National Day of Thanksgiving in Australia – Saturday 25 May

Narelle here. On Saturday 25 May, Australians will have the opportunity to thank those who make a difference in their communities.

The National Day of Thanksgiving gives Australians an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation, and to thank one another for the contributions each makes in our communities.

It is a Christian based initiative, endorsed by Government and supported by numerous community groups, that provides the Church in Australia with the opportunity to give leadership in drawing local communities together to celebrate those values that bind us together as a nation.

People to Honour and Thank in 2013:

Solicitors, barristers, judges and court officials.

Police and administrative staff.

Young people under 30 showing leadership by example through acts of community service and leadership in local community and church organisations.

For the Aussies reading this post, who will you be thanking on Saturday? Are you involved in any National Day of Thanksgiving activities?

For more information on the National Day of Thanksgiving, please visit their website

Luis Palau is visiting Australia

by Narelle Atkins

CityFest with Luis Palau will be held in Newcastle (Hunter Region) on November 17-18, 2012. The festival will feature a number of free events including live concerts by top artists, a Kids Fun Zone and extreme sports demonstrations.

​Luis Palau has preached the Gospel for over 50 years to more than one billion people around the world. In September he preached the Gospel in Albania and you can follow his ministry on Facebook.

Check out this video on You Tube to learn more about the vision for CityFest in Newcastle.

If you live in or near the Hunter Region, mark the date on your calendar now. And let your family and friends know about this great event that will transform lives.

Aussie Christian writing resources

by Narelle Atkins

In recent months I’ve been thinking about the resources that are currently available in Australia for Christian writers. The US Christian book market for fiction and non-fiction has been booming for many years, and organisations eg. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) have expanded accordingly to meet the needs of authors in this growing market.

I write fiction in the Christian/inspirational romance genre and I value my memberships with Romance Writers of Australia, Faith, Hope and Love Inspirational Chapter of Romance Writers of America and ACFW. ACFW has a Beyond the Borders Zone Group for international writers. I blog with International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW), a group that was started by ACFW Beyond the Borders members who wanted to promote Christian Fiction with international themes. A number of Aussie and NZ writers are ICFW members.

I recently joined Omega Writers Inc., an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia that was established in 1991 to support and encourage Christian writers. They have members in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2010, Omega Writers Inc. established the CALEB Prize for Faith-Inspired Writing. This award promotes Christian writing in the specific areas of fiction, non-fiction and poetry and was expanded in 2011 to include an award for unpublished manuscripts.

The Word Writers Fair Getaway will be held at the Sunshine Coast on 12-14 October, 2012. Last year in November I attended The Word Writers Fair and CALEB Awards Dinner in Brisbane.

I have also blogged with Christian Writers Downunder, a writing group for Australian and New Zealand Christian writers that was set up in 2011.

There are a growing number of opportunities for Aussie Christian writers to publish in Australia and  overseas. The growth of eBook publishing is opening up a whole new world of possibilities for authors. Advances in technology and social media have allowed writers from around the world to connect in various ways.

I’ve mentioned a few groups that have been established to support Aussie writers. Is there a particular writing organisation that has helped you in your writing journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA)

by Narelle Atkins

My friend Jenny Blake (aka Ausjenny) and I have set up a new blog alliance for Australian readers. Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA) will kick off in November 2012 with fiction book tours during the first week of the month and non-fiction or children’s book tours during the third week of the month.

We’re very excited about the blog alliance and the opportunity to promote Christian books. Membership is free and we welcome both Australian and overseas members. Blog alliance members will have the opportunity to receive free review copies of books, either in print or electronic format, on the understanding they will post a review on their blog during the blog tour week. Members are not required to review every book but are encouraged to post the book information on their blog during the tour week.

If you blog regularly, read Christian books and are interested in writing book reviews, please visit the ACRBA blog to learn more about how the alliance will work.

Review copies will be sent out six weeks prior to each tour to allow reading time. Please join the alliance by the end of August if you’d like to review the featured books in November.

Below is the ACRBA Schedule for November and December.

