Thursday, September 12, 2019

Summer Book Reviews in September


I love reading and writing on my front porch, especially when the sun starts dipping behind the tall trees, then beyond the violet-blue mountains cupping our little village in its palm. Over the past few September days, the nights have become quite cool, sinking to the mid-40s, and the days have been pleasant in the high 70s to low 80s. It's perfect porch weather!

So here are more of my summer reads and reviews. I'm remaining ahead of pace for reading eighty books in 2019, currently three books to the good according to Goodreads, I believe.


Letters from Home Letters from Home by Regina Jeffers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was not at all what I was expecting. As Regina Jeffers has penned many excellent Jane Austen variations and continuations, I was fully expecting this novella to be a "take" on Persuasion. However, this novella chronicles a young widow, Mrs. Faith Lamont, attending a Christmastide house party as her beautiful but selfish cousin's companion.

The new gentleman of the house, who had fought in the same military company as her husband (unbeknownst to her) had fallen in love with the woman's letters which her husband had read aloud to the entire company, although her husband viewed her beautiful earnestness and love for him as a farce to be laughed at.

However, Lord Simon Langford had fallen in love with the letters: their beautiful descriptions of England--of home--had captured his mind and his heart and had also comforted many of the other men, a development that George Lamont's young wife had never intended. Faith was embarrassed beyond belief to discover her husband's betrayal; how could he have read these most private and personal of letters aloud to the entire company?

But Simon, injured in the same battle that took George Lamont's life, is sick and tired by the usual ladies of the Ton. He finds himself delighted to have found a woman of true quality, but Faith is far more reluctant. Can Faith get past her humiliation at her husband's hands? Can Simon marry a poor war widow and remain part of London society?

Regina Jeffers never disappoints. Although this novella was not at all what I had expected when I ordered it, I found it delightful and extremely compelling. It's a quick read; in fact. I believe I read the whole thing easily within 24 hours. And while it is a quick read, it is also a highly satisfying one.


The Contract The Contract by Melanie Moreland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When this book was first released, I had checked out a sample of it and had really enjoyed it. In addition, one of my fanfic friends, Jeanne McDonald, had highly recommended it, and I knew I would have to finish reading it at some point.

I think that this story was first a Twilight fanfic before it was edited into an original contemporary romance. Sometime in the last couple of years, I had purchased the e-book but somehow never managed to read it. When I was looking for a somewhat familiar book to read (sometimes I don't want to take the mental energy to "meet" new characters), I rediscovered this book on my tablet.

I quickly re-read the first two chapters I had received as the sample and raced through the rest of the novel, finding it unusually compelling and definitely a page-turner. The character development, the plot, the romance--all of it took me into a world that seemed both completely foreign yet oh-so-familiar. I absolutely LOVED this book and am hoping to purchase the second volume of the series when I get paid for some essay grading.

This book chronicles an incredible transformation of one man who falls for a woman far too good for him. In his stunted state, mostly due to his neglected childhood, he seems unable to love anyone, including himself. But the influence of an unselfish woman, her "aunt" with Alzheimer's, and a new cooperative work environment help this man to become a different person in a fairly realistic way.

I definitely fell in love with these characters--all of them! It's a heart-warming and heart-rending tale, and it's one that I highly recommend.

(NOTE: I save "5" for the classics or for absolutely extraordinary current writing; a "4" is an "excellent" for me while a "5" is "extraordinary.")


A Gift of Ghosts A Gift of Ghosts by Sarah Wynde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An intriguing premise to this paranormal tale. Akira Malone, a physicist, is hired by General Directions, a vague and somewhat mysterious entity owned by Max Latimer, in a small Florida town called Tassamara. Zane Latimer, the man who hires her and the son of the owner of the company, seems to do so reluctantly, and she isn't really sure why she accepts their offer to move from her academic position in California to this rather ephemeral job across the country.

But she soon discovers the mystery behind General Directions and the reason why she is hired. First of all, the firm is headed by members of the Latimer family, including the handsome Zane to whom she reports weekly. In fact, her hiring itself was a series of tests...but not of her intellect nor of her scientific research. Although she continues her research in the area of sonoluminescence, she quickly finds out that she has been hired for a very different reason--a very personal reason for the Latimer family.

