Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Joyous Christmastide

Christmas Carols through the ages....

A repost from the Archives--this Adventide has been crazy-busy!

Christmastide is an amazing time of year. While the vast majority of Americans begin the Christmas "season" the day after Thanksgiving and pack away decorations promptly on December 26th, those of us who follow the tradition of the Christian Year have quite a different tradition, one that centers more fully around Christ and His Love for the world.

Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and finishes at sunset on Christmas Eve. While many secular Advent calendars, covered with images of Santa Claus and filled with chocolate goodies behind each window, act more as a "countdown to Christmas," the Christian practice of Advent is so, so much more.

"Advent" means "coming" or "arrival." Thus, Advent is partially our waiting to celebrate the arrival of Christ in human form two thousand years ago on that "silent night" in Bethlehem, born of a poor virgin girl in a cave because there was no room in the inn.

But waiting to celebrate Christ's first coming is not the main focus of Advent. No, indeed! Advent is even more about our awaiting the second coming of Christ our Lord, when he "shall come in majesty to judge the living and the dead" in His "kingdom which has no end."

Advent, with its liturgical color of purple, is a kind of a "miniature Lent," a time to evaluate and re-evaluate how we are waiting for Christ's imminent return. Are we living as we should? Are we as kind and as generous as we can be? Are we focused on God in prayer and in reading, studying, and applying His Word? Have we allowed slothful or sinful habits to take a foothold in our lives? These, and many others, are the questions that Advent forces us to face as we await His coming.

My favorite Collect (a collective prayer, prayed daily for a week by the whole of the Anglican Church) for Advent comes from the Second Sunday in Advent (All Collects in this post are quoted from The Book of Common Prayer 2011):
BLESSED Lord, you caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Help us to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; Which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Then Christmas Eve arrives at last, and as the sun sets and the Holy Day begins, we gather for Lessons and Carols, God's Word read aloud between the beautiful carols of the faith. By far, my favorite Christmas carol is "O Holy Night." The words are so beautiful and true--I "fall to [my] knees" in my heart each time I hear about "the night when Christ was born." Here are the lyrics:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
Then comes Christmas morning with our reading of Saint Luke's Gospel, and this Collect which is prayed daily through the Twelve Days of Christmastide:

ALMIGHTY God, you gave your only and eternal son to take our nature upon him and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin; Grant us, who have been reborn and made your children by adoption and grace, daily renewal by your Holy Spirit; Through Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

But the joys of Christmas cannot be contained to only one day; we celebrate Christmas for all Twelve Days, starting with Christmas Eve and concluding on the Eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which arrives with sunset on January 5th.

Yet between Christmas Day and Epiphany are additional Holy Days. December 26th marks Saint Stephen's Day, memorialized by the carol "Good King Wenceslas":
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, reminds us to be bold in our sharing of the Good News and to live lives that glorify Christ, no matter the cost.

December 27th is Saint John's Day--Saint John, the evangelist and writer of several book of the Bible: The Gospel According to Saint John, the Epistles St. John I, II, and III, and the Revelation According to Saint John. So on that day we remember Saint John, one of the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ as well as the man to which Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, Mary while Jesus suffered on the cross: "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19:26-27). John refers to himself throughout his Gospel as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The Collect for Saint John's Feast Day follows:
MERCIFUL Lord, let the bright beams of your light shine upon your Church; By the teaching of blessed John, the apostle and evangelist, may we be enlightened and walk in the light of your truth, so that we may finally come to everlasting life; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
December 28th marks the remembrance of the Holy Innocents, the male children under two years of age whom King Herod ordered killed in order to destroy the prophesied king who had been born in Bethlehem: "Then Herod...sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men" (Matthew 2:16). But the Lord had protected Jesus by sending a message to Joseph in a dream to flee with the child and his family to Egypt where they remained until Herod's death.

Entrance to the Mission San Luis Rey Cemetery

Since the decision of Roe v. Wade in the early 1970's, the Catholic Church also recognizes the Remembrance of the Holy Innocents to be a day to also remember the millions of unborn children whose lives have been lost through abortion. When our family visits the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside where our dear friends' daughter is resting in peace, I always stop to pause at the marker inside one of the entrances to the old portion of the mission cemetery which remembers the Holy Innocents who have died via abortion and their mothers who have suffered as a result, for whether one supports or opposes the practice, most women who have undergone the process, whatever their reasons may be, suffer greatly as a result. So we pray peace for them and for a happy reunion with their children in heaven.

January 1 marks the Circumcision of Christ as it occurs on the eighth day, according to Jewish Law, after Christmas Day:
ALMIGHTY God, for our sake your blessed Son was circumcised and bound to the keeping of the whole Law; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit, so that in heart and body, we may put away earthly desires and in all things be bound to the keeping of your blessed will; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Another Sunday (and sometimes two) occur during Christmastide, and thus another Collect is prayed, but the Collect for Christmas Day is prayed daily throughout all Twelve Days, until the Eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. This last night of Christmas is a night for celebration and revelry as shown in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night which was performed for Queen Elizabeth at Twelfth Night festivities. Twelfth Night is always a wonderful celebration, and we join the members of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in praying in the season of Epiphany (more on Epiphanytide later) and then celebrating with sherry and trifle in the Ackers' living room.

