Category: Devotion

Abasing Oneself in Society

 “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:11 KJV

(Read Luke 14:7-11.)

This passage often comes to mind when writing about the Regency. The notion of sitting at the lowest place, of abasing oneself in society is an anathema to what we show amongst the peoples of the Regency. Getting the highest honors, marrying the highest ranked man or the richest heiress was what the world was all about, or at least what the world we portray was all about. And yet we write Christian Regencies, which means our characters must have a Christian world view while living in a society that insisted upon promoting one’s social standing and/or wealth—politely, of course. On the one hand, they are not supposed to raise themselves up if they are to be serious followers of Christ. On the other hand, they cannot move through the halls and balls of even the gentry without looking, acting, and simply being the best in an attempt to attract the best.

Rhubarb Restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland allows you to dine regency style today. Seated here, even the lowest place at the table is grand.

As I write my characters, I struggle with this dichotomy for them. And then I think how apropos to today’s society are the struggles of my characters.

Nowadays, everything is about networking. To network, we need to promote and promote and then, for a change, promote some more. Get our names out there for the world to see, recognize, respond to, we’re told. Editors won’t buy books from authors who don’t already have a web presence, etc., etc., etc.

Networking Around the World

Hubris is the word that comes to mind. Extreme pride or arrogance. It’s practically de rigueur for a Regency hero to be that way. Yet how can we have an arrogant hero who is a Christian? How can we as Christians be prideful of our work enough to tell people they should select ours above all others?

I’d like to know the thoughts of others on this subject, as it is something with which I struggle for my characters of my books and within my own character. My conclusion is to put others first, uphold others, place them at the head of the table, and let God take care of the rest.

Originally posted 2012-05-25 10:00:18.

Faith

I recently finished reading The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. In truth, I was given this book many, many years ago (but who’s counting?) by a dear sister in Christ, and it took me this long to read it. Maybe because it is an older work (published in 1961), so the language was just a little off-putting.

But perhaps, there is a time and a season for the devotionals we read. I’ve found that to be so in my life. I’ll have a book on a shelf for a long time, and suddenly will read it, and it will really minister to me at that point in time.

Such was this book. It’s all about the “attributes of God.” Tozer lived and worked at a time (mid-20th century) when he felt the church was in apostasy because it had lost the sense of awe in God. It had brought God down to its own petty, human level.

For today’s post, I just wanted to share a paragraph of Tozer’s in his chapter on the Wisdom of God, one of God’s attributes. Here he is discussing faith (I have emphasized certain parts with boldface):

It is vitally important that we hold the truth of God’s infinite widsom as a tenet of our creed; but this is not enough. We must by the exercise of faith and by prayer bring it into the practical world of our day-by-day experience.

To believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction. Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart.

There is a better way. It is to repudiate our own wisdom and take instead the infinite wisdom of God. Our insistence upon seeing ahead is natural enough, but it is a real hindrance to our spiritual progress. God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him. Here is His promise: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

I hope these words touch you as much as they did me on this beautiful Friday morning.

In Christ,

Ruth

Originally posted 2012-05-18 10:00:00.

Rise Up and Call Her Blessed

Portrait of Marie-Julie Clary Queen of Naples with her daughter Zenaide Bonaparte
Robert Lefèvre via Wiki Commons

Kristi here. Have you called your mother today? Probably not. But if your mother lives in the US, she’ll be expecting that phone call Sunday since it is, after all, Mother’s Day. (If she lives in England you should have called on March 18 – hope you did!)

Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday as the characters in our books would have referred to it) was a very important day. Celebrated at least since the 16th century, Mothering Day in England is part of Lent. It is the Sunday when Eating restrictions are relaxed in honor of the feeding of the five thousand. During the Regency (and surrounding periods) it was also when domestic servants were allowed to journey home, often with a gift of cake or flowers, to see their family.

The Importance of Motherhood

Portrait of Countess Shakhovskaya with Daughter
Dmitry Grigorievich Levitzky, via Wikimedia Commons

It doesn’t surprise me that mothers were considered important enough to allow one’s servants to make the sometimes long journeys to visit them. While traditionally and biblically the father is the head of the household, mothers have always been the backbone.

