Excerpt From My Latest Book, Picked For A Purpose - Showing We All Have A Worthwhile Part To Play

Posted at 11:40am on 6th April 2020

Are you wondering what your life is all about during the lockdown due to Covid 19?  Then read on.  My latest book, Picked for a Purpose shows that whatever the adversity, we all have value, and a worthwhile part to play.  Here is a complete chapter for you to read.  And I'm currently selling copies for a couple of pounds or whatever you choose to give (which will go to charity) plus postage and packaging.  Message me if you'd like one.

CHAPTER 28: A PLUM JOB

When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Let all things be done for building up.  1 Corinthians 14:26 English Standard Version

A year or so after my daughter’s miraculous recovery, I received a letter from Hodder & Stoughton.  Having heard of my previous books, James Catford, Commissioning Editor, asked if I would ghost-write the testimony of a young woman living in my vicinity.  Her name was Susan James and she was resident in a Cheshire Home in Brixham, Torbay.

The Bay, in South Devon, is approximately five miles across, is well sheltered from the prevailing winds and thus has a wonderful history.  Evidence in Kent’s Cavern shows that it was inhabited in Palaeolithic times 40,000 years ago; the Romans landed here when Britain was part of the Roman Empire; it appears in the Domesday Book; Torre Abbey, a monastery built in the 12th Century, still stands; and William of Orange, whose statue stands on the quay in Brixham, landed on its southern coast in 1688, during the Glorious Revolution, when he declared that: The Liberties of England and The Protestant Religion I Will Maintain.  It also saw the embarkation of Napoleon when he was exiled to St Helena.  Known as The English Riviera, it is a stunningly beautiful and much-loved tourist resort.

I duly visited Susan at Douglas House and learned of her story.  A local girl, her older sister was one of the twenty-one Sunday School children killed during WW2, when German planes off-loaded bombs on St Marychurch, Torquay.  Decades later, Susan married a young man from nearby and the two of them moved to Ecuador where they lived a life of luxury.  Sadly, over time, their relationship deteriorated and ended in divorce.  Susan returned to the UK, where she began to experience dizzy turns.  Surgery to remove the tumour that was found to be growing in her brain rendered her paralysed.

Not yet thirty, embittered, and wondering what point there was in her life, Susan was wheelchair-bound: a paraplegic.  Ten years later her father died and her mother went into a residential care home.  Then Susan met a man in her own care home who was bed-bound.  He told her about Jesus and, in due course, Susan became a believer and was baptised.  She began to write poetry and became a speaker, sharing her testimony.  Eventually, she met with Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman whose paralysis, as the result of a diving accident, had made her a celebrity.

It was a moving story and one I felt I could write with the passion and sincerity it deserved.  What’s more, I had met one of Hodder’s authors at a writers’ conference, and he agreed to read and comment on the manuscript.  Thus, Hugh Rae, who wrote novels under the pen-name Jessica Stirling, became a firm friend and we corresponded for years to come.  Meanwhile, Susan’s book, titled Healed Within, was published and, as a result, she and I appeared together on BBC Songs of Praise, and we were later approached by another TV company wanting to film her story.

It was agreed that I was to interview her.  And as we met with the producer and cameraman on Berry Head, the most southerly point of Torbay, Susan was reminded of a vision she had had there years earlier.  It was of an angel – a man, dressed in a suit on a hot summer’s day – who had told her that Jesus loved her.

‘I didn’t want to know,’ Susan said, ‘but God refused to take no for an answer.  He sought me out.  He made me his own.  He saved me, primarily to be his child, to know him and love him.’

‘But,’ she finished, ‘I was also to be His hands.  His feet.  His love.  I was to be part of a greater whole.  My focus was not to be taken up with the work God required of me, but with the Lord himself.’

Despite her disablement, Susan had been picked for a purpose.  And she knew it!

A year or so later, James Catford asked me to write another book.  It was the story of a young scientist, a haemophiliac who, while working in the USA as a post-graduate from Oxford, became HIV+ as a result of contaminated bloods.  Taking up a post with Glaxo, in Geneva, he subsequently developed AIDS and died, leaving a wife and young daughter.  But neither he, nor his wife, ever lost faith in the Lord.

I declined.  It was too distressing.  James begged me to read the journals Phil and Jana Godfrey had kept.  He was convinced I could do the story justice.  Eventually, I agreed and when the documents arrived through the post early one Saturday morning, I sat in bed in tears as I read it through.  I knew without a shadow of doubt that I had to do it.

Hodder asked me to go to Geneva, at their expense, where Phil’s widow, Jana, still lived.

‘My daddy’s with the Lord Jesus,’ said his little daughter when they met me at the airport.  ‘And he’s got new legs.’

Living with Jana and visiting the World Health Organisation, Glaxo, and other important places in Phil’s life, I did my research and pieced together the sequence of events.  Later I went to stay with his family in Oxford.  It was harrowing, but at the same time uplifting.  I learned that Phil, and two other scientists working at Glaxo, were responsible for discovering dopamine receptors, crucial knowledge in devising the treatment of Parkinson’s and similar diseases.

One of the reviews, written by an American when the book was finally published, described it as: so moving and so well written; conveys all the agony and trials of AIDS so well and the everyday details of coping and caring; the mental, emotional and spiritual struggles are all followed and interwoven so as to give an effective, vibrant, multi-coloured picture of actual events.  A literal can’t put down book.