In my e-mail signature during Christmastide, I have included a quotation from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, spoken by Scrooge at the end of the book:

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year."

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So I wish you all a blessed Christmastide!!! May the glory of our Lord and Saviour shine brightly through our lives as we live and love like Jesus, during this season and always!

A blessed Christmastide to you and yours,

Monday, November 30, 2015

The First Sunday in Advent


Updated from the Archives...

A year ago at Pine Valley Community Church, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather. Our interim pastor, Pastor Jim, started informing our church about Advent, and the topic of his sermons up until Christmas would be the significance of the four candles in the Advent wreath: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, plus the central white candle, the Christ candle. This is a different set of meanings from the sobering Anglican tradition (Death, Judgment, Heaven [thus the lightening of the penitential purple candles to a rose-colored one], and Hell) as well as the evangelical tradition we observed at Lake Murray (Prophecy Candle, Bethlehem Candle, Shepherd Candle, Angel Candle).

As regular readers of this blog will know, celebrating the Christian Year is one of my passions, and Advent has been central to our family's devotional life since the kids were small. So I was thrilled beyond belief to have Advent being preached from the pulpit; I somehow managed to restrain myself from standing up and applauding mid-sermon. ;) 

The term "Advent" means "coming" or "arrival" and refers to the first Incarnation of Christ as well as the expected second coming of Christ. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest to the Feast of Saint Andrew (November 30), and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.

Advent also marks the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition.

We've been celebrating Advent since 2001 in our household. Keith made us the tabletop Advent wreath above, and through the years we have celebrated Advent with different materials. We read through the adventure books Jotham's Journey and Tabitha's Travels which tell an adventure story that ends on December 24th at the manger and the birth of the Christ Child. We've also used a little book called Christ in the Carols, a devotional with the lyrics to and the background of each carol with a closing meditation and prayer. We've used the Scripture readings from Focus on the Family or the Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer. As the kids grow up, each year we do something slightly different.

Each family member has his/her turn to light the Advent candle(s) in the wreath and to read the Scripture from the Advent calendar wall hanging Keith's sister made for us the year we moved to Pine Valley with 25 hand-embroidered pockets for candy/gifts and a laminated Scripture verse attached to each one:



This year, with three of our "kids" grown (but thankfully still living at home), gathering everyone each evening for a celebration of Advent seems far less than possible. So we decided to celebrate Advent as a family just on Sundays. But of course, Elizabeth had a work event last night, so we've postponed our first Advent celebration until tonight, Monday night. 

I also found a wonderful FREE Advent devotional that can be read only on Sundays or can be spread out over the course of each week of Advent. It's from one of my favorite Christian resources, The High Calling, and here's the link: 2015 Advent Devotional

The Book of Common Prayer 2011 has the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent which is to be prayed during the Advent season until Christmas Day:


FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT

THE COLLECT:
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now during this present life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility, so that at the last day when he will come again in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to eternal life; Through him who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. (References: Romans 13.12; 2 Timothy 4.1; Philippians 2.5-8; 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17)

Advent is richly symbolic. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is “the light of the world” and that we are also called to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” The purple of the candles symbolizes the royalty of Christ, the Almighty who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The rose candle reminds us that hope and peace are near, available only through God. The white candle, the Christ candle, recalls Christ’s holiness, purity – He who was without sin who died for the sins of all. The greenery, symbolizing abundant life, surrounds a circular wreath – never ending, eternal life. The red of the holly berries reminds us of His blood to be shed on the cross for us.

The origins of the Advent wreath are found in the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who, during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, gathered wreaths of evergreen and lighted fires as signs of hope in a coming spring and renewed light. Christians kept these popular traditions alive, and by the 16th century Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From Germany the use of the Advent wreath spread to other parts of the Christian world. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens. Three candles are violet and the fourth is rose. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent.



Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is purple, the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week which points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death: The Nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the Crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is not only to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the purple color of Lent. In the four weeks of Advent, the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called "Gaudete Sunday," from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season. 

The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history; it is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. This is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture readings for Advent reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life in this double-focus on past and future. 

Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power and glory. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live "between the times" and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s in-breaking into history in the Incarnation and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which "all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption," it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to "love the Lord your God with all your heart" and to "love your neighbor as yourself."


The primary focus of Advent is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as we wait together to celebrate His birth, death, and glorious resurrection. 

My favorite Advent devotional is Watching for the Light, and from it I have jotted down some wonderful quotations, including the one for this week:
"Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent--that is, a time of waiting for the Ultimate."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So enjoy your family or church celebrations of the Advent season. I'm so glad I started the Advent tradition when our kids were fairly small so that it has become an important part of their childhood memories and their walk in faith. 


Wishing you a blessed and holy Advent,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Perspective from The High Calling


There are hundreds, nay thousands, of Christian daily devotionals at our fingertips, thanks to web sites, traditional books, e-books, etc. It's all too easy to become overwhelmed by all the choices before us, or to get wrapped up in reading so many that little of God's Truth truly sinks into our minds and hearts.