In Proverbs 31, the woman is a wife and mother who does the grocery and clothes shopping, manages investments, stays up at odd hours, does charity work, ensures her family’s comfort and safety, cares for the home, and teaches the children. And she does all of this with honor and wisdom. It is no wonder that “Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her.” Proverbs 31:28

 Blessings on Mothers

1818 portrait of women with children
François Gérard, via Wikimedia Commons

Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. There are adoptive mothers and foster moms, mothers with one child and mothers with nineteen. Women who don’t have any official claim to the title of mother, but act in that capacity with boundless love.

No matter what the pathway to motherhood, know that God considers it one of the highest callings a woman can receive. He is trusting you with His most precious gift, His very creation. He trusts mothers to protect, raise, and instruct them in how to be effective children of God.

If you are blessed enough to have your mother with you, take some time, holiday or not, to rise up and call her blessed. It’s what she’s done all that work for.

The Imperfection of  The Fallen World

Marie-Louise of Austria with her son „Napoleon II.
By Joseph Franque, via Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, you may not be blessed with the existence of your mother. Whether by illness, age, neglect, or misunderstanding, you may not have a mother to pick up the phone and call. There is good news for you as well.

“As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”  Isaiah 66:13

Despite the practice of giving Him a male personification, God is capable of being everything you need, including a mother. We live in a fallen world where mothers make mistakes because they are human. Disease enters their bodies. The grief of losing or never having your mother is deep, but God’s love is deeper.

Rise Up and Call Her Blessed

Caroline Bonaparte, wife of Marshal Joachim Murat, with their kids, 1810
François Gérard, via Wikimedia Commons

Since I became a mother I understand my own so much better. I have days where I call her just to tell her I now realize what an awesome mother she is. It often makes her cry. The reason mothers love those handmade cards and popsicle stick ornaments is because they are reminders that our children think we’re special. There is no greater gift you can give your mother than to tell her thank you.

Maybe you don’t have a mother and God has already filled that void in your life or maybe you have some extra time on your hands. Bless another mother by keeping her kids while she does the grocery shopping or bringing her a meal. Call a new mother up and tell her she’s doing great. Call a broken hearted mother and offer her your shoulder.

Henry Bickersteth, First Baron of Langdale (1783 ~ 1851) is credited as saying, “If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world would kick the beam.”

You are blessed, mothers of the womb and of the heart, for you have become the physical manifestation of God’s arms on earth. Love your children with the love of God and you cannot go wrong.

Happy Mother’s Day

Originally posted 2012-05-11 10:00:00.

Praying the Psalms

The best times and the worst times of our lives have one thing in common: it’s hard to find words for them. Our hearts cry out to the Lord, but so often those cries are wordless. Our thoughts and emotions whirl, formless, and what we long for are the words to express what we’re feeling and thinking.

The Psalms have long been the prayer book of the church, and praying them regularly, so that our hearts and minds are soaked in their rhythms and phrases, gives us the words that we desire when our hearts are full. When we pray the words of the psalms, we don’t have to doubt whether our words are good and true and right. They are. They’re the words the faithful have used for centuries to pour out their hearts to the Lord.

Getting Started

A few things to consider, if you’re new to the practice of praying the Psalms:

1) Revisit the familiar ones and go deeper with them. There’s a reason Psalm 23 is so beloved. The ones you’ve memorized are the ones that are already deep in your bones, and the more you pray them, the more meaningful they’ll become. There’s always further to go in prayer, because the Lord’s goodness is infinite.

2) Read new ones regularly. Some of the best are the Psalms of Ascent, from Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. These were sung on the way up to Jerusalem, and they’re possibly the most beautiful and joyful and accessible psalms in the book, with many reminders of God’s great faithfulness. Perfect for the Easter season.

3) Try them set to music. There are many great hymns that are paraphrases of the Psalms (Isaac Watts wrote a vast number) or you can try singing them to plainsong (use the Book of Common Prayer and the 1984 Hymnal to get started). They were written to be sung, and though we don’t have the original tunes, singing them to the ones we have is a great joy.

4) Remember that they’re both poetry and prophecy. Most Psalms can be read in several ways: as the words of the man who composed them, as prophecy about Christ, and as prophecy about Christ’s church. And probably more that I’m missing because I’m still only a beginner myself! But it’s clear there are layers of meaning in each psalm. You don’t have to focus on each meaning every time you read a given psalm, but it’s good to be aware, for example that the “beatus vir” – “blessed is the man” – in psalm 1, is probably first about Jesus, the perfect man, and then about those who, by his grace, are sanctified by his Spirit, and then . . . well, like I said, I’m a beginner and need to study them even more myself. (Patrick Reardon’s excellent book, Christ in the Psalms, is a great place to start.)