I found this book quite compelling, considering that I started reading it only last night and finished it the next day. It's the first of a series, but I'm not sure I can continue it since I will have to purchase the books through Amazon since they aren't available through our library system. With an extremely limited book budget (that encompasses 99-cent bargains through BookBub and Book Gorilla which is how I obtained this first book), I can't afford to continue reading the series.

If one enjoys stories based in the paranormal and a rather heady romance, then this book--and likely the series--will definitely appeal. The climax of the story was excellently written, and I found the whole book to be a delightful and truly mesmerizing experience.


Murder at Morrington Hall Murder at Morrington Hall by Clara McKenna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful first mystery in the Stella and Lyndy mysteries set in 1905. Lyndy, a young viscount, is amused by the young American woman, Stella Kendrick, whose father is the typical "rich ugly American" with no class but somehow became a millionaire by breeding top racehorses in Kentucky. Stella, however, is one of those Americans who possesses excellent intentions but manages to make a muck out of every honest attempt, to her eternal chagrin.

Stella and her father arrive at Morrington Hall where she discovers her father's plan: Mr. Kendrick will give the Earl of Atherly, Viscount Lyndhurst's father, the sire of the most promising thoroughbred in a generation in exchange for Lyndy marrying Stella. Having a daughter with a title seems to be the most expeditious way to get rid of Stella for Mr. Kendrick, and the father has no compassion for the position in which he has thrust his daughter: she is basically treated as part of a horse swap which does not endear her to her father's plan in the least.

Stella rebels immediately, but her argument with her stubborn and quite cruel father is cut short by the murder of the vicar who was to marry them the next day. Lyndy is afraid that his best friend may be the murderer while Stella also wishes to reveal the identity of the killer. Working together to solve the murder, Lyndy and Stella develop an admiration for one another--and perhaps even more. Stella discovers Lyndy's kind heart while Lyndy admires Stella's courage and sense of humor.

I found this first novel in the series quite compelling. Well-written, nicely detailed, with realistic and likable characters plus a wry sense of humor, I think that Clara McKenna's series will become quite successful. I know that I will be awaiting the next book in this series with a great deal of anticipation!! Brava, Ms. McKenna, on a wonderful opening book of the series!!


  Leaving Everything Most Loved Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This tenth book in the amazing Maisie Dobbs series was rather heartwrenching. A woman from India was discovered, shot through the head, along the banks of the Thames. When the police fail to find any clues, they give up the case and move on. But when the murdered woman's brother shows up in London several months later seeking answers, the police at Scotland Yard come to Maisie Dobbs and ask for her assistance.

Maisie finds herself at a crossroads. She loves James Compton, yet the idea of giving up her hard-won independence in order to marry a lord terrifies her. James presses Maisie to make a decision, and she will have to search her heart and soul to see which way she will decide. And she also meets some amazing women as she searches for the killer od beautiful Usha Pramal, a former governess working in London as domestic help.

Maisie's assistant, Billy, also finds himself at a crossroads as he returned too soon from injuries that nearly cost him his life, and he is temporarily (or perhaps permanently) unable to do his job. Sandra, Maisie's other employee, is also seeking other work as well.

Perhaps, as Maisie is taken deeper and deeper into the people and culture of India right in her beloved London and as her father finds love at last, this is time for Maisie to travel, to find herself, and to be able to give James a firm answer, one way or another.

A brilliant and heart-rending book that had me in tears several times, the Maisie Dobbs series continues to deliver a thoughtful and thought-provoking heroine deeply involved in her calling yet with a loneliness within that may prevent her from ever truly loving.

Beautifully written, wisely developed, and carefully plotted, this tenth book (of fifteen books in the series at this time) is another standout in the series...as they all are, somehow.


Finally Mrs. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Novella Finally Mrs. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Novella by Leenie Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet novella in which a widowed Elizabeth once again encounters Fitzwilliam Darcy--a set-up managed by her uncle-by-marriage--and the sparks fly between the two of them immediately. Very little trouble remains in the way of their romance at this point, later in life. It's a story of second chances, of new beginnings, and of a true love that never wanes.

Telling much more would give away too much, but I will say that this is a sweet novella with a very happy ending, indeed!

* * * * *

Thanks for reading my reviews, and please let me know if you have read any of these books--and what you thought of them--or if you would like to read them. I have included the reviews of one of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries that I have been enjoying so much. I'm on a waitlist for the next Maisie Dobbs which has been my passion this spring and summer! 

Happy reading, everyone!