While I have four traditional book devotionals I use at home, I've narrowed my online daily devotionals to only two: Saint of the Day from AmericanCatholic.org because I love learning about God has worked through the ordinary lives of Christians through the centuries, and Daily Reflections from The High Calling

With Advent just around the corner, I have been praying and debating over which materials to use for Advent this year (this Sunday is indeed the First Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a new Christian Year!). And as I played catch-up with my inbox after grading research papers all day yesterday, I was thrilled that Monday's Daily Reflection from The High Calling included a link to a FREE Advent devotional! Yay!! Here's the link for those of you who would like a copy. It's a PDF which I promptly e-mailed to my Kindle, so I'm all set for the season now: Free Advent Devotional.

So with Advent coming up this Sunday, this past Sunday was the Sunday Before Advent, also known as the Feast of Christ the King. Here's the Collect from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

SUNDAY BEFORE ADVENT: CHRIST THE KING

THE COLLECT:
ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who restores all things in your Son, the King of kings and the Lord of lords; Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, so that we may abundantly produce the fruit of good works and be abundantly rewarded in your eternal kingdom; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (References: Revelation 19.16; Psalm 110.3; Philippians 2.13; Galatians 6.9; 2 Corinthians 9.6)

THE READINGS:
Jeremiah 23.5-8; John 6.5-14; Psalm 85; Hebrews 7.1-7

And here is the Daily Reflection from The High Calling for Monday, November 23 which I found both inspiring and convicting. We all need the gift of perspective, especially if we're going through a particular rough patch. A Godly perspective makes all the difference in our hearts and minds despite the troubling circumstances swirling around us.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Retreat and the Need for Prayer

Embassy Suites, Temecula Wine Country, California

I spent this past weekend with thirty amazing women from our "new" church at our women's retreat. At our former church of twenty years, we spent every retreat at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center in the town where we moved fourteen years ago; I attended nearly every women's retreat during our long tenure there. But when J joined the worship team at Pine Valley Community Church (PVCC) and we could walk to church rather than drive 40 miles to church (and 40 miles back up the mountain), we decided to switch to our local church. An outreach of Village Missions which helps to provide pastors in rural areas that could not support a full-time pastor on their own, PVCC is truly an amazing place.

So instead of bunking in mountain cabin-like dorms a couple of miles across town, the women of PVCC trekked up to the Embassy Suites hotel in Temecula. And were we ever spoiled! The theme of the weekend was a daisy. Remember the old tradition of pulling off daisy petals to discover if our latest crush actually loved us? We'd tug and discard petal after petal, murmuring "He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me, He loves me not. He loves me...."

Well, this daisy was to remind each of us: "He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. He loves ME."

We spent time in prayer, in fellowship, in weeping and laughing with one another, in His Word, in worship, in solitude. It was truly a lovely weekend. And praying for one another was truly a blessing, one that I will not forget anytime soon.



Last month as I prayed through my devotional The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime, I came across a prayer that spoke to me deeply. It was a Concluding Prayer of the Church for the Midday Office dated Wednesday Nearest to October 19:

O Lord my God, to You and Your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of Your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of Your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what You would have me do. 

Make me an instrument of Your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and let me by my life and speaking set forth Your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my salvation; in praises heighten my love and gratitude; in speaking of You give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of Your Holy Word, all the world may be drawn to Your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of Your Son my Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

So may the power of Christ's divine love enlighten our days, dissipating our fears with the Truth of His Word and the brightness of His glory. His promises are true, and His will is perfection, even when we cannot see our lives as reflections of His.

He promises to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13.5) 

He promises that ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8.28)

So we may rest in His loving arms, lifting one another up in prayer and gratitude, as we return from this time of retreat and pick up the stressful burdens of our daily lives. May His promises ring in our minds and quiet our hearts so that our focus lifts from our circumstances to His Face, the Face we will clearly see when we enter His Kingdom at long last.

He loves us. He loves us. He loves us. He loves us.

With love and trust,


Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Hallow's Eve and Holy Ghost Stories



Yes, All Hallow's Eve, known more commonly as Halloween (or for those of us who acknowledge this holy day's origins, Hallowe'en) is upon us. With three of our four "children" now being legal adults, we don't have much trick-or-treating or costuming going on in our household.

And our two youngest, ages 15 and 18, are attending our local church's Gospel Barn; rather than investing time, money, and creativity into their costumes, they're wearing their Airsoft togs.

But how did Hallowe'en start? Here's the most recent Anglophenia video that explains the British origins of this Christian holy day:




In addition, a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a review for a book that looked interesting. Written by a San Diegan, the cover and title grabbed my attention:


As I perused the review in the online East County Magazine, I realized that this book was about the various unexplained events at the very college I had attended and later taught at: Point Loma Nazarene University. And then some bells started going off. Didn't someone e-mail me about a reference I had made on this blog regarding an experience I had during my freshman year at PLNU in Cabrillo Hall? I had e-mailed the person back, giving more details about the late night scramble to make a yearbook deadline and the knocking we had heard from within a locked closet.

I left a comment for the book's author on the East County Magazine review, and the author replied to me a day later. Yes, he was the one I had sent my story to and apparently my story has been retold in Chapter 14 of this book. David was very kind and has agreed to do an author event at the Pine Valley Library next month with our local writing workshop following a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Write-In on Saturday, November 21 at 2:00 PM. (The Write-In begins at 10:00 AM for you writerly types.) All local readers of this blog are invited to attend as David tells first-hand accounts of unexplained experiences at PLNU, discusses researching, writing, and publishing this book, answers our many questions, and signs books for us.