5)      Mostly, just read them a lot. It was traditional to read the Psalms in the morning and the evening – more often than that if you happened to be a monk or a nun! In this case, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt; it breeds love. 

Prayers for All Seasons

In the hard times of my life, I find myself returning to the Psalms again and again. Frustration or fear or sorrow rises, and I find myself saying, “Hope, oh my soul, in the Lord, for I will yet praise him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.” Triumph and joy ride shouting in my soul, and I find myself declaring, “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, had it not been the Lord who was on our side, then they would have swallowed us alive . . . Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us to be torn by their teeth!”

The words of the Psalms are words that God gave to his people, so that we would know how to pray, so that when our hearts were full, with joy or with sorrow, we would have the words to express ourselves to him. I am so grateful for this great gift.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

Originally posted 2012-04-20 10:00:00.

Pride and Money ~ A Dangerous Combination

Regency Pride

Beau Brummel has long been considered an important figure in Regency history. His friendship with the Prince Regent and his charm and wit brought him influence and prestige. He became the ultimate arbiter of fashion, with many historians crediting him with the transition from knee breeches to trousers.

Unfortunately, Brummel is also famous for fleeing to France to escape debtor’s prison. It was a temporary fix as he ended up in debtor’s prison in France a few years after fleeing there. By the time he died, all his gloss and glamour has disappeared, leaving him a slovenly pauper.

The saddest part of this story is that shortly after resigning his commission, he inherited £30,000. This was a veritable fortune in the early 19th century and he should have been able to live comfortably for the rest of his life. His pride was his downfall.

The “friends” he made through his connection with Prinny were all much wealthier than he was and he spent extravagantly and borrowed abundantly to maintain a similar lifestyle. He built himself the proverbial house of cards and it all came fluttering down.

Biblical Consequences

The combination of pride and money proved deadly for Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Pride made them desirous of the recognition a large donation to the church would bring, but their desire for money made them deceitful. They held back a portion of the money from the sale of their land and then claimed to the church that they were donating everything. It cost them their life.

Modern Day Freedom

God has called my family and I in a different direction than He took my brother and my parents. The struggle to learn that I could do without some of the things they bought was a long and hard one for me. We ended up with a large amount of debt. It took us several years and some outside help to dig our way out of it.

Whether you have fistfuls of cash...
... or palms full of pennies, God can use what you have better than you can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t want to admit that we couldn’t’ afford to go on vacation with my extended family or that I couldn’t pay for my part of a group gift. Pride made me look to other solutions and got me into trouble. My focus was more on worldly things than Godliness.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  Luke 16:13

So often we want to be like other people. We want the designer clothes or the fancy cars or the big houses. When  we can’t truly afford it, the temptation to turn to credit cards and loans becomes greater. Pride can drive us into serious money issues if we aren’t careful.  If we find the strength to swallow our pride and say “I can’t afford that” we just might find a little more of that abundant life God wants to provide us.

Finding joy in the little things. My husband and kids enjoying a trip to the lake.

For me that included a lot less stress, a truer understanding of what really brought me joy in life, and a closer relationship with my family because honest lines of communication were being opened. I think all of that is worth way more than my petty pride.

Originally posted 2012-04-06 10:00:00.

The Pursuit of Stuff

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
           John 10:10 NIV 

Laurie Alice here. Often when I was a child, we neglected to lock the house door leading from the attached garage and into the kitchen.

We didn’t think about how vulnerable we were. Crime didn’t happen in our quiet neighborhood. Yet one night when the door stood unlocked, someone slipped into our house and stole my mother and sister’s purses off of the dining room table.

Not one of us, not even the dog, heard a thing, yet while we were sleeping, a thief invaded our home and took our possessions.
Even now, decades later, I feel sick to my stomach thinking about that incident. What utter horror to realize how, too easily, this thief could have taken more, including our lives.
Why someone takes what is not theirs to have more at other’s expense I do not comprehend, yet the world is full of thieves come to steal from our lives. We fall under the false idea that, to have an abundant life, we must have more shoes, a wider screen TV, chairperson of that special committee on which we sit, instead of remaining in a position as a worker bee.