Sunday, August 25, 2019

My 2019-2020 Essay Grading Service



The following is a repost from my website SusanneBarrett.com

Susanne Barrett: 
E-Mail Essay Grading Service 2019-2020 School Year

So this is how my grading system works: Just send me the essay as a Word attachment, and please include the assignment directions either in the text of the e-mail or also as an attachment. Also, please let me know if you would like comments only or comments with a letter grade. Please alert me also to anything else I may need to know (such as learning challenges, reluctant writing, etc.) so that I can respond to the essay in the most helpful way possible.

I will respond via e-mail within 24 hours to let you know that I received the essay and on which day you can expect to have it returned to you, usually within 3-5 school days. If you need an essay graded sooner, let me know, and I'll see if I can slip it into my schedule.

Also, with each assignment, please include the writer’s age, grade level, and whether you want a letter grade since I grade for many families and may not recall your family’s preferences. 

I then download the essay, mark corrections, make comments, and offer suggestions in the right margin. At the end of the essay, I write an overall summary of what was done well in the essay and what needs further attention. My over-arching goal is to encourage growth in the art and craft of writing, including format/structure, organization, fluency, vocabulary, and mechanics.   

Then when I return the graded essay, which I send in Word and also as a PDF (because some Apple computers/tablets don’t show the review comments in the right margin of Word documents), I will let you know the fee which is the number of words in the essay (excluding any notes for me) times $.03 (3 cents per word) with a $10 minimum fee per essay. If you wish to have your writer revise the essay and submit it to be re-graded, I charge half as much (1½ cents per word with a $5 minimum) for grading revised essays.

Then I ask you to remit via PayPal at PayPal.Me/SusanneBarrett when I return the essay. I will grade the essay first and then receive payment after returning the essay to you. Please remit payment within 24 hours of my returning the graded essay to you.

Regarding research essays, I am well-versed in the latest Modern Language Association (MLA) format style according to the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition (2016) which is the format most commonly used for research in the humanities. Because I am not at all familiar with other research formats such as APA, CMS/Turabian, etc., I only grade research essays formatted according to the MLA style, 8th edition.

Please let me know if you have any questions; I’m always happy to explain and/or discuss my essay grading services.

So send me an essay whenever you're ready, and we'll go from there! I look forward to working with you and your young writer(s)! 

Writing with you,
Susanne 

SBarrett0085@gmail.com 
www.SusanneBarrett.com

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Spring and Summer Reading....


Our county library branch just completed the annual Summer Reading program. Readers from ages kindergarten through the adults track the number of hours we read all summer, and for every ten hours we read, we receive a raffle ticket. When we reach the week before school begins, the Pine Valley Library holds three drawings: the adults, the kids, and the teens, with some fairly impressive prizes donated by businesses or purchased with Friends of the Library funds.

Last Tuesday night, I joined about forty adults crammed into the small community room of the Pine Valley Library. After passing around ice cream (I do love caramel-filled Drumsticks!), we settled in for the drawing. I had twelve tickets in the jar while my friend Cameron topped me with eighteen tickets. She is also a book editor, so a lot of what she read was work-related. (Please ignore any hint of envy in that last statement.😜)

Cameron was also choosing prizes for her husband while I also chose for Elizabeth. Last summer, Elizabeth hadn't won anything, so as I had won the first draw and chose the Kindle Fire 8, I gave to her (since I have a Kindle Fire 10). This year, I managed to get a $25 Target gift card which I also gave to Elizabeth, and with her name drawn late in the raffle with only a handful of prizes left, I chose a USB fan which I have been wanting for quite a while--a necessity when teaching summer school online! A very good ending to a fun and productive Summer Reading Program.

So here are some of the books I have read this spring and summer:


Return to Tradd Street Return to Tradd Street by Karen White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 4th of the Tradd Street mysteries, and I enjoyed it perhaps more than the others. The paranormal aspects kept me guessing. The historical research in this series is also fascinating even though the South is not my favorite topic.

