Holding and Beholding

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This year has been a struggle and a marathon for many, just to stand still. At Muddy Pearl we look back, catching our breath, and we are humbled and thankful to see how the Lord, our friends, authors and readers have helped us through. We have released a workbook, our first fiction titles (one achieved the Best Historical Fiction award in The Christys!), joined forces with independent bookshops around the UK with bookshop.org; published the very lovely Living for Eternity in October, and two more wonderful books in November. Even after all that, we have one more thing to rejoice over as we start the celebrations for Christmas.

Today, we are delighted to announce the safe delivery of the so-very-eagerly awaited Amazed by Jesus, by Simon Ponsonby. Commissioned four years ago, after thinking long and hard about who I could ask to write a book on Jesus. We talked, and at first, he said he wouldn’t know how, and I thought it was back to the drawing board.

Then we talked again, and he sent me seventy chapters, which completely overwhelmed me. And then as so often happens, it came together very quickly, at just the right time. Simon had a deep and fresh revelation of Jesus, in a café, and then wrote the final draft in a few days, carefully honing the seventy down to just nineteen. Then, through the nine months of lockdown, we have worked on it together, through the miracle of zoom – Simon walking through the green countryside around Oxford or looking out across the dreaming spires, me often on my terrace in the early evening, looking out over dusty Arabic rooftops towards the desert…

And as the calls to prayer would sound, that familiar clamour of different voices in different keys and each with slightly different intonation and timing, rising from the neighbourhood towers, I would lift my head from checking, correcting references, learning something new about, and just reflect on … Jesus. The irony and sheer wonder would strike me again, here in the middle east, in this unlikely context, which is yet more like the real thing than we might know, we are creating a new book, to go out to thousands, all about Jesus!

As the months have gone on, anticipation has grown to excitement, peppered with the frustration of delay at the end, just like a new birth. And so, as I think of the many many mothers won’t see their children this year, the chapter ‘holding and beholding’, goes around in my mind, the incredible miracle that the Lord of all the earth, became a little child, to be cradled, his head held in the crook of a mother’s arm. This to me, although I have no idea when I will hold a copy, and after all that this year has thrown at all of us, and the circuitous journey this manuscript has taken, is like the best Christmas present ever.

Wherever you may be spending this festive season, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support over these months. It has been amazing to see the engagement even in these difficult times! Here’s the rounding out this year in an appropriate way – with reverence, reflection, and reliance on God, who is bigger than all of this, who is Immanuel, God with us, and who has come to us. If I may be permitted, I would like to encourage you to reflect on Jesus this Christmas, to return to him as first love, to go deeper and truly experience him as Living Water during these times of disruption. He is amazing.

Happy Christmas everyone!

That’s why we’ve decided to include free gift wrapping for all orders placed this year of The Little Book for Really Really Brilliant Grandparents and Amazed by Jesus (due out on 18th December).

And we’re not stopping there – as we move into 2021 we will roll out gift wrapping for all orders as an optional extra on our website, along with gift cards featuring some of David McNeill’s  lovely cartoons which feature in a host of our books, all priced at a very attractive rate!

 

Watch this space in the New Year for more on these exciting additions!

 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, wherever and with whomever you may be spending it this strange year.

 

With Love and Blessings,

 

The Muddy Pearl Team

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We are delighted to announce our latest book to be released, the little book for REALLY REALLY brilliant Grandparents! This is the latest in our ‘Really Really’ series, little books with collections of sage advice coupled with fantastic illustrations. We think this is such an appropriate time to be bringing this book out to the world.

 

The role of a grandparent is unique to family life. The warmth and joy they provide is uncomplicated and unlimited by the normal boundaries of parental responsibilities – they get to spoil their grandchildren to their heart’s desire. Yet this year grandparents have also suffered greatly, with government-imposed lockdowns preventing thousands of grandparents (new and old) from seeing their loved ones.

 

Now with the lowering of restrictions over the Christmas holidays, we are given a glimpse of hope to be able to reconnect with our families. Once more, grandparents will have the opportunity to pour out their love, encouragement and generosity – in whatever form – to those they hold dear. However, as we readjust to an ever-changing world, it is crucial to give support and encouragement to all those on their grandparent journey.

 

Rob Parsons OBE and Katharine Hill – both grandparents themselves – have teamed up once again to bring this light-hearted collection of quotes, and sayings, with illustrations as always from the fabulous David McNeill. Offering ideas, strategies and practical tips on this vital role within the family, this book is an ideal gift for any grandparent (or for yourself!) in these strange times. We are so thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them again and we hope you will love reading this book as much as we have enjoyed putting it together!

 

Since you’re here, please let me remind you of the other two books in the series, The Really Really Busy Person’s Book on Parenting and The Really Really Busy Person’s Book on Marriage, both by Rob and Katharine, and both equally insightful, engaging, and humorous in equal measure. Be sure to check out the books below if you haven’t already!

At first glance, you might be justified in assuming that a book combining the stories of an 18th Century German Count and a technically detailed flight over Europe is, at best, appealing to a fairly niche subsection of readers. You might even feel justified in counting yourself out of that group. However, what Phil Anderson offers with Lord of the Ring is not some dusty academic appraisal of a long dead aristocrat, but a profoundly informative and surprisingly accessible attempt to shed some light on an often overlooked figure at the heart of recent history. In a compelling mix of biographical insight and personal anecdotes, Anderson weaves together the story of Count Zinzendorf, the godfather of the modern prayer and missions movements, with his own pilgrimage to the place it all began, making real and present what could seem so distant and isolated. Though the 24-7 prayer movement was born in Herrnhut, it did not die at the end of their one hundred years of continual prayer, and we are reminded as Anderson describes himself wandering the neglected ruins of Zinzendorf’s home in the early years of the revival of this very idea of the relevancy of the history being told, the legacy which outlasted individuals and even buildings. This is a book that manages to seamlessly evoke the impact of the past on the present, removing history from the page by highlighting its ongoing relevance. I began this book filled with cautious scepticism, and ended it with a newfound respect for a man whose influence has touched the world.