During the Regency, life was no different. The “stuff” people wanted might have been different—a high perch phaeton instead of a cool new car, an invitation to Almacks instead of that committee chairship, a hand-painted fan from China instead of a Louis Vuitton handbag—but the sentiment is the same. The end results are the same now and then. In our pursuit of false roads to abundant life, we rob ourselves of what Jesus wants for our lives.

He promises abundance, the fullness of life. That may not come in the form of material possessions or a honored status. Jesus gives us a richness of life, a purpose well beyond the realm of stuff and into the completeness of everlasting life.

Originally posted 2012-03-09 10:00:00.

Love VS. Love

Image: kenfotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kristi here.

I love chocolate. I love my husband. I don’t love these things in the same way, though. It’s one of the frustrating things about the English language. We have the word like and we have the word love and there’s nothing in between. I used to think we should introduce the word “loke” into our vocabulary to establish a level between like and love. Then I could say I loke chocolate and I love my husband.

We toss the word love around a lot in the United States. That can’t be said for every other country in the world. I had a friend from England once that got a bit fed up with our usage of it. When someone said, “I love chocolate” my friend would make a face and say “Why don’t you marry it then?” Not terribly original, but it gets the message across.

The thing is we use the same word when we say we love God, and I think that’s a problem. We have just equated God with chocolate. That’s not good. When we take a concept, like love, and weaken it, we begin to lose the power that word can have.

Photo by Jen Smith

How many times have you seen someone say something like this in a book or a movie: “I love him. Well, I don’t love love him. I love him like a brother or a friend or in that I love my dog kind of way. Not that he’s a dog, I just think of them the same.”

Okay, so the part about the dog isn’t ubiquitous, but you get my point.

Jesus had several words for love when He walked the earth. Unfortunately, this distinction is often lost when we translate the Greek into English. Take the following passage from John 21 verses 15-17.

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Two different forms of the word love are used in this passage. Agape and phileo. Agape referred to deep, true, unconditional love while phileo was used more for general love more akin to loyalty and affection. If we take those differences into account, the passage above reads more like this:

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I am your friend.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I am your friend.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, are you My friend?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Are you My friend?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I am your friend.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Peter was saddened because he had to own up to the fact that he wasn’t giving Jesus the true love that his savior wanted.

What kind of love are we offering Jesus? Do we love Him like chocolate? Our dogs? Our family? Or are we giving Him the ultimate love that He offered to us? Let’s start thinking about the meanings behind our usage of the word “love” so that when we say “I love you, God” we really mean it.

Originally posted 2012-02-24 10:00:00.

Jane Austen’s Prayers

JANE AUSTEN’S PRAYERS       

We are all familiar with Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey – but did you know that Ms. Austen also wrote three prayers? Jane likely penned her three prayers as “evening prayers,” intending them to be read aloud. Let’s take a look:

JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST PRAYER
(Abridged version. The full text can be read here.)

Give us grace almighty father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.

May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil.

Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, to save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.

Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference. Hear us almighty God, for his sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray. Amen.

Isn’t that beautiful? This prayer holds true to Austen’s moving and articulate style and offers wonderful insight to the types of prayers spoken during the Regency. It is important, however, to remember that while the words themselves are indeed lovely, it is not the eloquence of the words that is pleasing to God – it is the attitude with which the prayer is spoken.

You see, prayer is an outpouring of faith, and we pray to strengthen our relationship with God. And how do you strengthen relationships? By sharing your dreams, fears, and desires. God is faithful to hear our prayers, and even if we do not always have the perfect words, God knows our hearts. So I challenge you: Find somewhere quiet where you can be alone with God and have a conversation. Share your heart with Him, and listen for what He has to say.

Want to read more about what God has to say about prayer?  Here are some verses to get you started.
Matthew 6:5-14 | Romans 8:26 | Philippians 4:6-7 | Psalm 107:28-30
Matthew 7:7 | John 14:13-14 | Mark 11:24Ephesians 6:18

Originally posted 2012-02-17 10:00:00.

Providence, Let Me Love You

Vanessa here with a devotion from my heart:

Providence, let me love You like my chosen betrothed. Flood my arms with anticipation, so the pimples tickle the lace of my best ball gloves. I sweep my fan and search for You above the crowds.

With a quickened pulse, I slip away to greet You in the privacy of my hostess’s garden. Let me come to You uncaring of my appearance, unworried about my reputation. Let no concern shadow my heart about my unworthiness of this match. Pray let me not fall victim to my doubts or be persecuted by my memories, the false promises of my past.