In fact, our local Fox affiliate, Fox 5 San Diego, ran a story on David's book and interviewed him regarding first-hand experiences in Cabrillo Hall at PLNU...including my story. Here's the story/video link: Ghost Haunts Christian Campus Building

Also, if you sign up for David's newsletters on his website Holy Ghost Stories, you can download a free book about theories behind the possible "existence" of ghosts. As an alumnus of PLNU (well before my time, of course!), David offers insights into different theories about whether ghosts actually exist. I've downloaded the book but haven't yet had time to delve into it; it looks fascinating, though! :)

So on this note, I wish you all a safe All Hallow's Eve and a blessed remembrance of the Christians who have walked the Pilgrim Pathway before us tomorrow on All Saint's Day. (This link will take you to one of my many All saint's Day posts from past years.)

Warmly,


     

Saturday, October 17, 2015

More Reviews of Pride and Prejudice Variations....


I'm currently (and very slowly) writing a couple of stories that are variations of Jane Austen's masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I've been sharing the first few chapters with our local writing group here in Pine Valley. As part of my preparation for writing in this genre--and for my own entertainment and amusement--I've read well over two hundred books and stories based on Austen's novels, the vast majority concerning the characters and plot of Pride and Prejudice.

The first review is of the most significant of the books here as it rises beyond mere character study and historical romance to an insightful work of the social strata of this time and place (rural England in the second decade of the nineteenth century) as we view the famous novel from the point of view of the servants of Longbourn. The rest of the reviews are for more light and enjoyable reading although I found the last one to be my favorite of this bunch of books.

To see a list of the books I've read this year, scroll down the right margin to find the books I've read in 2015; I shall post the entire booklist in the early days of the coming year as is my tradition.



Longbourn Longbourn by Jo Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enlightening book with the events and characters of Pride and Prejudice in the periphery, Longbourn looks at life below-stairs in the Bennet household, focusing on Mr and Mrs Hill and young maids Sarah and Polly. Into this cozy but hardworking kitchen atmosphere comes young James Smith, a thin, shy man who carries the world's grief on his shoulders. James is employed as a footman at Longbourn and slowly weaves his way into the lives of the other servants. I won't tell more, for fear of spoilers....

A spare, beautiful, yet brutally truthful novel, Longbourn shows the thoughts of housemaids such as Sarah who wait on the gentry, dealing with the day-to-day facts of humanity without complaint yet very conscious that little separates the gentry from the servants; they are all human beings, worthy of respect and love, yet only those who employ, rather than those who serve, are usually treated as such.

And as we know, Longbourn is a place in which people fall in love....

Far more than an Austen fan fiction, Longbourn shows the underbelly of Pride and Prejudice, and doesn't mince words in doing so....


Remembrance Of The Past Remembrance Of The Past by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of the best Austen variations I've read; I could barely put it down, and it's a loooooong book (Happy sigh--I love long books!). There is an OC (original character) in this novel, Lady Cassandra, a childhood friend of Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, who has led a difficult life and now returns to society.

This novel picks up several months after Darcy's failed proposal at Hunsford when Darcy, Georgiana, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Lady Cassandra spot Elizabeth with her Aunt Gardiner in Hyde Park. Georgiana and Elizabeth quickly become fast friends, but Lady Cassandra is a little harder to warm up to...at first. London gossip has invented a romance between Lady Cassandra and Mr. Darcy, so Elizabeth treads carefully as her relationship with Mr. Darcy is renewed. But soon the outspoken Lady Cassandra and Elizabeth also become friends, united against the cruelty of Caroline Bingley who is unhappy to see "Miss Eliza" again and does everything in her power to dissuade Darcy from considering the "upstart country miss."

The novel takes many twists and turns as Elizabeth and the Gardiners travel to Pemberley where Elizabeth and Darcy come to know each other better. Lord Markham shows considerable interest in Elizabeth, against her will, and his profligate ways and mysterious past with Lady Cassandra bring much turmoil to Elizabeth and the ones she loves.

This is one novel that I plan to go back and re-read; it's so rich and complex, exciting and wonderful. If I could give a 4 1/2, I would! (Note:I did go back and re-read all three of Lory Lilian's novels; they were that good!)

Now to go read more books by this amazing author....

 

Sketching Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice alternative journey Sketching Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice alternative journey by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth, Jane, and the Gardiners meet Lady Anne Darcy and Georgiana when Elizabeth is only ten. Lady Anne is taking the sea air at Brighton for her failing health, and Elizabeth quickly befriends Georgiana and Lady Anne. When Elizabeth and her puppy nearly drown, a mysterious young man rescues them both and resuscitates the puppy which Elizabeth later christens "Lucky." But the identity of the young man remained a mystery....