November 2012
Fiction 5th – 9th: Return to Baragula by Mary Hawkins
Non-fiction 19th – 24th: Bethlehem’s Warrior (31 Day Devotional) by Ray Hawkins

December 2012
Fiction 3rd – 7th: Back to Resolution by Rose Dee
Non-fiction 17th – 21th: Strength Renewed: Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer by Shirley Corder

For more information please visit or you can ask questions in a comment on this post.

Aussie Christian music: Garage Hymnal

by Narelle Atkins

If you asked most people, both here in Australia and overseas, who they associate with Aussie Christian music, their first thought will probably be Hillsong. Back in 2008 I attended a worship service at a writing conference in San Francisco and one of the songs we sang was Darlene Zchech’s ‘Shout to the Lord’.

There are a number of Aussies who are recording Christian music. Garage Hymnal is a Sydney based band who formed in 2004. They have released four albums, with a fifth album in the works.

I was introduced to Garage Hymnal’s music at my local church a few years ago when we sang ‘Take My Life’ from their debut album. The words for ‘Take My Life’ are from a hymn written in 1874 by Frances R. Havergal. Other Garage Hymnal songs we sing at church include ‘We Belong to the Day’ and ‘The Light has Found Us’.

You can check out their music and their unique Aussie sound on YouTube. I’ve included links below to their website where you can view YouTube clips of a couple of their song performances from their latest album ‘Unity’.

You’ll also find training resources for church bands and sheet music on their website.

Meet Jenny Blake aka Ausjenny: Aussie blogger and book reviewer

I’m delighted to welcome Jenny Blake to our blog today. Jenny is known as Ausjenny in the online writing community and she is an Aussie reader who blogs about Christian fiction.

Narelle: How did you come by the name Ausjenny?

Jenny: When I first started on the Internet I was going to a scrapbooking forum and there was a Jenny from Downunder, and I started being Jenny from South Australia but it’s a lot to type. I cut it down to Ausjenny. It also was around the time I got the internet at home and had to have an email with eight characters. I was blakejennifer at one email but it was too long so Ausjenny was born. There are so many Jenny’s out there and a lot of Jenny Blake’s. I am Ausjenny on nearly all forums, and places including most of my emails.

Narelle: What inspired you to start blogging?

Jenny: I fell into blogging. When I first joined Shelfari I met Rel from Relz Reviewz and she told me how she has Aussie giveaways. From there I started visiting a few blogs and one of them was Camy Tang’s blog and she had a meme. To comment you needed to have a blogger account so I had that but it was the meme (list of questions you then send to others to fill in). That was Dec 2007, I was going to post book reviews at this stage. I guess I thought I would give it a go and see how I went.

Narelle: Please share with us your favourite Christian fiction genres.

Jenny: I am a historical fiction fan, I love history, never got to study it at school but love reading new facts. I am still waiting to use the trivia from a Gilbert Morris book in a trivia contest. The question is how did Roland Garros, home of the French Open, get its name. From the WW1 French Flying ace Roland Garros who helped invent the machine gun that didn’t shoot the propeller of their plane.

Narelle: What do you think makes Aussie Christian fiction unique in a market full of books from the US?

Jenny: Interesting question. The Australian voice is different from the American voice. Our speech is different in the way we say something and this comes out in our books. Things like the way we shorten words, use nicknames and just the names we use. I know some names in American books I have no idea how to pronounce or often have never heard of it before. Also it’s hard to tell where an Aussie comes from. In a book you can’t hear the difference in sound of dance. So can’t a Victorian from the rest of the country. There are a few words that are used in different states but not many where as in America there are distinct dialects.

Narelle: What kind of things do you post on your blog?

Jenny: I mentioned I am a member of a couple of blog alliances’ where I post the info on new book releases and at times will get to review some of these books also. I also post book reviews of books from alliance’s, books I have been asked to review for authors, and other review sites, and my own books I have read. I also have author interviews. Thursdays is normally Getting to know you Thursday where I introduce an author. Sometimes this will be a second interview to promote an author’s book. In December I normally have a Christmas focus. I also have giveaways often from the author.

Narelle: What advice would you give a reader who was thinking about writing book reviews?

Jenny: The main thing is write what you like about the book, how it makes you feel and maybe some of the issues it deals with. I try not to write about anything that happens after the first couple of chapters as it can give too much away. Often authors put surprises in books and it’s important not to mention this in a review. It can be hard as I often want to write about what I loved about the book and mention certain scenes but this will also give away parts of the story that a reader wants to discover on their own. It doesn’t matter if the review is only short just saying why you enjoy the book or if there is a reason you didn’t enjoy the book say why you didn’t enjoy it. Remember often the author will read the review and they like honesty.  At the same time put the positive’s about the book also.

Narelle: What’s coming up next on your blog?

Jenny: Actually I have my Getting to know you Thursday’s interview going up today. I tend to post in the evening and I have a new author from America who is going to give a free ebook download to everyone who leaves a comment with an email address. I also have a giveaway of Beyond Resolution by Rose Dee coming up.

I can be found at Twitter on @ausjenny, my blog is I have also started blogging for and review for The Suspense Zone on

Jenny, thanks for visiting with us today and giving us an insight into your blog. Jenny’s book giveaways are great for Aussie readers who are often excluded from entering book giveaways on overseas blogs.


JENNY BLAKE (aka AUSJENNY on most blogs and forums) is an avid reader from Australia. She started a library at church with most of the fiction books being donated by her. When not reading she enjoys watching cricket, in fact you could call her a cricket fanatic, scrapbooking and cross stitch. She volunteers at the local Christian bookshop where she can recommend fiction to customers. She has a book blog where she reviews books and interviews authors. Her goal is to help promote new books and encourage authors.


The deadline to enter our Bible Quiz and eBook giveaway is midnight on JUNE 5 AEST.

The May 28 Bible Quiz and eBook giveaway post can be found here:

National Day of Thanksgiving in Australia – Saturday 26 May

Narelle here. On Saturday 26 May, Australians will have the opportunity to thank those who make a difference in their communities.

Thanksgiving is an American tradition that is worthy of adoption. A few years ago Deb and I shared a traditional Thanksgiving lunch with our friends and Deb’s American neighbour. Traditional roast turkey, mashed potato, sweet potato (yams) with marshmallows, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.  All very delicious! We sat around the table and shared what we were thankful for as we enjoyed a beautiful meal.

The National Day of Thanksgiving gives Australians an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation, and to thank one another for the contributions each makes in our communities.

It is a Christian based initiative, endorsed by Government and supported by numerous community groups, that provides the Church in Australia with the opportunity to give leadership in drawing local communities together to celebrate those values that bind us together as a nation.

People to Honour and Thank in 2012:

Elected Local Government officials.

Council management and staff.

Outdoor and contracted workers in areas such as rubbish collection and road and park/garden maintenance.

Chaplains in schools, hospitals, businesses and other organisations.

Deb has been a school chaplain for a number of years and I’ll take this opportunity to thank her for the valuable work she does in one of our government schools. Thank you Deb!

For the Aussies reading this post, who will you be thanking on Saturday? Are you involved in any National Day of Thanksgiving activities?

For more information on the National Day of Thanksgiving, please visit their website

Operation Christmas Child: How you can help and make a difference

Narelle here. Today I’m delighted to welcome Marie Barendrecht to our blog. Marie lives in Canberra, Australia and for many years she has been a passionate supporter and volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.

Narelle: What inspires you to make Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritans Purse?

Marie: The boxes are sent to third world and developing countries where the people are so poor they cannot afford to buy gifts for their children. The box is usually the first and only gift the child ever receives. It also helps the local pastors to return to these kids to teach them about God’s love and help with other needs like clean water, health and schooling.

Narelle: What do you put in the boxes? Do you make items or purchase them?

Marie: Items like clothes can be made, and teddy bears can be knitted (see Samaritans Purse website for patterns). All other items are purchased.

1. Stationary – 2 exercise books, lead pencils, color pencils, pens, eraser, pencil sharpener.

2. Hygiene items – soap, face washer, toothbrush, comb, brush.

3. Clothes – dresses for girls (nothing skimpy!), short and t-shirt for boys, maybe some underwear, cap, beanie, thongs (flip flop shoes).

4. Toys – skipping rope, yo-yo, tennis ball, dolls, balloons, recorder, cars, farm animals etc, marbles (Big W has a great selection for $1), Happy Meal toys are good too.

5. A nice soft toy.

6. Any other special items like a wind up torch, nail set, handbag.

Please look on the Samaritans Purse website/brochure for items that cannot be included. No second hand items are allowed.