The dynamic between Jack and Melanie is stronger here, and the entire plot, spread over four novels, seems to have come to a satisfying conclusion. Melanie, a definite OCD planner, has learned how to let go of control a bit, a control she has definitely needed to assert after her traumatic childhood in which her mother deserted her when Melanie was only six-seven, and her dad become a raging alcoholic after his wife left, leaving Melanie to be the parent when she was still a child. Being in control of her life, her heart, her career, made her feel safe. And ignoring her ability to see dead people was also part of her reign of control. At the end of the four novels, Melanie has softened, learned to go with the flow, and, most of all, learned to forgive her parents and Jack. Her hatred for old houses, despite the old houses of Charleston being at the heart of her career as a realtor, has also waned although she still believes that they are money pits waiting to drain one's bank account. ;) She has learned to love.

A terrific and compelling series; I checked them out via the library e-loan system so that I could start the next as soon as one was finished. There is a Christmas book being released this fall, so I'm happy to know that the series has not ended. I'm excited to see what kind of paranormal mystery Melanie will find herself embroiled in this time!



Written on the Wind Written on the Wind by Cate Dean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this second book in the Maggie Mulgrew series. It's utterly lovely to read a series that is set in an English country village with all of its quirky characters and unique shops. Maggie, an American transplant who inherited her great-aunt's house and business in Holmestead (which makes the best it can among the tourist trade as a village with "Holmes" in its name).

In the first book, Maggie comes to like an archeology professor, Pembroke Martin, who was accused of murder but was found to be innocent and he, Spencer (Maggie's best friend and employee in her antique shop, the Ash Leaf), and Maggie uncover the culprit. Now Martin (he hates his first name) is ensconced in Maggie's flat above the shop and, as her "gentleman-caller," assists her and Spencer in the latest intrigue.

I'm growing to enjoy the villagers more and more, and I just wish that the mysteries were longer; they seem to end so quickly! They are only $3 on Kindle, but I'd hate to buy more...yet they're not available through my library system (I checked it state-wide). So I'll see if I continue reading this series when I have so many other series begging for my attention. 😏


Inspiration: A Pride and Prejudice variation Inspiration: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Maria Grace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another sweet novella by author Maria Grace. I had the pleasure of reading nearly half of it online at Austen Variations, and then I helped to proofread the whole shebang. I love the premise of Fitzwilliam Darcy (and Bingley, too) as gentlemen artists. Darcy is undergoing quite the dry spell since his and Georgiana's run-in with Wickham at Ramsgate. He just has no inspiration. And then he accepts Bingley's invitation to come to Netherfield in Hertfordshire where he meets the Bennet family. While Bingley falls for the lovely Jane, it's Elizabeth who becomes Darcy's muse.

Darcy's preoccupation with Elizabeth as his muse is intense. She truly becomes his inspiration, and he cannot paint without her. So Darcy has indeed managed to paint himself into a corner...


The Subsequent Proposal: A Tale of Pride, Prejudice & Persuasion The Subsequent Proposal: A Tale of Pride, Prejudice & Persuasion by Joana Starnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was quite the intriguing and original Austen variation in which Mr. Darcy is engaged to Anne Elliot while Elizabeth Bennet is being pursued by Captain Wentworth. The two men obviously do not mesh well, given that each one is committed (or soon will be) to the other's true love.

The most satisfying part of this novel happens fairly early on when news of Lydia's planned "elopement" (in letter form to Kitty) with Wickham is revealed, and both Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth travel separately to Brighton where they catch Wickham the night before they leave. Wentworth, for Elizabeth's honor (which Darcy can't claim as he is engaged to Anne), challenges Wickham to a duel, and the events that occur there are both very surprising and quite satisfying!!

The untangling of these "romances" so that each couple is set correctly again is both intriguing and quite compelling. It's a novel full of angst, mostly written from Darcy's POV, but of course, we end up with the usual HEA common to Austen variations and continuations. Very well-written and quite believable.


A Most Affectionate Mother: A Pride and Prejudice sequel A Most Affectionate Mother: A Pride and Prejudice sequel by Maria Grace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet novella by Maria Grace which focuses on the "plain" Bennet sister after the marriages of Lydia, Jane, and Elizabeth. Now at Longbourn with only Kitty and her mother for entertainment, Mary escapes as often as possible to Meryton's lending library.

While checking out a book in order to assist Charlotte Lucas with a project at Rosings, Mary is confronted by a very rude young man who demands the book Mary has just borrowed, insisting that he needs it himself. In high dudgeon, Mary leaves the young man in the dust.