Moving forward ten years, we find Elizabeth leaving Longbourn to go on a walk without a cloak despite the cold November weather on the day following the Netherfield Ball. Mr. Collins had just proposed (badly), and Elizabeth has borne her mother's displeasure at her refusal. Taking Lucky with her, Elizabeth walks to the edge of the pond on the border of Longbourn and Netherfield and manages to fall in. She drags herself out, half-frozen, and Lucky runs ahead, barking, to find help in the form of Mr. Darcy who, while waiting for Mr. Bingley to be ready to travel to London, goes on a final ride across the countryside. He brings Elizabeth home to Longbourn. When he discovers that the exposure to the cold has made Elizabeth ill, he sends his London doctor to care for her which starts a great deal of gossip, so much so that Darcy returns to offer for Elizabeth. He cares for her, but she does not care for him, and thus the development of their relationship begins....

This is another wonderful variation by Lory Lilian of the classic tale, and I have enjoyed all of her works equally. She writes the characters in a compelling and revealing manner that brings the reader into the minds of the two main characters seamlessly. Reading her adaptations of Pride and Prejudice is a delightful way to spend a summer afternoon. I am looking forward to starting my third P&P variation by Ms. Lilian, Rainy Days, this afternoon, and, based on the quality of the first two books of hers, I am looking forward to this third book with great anticipation.


Becoming Elizabeth Darcy Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when 21st century massage therapist Elizabeth Hannigan falls into a coma due to the H1N1 virus? She is escorted through a tunnel by a young boy and wakes in Regency England in the bed of Elizabeth Darcy at Pemberley?

With Mr. Darcy away on a business trip, Beth Hannigan, a tried-and-true fan of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, attempts to adjust to Regency life. But as a practitioner of alternative medicine, she is astounded by the threat of being bled (again!) by Elizabeth Darcy's doctor and demands that everyone wash their hands and brush their teeth...including her maidservant.

Beth also discovers that Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have struggled with tragedy in their lives since their marriage: several miscarriages and finally the death of their ten-year-old son, David, who fell from his horse. Soon Beth realizes that David Darcy is the one who escorted Beth to Pemberley. Beth struggles with Becoming Elizabeth Darcy while retaining her independent spirit which includes tracking down the ingredients for Italian food and trying to mend the rift between Darcy and his wife.

But can Beth put aside her growing regard for Mr. Darcy? Or, if she returns to 2010, will she ever find her own Mr. Darcy?

This brilliant time-travel story (not a favorite genre of mine, BTW) was non-put-down-able; I read it in fewer than 24 hours. Incredible well-written and with a tragic poignancy not often seen in historical romance, Becoming Mrs. Darcy is a heart-warming and delightful read.

If I were not so very stingy with giving a "5" ratings on book reviews (which are saved for classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, etc.), this book would have received a "5." But I'll give it a steady "4.5" and highly recommend it; it's a wonderful, thought-provoking, tender story of love restored despite tragedy and loss and two women who would not allow Mr. Darcy to live a life without the love of a truly good woman.


Rainy Days - An Alternative Journey from Pride and Prejudice to Passion and Love. Rainy Days - An Alternative Journey from Pride and Prejudice to Passion and Love. by Lory Lilian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another lovely Austen variation by Lory Lilian--I have thoroughly enjoyed all of her "alternative journeys" through the events of Pride and Prejudice.

A few days before the Netherfield Ball, Elizabeth, hoping to escape the unwanted attentions of Mr. Collins, takes a long walk. An unexpected rainstorm causes her to seek shelter in a modest fishing cabin built and used by Mr. Bennet and Mr. Gardiner. On her way there, a galloping horse and its rider are heading directly for a dangerous stream, and Elizabeth yells to stop him. The horse unseats its rider and runs off, leaving an angry Mr. Darcy behind. They seek the cabin together, and during this time, Mr. Darcy reveals his admiration for Miss Elizabeth while she learns far more about Mr. Darcy--the man behind the hauteur.

After the rain stops, they are able to return to Longbourn with an excuse of finding each other on the trail on the way home, with only Mr. Bennet (to whom Mr. Darcy confesses) knowing the truth of their unchaperoned hours in the cabin. Mr. Bennet is satisfied with Darcy's promise to marry Elizabeth should the story get out. And from thence goes our story of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance....

A wonderful and memorable variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Rainy Days is the third P&P variation by Lory Lilian that I've read this month. I don't think that I can pick a favorite, but all three are excellent, and I heartily recommend all three.



Impulse and Initiative Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this novel has Darcy pursuing Elizabeth after their parting at Hunsford in which she refused his marriage proposal. Rather than running into Elizabeth at Pemberley, this variation has Darcy telling Bingley of his interference in his romance with Jane, and the two men plus Georgiana return to Netherfield within a few months of their meeting at Hunsford. While Bingley and Jane quickly pick up their romance where they left off and Bingley proposes to Jane in short order, Darcy pursues Elizabeth relentlessly. She starts with having no romantic feelings for him, but he slowly wins her over before Elizabeth leaves for her trip north with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Georgiana become fast friends. Darcy and Georgiana invite Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle to stay at Pemberley as their guests, and I'll stop here to avoid more spoilers....

While I really enjoyed this Pride and Prejudice variation, it was *quite* racy; I mean, it's *really* detailed and descriptive. So this is NOT a book that I would recommend for readers under 21 or for anyone who doesn't want to read detailed sex scenes, and these scenes permeate the book so that it's not easy to merely skip over these scenes.