Narelle: What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing a box this year but isn’t sure where to start?

Marie: Check the website and get as much info as possible, find an A4 shoebox, cover it with nice paper and start shopping. Remember to include $9 for handling.

Narelle: A few years ago you were part of a team who delivered Operation Christmas Child boxes to children in Papua New Guinea. How did the children respond to the boxes?

Marie: The children had no idea why we gave them a shoebox until they opened it. They were so excited and once they realized it was all for them they unpacked it and started playing. Usually the cap or beanie and t-shirt and shoes went on first, the soft toy was tucked under the arm and then they explored all the different toys. The parents were very excited about the school supplies and some of them even cried because they were so happy their children had received the gifts.

Narelle: What’s your most treasured memory from your trip to Papua New Guinea?

Marie: One day we delivered boxes in a settlement called 6 Mile. These people are the poorest and live in the absolute worst conditions. A couple of boys with very dirty feet were sitting on a bench, and only one of them was wearing thongs (flip flop shoes). After we handed the boxes out, that whole row of boys received thongs EXCEPT the one who already had some! How awesome is that, only our God can do that!

We also visited a village on impulse and they allowed us in (they hadn’t done so previously). This village now has a children’s church program, and they are talking about starting a church.

Narelle: Why do you think it’s important to support Christian organisations like Samaritans Purse?

Marie: Samaritans Purse is a nonprofit Christian organisation and 90% of the people who work for them are full time volunteers. In every receiving country they work with local church partners.  The local church partners are the ones who do all the groundwork. It’s locals helping locals. They know the cultures, speak the language and are trusted by the people. The boxes are a tool for them to follow up with Christian education and other projects as mentioned above. It is very successful, and 7 out of 10 kids who receive the boxes become Christians!

Narelle: How can we find out more about Operation Christmas Child?

Marie: You can download brochures and order the DVD and other materials from the Samaritans Purse website.

Australia: State Manager Toll free number 1800 684 300

Ask your state manager about volunteering at the end of the year when the boxes get processed (checked) before being shipped overseas.

New Zealand: Toll free number 0800 684 300


Marie, thanks for visiting with us today. In April 2010 I interviewed Marie on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog after her trip to Papua New Guinea. The link for the interview is below.

Mothers Day in Australia

by Narelle Atkins

This coming Sunday is a special day here in Australia and in many other countries around the world. We celebrate and remember our mothers, grandmothers and the “mother figures” in our lives. I don’t think I had a full appreciation of the extent of the sacrifices parents make until I had children of my own. Below is one of my baby photos with my mum and I still have those frown lines, lol.

I appreciate my mother for so many reasons. She is one person I can rely on when life is tough and I need a listening ear and wise counsel. She is a very caring and giving person, and a good role model for her children and grandchildren. My mother isn’t afraid to tell me the truth, even if she knows I probably won’t like what she has to say! My mum has always encouraged me to chase after my dreams and believe in myself.

I asked my sister what’s the one thing she appreciates most about our mother. Her answer: Mum is always there for us.

For all the mothers reading this post, I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Mothers Day with your families and loved ones.

Book Recommendation: Return to Baragula by Mary Hawkins

Back cover blurb:

Over the years Emily Parker’s actions as a teenager have impacted not only her own life, but the lives of many different people.

Now, six years later, she returns reluctantly to her home town of Baragula only to discover the man at the heart of those actions, Matthew Davidson, is the community’s respected doctor.

While Emily’s faith is now severely weakened by all that has happened, Matthew’s life has completely turned around since he committed his life to Christ. His personal relationship with God is tested when he discovers how his behaviour when a non-believer hurt so many, especially Emily, and feels responsible for her hardness of heart towards the Lord.

Disease attacks the community while danger from another source threatens Emily and her family. Through it all, will Matthew and Emily’s faith be strong enough to forgive each other and put the past behind them?

Narelle: I really enjoyed all three books in Mary’s Baragula series. Return to Baragula by Mary Hawkins (Ark House Press, 2008) is the first book in the series.  Set in the picturesque Hunter Valley, Australia, I highly recommend this book to those looking for an engaging contemporary romance with an underlying spiritual theme of forgiveness.

To learn more about Mary Hawkins and her books, please visit her website