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Christian Viewpoint: Reflection of author's faith on display in new book

By John Dempster

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Author Barbara Henderson with her new book.
Author Barbara Henderson with her new book.

Rivet Boy is the new children’s book from local author Barbara Henderson. It’s a gloriously imaginative story about the building of the Forth Railway Bridge in the 1880s seen through the eyes of 12-year-old labourer John Nicol.

John is his family’s breadwinner: he lives in Dunfermline where he finds inspiration from the Carnegie Library, and collects autographs. At work, the squirrel he befriends and names Rusty has a crucial role in the plot. As always in Barbara’s historical fiction there are gently understated references to the characters’ Christian faith.

Born in Germany, Barbara came to Scotland 30 years ago to study. Raised in a Christian family, she realised as a young teenager that faith is a personal thing, and said ‘Yes!’ to Jesus. I love her honesty as she tells me: ‘There are times you are flying and times when you are clinging on by your fingernails to the last, little, remaining shred of faith.’

She describes the high expectations she had of other Christians as a girl, and her disappointment when they sometimes failed. However she came to realise that Christians are still sinners, and mess up often. How liberating, she says, to accept that it’s OK not to be perfect, that God is always there, encouraging you to choose well, and forgiving you when you fail. ‘Relax into who you actually are,’ she adds.

She highlights the benefit of living an integrated life. With Barbara Henderson, what you see is what you get. She doesn’t keep her spirituality separate from the rest of her life, but seeks to be wholly present in everything she does. The same Barbara serves coffee at Inverness Baptist Church, writes Artyness columns for this paper, brings classrooms alive, and creates gripping fiction.

‘God help me today to make progress with this manuscript,’ she prays, as she sits down at her desk. Out and about, she doesn’t impose her values on others, but is quick to mention things she’s prayed about. She reflects: ‘I think you can’t go too far wrong if your guiding principle is a bit of love.’

Barbara emphasises the importance of finding the thing you are called to do, the thing which brings you alive, fills you with zest. For her, that ‘thing’ is storytelling: drawing people into Story, whether on the page, through drama, in the classroom. ‘This is what I love doing the most in the world,’ she tells me. ‘God made me this way.’

Ultimately, when the Forth Bridge is finished, John Nicol finds the job which is really ‘him.’ ‘God helps those who help themselves,’ he reflects.

And whosever we are, the resources of heaven are available to help us find the story we were made for.

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