Writing, faith and mushrooms

Claire van Ryn offers a different perspective in mainstream media

Claire van Ryn
Relationship with God is “not about centuries old rules but about freedom”, says Claire van Ryn

Claire van Ryn, winner of the 2012 Australian Young Christian Writer of the Year award, never set out to become a writer.

The Tasmanian based journalist and blogger initially wanted to become a professional dancer and went to Sydney to study dance.

However, says Claire, “I quickly realised that wasn’t God’s plan for me and returned to Tasmania, still with a big question mark over my career decision.”

Claire became a Christian when she was six. Her father led her in a prayer accepting Jesus as her Saviour and Claire says both her parents inspire her to seek God.

“While it might seem too young to understand such a huge decision, I do remember being afraid of life without God. And he has been near to me ever since,” Claire says.

Moving back to Tasmania, Claire began studying law before changing to arts, planning to go into teaching, but found upon graduating that she had no desire to do so.

Claire and her husband Phill then spent a year living and working in London.

“We arrived with nothing organised beyond a few nights accommodation — so we quickly learnt to lean heavily on God,” she says. “And, of course, He provided.

“Within a really short amount of time, we had a place to stay, jobs, a church to attend and a circle of friends. This is when I really started learning how wonderful difficult times are for our faith journey.”

“On our return to Tasmania a year later, I found myself in a job I really hated, but God taught me to be thankful, to honour him with my life and to trust Him by putting my future into his hands.

“It was about that time that I noticed a job advertised in the local paper for a cadet (junior) journalist. I’d always loved writing and I finally thought this was something I could be good at.

“Because I’d had such a hard slog to arrive at this job, I had a really positive attitude about it. In the midst of a fair bit of negativity, God gave me peace and resourcefulness — I used that time to learn how the newspaper world works and to hone my skills,” describes Claire.

A Christian colleague encouraged her to volunteer to write a column “from a faith perspective.”

“I felt terribly under-qualified for such a role, and even suggested the names of some other people with theology degrees and the like who, I thought, would be much more appropriate.”

After her colleague told the newspaper editor that he thought Claire would be the perfect candidate, the editor came to her desk and asked, “how about it?

“This was God placing an amazing opportunity in front of me. I still don’t know why He chose me, but as long as He wants me to continue writing in this way, I will.

“I’ve been writing this column called ‘Keeping the Faith’, a Christian perspective on everyday issues, for four years now, printed every Monday in The Examiner news-paper, posted on the paper’s website and also on my blog faithlikeamushroom.wordpress.com.”

The column “tackles some of the big issues like same sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia as well as gently enforcing biblical wisdom on things like relationships, temptation, legacy and hope.

“I know that not everyone will agree with what I say, but I hope people will be prompted to think more deeply, to see a different perspective, and to experience faith in a new and freeing way.”

“God has given me courage to express his truths with boldness, but He has also given me a huge support network of friends and family who pray regularly, and a confidence in him. I have a small army of verses I focus on during heavy criticism.”

One such verse is seen on Claire’s blog, 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Claire’s blog shares its name with the manuscript that won Claire the Young Christian Writer accolade.

Claire describes the way she decided on the title Faith Like a Mushroom thus:

“I was out walking one day when I saw this squirt of a mushroom poking out from a gash in the asphalt footpath. Closer inspection confirmed that the delicate fungi had wriggled its way through that brute surface to angle its cap towards the sun. It was a beautiful thing to look at; fragility and strength embodied in a small, unassuming scrap of matter. And I thought, aren’t we all like that wee mushroom? It is not our own strength that brings victory, but the strength of what we strain towards.”

Claire is hoping to get her manuscript published and says, “I hope that it will stretch people’s understanding of faith in God — that this relationship is not about centuries-old rules and regulations but about freedom.”

Claire says the news of what God has done for her gives her confidence and hope.

“Jesus died so that I could enjoy relationship with God, my Father. That's a truth that never gets old for me, and never ceases to fill my heart with awe and gratitude.”

Of her future in writing about faith, Claire says, “I’m so excited by God’s plan for my life — his plans always exceed my expectations.

“I frequently pinch myself to know that he has chosen me and is using me in ways I would never have dreamed of.”

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