I wish the book had been more along the lines of Austen's original work in this area. Otherwise, I would have given this novel 4 stars. But that's the Austen purist in me. ;) But the overall plot and character development--really, everything else about this novel--is amazing. :D



Darcy and Elizabeth - Answered Prayers: A Pride and Prejudice Short Story Darcy and Elizabeth - Answered Prayers: A Pride and Prejudice Short Story by Mary Lydon Simonsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always, I very much enjoyed Mary Lydon Simonsen's short stories; this is the third one I've read in this series, and I only wish that all three were novel-length rather than short stories. I especially felt that this third story in the "Darcy and Elizabeth" series could have been greatly expanded; the ending seemed quite abrupt, and not just because I wanted more. I felt that expanding this story by another 10-20 pages and leaving us with a more solid resolution would have greatly improved the story and would have left me with a more satisfied feeling.

But the story is extremely well-written, and Darcy's revelations of his innermost feelings and hopes to Elizabeth were magnificently portrayed. One partial paragraph in particular will not leave me. Darcy tells Elizabeth,

"...When you came to Netherfield, you piqued my interest. During all those interminable card parties, you merited my regard. At the Netherfield ball, you earned my affection, and by the time I saw you in Kent, I was in love. Well done, Elizabeth,” Darcy said, raising his glass, “and you did not even notice.”

Powerful writing, indeed.

So I very much enjoyed this story...and I hope that perhaps it can be expanded and given a stronger sense of resolution.



Darcy's Voyage: A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas Darcy's Voyage: A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas by Kara Louise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely, if ever, give a "5" rating for non-classic books; I usually save a "5" for books by Austen, the Bronte sisters, Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. But this book was soooo amazing and so gently faith-full that I had to nudge it up past a mere "4."

In this variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth finds herself traveling post on her way home from the Gardiners in London to Longbourn along with an obviously wealthy gentleman whose carriage was damaged. They strike up a conversation that reveals the intelligence and quality of each to the other, and although they never exchange names, it takes months to get the other person out of their constant thoughts.

Fast-forward two years: Elizabeth travels to America to help the Gardiners who are spending a year in New York City for business, but Mrs. Gardiner needs help with their four children, and Elizabeth can't turn down the opportunity to see the New World. The ship she boards is named "Pemberley's Promise" and is owned by Mr. Darcy who is traveling aboard his own ship to fetch Georgiana from New York where she has traveled with Mrs. Annesley who has become ill and will stay with her family in New York until she improves.

Darcy and Elizabeth both seem familiar to each other, and despite not liking each other at first because of Darcy's proud ways and Elizabeth's inferior position in steerage, they soon meet each other on early morning walks on deck and start talking. When Elizabeth falls ill, Darcy offers her the only other bed on the ship, the second bed in his stateroom, by offering a marriage that they plan to annul once they return to England. But their feelings for one another turn to love although neither will admit it. And on goes the romance....

Darcy's Voyage has quickly become one of my very favorite Austen variations out of the 200+ novels, stories, and fan fiction books I've read over the past year. I've found myself picking it back up to re-read passages, and the aura of faith in God is gentle yet uplifting without being heavy-handed or intrusive in the least. The writing is lovely, the character development strong, and the plot surprising and engaging in the best ways possible. I've enjoyed reading Kara Louise's works on the Austen Variations website, and I thoroughly enjoyed her novel--*thoroughly.* It is a delightful read, one that took me fewer than 24 hours because I literally could not put it down. Amazing book! :)


Happy Reading, Austen fans!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

More on Music...



This month is a big music month for Elizabeth and me. She has hooked me on her two favorite bands, Florence + the Machine and Editors. U2 will always be my absolute fave, but I have to admit that Florence and Editors are in my top five favorite bands.

A British alternative rock band, Editors (and, yes, Florence--also a Brit--too) were revealed to us through their first exposure to the American music scene via the Twilight Saga soundtracks. (Yes, the movies were awful, but those second and third soundtracks were amazing!!) Editors made it onto the track of second movie--New Moon--while we met Florence on the Eclipse (the third film) soundtrack.

Earlier this month, Editors released their fifth album--and it's a beauty. Titled In Dream, it's a lyrical album, and yes, quite dreamy in a lovely, edgy way. I'm in love with "Ocean of Night" and "Marching Orders" right now. Elizabeth bought the LP, and I can't wait to listen to it on her rebuilt 80's stereo-turntable with amazing sound.

Tom Smith's voice is positively haunting. Whether he's singing rock or something more lyrical, his voice is so unique that it embeds itself in my mind. And the band actually produced their own album with In Dream--incredible! Combine that with Justin Leetch's lead guitar and producing experience, and the result is a simply jaw-dropping album. Here's a link for the video for "Life Is a Fear" on YouTube.



And this Wednesday we have tickets to see Florence + the Machine  here in San Diego. Her third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is amazing, and I can't get enough of the popular "Ship to Wreck" that's making the rounds of alternative radio stations. I also love "What Kind of Man" and "Delilah," but the imagery in "Ship to Wreck" is so poetic; I'm hooked even more than Elizabeth is on that particular song. Here's the lyric video of "Ship to Wreck" as recorded from Coachella in June.



