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Poema 007 : Shelly E Johnson on Finding Our Mosaic Of Grace

Today on Poema I’m joined by singer/songwriter/worship leader Shelly E Johnson. As well as being a bestselling and critically acclaimed worship artist, Shelly has served as worship leader alongside Beth Moore, Tony Nolan, Andy Stanley, and toured North America with renown Irish Hymn-writers Keith & Kristyn Getty.

In this episode Shelly shares her own powerful story, of losing a parent at an early age, how it impacted her relationship with God and her creative journey – and helped her understand the true meaning of grace. Having lost a parent myself, and as an artist, much of her story resonated with my own, and we explore some deep truths about grief, suffering and the spiritual journey.

We also discuss the true meaning of grace, and how God through our experiences, we have seen how God takes these broken pieces of our lives, and rebuilds them into something more beautiful – a Mosaic Of Grace, the title of one of Shelly’s most memorable songs, and the title of my own bestselling book.

You can find more about Shelly’s work here.

My #2 bestselling book, ‘Mosaic Of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping Of Our Broken Lives’ is available in print here & on Kindle here.

Mosaic Of Grace Exclusive Excerpt: The Truth Of Grace

As many of you know, my first trade book ‘Mosaic of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping of Our Broken Lives’, releases tomorrow, Monday Feb 13. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon now. We’re holding a Facebook launch party Monday Feb 13 at 2pm CST, 3pm EST, 12pm PST, 8pm UK time – with lots of competitions, fun and prizes. You can go add yourself to the guest list here. In the meantime, here’s a little excerpt from the first chapter of the book, to give you a little flavour of what to look forward to. In this section, I begin to uncover the truth of what grace really is. Enjoy!

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Our culture tells us that it’s when we have it all together, when life is good, when all our ducks are in a row, then we are blessed. It sells us an ideal story of how we’re meant to live without any mess, any brokenness.

The story that western culture sells us goes something like this: You work hard at your job. You get a promotion and a pay rise. You behave correctly. Then you find a partner and settle down. Finally, you get the blessings from God. It’s a reward-based culture. Our actions define our reward, and once we’ve dealt with our issues, we can be blessed. Blessing comes after dealing with the mess, not in the midst of it.

We all know this isn’t true. read more…

Poema 006: Sarah Bessey on The Altar Of Creativity (& The Spirituality Of Doctor Who)

Today Sarah Bessey, author of ‘Jesus Feminist’ and ‘Out Of Sorts’, joins me on the podcast. We talk about writing and creativity as ways we interact with the divine, and express ourselves spiritually – as well as the spirituality of the TV show Doctor Who. read more…

Poema 005 : Matthew Schmitt on The Table Setters & Loving Your Enemies

Today I’m joined by Matthew Schmitt, co-founder of The Table Setters, a new organisation running diversity workshops, and doing consulting that helps to develop culturally integrated lives in churches, schools & businesses in the US.

Matthew and I talk about issues of race and equality in the US today, and the challenge of what it really means to love your enemy. The concept of the Table Setters is to bring people of different perspectives, races, backgrounds, beliefs around the same table and have healthy dialogue, and Matthew and I discuss together what this looks like – in particular in the current political climate in the US.

And with the election of Donald Trump as President, we talk about how progressives and conservatives, instead of hating on each other, might follow Jesus example, come around a table together, and hear each others stories – and how that is what may bring about the change we desperately need.

Matthew is a truly inspiring man, doing some groundbreaking work – and his words will both encourage and challenge you.

What Is Grace To You? A Blogging Challenge

Grace.

What does that word mean to you?

For some, like me, it can mean something deeply spiritual. For others, it can be used to describe a beautiful ballet. For others, the attitude or character of a person. It’s truly amazing how so many people can have different interpretations, and stories, relating to one word. And this coming month, I want us to explore this subject, and this question, together.

For example, for me, grace is simply about the concept that all of us are enough – just as we are. That we are unconditionally loved, accepted and forgiven by God, just as we are. That our value doesn’t come from what we do, from our relationships, work, status, wealth, position or anything else – but from God. And He loves and accepts us just as we are. I explore and unpack my own reflections on grace in my upcoming book,  Mosaic Of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping Of Our Broken Lives’, which releases Feb 13 and is available to pre-order here.

And so, with this in mind, I felt it would be great to explore what grace means to each and every one of us. To hear people’s interpretations and experiences of grace, and share those with others.

As a writing coach and someone who wants to help writers grow and find their voice, I struck upon an idea which could both explore grace, and help you grow as a writer. A grace blogging/writing challenge.

Each month I run a writers challenge, helping people to build up a daily writers habit. As part of this, I send out daily writing prompts around a theme for a week, then weekly prompts for the rest of the month. So, this month, I figured it might be good to explore the concept of grace.

So, if you sign up for the challenge in the form below, you’ll get some e-mails this week with some writing prompts on the subject of grace. If you already signed up for a previous challenge – then you don’t need to do a thing, you’ll get those e-mails beginning this week!

But this month, to add to the writers challenge, I wanted to invite you to participate in a blogging challenge. If you’re a blogger, of any level, I’d like to invite you to write and publish a blog post this week – answering the question:

What does grace mean to me?

The answer to this can be anything. No wrong answers. Whatever that word means to you, write it down in a blog post, share it on social media with the hashtag #MosaicOfGrace and then share the link in the comments below.

If you’ve already written a blog post on grace, that counts too – so tweet and share the link to that post – I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

One thing I’d ask to you to do as part of the challenge, is to read others posts, and comment on them – so we can all support each others writing. I’ll share links and a brief intro to the best of them in a future blog post.

So if you’re interested, sign up for the challenge in the form below, and then when you’ve written your post, put the link in the comments. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on this important subject. Grace is something I’m really passionate about – so let’s explore this subject together.

Are you with me?

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Mosaic Of Grace releases on Feb 13 – pre-order your copy here!

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Picture Source: James Prescott via Canva

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Poema 004 : Kyle Strobel on Harry Potter & The Christian Way Of Power

Today, theologian and author Kyle Strobel joins me to talk about the challenging topic of what true wisdom is, and Christianity in relation to the concept of power – and how this has been misunderstood and abused, and what Harry Potter can teach us about Jesus and Christ-like wisdom.

Kyle and his colleague Jamin Goggin have interviewed some of the oldest and wisest prominent Christian leaders and learned a lot about what true Christ-like wisdom is. We discuss how, in fact, the way of Jesus is about surrender, about giving up power, not claiming more and more.

Kyle and I also talk about the myth of Christian celebrity, and Kyle shares the powerful metaphor of Harry Potter, and how his story is a metaphor for this in many ways, and what the story of Harry Potter has to say to our own spiritual journeys.

This is a fascinating insight into important issues of Christian power, wisdom and surrender, many of which are rarely discussed today – and Kyle has great wisdom on the topic. Definitely worth a listen!

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Kyle’s new book ‘The Way Of The Dragon Or The Way of the Lamb’, which explores this topic in much more depth, releases Jan 25.

Book Lessons 2: Why You’ve Gotta Do The Work

The journey to my first trade book ‘Mosaic Of Grace’ being written and published, began in 2012. I was at the time, building a new friendship, with a fellow writer and poet, Joy – who is now a dear friend of mine. One topic which came up often in our conversation was grace. I’d been reflecting on it a lot, hearing a few sermons on the subject, and Joy had written much poetry around the subject.

It began to dawn on me that this subject desperately needed more exploration, that we needed more people talking about this subject. And as I reflected on the topic more, some more ideas came to my mind, different aspects of the topic of grace, which I wanted to explore.

So in the next 8 months or so I began to plan, and then write, the first draft of ‘Mosaic Of Grace’. By August 2013, the draft was done.

And then nothing. I had no book contract. I had no money to self publish. I knew no one in publishing. I sent the draft to some beta readers, and proofreaders I knew and made some changes to the initial draft. I even managed to get someone to endorse it. read more…

Poema 003: Shane Claiborne On Executing Grace & The End Of The Death Penalty

The inspiring author, speaker and activist Shane Claiborne joins me today. He talks about his most recent work in campaigning for the end of the death penalty in the US.

Shane passionately and with great wisdom shares about how the death penalty is about more issues than justice – it’s about race, equality, restorative justice and, above all, about grace.

He shares some moving testimonies of people on death row, and argues that as Christians we are called to believe that no one, not even murderers, are beyond redemption, and for an approach to justice which begins with grace, with mercy – and beginning to see all people as God sees them.

This is one of the most inspiring interviews I’ve ever done – and whether you’re Christian or not, this will challenge, encourage and inspire you.

Quotes:

“The death penalty has survived not despite Christians but because of us. The Bible belt is the death belt.”

“We live in a world where violence is pervasive, we’ve created this myth of redemptive violence, this myth we can fight violence with violence. Violence is the problem, not the solution. The disease, not the cure”

“Support for the death penalty has hit historic lows”

“Jesus was an executed, forgiving victim of tremendous violence, who died with grace on His lips, saying ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing’. That should change us.”

“God is more concerned with healing than He is with punishment”

“We can’t hold the cross with one hand and a weapon with the other”

Poema 002: Max Strom on Healthy Breathing & Why There Is No App For Happiness

For my first Poema interview I’m delighted to welcome Max Strom. Max is an author of several books, including ‘A Life Worth Breathing’ and ‘There Is No App For Happiness’. Max speaks and trains people all over the world around these topics, and has also spoken at TED.

Max is passionate about us all having a holistic, healthier rhythm to life, and teaches healthy breathing exercises and routines, including some yoga-based exercises.

Max and I talk about what a healthy breathing pattern really looks like, how anxiety can be directly linked to grief, and also touch on the damage our culture’s addiction to social media can do to our personal well-being.

Max has great wisdom and provides some genuine, healthier alternatives to the rhythms we often choose live by and consumerism can pressurise us to follow, refreshing alternatives which can help us all lead a healthier life, inside and out.

Poema 001: What Is Poema?

Today ‘James Talks’ relaunches as the ‘Poema Podcast’. This week we have three episodes – today, tomorrow and Thursday. The others will have very special guests, today’s is the first of some reflective episodes – all of these will be hosted and curated by me, James Prescott.

In this first episode, I’ll be talking about the changes to the podcast, and what we’ll be doing in this first season of the ‘Poema Podcast’. I also explore what this word ‘Poema’ really means, its roots in scripture, and how it’s fundamental to us exploring our identity, finding our calling, and stepping out in faith to create the life God intended us to live.

I unpack the idea that we’re all God’s masterpiece, our lives are works of art – and share how if we root ourselves in grace, we can be liberated to create the life God always wanted for us – and ultimately, help create a better world.