But this young man is persistent and ends up at Longbourn...where Mrs. Bennet will not allow Mary to ignore him despite the fact that she is annoyed beyond words at the young man's effrontery in pursuing this book. In fact, Mary is forced to share her book with him so that Mr. Johnstone can complete a similar project for his own parish. Mrs. Bennet, with three daughters married, is most eager to plan yet another wedding and relentlessly pushes Mary at the poor gentleman. What is Mary to do?

I enjoyed this book, mostly because I always enjoy Maria Grace's interpretations of Mary as a much stronger and more intriguing and nuanced character than portrayed in Austen's original book. This Mary has quite a temper, stands up to her mother as well as she can (how can one outmaneuver a steamroller?), and takes on an incredible project at the behest of Mr. Johnstone's mother.

While both mothers attempt to make this match, will Mary and Mr. Johnstone agree?

This is another of Maria Grace's books that I had the privilege of reading half online at Austen Variations (or was it Maria's website, Random Bits of Fascination?) before proofreading the whole. It was difficult to slow down my reading in order to proofread; I kept wanting to push ahead and find out what happened!


After the Letter: A Persuasion Continuation After the Letter: A Persuasion Continuation by Meg Osborne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An intriguing continuation of Persuasion, picking up right where Austen's novel ends. Despite Anne's happiness, Lady Russell and her father remain somewhat opposed to the match, but Sir Walter accepts the settlement with alacrity, given his financial situation. But Lady Russell continues to actively work against Wentworth, still believing that despite Frederick's wealth and increased stature, he is nothing but an itinerant sailor who will ruin Anne's life.

Will Anne have the strength to stand up against her family and Lady Russell? Or will the couple part once again, this time forever?

I always enjoy Meg Osborne's variations and continuations of Austen's works, and this one is no exception. We feel the pull of being in the middle with Anne, her love for him pitted against Lady Russell's connection to Anne's beloved mother. Frederick isn't often happy in this novella; he is frustrated by the delays suggested by Sir Walter, and it doesn't help that Mr. Elliott remains in town (he didn't elope with Mrs. Clay as in Austen's original) and continues to hang around Anne, to her extreme discomfort.

Definitely an intriguing and compelling novella; I basically read it in one sitting. 😍


Murder on Trinity Place Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of this series for well over a decade! I was so excited to read the 22nd book in this series, and I definitely enjoyed it. However, I realized as I read it that I had somehow missed reading two of the more recent books in the series, so I am re-reading the book before the two I missed, and then I'll jump into the two books in the series that I haven't read yet.

This book starts at New Year's Eve as the year 1900 begins. There have been many changes in Sarah's household since the early mysteries she came across as a midwife. I won't chronicle the changes here because I don't want to spoil the series for anyone. But I do miss the rawness of the early books and the near-constant danger Sarah faced as a widowed midwife in 1890s New York City. Plus, trying to discover her husband's murderer placed Sarah in even more danger, to the annoyance of Detective Frank Malloy of the New York Police Department. Frank was a hardboiled Irish copper, not deigning to investigate a murder unless the family paid him to do so. He found Sarah to be an annoying "do-gooder" who was always underfoot at crime scenes, and Sarah found his requirement of being paid by the families of murder victims to be reprehensible. That's how the series began, and the situation of the characters has changed quite markedly 22 books later.

This series is a delight for readers who enjoy historical mysteries that focus on character development and a surprising "whodunnit?" ending. The writing is deep and thoughtful, brimming with excitement at times. The characters are memorable and become almost like dear friends, their foibles and flaws noted and accepted while their hearts desire to do the right thing to help the poor of NYC.

And this 22nd book is no exception. I feel that either I have adjusted so well to the author's style that they seem to read more easily, or she has made the series more easily accessible over the years; I'm not sure which. But I still found this book utterly delightful (despite the murders, of course!). The character development is always intriguing as is the mystery itself, one that can indeed be solved by readers who pay very close attention.


Triple Jeopardy Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A clever second book, set in 1910, in Anne Perry's new Daniel Pitt mystery series. While I have read (and often re-read) the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series (focused on mysteries solved by Daniel's parents), the Daniel Pitt series differs in that Daniel is a fledgling trial lawyer in a well-known London firm, fforde Croft and Gibson, who takes on very intriguing cases that need a bit of sleuthing to be solved.

In both mysteries thus far, Daniel relies on his parents (and this time his older sister Jemima married to an American police officer; they now reside in Washington, DC, but arrive in London for a visit and because of a case), a senior attorney named Kitteridge, Marcus fforde Croft (partner in the firm), and his daughter, Miriam fforde Croft, a pathologist.