I run to You now in the midst of the spring shower with muslin and sarcenet gathered in my palms. My lifted skirts expose my ankles to the soft kisses of raindrops. I twirl in circles trampling my foolish pride with the tender soles of my slippers.  Joy fills my lungs for at last I know it is You who loves me, just as I am.

Let me embrace You like my true betrothed and seek You in the hidden places. The labors of my hands, the burdens upon my shoulders disappear in Your presence. The lightness of Your yoke frees me to sing as Your fragrance, the myrrh and frankincense, anoints the cuff of my sleeve. I smell safety and sense whispers of encouragement. My heart pounds at the softness of Your touch, the shield of protection You gird about me. Though it is I who strayed, I weep at the openness of Your arms, Your forgiveness.

Let me love You in fearless reverence. When the Ton scoff at Your humble beginnings and call You a tradesman’s son, make me not shun You or deny my feelings. I should know now that Your riches provide honor and inheritance for all my generations. Grow my heart to be as generous and as loving. Aid me to be light in this world and a proper helpmate for your ministry.

A wave of shyness grips me. I want to turn, but Your patience draws me. I lower my fan once more and glance at your beauty. There can be no falling away or breaking with You. I shall cling to your promises, your comfort. My lamp is trimmed and full of oil, and I await You, no longer a foolish virgin, but a hopeful bride seeking her Prince of Peace.

As you have your time of devotion this week, study these verses. Your true betrothed has sent an invitation.
Mathew 11:28-29
Mathew 25:1-13
Psalm 68:19
Song of Solomon 2:6
1 Corinthians 15:9

Originally posted 2012-02-10 07:00:00.

Love & Marriage

Hello, Jessica here! It’s February, and when I started thinking about Valentine’s Day during the Regency, I thought of a poem that many a Regency gentleman would have had in a volume on his bookshelves. It’s an epithalamion – or “marriage poem” – written by John Donne to celebrate a marriage that took place on Valentine’s Day. (If you want to read the whole thing, you can find it here.)

In the poem, Donne riffs on the legend that Valentine’s Day is the day when the birds choose their mates. He says, humorously, “Hail Bishop Valentine, whose day this is, all the air is thy diocese,” and goes on from there to make comparison between the marriages of the birds and the marriage of the human couple in whose honor his poem is written.


Photo credit: gracey from morguefile.com 

Marriage of the Birds

As I perused the poem in preparation for this blog entry, I admit that my first reaction was to geek out on all the cool literary and historical stuff in it – the use of avian and celestial imagery, the conceit that the whole poem is a speech to St. Valentine himself, the echoes of Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls” – but as I read further, my thoughts took a more devotional turn.

Even though the Regency was a time when the ideas spawned by the Enlightenment were changing the culture and a time when industrial progress was starting to creep over the landscape in the form of railroads and factories, it was still a time when the young minds of the landed gentry were saturated with ancient philosophy and poetry, thanks to the classical education so many of them received. The old idea of the natural world as a created, ordered system still held sway over the English imagination.

Thus, the idea of finding your spouse on the same day that the birds found their mates appealed not just because it was romantic, but because, in some mystical sense, it was right. Mankind was seen as a part of the natural order and it was fitting to let your own life reflect the order of the cosmos.


Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

First Comes Love . . .

Of course, even if getting married on Valentine’s Day was a good thing, no educated Regency gentleman would have said that it was necessary. But what most would have said is that there was an order to the cosmos and that humans were a part of it.

Romance and the Cosmos

Romance might be a small part of the cosmic order, but if it is a part of it, what does that mean? Well, it means what we’ve always known that it means: it means that romance is not something meant to stand alone. It’s a part of a bigger picture – it’s supposed to lead to and be a part of marriage. A wedding is the crowning glory of a romance. And then, over time, things shift, and romance becomes the warm affection of a faithful marriage. Romance is the gate a couple opens in order to walk down the path to their home – the home that was created when the two became one – and romance is the light and warmth that still adorn that home, months and years and decades after the wedding itself.

More than that, a good marriage becomes a window for us to understand the relationship between Christ and His church. Maybe the marriage of the birds was just a legend that provoked some beautiful poetry once upon a time, but the poetic relationship between human marriage and the wedding of the Lamb is a true reflection of eternity onto the skin of the natural universe. All good and true love is not only a gift from God:  it’s also an arrow that directs our gaze back to the greatest Lover of all.

Originally posted 2012-02-03 01:00:08.