Menu Close

Polished Arrows – review and interview with Jenny Sanders

I read a lot of Christian books, and it’s not often I find one with a new allegory for Christian living so fresh and alive that it challenges me and encourages me in a new way. I don’t know a whole lot about the process of crafting arrows – or didn’t, until I read Jenny’s book. All I knew was that I was a fan of playing as an archer in certain video games. So to learn more about both the process and skill involved in making arrows drew me in, and to find a book packed full of rich treasure and resources for living out faith in a broken world was wonderful.

Jenny writes with honesty and fluidity as she describes each step in the crafting process and how it can relate to our lives (she does admit the allegory isn’t completely perfect – that God doesn’t shape us in a series of perfected steps, but that instead we are messy, so the process too is messy). This book is a ‘spiritual health check’ – which I think we all need, especially when we are facing tough times in whatever way. I love the way Jenny describes God’s work in us not as something forceful and imposed but as something tender and loving, something we join in with and take part in. As we allow God to shape us as a craftsman shapes an arrow, we become who we are made to be, and we find God walking with us through the struggle. The picture is painted of a God who is passionate about us and always pursuing us.

Throughout the book Jenny relates examples of characters from the Bible who are being lovingly shaped – messy people like you and me. She shows how God works in and through weakness and how our journeys with God are always ongoing – we are never going to reach perfection in this life. Instead, we will always gain splinters on the way, but God in tenderness will keep smoothing and shaping. In the end, we are reminded, it’s not the arrows themselves that do all the work or achieve greatness, but the skilled archer, and so with us it’s God who works through us and works within us for his glory.

Polished Arrows is a refreshing, well-written read reminding us of the great gospel themes of love, forgiveness, grace and hope. It will be a great encouragement to readers. I’m delighted to have Jenny Sanders on the blog today, telling us more about the book and her own journey.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Jenny.

I’ve always loved writing but since my four kids have grown-and-flown I’ve had more time to focus on it. During the last ten years we’ve spent more time in South Africa where we had a sabbatical twenty-five years ago; I’m writing this from Cape Town. My husband and I led a church in Hampshire and have been involved in discipleship and church planting for more than thirty years.  These days, we’re involved in leadership training in churches and businesses in and beyond the UK.

While the children were still in school, I wrote a column for our local newspaper for twelve years until we left the area and moved to Bath.  From there we put our furniture in storage and became  more nomadic.  Once I had more time and space to write in a consistent and focused way, I turned to crafting themed devotionals. I wrote and printed a set of four inspired by the sea, the countryside, the city and the mountains, which we sold on our travels and when I had speaking engagements.

Spiritual Feasting

I’d had a couple of ideas on the back burner for several years and around 2018, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and start wrestling with something more substantial.  Blowing the dust off an old manuscript, I started deconstructing and reconstructing it without really knowing where it would take me.  Spiritual Feasting was published by Instant Apostle in 2020 – a lockdown book. It’s based on Psalm 23:5 and asks how/if it’s possible to feast at God’s table when life serves us dishes which are bitter and sour.  I’ve always encouraged people to have a robust, authentic faith that doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff life throws at us.  Living God’s way is a relationship not a philosophy.

We had to be repatriated back to England during Covid and I used some of that time to write in a different genre which served as light relief after the meaty non-fiction book.  I’d written silly stories for my grown up children to make them smile while we were many miles away. They were reminiscent of the tales we used to read when they were young:  silly scenarios, quirky characters, happy endings and lots of giggles.  I realised that with a few more stories I would have a potentially appealing collection.

Children’s books

Before we shifted base to South Africa, I spent a couple of years working in a primary school before where the selection of books I found on the shelves for Key Stage 2 (junior/7-11 year-olds) was pretty bleak.  With very little research, I discovered that agents and publishers are actively looking for narratives with dark themes that I would never have wanted my children to have read.  I’m a firm believer that our kids have enough grim realities to deal with on both sides of their front doors without any extra bad news.   Reading should be an opportunity to escape, unwind, allow imaginations to soar and refuges to be found while enjoying adventures of every hue.