Once again, the mystery concludes in the courtroom, with Daniel taking great chances to unmask the murderer as he questions witnesses in the stand. He's young--only 25 or so--but Daniel Pitt is making quite a name for himself in solving and winning extremely challenging cases, much as his father has done (and still does) as head of Special Branch.

I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy courtroom dramas, but I grew up watching the old black-and-white Perry Mason TV show during lunch. Raymond Burr was amazing at getting the culprit to confess, either on the stand or in the audience. And while we get to learn only what Daniel himself unearths (with the help of others), it ends up being quite a fascinating and compelling read.

I can't wait for Anne Perry to continue this series. The last Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery I read (#31) fell rather flat to me simply because Charlotte cannot take part in Thomas' efforts for Special Branch, and the fun dynamic between the two of them, plus their maid, Gracie, was what made the series work for so many books (32 of them!). I am quite enjoying seeing Charlotte and Thomas' children grown and solving mysteries on their own (at least in this second volume with Jemima, her Irish-American husband, and their young family visiting London).

A fascinating book, even if I guessed the murderer (but not the accomplice!) about halfway through. I wasn't sure; it was a gut-guess, I guess. 😊

* * * * *

So there we are, a handful of the books I have read and reviewed on Goodreads this spring and summer. I have lots more books that I have yet to review, and I'm currently three books ahead of "schedule" in my goal of reading 80 books in 2019. Considering that I don't watch TV anymore (just a D&D livestream that my kids got me hooked on; three of our four kids are devoted fans and we plan to start our own D&D home game this fall. More on that to come....

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Saint James the Apostle


St. James the Apostle by Peter Paul Rubens
One of the elements of Anglican worship that continues to appeal to me is the focus on Biblical saints. While we may enjoy and gain inspiration and insight from the stories of saints through the ages, both those recognized by the Church and those who are not, Anglicans celebrate the saints of the Holy Scriptures. Today, July 25, is the day we celebrate Saint James the Apostle.

The following is the e-mail from AmericanCatholic.org on Saint James the Apostle, also known as Saint James the Greater.

Saint James the Apostle’s Story

This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20).
James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and the agony in Gethsemani.
Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. Saint Matthew tells that their mother came—Mark says it was the brothers themselves—to ask that they have the seats of honor in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!”
The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life.
On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them…” (Luke 9:54-55).
James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a).
This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.
An icon of Saint James the Apostle, also known as Saint James the Greater


Reflection

The way the Gospels treat the apostles is a good reminder of what holiness is all about. There is very little about their virtues as static possessions, entitling them to heavenly reward. Rather, the great emphasis is on the Kingdom, on God’s giving them the power to proclaim the Good News. As far as their personal lives are concerned, there is much about Jesus’ purifying them of narrowness, pettiness, fickleness.
* * * * *
In the 2011 Book of Common Prayer, we celebrate Saint James with a collective prayer called a Collect:
Saint James (July 25)
THE COLLECT:
MERCIFUL God, as your holy apostle James left his father and worldly goods without delay to follow the call of your Son Jesus Christ; Grant that, leaving behind all earthly goods and desires, we may always be ready to follow your commands; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Matthew 4.21-22; 19.27-29; Acts 12.1-2; Revelation 22.14)
THE READINGS:
Acts 11.27-12.3a; Matthew 20.20-28; Psalm 15; Psalm 149.1-6; Jeremiah 45.1-5
Father Acker and I will be celebrating Saint James the Apostle at tomorrow morning's weekly Morning Prayer and Holy Communion with Healing. We will be reading the Epistle and Gospel readings above (the first two listed) in the Communion service. 
Wishing you all a blessed week in the love of our Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria,


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Second Set of Maisie Dobbs Reviews



As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have fallen absolutely IN LOVE with Jacqueline Winspear's brilliant Maisie Dobbs mystery series. Set in Britain between the World Wars, intrepid Maisie Dobbs, "Investigator and Psychologist" (as her business card reads) takes on various cases that range from the suspicious death of a mentally-disabled man with whom she grew up in Lambeth, a poor section of London where her father was a costermonger to uncovering the truth behind the death of a WWI flying "ace" who may have been doubling as a spy.