In due course, it became a Sunday Times No. 4 bestseller but, perhaps more importantly, it eventually helped in some way to change the social stigma and unjust anomalies associated with HIV and AIDS.  While visiting Parliament as the guest of my local MP, Rupert Allason (also an author) to undertake research for another book I was writing, I learned that mortgages, life assurance and so forth were hugely restricted for the families of AIDS sufferers, and that this was something John Major was determined to change when he came into power.

The fame that this book afforded me was enormous but, as before, I shrank when in the limelight.  Edward England, one of the most influential Christian publishers at the time, introduced me at a large conference as a ‘bestselling author’.  I cringed.

‘I’m not,’ I spluttered.  ‘The book was a bestseller.  Not me.’

My interpretation was firmly refuted by Edward; and later, David Coffey, my church pastor and friend, told me off.

‘Don’t hide your light under a bushel,’ he said.  ‘It’s not yours to hide.’

This, I later learned, was a reference to one of Jesus’ parables, in which he told his listeners:

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  Matthew 5:15

REFLECTIONS & QUESTIONS

What David Coffey had to say to me was, perhaps, one of the most important things I was to learn.  In conjunction with the instruction the Lord had given me to comfort others with the comfort I had received, he set me on a path to do just that.  Being a shrinking violet and hiding what God has done for us and through us is not on.  How else would we ever have learned of Christ and salvation had we not had the stories of the Bible recorded for us?  It’s not our glory we proclaim when we tell of God’s work in our lives.  It is his!

In the belief that this is a vital truth in being picked for a purpose, and with a strong desire to reach out to non-believers, I started writing crossover novels.  The first, titled Time to Shine, focuses on this theme.  This was in response to a Word I had from the Lord, in which he told me to: entertain your readers so they will absorb truths they might otherwise resist.  The book became a No. 1 Bestseller in its category on Amazon, and the Word I had received was later confirmed when I was interviewed on Premier Radio, and Christy Wimber was quoted as saying: ‘Truths are better caught than taught.’

My hope was that my readers would catch on to the fact that we are all meant to shine.  With permission from the author, Marianne Williamson, I have included the following quotation in the story: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

© Marianne Williamson: used by permission

The seed that God scattered in Susan James’ life, with the vision of an angel on Berry Head, fell on stony ground and was pecked away by the crows.  But God didn’t give up!  Despite her refusal to listen, he went on to sow more seed through the man in her care home.  And despite the physical weaknesses imposed upon her by her brain tumour, he chose her to shame the things which are strong.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Like Susan James, we all have to learn that it is not what we do that is important to God.  Neither is it what we know.  It’s who we are!  Who we are in him!  But it follows that if we are to be the people God wants us to be, we must not shrink from the work he puts before us.  And neither should we shrink from glorifying God.  As I write this, Prince Harry has just shared his mental health issues in respect of his mother’s death: a brave admission which, rightly, brought him much praise and respect.

Whilst having coffee with friends in one of the seafront hotels last year, I noticed a woman sitting alone.  It worried me!  Before leaving, we approached her and spoke with her.  As a result, we learned that while on holiday with her husband he had been taken into hospital and that she was visiting him daily.  With no idea as to whether she was a believer or not, we promised to pray.  Next morning, thinking it would at least help to pass the time for her, I left a copy of Time to Shine at the reception, together with my business card.  Weeks later, she rang me and told me the book had ‘changed her life’.

On another occasion, while on a clifftop showing a visiting friend where Henry Francis Lyte wrote his famous hymn Abide with me, I was approached by a man – a complete stranger – whom I imagine must have overheard our conversation.  While my husband and friend walked on, this man told me of his experience at a convent school, where the ‘penguins’ had wrapped his knuckles because he was left-handed.  That experience, naturally, had had a negative effect on his view of God and church.

We spoke at length and I learned that his marriage was over, that his wife had ‘taken everything’, that he had ‘nothing’, and that he’d always wanted to ‘end his days’ in Torbay.  I left, eventually, to continue sightseeing with my husband and friend, then ran back when I felt that the Holy Spirit was telling me to give this man a copy of Time to Shine, which I happened to have in the car.  When we returned, later, he was sitting in the back of his van reading.

It was only the following morning when I woke that the significance of his remark hit me.  Did ‘ending his days in Torbay’ mean living there?  Or had he been suicidal?  Was he standing on that clifftop with intent?

I may never know.  But this I do know: I was prompted by God to give that book to this man.  And I share this with you now because it is to God’s glory that he chose to use me to be his ears and eyes; his hands and feet; his love and compassion. 

~~oo~~

I do hope you have found this helpful in these times of adversity.  Each chapter in my book finishes with Reflection & Questions.  Here are those from this excerpt:

  • How does it make you feel when you hear of the bitterness and emptiness that can encompass the hearts and souls of people in Susan's situation who feel they've been robbed of meaningful life?
  • Do you find it difficult to believe that God is on our side when you read of the terrible suffering in the lives of people like Susan James and Phil Godfrey?
  • Or can you see, and applaud, the way in which He confounds the worldly view of success, and uses the weak, the foolish, and the lowly things of this world to bring about his will?  Even changing the way insurance companies look upon those with HIV and AIDS?
    THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH WE HAVE ALL BEEN PICKED?  To shine a light on our story, and thus to glorify God.                                                                             

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