When I think of my father, I often think of his hands – sturdy, broad, made coarse by time in the act of making; the hands of a worker, often decorated with a few words scrawled in blue pen, the only other adornment being a ring on his left hand. Thick and silver, it is engraved with a strange jumble of letters and symbols, moulded with age into the triangle shape of his finger, acting at once as a wedding band and a statement of faith. (more…)

‘Left to Their Own Devices?’ is a really good book. I don’t say that very often!

It’s also a very sane book! My children are in their 30s. When they were young, the Internet hardly existed and a screen, such as they were, was primarily the television.

So this book is such an important title, especially for families who are struggling with their children’s time on screen.

‘Struggling’ is not the wrong word – every day appears hard, and it’s clearly a battle to stay on top of where kids may be going next on-screen. Yet the book is clear; 15 chapters and all fairly short. It’s practical and there are great cartoons throughout the text (thanks to illustrator, David McNeil).

When we meet parents on our Care for the Family events, questions concerning how to help their children navigate the world of technology leave all other topics in the shade. Many parents feel anxious and bemused.

The book aims to take struggling parents through to ‘confident’ parenting. Quite a claim, isn’t it? Even toddlers are often well ahead of parents when it comes to dealing with screens. How on earth do you stop what is happening in your family? What are the ground rules to apply?

This is a big subject, and one which will continue to concern us well into the future, I’m sure!

It struck me reading this title, that digital technology presents a remarkable aspect to our children’s lives, and yet one which can go so horribly wrong. I’m glad that I’m older, can look back as a grandparent, and not have to deal with all that our own children are trying to handle.

Above all, we should pray that God will help all parents work through some of these complicated issues.

When was the last time you heard someone speak on this subject in a church?

 

The Book – Chapter by Chapter

FACT – Did you know that Twitter was invented just over 10 years ago?

Chapter 1. There are three core issues: Content (what children see online), Contact (who they are talking to online) and Conduct (how they behave online). Katharine Hill points out that digital visitors, i.e. many parents, and digital residents (most of our offspring) occupy quite different areas of life.

Chapter 2 reminds us that technology can be as a lifesaver in the home. Being in touch is a great advantage. Software allows us to contact people around the world. It’s not all bad, and we should remember this.

Chapter 3 mentions ‘authoritarian’ parents where children may feel hemmed in and suffocated, ‘permissive’ parents where children have no security and then ‘assertive’ parents with a firm but fair style. Which one are you?

Chapter 4 looks at ‘too much screen time’. The big issue! A real battleground in many homes, and the source of many confrontation and rows.

From Chapter 4 onwards, there is a section, ‘What can parents do’? Katherine Hill’s advice in these areas is simply brilliant for all parents.

Chapter 5: The issue of online and off-line relationships.

Chapter 6: Everything children do is online!  The 24/7 ‘always all’ culture means that our children have no time to be ‘bored’ or even just to ‘be’.

Chapter 7: In my view, this is the best chapter in the book! Social media plays such a huge part in a child’s life today, especially for teenagers. The big question here for everyone is, ‘am I loved’?

Chapter 8. Pornography is everywhere, and easily available on smartphones. The sexualised culture today is the ‘wallpaper’ of children’s lives (Bailey Report 2011). For older teenagers: watch the YouTube video uploaded by Thames Valley police to address the issues of consenting sex: ‘Tea and consent’.

Chapter 9. Sexting – when someone sends sexually explicit texts of photos naked or semi naked. In 2014, 37% of 13 to 25-year-olds have sent naked picture of themselves via smartphone app. 49% believe sexting is harmless fun. Yet, sexting is illegal for under 18’s and what goes online, stays online.

Chapter 10. Dealing with bullying. Now there is no safe haven, not even at home. The bully can reach their prey anytime and anywhere. One in five young people in the UK have been affected by online bullying. See www.stopcyberbullying.org

Chapter 11. Grooming is an issue to strike terror into the heart of any parent. 13 to 14-year-olds represent the largest single victim group. The anonymity of digital communication means there is huge scope for the predator. Grooming also can take place via computer gaming.

Chapter 12. In Care for the Family, the top list of concerns are – (1) worries about are too much screen time and (2) Internet addiction. Children as young as four are addicted to iPads and smartphones. This addiction can be harder to kick than drugs!

Chapter 13. Consumer culture. Today’s parents have a harder job to combat pester-power than in previous generations due to the 24/7 presence of advertising to digital technology. ‘These days children are under greater pressure to grow up too quickly’ (Bailey Review 2011).

Chapter 14. All kinds of families and all kinds of issues. Single parents or blended families? Co-parenting across two families? These situations can be very challenging.

An observation. On page 131: Currently 14 million grandparents in the UK who provide childcare for their grandchildren and many more close contact with them.

‘The reassurance that they are loved simply for who they are’.

 Chapter 15. ‘Teaching them to learn to discern’.  Katharine Hill says:

We can put every protection in the universe in place, our home can be a digitally impenetrable Fort Knox with every safeguards known to man installed, but it doesn’t protect our children when they are away from home.

Our role as parents is a positive one. …we teach our children to manage their freedoms well, training them from the inside out to make wise choices in a world where all choices are possible. We do this placing values in their hearts that will be the compass for their lives.

 

This review was first published at www.clcbookshops.com

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