While the mysteries are varied and absorbing, it's the psychological slant of this series that beckons me to continue. Each character is developed deeply, foibles and all, and each character struggles with the after-effects of the Great War, including Maisie who had been a nurse on the front lines in France. Watching these characters stumble, learn from their mistakes (or not), and struggle to rise above the "shellshock" (PTSD) of their war experiences, both at home and abroad, is a major theme that is woven through every book in the series.

I just downloaded the tenth book in the series of fifteen (so far) from the library, and I am itching to set aside my work for the day and just dive in, but I am working hard to resist the temptation. As I mentioned in my review of the first three books of the Maisie Dobbs series, the first book provides the necessary backstory, showing us how Maisie rose from the daughter of a London costermonger to a university graduate, a nurse during the War, a student and later the assistant of Dr. Maurice Blanche, and eventually to the owner of her own business.

I hope you will enjoy the reviews of the fourth, fifth, and sixth books of the Maisie Dobbs series!  (Reminder: I save the "5" rating in Goodreads for the classics and for books that truly blow my mind. A "4" indicates a truly excellent book, but not necessarily a classic-in-the-making.) 


Messenger of Truth Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fourth novel provides another insightful mystery in the Maisie Dobbs series! Maisie takes on a new client sent to her by Inspector Stratton: a woman whose artist brother died accidentally while preparing to hang the secret piece d' resistance of his much-anticipated art show. The painting--or likely, series of paintings--are nowhere to be found, and Stratton, who has declared the death an accident, sends the grieving yet still-questioning twin sister of the deceased to Maisie.

Maisie isn't certain that the death was a murder, but she quickly works her way into the family of the deceased, finding much pain from the Great War (as Maisie also experienced) in this very bohemian and artistic family. She quickly tracks down clues through her superior training and keen insight while also dealing with her personal life as well as the health of her assistant's family during these hard years of the early '30s when so many are without work and thus without the necessities of life-or even basic medical care. This is not an easy book to read as Billy's family deals with life-and-death issues, and Maisie suffers alongside them, helping as much as she can.

Maisie follows the path to discover much amiss and several possible motives, unearthing some of her own motivations in her private life herself, motivations which cause her to set aside a burgeoning romance as she is unsure of her own desire to marry; her work is just too important to her at this point. And obviously, the men of the thirties, no matter how wonderful they may be, want a wife who will create a home for them rather than spending her days sleuthing into often dangerous territory. Maisie will have to face this issue more than once in her career.

I am addicted to this series and will be ordering the next book in the series from the library as soon as possible!


An Incomplete Revenge An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fifth book in the series is not as quick as read as the previous Maisie Dobbs novel. Rather, it is a deliberate unfolding of truth, heartache, fear, and forgiveness in a small Kentish village. Maisie continues to entice me; she's such a deep character, so real that I think I'd know her if I walked past her on the street (and not only because she'd be dressed for 1931 rather than 2019!). She is a secular mystic, yet a believer in a removed way; I'd love for her to switch those up, but I don't think that's where this author is taking her.

There is much heartache in this book, yet also freedom once death has come and the truth is told. It's a truth that is hinted at and slowly deepened and developed until the reader knows what happened--the overall scope, not the nitty-gritty details--well before the final reveal. And Maisie is not only facing a dangerous pyromaniac, but also the fallout of tragedy in the Beale family, plus her own personal tragedy--one that started in 1918 and is finally resolved in the autumn of 1931.

I am looking forward to Maisie's future now that she is released from Simon. I have hopes for her and Stratton, but we shall see. I also feel a great need to reread the first book now that I actually own it so that I can revisit the tempestuous first book that created the Maisie Dobbs I have come to admire so greatly.


Among the Mad Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just love the Maisie Dobbs series, and this one was no exception. Shorter than many of the others, this novel puts Maisie in the middle of threatened terrorist attacks in London between Christmas and New Year's Eve of 1931. London is enmeshed in the Depression, and many of its brave veterans, often injured and/or shellshocked (what they called those suffering from PTSD after WWI), are often denied pensions by a government that can't afford to give every service person who sacrificed his/her health for King and Country enough to live on. Even the able-bodied are often unemployed.

After a letter threatening a terrorist act if demands for pensions for all who served, especially for all who were injured and/or shellshocked are not provided immediately--a letter that mentions Maisie by name--Maisie finds herself roped into working with Inspector Stratton and a few others with the Special Branch (which I am quite familiar with, given Anne Perry's wonderful Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery series) to discover who the anonymous would-be assassin is before he kills. When no announcement from 10 Downing comes, a second threatening letter is sent to the Prime Minister and others high in the British government and military.

