Descending upon the disciples, and upon us if we ask Him, to enlighten us, to help us, and to guide us back home to the Father, God.
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