The Magnificent Moustache and other stories is a collection of six such stories which opened the door for me to visit primary schools with interactive creative writing sessions which are great fun.  I invited my friend, Amanda Young, to provide the illustrations for the book which she did brilliantly.

There was a file of ideas on my computer and I spent time developing those into another collection: Charlie Peach’s Pumpkins and other stories, which was published in November 2023.  I collaborated with Amanda again for the illustrations. I did have to explain to some people that there’s nothing spooky or Halloween-related to Charlie’s pumpkins; they’re just vegetables!

Jenny Sanders

Polished Arrows

Although there were a number of ideas for another non-fiction book swirling around, I felt a prompt to return to another old manuscript based on Isaiah 49:2 which talks about God making us into polished arrows and hiding us in his quiver.  The process of traditional arrow-making intrigued me and I saw the parallels it might have with the way God shapes us – in many ways, a hands-on discipleship book reminding us of the things we know but may have forgotten that we know.

For a stick to become a lethal weapon it must undergo some apparently rough treatment: it needs to be broken from the old tree; the bark must be stripped off, exposing the inner part; splinters and knots have to be dealt with; there are sanding processes and a nock, or slit, is cut into the end so the arrow can sit snugly against the bow string.  Then, before the blacksmith and fletcher get to work, the fledgling arrow has to be oiled to avoid losing its suppleness.  A dry, brittle arrow will break under pressure rendering it useless and  leaving the archers vulnerable in battle.

In the analogy, God is both master craftsman and archer; the bow represents His purposes and the arrows waiting in the cool of His quiver are those who’ve submitted to His grace-filled shaping. 

There’s another pertinent verse in Habakkuk 3:9 which says: ‘You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows.’  It jumped out at me with a sense of both summons and urgency triggering the question: are we willing, available and obedient to answer God’s call to be an arrow, regardless of how He sees fit to use us or where He ‘fires’ us?

There are still people who think that following Jesus is something weak and a bit sad; an emotional crutch or for the academically simple or overly needy.  I absolutely don’t believe that’s true.  We were made for abundant life which, by definition, means a life lived the way it was planned to be – a case of ‘follow the Maker’s instructions’.  Where religion has replaced living relationship with God, people have been robbed of the life God planned for them.

I certainly need no persuasion to embrace what Jesus said quite plainly: ‘In this world you will have trouble…’ (John 16:33). Everyone experiences trouble in some form or other, whether in a single cataclysmic disaster, or a series of tragedies, or in ongoing, daily challenges of health, relationships, employment, financial pressures etc.  Just because we follow Jesus doesn’t mean we are wrapped in cotton wool, immune from the troubles and stresses of life.  We would have very little to say to the rest of the world if we were.  But, Jesus went on to say, ‘… fear not, I have overcome the world.’

Faith showing itself in life

Part of my writing, as with my speaking, is often encouraging, explaining and applying the Bible to real life.  It’s not a text book, a reference booker a psychological tome of good ideas; the Holy Spirit breathes His life into all sixty-six books.  I do love seeing the lights come on for peoples as they encounter Jesus and see how to ‘join the dots’ so that principles can become practice or, in Bible language: the word can become flesh and their relationship with God flourish.

Spiritual Feasting included biblical and contemporary examples of people who were served unsavoury dishes/circumstances and were faced with the choice of pushing God away or leaning in to pursue intimacy with him in difficult days.  Friends who made themselves vulnerable by sharing their stories told of abandonment, disabilities, bereavement, murder, depression and a precious daughter’s descent into self-harm.  It was raw and real with no pretence or dressing things up which I felt gave their words integrity.

Each chapter closed with ‘Palate Cleanser’ questions for further exploration by readers which could be used in a small group setting too.  In Polished Arrows, I’ve done the same, calling them ‘Target Questions’.  Every step of the crafting process is followed by a biblical example of a character who illustrates the principle.

