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…)

I am writing in a little white house off a truck road on the border between two Gulf States. Over the garden wall, tips of palm branches reach up towards a cloudless sky. The house is monastically bare – shipping is delayed – just a few sticks of second-hand furniture, no familiar comforts. And No Car. And just beyond this landscaped compound, through a wire fence, stretching for mile after mile, is desert. Sand, sand, and more sand.

But oh, the miracle of modern communications! The internet reaches to the desert, so with little adjustment, it is business as usual.

keyboard

I am working, as it happens, on a manuscript on communications technology, full of alarming statistics about surveillance and internet addiction and the damaging effects on education and relationships. Until today. My tenuous link with the outside world, my feeder of Facebook and twitter, my deliverer of email, my opener of windows, has snapped. Snuffed it. The Internet is down. I stab my keyboard, but a tiny red exclamation shouts: cut off!

All is not lost. Last time we did this move I learned: the absolute priority for my 30kgs had to be books. Each chosen with prayer, the deliberation of a Desert Island Disks interviewee, and only after consulting trusted reading friends, reviews … and a patient local bookseller.

book

I savour them one by one. At week eleven I have two left.

Have you noticed how some books come alive in certain situations, how the right book for the right place is so important? I love matching fiction to holiday destinations, reading Perfume on a trip to Paris, but sometimes there is more to this connection. It is as if the Lord chooses the right book for you at a particular point on your journey.

So I have found myself soaking up Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart, as I look out over palm trees and sand. This slim volume explains the spiritual disciplines of the desert fathers: solitude, stillness and prayer, so simply, like the words of a wise friend.

Living in the desert has helped me understand the imagery of the Bible. Alone you are vulnerable; water is utterly precious; trees so unusual they become landmarks, meeting points. And it is still.

The desert is spectacularly still. On camping trips I wander away from the chatter around the campfire. The stillness is unutterably, breathtakingly beautiful. Not a branch for the wind to whisper through. More silent than anywhere I have ever been.

The stillness silences you, until you can only listen to the still small voice.

Today the internet, my virtual lifeline is down. But I have my books to savour and study. And these friends, with solitude and stillness, lead me back to dependence on him, and to my actual lifeline, to prayer.

Stephanie [of the desert].

 

 

This article originally featured in the March – April 2016 edition of Together Magazine.

 

Stephanie devotional

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