Three years ago, we saw Florence in concert after her release of Ceremonials. She was so vivid--skipping across the stage in ballet flats, wearing a long-sleeved, high-collared Victorian-styled dress and with her red hair up. She reminded me of a living, breathing, singing Pre-Raphaelite painting. And her range is astounding. It was the second-best concert I've seen...after U2, of course. (The last time the Boys from Dublin were here in San Diego was in 2005 for the Vertigo Tour--come back, guys!! LA is just tooooooo far!!!) And Florence opened for U2 during their South American tour. Opening for Florence then was The Weeknd who have made a good showing in the last three years.

So we're very much looking forward to seeing Florence on Wednesday and sinking into In Dreams by Editors as we get to know (and love) this new album.

What are your musical passions at the moment?

Musically yours,

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Goodbye, KPRI



Good radio stations are hard to come by. 

Good local, independent radio stations are a rare thing, indeed.

And that's what San Diego's 102.1 FM KPRI was: a San Diego-based radio station that was instrumental in the discovery of amazing artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, Norah Jones, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer through their Private Listener Concerts.

KPRI played an incredible range of music from the 1960's to brand new bands before they became popular. They extensively played three of my favorite bands: U2, Florence + the Machine, and Mumford & Sons.

KPRI started in San Diego in the mid-1950's, went subversive in the late 1960's by playing Joplin, Hendrix, and Dylan, and then disappeared in the mid-80's before being resurrected by the current owners (or current until Monday, September 28) on 1 April 1996. Playing Adult Album Alternative  (AAA) format, KPRI quickly grew from a modest operation to one of San Diego's most popular stations with New Music Tuesdays at 7:00 PM, the Homegrown Hour on Sunday nights with local San Diego bands followed by Unsigned Sundays for new music discovery for independent artists, Acoustic Sunday Mornings, etc. Their "No Repeat Workday" assured us that we wouldn't hear the same song twice between nine in the morning and five in the evening.

From The San Diego Union, dated Monday when KPRI went off the air at 3:20 PM after playing their final song, "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan, Karla Peterson writes:

With its guitar-pick logo, live events like the Green Flash Concert Series at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla and a musical mix not found anywhere else on the local commercial dial, KPRI/102.1 FM was a singular presence on San Diego’s radio landscape. As news of the sale began spreading across social media, the mourners began weighing in.

“Goodbye KPRI. You will be missed,” a supporter named Georgi said on Twitter. “Thanks (for) teaching me what music can do.”

The station’s last-day playlist included such bittersweet titles as the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine,” Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life.”    
KPRI was always my go-to radio station when driving up and down the mountain. I also had the app on my phone and my clock radio alarm set to KPRI as well. Their eclectic mix of music was simply outstanding; a typical mix might be "Hey Jude" by the Beatles, followed by "Shut up and Dance" by Walk the Moon, "Beautiful Day" by U2, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, and then "Ship to Wreck" by Florence + the Machine. KPRI knew how to mix music from all decades and genres to make one sing along in the car or while chopping onions for dinner.

102.1 has been purchased by Educational Media Foundation, a conglomerate of Christian Contemporary radio stations across the country known as K-LOVE. Although I'm a Christian and have enjoyed listening to K-LOVE in the past, it's just not the same.

KPRI, you will indeed be missed.

Sadly,

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Saint Therese of Lisieux

Lived: (1873-1897) | Feast Day: Thursday, October 1, 2015

from Saint of the Day by AmericanCatholic.org

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies.
To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." These are 
the words of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun
called the "Little Flower," who lived a cloistered life of 
obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. And her preference
for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God 
are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, The 
Story of a Soul, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse
Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at 
the age of 24. She was canonized in 1925, and two years later 
she and St. Francis Xavier were declared co-patrons of the missions.

Life in a Carmelite convent is indeed uneventful and consists 
mainly of prayer and hard domestic work. But Thérèse possessed
that holy insight that redeems the time, however dull that time 
may be. She saw in quiet suffering redemptive suffering, suffering 
that was indeed her apostolate. Thérèse said she came to the 
Carmel convent "to save souls and pray for priests." And shortly 
before she died, she wrote: "I want to spend my heaven doing 
good on earth."

On October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her a 
Doctor of the Church, the third woman to be so recognized, 
in light of her holiness and the influence on the Church of 
her teaching on spirituality. Her parents, Louis and Zélie were 
beatified in 2008.

Comment: Thérèse has much to teach our age of the image, 
the appearance, the "sell." We have become a dangerously 
self-conscious people, painfully aware of the need to be fulfilled, 
yet knowing we are not. Thérèse, like so many saints, sought to 
serve others, to do something outside herself, to forget herself 
in quiet acts of love. She is one of the great examples of the 
gospel paradox that we gain our life by losing it, and that the 
seed that falls to the ground must die in order to live (John 12:24).
Preoccupation with self separates modern men 
and women from God, from their fellow human beings, and 
ultimately from themselves. We must relearn to forget ourselves, 
to contemplate a God who draws us out of ourselves, and to serve 
others as the ultimate expression of selfhood. These are the insights 
of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and they are more valid today than ever.

Quote: All her life St. Thérèse suffered from illness. As a young 
girl she underwent a three-month malady characterized by 
violent crises, extended delirium and prolonged fainting 
spells. Afterwards she was ever frail and yet she worked 
hard in the laundry and refectory of the convent. Psychologically, 
she endured prolonged periods of darkness when the light of 
faith seemed all but extinguished. The last year of her life she 
slowly wasted away from tuberculosis. And yet shortly before her 
death on September 30 she murmured, "I would not suffer 
less."

Truly she was a valiant woman who did not whimper about 
her illnesses and anxieties. Here was a person who saw the 
power of love, that divine alchemy which can change 
everything, including weakness and illness, into service 
and redemptive power for others. Is it any wonder that she 
is patroness of the missions? Who else but those who 
embrace suffering with their love really convert the world?


*****

Saint Therese has provided a significant example to me 
of how to live with chronic pain and illness. When I first 
became ill, I took the time to read her autobiography and 
as I read, I felt the calming of the Holy Spirit. More than 
one spiritual adviser has told me that my suffering was for 
the benefit of others, and their insights were confirmed to 
me through prayer and even more so in my current inductive 
study of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Philippians with the 
women of Pine Valley Community Church. Christians are all 
called to suffer for the Gospel in one way or another, and suffering
 with joy, as Saint Paul did in prison, allowed the Gospel to 
spread throughout the entire Roman Imperial Guard.

May Christ be proclaimed and glorified through me--
and through you--this day and always!

With warm thoughts,

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I'm a TV Junkie...and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries


Yes, with my imagination and love for well-developed characters, I easily become addicted to television series. Films are nice, but watching characters develop week after week for up to 24 episodes per season provides so much more insight into their loves and hates, their quirks and humor, than a mere two hour movie.


I remain heartbroken over the cancellation of my favorite television series of last year: Forever starred Ioan Gruffudd of Titanic, Fantastic Four, and Horatio Hornblower fame as Dr. Henry Morgan who, through a miraculous turn of fate, is immortal and has been alive for about two hundred years. Working in New York City as a Medical Examiner, he is teamed with Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza) as they solve crime. Only Henry's adopted son, played by Judd Hirsch, knows his secret. I adore the mysteries each week as well as the growing romance between Henry and Jo; the quirkiness of the characters also delighted me. The flashbacks into Henry's past were fascinating, especially those of his wife, Abigail, who had known his secret and had helped him in rescuing Abraham as an infant from Auschwitz. It was a truly riveting hour of television each week, and I practically went into mourning when I heard the cancellation news.


So crime shows and mysteries are my thing. My other favorite shows, CastleRizzoli & Isles, NCIS (all three), CSI, Hawaii 5-0, Criminal Minds, Elementary, Sherlock, Bones, the also-cancelled Body of Proof with Dana Delaney--all have that mixture of crime solving combined with thoughtful and detailed character study. My other top favorite show, Sleepy Hollow, combines mystery with some crime solving as Ichabod Crane and Lieutenant Abigail Mills not only solve crimes but also fight true evil as they attempt to halt the coming Armageddon. The only one of my favorite shows that doesn't have the crime/mystery component is Downton Abbey which combines character study with an amazing time in Great Britain's history, so I'm good with it, and So You Think You Can Dance is in its own category, of course.


So when browsing Netflix, I stumbled across the Australian show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Series 3 is now playing Saturday nights on PBS), and I was hooked. Set in the late 1920's in Melbourne, Miss Phryne (pronounced "FRY-knee") Fisher (Essie Davis) is a wealthy "modern woman" who sets up as a lady detective, at first to the annoyance of Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). Later Phryne and Jack end up working together, with the assistance of Miss Fisher's companion Dot (Ashleigh Cummings) and Jack's right-hand man, Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt).


Miss Fisher seems to pick up strays wherever she goes, from some rough-and-tumble cab drivers and her butler with WWI spy experience, aptly named Mr. Butler, to a teen runaway named Jane. Wielding a pearl-handled golden handgun with panache and accuracy, Phryne Fisher becomes deeply embroiled in various mysterious and dangerous cases with Jack while feelings slowly begin to build between them. Series 3, which is only 8 episodes (the other series are 12 or 13 episodes each), marks the end of the series...the final episode of which I watched last night on Netflix. I was sorry to see the series end, but it was an extremely satisfying ride with everything tied up quite neatly and romantically.

The costumes are simply amazing--and the characters are quirky and always doing the unexpected. The attention to detail in the sets and the lovely outdoor scenes in Australia are beyond gorgeous. I've added quite a few of Phryne's best costumes and images of the other characters to my Pinterest Board "I'm a TV Junkie" if you're interested.


Unfortunately, as I peruse the new shows for this fall, I don't see anything that particular grabs me. I'll probably just rely on my old favorites, including the final CSI two-hour special playing Sunday night (9/27) with the return of Grissom, Catherine, and the rest of the gang. Plus, the final season of Downton Abbey will be starting here in the US on January 3, 2016; I'll especially hate to bid the Crawley family, both upstairs and down, a final farewell.

And I've been promising myself to start watching Doctor Who. I've seen a few and quite like it, but no one else in the family does, so I'll be watching by myself, I guess. Sci-fi isn't really my thing, but I've heard so much about this series....

What are some of your favorite TV shows, past and present?  

Getting out the popcorn,

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