Following Jesus is not for the faint-hearted! I am convinced that trials and difficulties help us develop spiritual muscles if we walk through them with Jesus.  That’s not a case of mind over matter but can be a reality when we pursue Him even as He is pursuing us.

Just as I was finishing the manuscript for Spiritual Feasting (we had to call it that rather than just Feasting to avoid people thinking it was a recipe book!), I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I’ve faced all sorts of tough circumstances through almost fifty years of following Jesus, but this one really surprised me.  I remember thinking, ‘I didn’t expect to leave like this.’  As I lay on the examination bed post-mammogram, having been hustled though a different door from the one I’d come in through, I watched a grainy black and white image on a screen as medical staff took my tissue for a biopsy.  I expect you’ve heard of people who say they felt an extraordinary peace in stressful circumstances; I truly did.  It was almost as though the procedure was happening to someone else while I had a conversation with God. First of all I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for my husband, my kids, for the places we’ve been and the people we’ve been privileged to know along our journey.  Then I asked God to help me navigate this next part well, however it ended up.  I have long been aware that my life is in his hands – Psalm 139:16 says, ‘all the days ordained for me are written in your book.’  If this was to be my last lap, I wanted to run it well and run it with Him.  All seems to be well so far.  I had a brilliant surgeon and I go for my four year check this week, trusting that I’ll get an all clear.  One more year of tablets to go!

When I’ve wobbled in my faith or been buffeted by circumstances over which I have no control (and there are many), I’ve often felt God come close, offer His hand and ask, ‘Will you trust me in this?’  Every day we’re faced with the choice of whether or not we will put our hand in His and say, ‘Yes; even in this.’ 

Highs and lows

It has been wonderful seeing it all come together at last.  I hit a wall at some point and was concerned about the word count, so I went for a long walk, which is my usual solution when I grind to a halt. Exercise and prayer seem to be a creative-inducing combination.  That as when I realised that I needed the biblical examples for each chapter which lifted the whole thing into life in a fresh way.

On a more personal note, I had included some quotes about forgiveness from a book by Gail McDonald, called Keep Climbing published in 1990.  Tracking down permission was challenging as the publisher no longer existed.  It felt like an extensive and exhausting treasure hunt.  Eventually I discovered the rights had returned to the author but  I had no idea if she was even still alive.  Thanks to the wonder of the internet and a lot more searching, I managed to contact someone who clearly knew Gail.  The next day I found Gail had sent me a personal email.  Her book had been very influential in my early married life so the connection has been very special.  I’ll be sending a copy to her in the States very soon.

The worst bit of writing, apart from it being very hard work and trying to track down some of those elusive references, was probably when I realised I had to rewrite a huge chunk as my information about fletching and been inaccurate.  Thanks once again to the internet, I was able to contact a gentleman who still makes arrows the old-fashioned way for historic recreations and he was able to furnish me with the facts.  Arrows are fletched with three feathers, not four; they are glued on to the shaft and bound with whipping cord which fixes them securely without damaging the vanes. In my allegory that cord stands for suffering which we all want to avoid, yet which is crucial in ensuring our spiritual growth and essential for the arrow to fly true.

Take aways

I’d love the book to serve as a reminder to readers that we are all a work in progress; that intimacy with Jesus is worth pursuing at all times; that tough times can be growth and maturing times; that although it might feel that you’ve been waiting in the silence of the quiver for a long time, you are not forgotten and that submitting to God’s kindness, grace and plan is the most fulfilling decision we’ll ever make. 

Polished Arrows details:

Publisher: Instant Apostle

ISBN: 978-1-912-72678-3

Price: £12.99 paperback

            £5.99 ebook. 

Available through Waterstones, Eden books, Aslan books or online. 

You can buy a signed copy directly from Jenny. 

Contact her through her social media accounts:



Twitter: @jennyhsanders


Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply