by Anjali Kamaleson

I had been browsing the small potted trees at the greenhouse when I saw an elegant branch in a Mason jar, roots sprouting at the bottom. I looked at the tag. Weeping Willow. We’d recently moved to a new town and something for the yard, like a willow, would be a unique addition.

“What’re you looking at?” My mom asked, coming up behind me.

“Weeping Willow. Isn’t it pretty? It’d be nice to plant one in the backyard, hmm?”

“Yeah,” she replied with a nod, a look on her face that I couldn’t decipher. She smiled. “Maybe someday.”

A month later, on my birthday, my mom gave me strangely shaped package. Inside were two weeping willows of my own. I went to the backyard and planted them side by side.

“Someday when they’re bigger, I’ll put a bench between them,” I said to Mom, with a smile.

Sun and rain. Wind and snow.They grew, strong and tall. One particularly violent storm, one of my willows was struck by lightning. I thought about getting another one, for the bench. But one willow works just as fine as two.

Soon after, my dad got a new job, far away. I said goodbye to my willow. I wouldn’t get to put a bench there. Maybe I would plant another willow at the new place. Maybe I would get a bench too.

The new house had a small backyard, hardly enough room for a weeping willow, let alone two. I silently hoped we might move again, to a house with a bigger backyard for my willows and bench. But we didn’t.

Years passed. I went off to college and though my days were a whirlwind of classes, friends, and studying, I remembered my willow. I vowed that as soon as I graduated, I would go find my willow.

Weeks after I graduated, I bought a quaint stone bench, packed it in my car, and drove back to my old home. My willow still stood. Taller, stronger, lovelier, prouder, towering over all the other trees. Nestled under the flowing, feathery branches was a little bench. A little girl sat on the bench and from a distance I saw a peaceful expression on her face. She was content, she belonged.

Birds sang in the trees. A squirrel darted across the yard, and butterflies danced in the breeze. The little girl looked up and saw me. I smiled and waved. She hesitantly waved back. I decided it was time. I was going to go; and this time I didn’t mind so much. My bench was waiting in my car, along with the prospects of a new beginning, a new home, underneath a new willow tree.

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Cumbered by Much Serving

One of the greatest challenges teenagers face today is that simple, terrifying question adults ask in total innocence:

“So what are you doing after school?”

The question makes your world wobble just a little. You feel cold on the inside and warm on the outside, and plaster a self-assured smile on top of it so that they can’t see how scared you are. “Oh, I’ll travel,” you say. Or, “I’m taking a gap year.” Both usually mean the same thing: you have no idea. All your life things have been planned out for you in a slow steady sequence – the grades following one another in an inescapable, mundane security. But now suddenly graduation is looming, and after that the vast abyss of whatever lies beyond. You’ve wanted to lead your own life for the past few years – well, now you’ve got it. And you come to the startling, disorienting realisation that you have no idea what to do with it.

For a Christian teen, this becomes a mighty challenge to your faith. You want to serve your God with everything in you and change the world in His Name; you want to be a city on a hill, you want to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You want to know your calling so that you can go out and work hard and serve Him. So you read your Bible, and work hard to get your grades up, and you pray and you pray. “Here I am, Lord, send me!”

And then there is silence. There is no fire and lightning. There are no angels singing out your divinely chosen occupation. There is no still small voice. There is only silence.

You grow a little desperate. You’re begging God for your calling but He’s not giving to you. Meanwhile your peers and your family judge you and keep asking and asking that question. You’re bombarded with ideas from the world, your parents and social media, and then your own desires rise up and start to whisper in your ear too. OK, so you need a calling. But you need to make enough money off this to live on. You don’t want to move too far, or maybe you want to move to Europe or wherever. The hours shouldn’t be ridiculous, but you also don’t want to be employed by a jerk. Above all, you must enjoy it. Yes, that sounds good. Doing something you enjoy for money – that sounds great, right?

Sound familiar? Don’t be surprised – most of us either are going through it or have been through it. And it’s not a fun place to be in, but the way out is in your hands.

The key lies in Luke 10:

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Wow, how cool is Martha? She sounds really good. Look at how hard she’s working, serving Jesus, making this awesome meal for Him, getting her house clean and pleasant for Him. Isn’t that what we all want? To serve Him with all our heart? If only God would tell us what He wants from us so that we can go and work hard and do it!

Thing is, Jesus didn’t ask Martha for a meal or for a nice, clean house. He wasn’t interested in that – He was interested in her. In fact, the KJV describes Martha as “cumbered by much serving”. Cumbered – isn’t that just how we feel at this time in our lives? In the next verse, Jesus tells her exactly what He wants from her: herself.

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Brothers and sisters, the Lord is saying these words just as loudly to you and I today. We are far too hasty to rush into serving Him without knowing Him. His presence in your life – His true, real, dynamic, living Self inside you – is the only way your imperfect human soul can achieve true service of the High King.

Don’t get worried and upset about all these details. There’s only one thing worth being concerned about, and it’s Him. Sitting at His feet. Soaking up His word. Listening to His voice. It’s all about the relationship, and that’s what He really wants. In time, when He knows you, and when you know Him, if it is His will, you will be given your calling. But for now, let us simply sit at His feet and listen to Him.

Be still and know that He is God.

Submissions Selected!

Hello everyone!

Thank you all kindly for your patience in waiting for the submissions to be announced. The bad news is, it took a long time. The good news is, we have finished the selection process and are now ready to start editing and formatting!

The following stories were selected for use in the anthology:

Give Him Life by Anjali

The Death of Lucius Tarquitius Dolabella by Katrina van Oostrum

Ophelia’s Song by Maya Wesley

Girl Power by Firn Hyde

The Confession by Firn Hyde

The One and Only Truth by J. Dominique

Cassie’s Hope by Erin F. McPherson

The Traitor by Tessa Longbons

Phoenix by Keziah Cooper

Struggle by Keziah Cooper

Like the Unseen Moon by Cana Hunter

Congratulations to you all!

And thank you so much to every single one of you that submitted stories. We all appreciate your effort, and even if you didn’t make it into the anthology, God sees that you wrote from your heart for Him. And I’m sure that He is proud of you all regardless.

We will be in touch with all the writers to arrange editing shortly.

Grace and peace in Jesus
Firn Hyde

Submissions Closed!

Hello everyone!

Submissions are now closed. And God is amazing!

I was beginning to worry that we wouldn’t have enough submissions to go on with the anthology. Even to question God in my darker moments. “Lord, what did we do wrong?” “Lord, is it not Your will for A New Song to continue?”

But Jesus said, “Why are you scared, child of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26) and then I opened my inbox this morning and counted 15 stories. Fifteen. Father, forgive me. How great Thou art!

So, here are the titles of all the stories that have been submitted. A date by which selected stories will be announced will be shown on our website and Facebook page shortly. For now, please check if your story is in the list. If for some reason we did not receive it, don’t panic! Just contact us and we’ll fix it.

Girl Power

Like the Unseen Moon

Cassie’s Hope

The One and Only Truth

The Traitor

Phoenix

To the Court of Appeals

History’s Cemetery

Struggle

Picture on the Wall

Story of Sacrifice

Give Him Life

The Death of Lucius Tarquitius Dolabella

Ophelia’s Song

The Confession

Thank you so much for all your amazing submissions. Glory to the King!

What Makes A Story Christian?

By Cana Hunter

What makes a story Christian? I keep getting asked this question, and I decided I want to explore it more in depth today. There are innumerable ways that a story can be a Christian story. For our purposes here at A New Song, I prefer calling it “God-glorifying fiction” rather than “Christian fiction”, because I think of Christian fiction as a very specific genre with either a contemporary or historical setting and fairly conventional plots that normally center around a conversion. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look outside the box and free up our options.
If you look at the original Christian “fiction” (Jesus’ parables) you will see that it was all allegorical and analogical. So was the first Christian book (aside from the Bible), The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. (According to the AP English exam, “An allegory creates a symbolic relationship between something abstract and something concrete, whereas an analogy creates a relationship between two concrete things that have something in common. An allegory is typically a long, extended metaphor, whereas an analogy is typically a concise simile.”) The setting in Jesus’ parables was contemporary, while the setting in The Pilgrim’s Progress was fantasy. Allegory and analogy lend themselves very well to probably every single genre and setting imaginable.
While it seems rare for a non-allegorical, Christian story to take place in a non-realistic setting such as fantasy or science fiction, there are certainly no rules against it. The setting alone can really twist an otherwise ordinary story into something remarkable.
You can do the opposite by having a contemporary, realistic setting and a more unusual plot. In Christian fiction, I would think of an unusual plot as one that is not a conversion story. There’s nothing wrong with conversion stories, but I would like to see more books with innovative plots (and not just in the Christian fiction world). Converting to Christianity is the death of your old self and the birth of your new self; it is just the beginning of your eternal life with God. There is so much more to life than being born, so much for God to teach us, so many adventures that He has for us, so many turning points in our relationship with Him. Any of this is ripe material for stories–stories that will, Lord-willing, help other people in their own walk with God. Draw on your own life for inspiration in your writing.
I believe the most important factor in what makes a story Christian is that the author has God involved. The Person who created the entire universe (and the concept of story itself) surely can feed your creativity and inspire you better than anything else. What does God want you to write? I had no idea what I was going to blog about until I sat down and asked God what he wanted me to say. Once He helps you think of an idea, keep praying as you put it into writing. Pray for Him to guide your words. Surrender to Him, and His light will inevitably shine from you without your doing anything but obeying Him.
So there you have it: my in-depth definition of God-glorifying fiction, and a journey outside the Christian fiction box. I hope this clears things up for you and spurs you to think more deeply about the subject and how you define it.

Labour Not in Vain

“Yippee… It’s Friday!”

“TGIF.”

“This is my Monday face 😦 ”

“The weekend is one day too short.”

I dislike social media on Mondays and Fridays. Messages and posts like these abound – all either complaining about the working week or rejoicing in its ending.

It so often appears that our lives revolve around weekends, that work is just a meaningless drudgery we plod through in order to get to Friday evening so that we can… what? Watch TV? Indulge in our hobbies? Party? Go shopping? Spend the whole day on the computer?

Brethren, it seems to me this ought not to be so. The weekend consists of less than half the week, so is it really worth living for? If you knew Monday was your last day, would you hate it so much? Because it could be – today could be. We don’t know when Jesus is coming to get us and He is not going to ask us, “So what did you do with your weekends?”

Even if we don’t like our jobs, we are required, no, commanded to do them, and to do them well (1 Thess. 4:11). 2 Thessalonians 3:10 goes so far as to say that if one will not work, neither shall he eat. There are too many people who cannot work for those who can to refuse it. We will not add to the burden of others just because we don’t feel like working. If we can work, and if we want to eat, we better hurry up and do it so that we can not only feed ourselves, but also those less fortunate (Ephesians 4:28).

But there is more to it than duty. Let us count it all joy to be able to work for Him, whatever we do – whether we play sports or push pens or study or teach or cook or sing. If we can work, then we are mightily blessed and privileged; there are millions of unemployed, uneducated people who long for exactly what we complain about. We whine about having to study when all over the world people are stuck on the streets, unable to work, unable to understand what is happening in the world, locked in a prison of their own illiteracy. If you can read this, take a moment to thank God.

Brethren, we can live out our created purpose, improve our lives and, best of all, serve our God and His children through our careers, too. In fact, that should be the main purpose of our careers: to worship our amazing and beloved King. Let’s not store up our treasures where moths and thieves can destroy it, but rather work to fill up the treasuries of Heaven. Let us do our work with love, faith, passion, gratitude, patience, willingness, obedience and courage. Let us go forth and do whatever we do with all of our hearts, as unto God and not unto men (Colossians 3:23). Whether we really like what we do or not, we can still use it to serve the Lord, and the greatest joy a creature can know is in the serving of its Creator. What we do and where and when we do it is not what’s important. What is important is why we do it. And when we do it because we love our God and because we can serve Him in it by working with a worshipful and steadfast spirit, and dedicating all the glory to God, and submitting every detail to His loving Hands, then He will do something amazing with it. Something much bigger than we are.

Enough with blue Mondays. Wake up on Monday, turn your face to the sun, thank the Lord for a brand new day, and give every second to God. And then watch Him turn your world inside out.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

Inscribed in Stone

by Justine Capgras

“Oh, that my words were recorded,

   that they were written on a scroll,

that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,

   or engraved in rock forever!

I know that my redeemer lives,

   and that in the end he will stand on the earth.”

-Job 19:23-25

If words are just symbols, they’re pretty powerful.

One sentence can make the difference on anything from what you eat today to whether someone lives or dies. And there are so many different ways to use these sentences, whether you write in cuneiform or speak in Mandarin Chinese. In the end, though, you’re still using the symbols you have learned to communicate the ideas in your mind.

Well, we’re writers, right? Symbolism is what we do. The words we work with are symbols. The pictures we create are symbols. Rain is a symbol of sadness, the dawn is a symbol of hope.

Our words, however, are different. Because we are Christians, our words are a symbol of something else. You don’t have to be writing an allegory of the Gospel to spread God’s Kingdom. Your words are a symbol of you, no matter what you are writing, it always shows through. And we are the symbols of God in this world.

You can’t see, hear, or feel God, the symbols of our senses no longer work. Because we are God’s creation, we are the body of Christ, we are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And when we write our own symbols into the words on the page, we are spreading the Kingdom of the Lord farther than we ourselves could go. Whether we write on paper, “the cloud”, or inscribe every letter onto the mountainsides, God’s Word is inscribed on our hearts. We can use our writing to be the symbols that point back to the everlasting truth of the Gospel. And that, to me, is purpose enough.

“Your word, Lord, is eternal;

   it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations;

   you established the earth, and it endures.”

-Psalm 119:89-90