Maisie pulls on all of her own and Maurice's friends in mental hospitals and military R&D to discover who the terrorist is before he strikes. Having to deal with police in-fighting and political grandstanding makes Maisie sympathetic to the terrorist, for she, too, has had to deal with a recent breakdown due to PTSD. Can her sympathy help unearth the terrorist before he attacks the innocent New Year's Eve partygoers where the hardboiled Special Branch and police detectives have thus far failed?

I could not put this book down; I read it over just three days in every spare moment when I wasn't working on my online Shakespeare class or helping with my elderly parents. I am ordering the next book in the series from the library today!! Such a smart, thoughtful series, one with heart as well as intellect, and one that deals with the psychological fallout of the Great War in all levels of society with sensitivity and realism. Brava, Jacqueline Winspear!!

* * * * *

I will be working on my reviews of the next three books, which I have finished, but probably not until I've managed to savor the tenth book in the Maisie Dobbs series. I hope that you mystery lovers will enjoy these mysteries as much as I have! 

Reading with you,


Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Highly-Recommended Historical Mystery Series


Although this spring has been crazy-busy with family and work, I have made time for my most important self-care: reading. And have I ever found an incredible mystery series to share with you!! Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series is simply brilliant. (The "Maisie Dobbs" link sends you to Goodreads' complete list of the books in this series.) Set in the years between the World Wars, Maisie is an unusual young woman with brains and talent who was blessed with a university education despite being the daughter of a London costermonger.

The first book in the series is all background: how Maisie Dobbs becomes Maisie Dobbs, including her childhood, her time in service, her training, her time at university, her service as a nurse during the Great War, the rest of her time at university, her training under Dr. Maurice Blanche, to her finally opening her own investigative service. Currently, there are fifteen books in the series, and I have worked my way through the first nine thus far, and all are brilliant with deep character studies (with many characters becoming regulars as the series continues).

Yet the mysteries themselves are rather slow burns, reminding me greatly of the pacing and development of Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey mysteries. I really want to purchase each one and re-read them several times. The books are available both as print and e-books through the San Diego County Library system and are likely to be available via most library systems as well as through Amazon/Kindle.

So here are my reviews of the first three books of this series (I was going to give you six reviews, but then I discovered how LONG these reviews are!):

Maisie DobbsMaisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This first book in the Maisie Dobbs series is less about solving mysteries and more about Maisie's life: her childhood, going into service, her education, and the Great War which reverberates for decades afterward. This book provides a compelling and memorable backdrop to the series which is beautifully written, character-driven, and simply amazing. For fans of British "whodunnits," this series is NOT TO BE MISSED!!

Maisie is a remarkable character, one who succeeds brilliantly in her professional life but who stumbles frequently in her private life, especially in romance. One of the major reasons for her loneliness stems from events described in this first book. I found it fascinating to watch Maisie grow from a young girl to a professional woman over the scope of this first novel.

Ms. Winspear causes us to dig deeply and thus care deeply for the characters in this series, and we readers learn to care for Maisie Dobbs most of all, cheering her on in her successes and mourning her many losses. She is a flawed character (in this she also reminds me greatly of Sayers' Peter Wimsey, also scarred by the Great War), yet her balance of intelligence and compassion drives her to pursue each case to its (often slightly bitter) end (again, much like Peter Wimsey). 

Originally I read this book via Kindle Unlimited, but now I have purchased my own copy so that I can go back over the details of Maisie's life as needed. I am now reading well into the series and am very glad that I have a copy of this first book at hand to in order to revisit certain scenes.


Birds of a Feather Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this second novel in the Maisie Dobbs series, we actually find Maisie embarking upon her first case: a missing heiress. It's now 1930, over a decade since the Great War devastated Europe, including England as well as Maisie's past and, in a way, her future.

While the first book of the series provided us with Maisie's voluminous and fascinating backstory, we get to see Maisie at work now, employing all that she has gleaned during her training by Dr. Maurice Blanche who has become like another father to Maisie. So now that Maurice has retired, Maisie "puts up her shingle" and takes her first case.

In these novels, it's not so much the "whodunnit?" as it is the "why did they do it?" Maisie is not merely an investigator; she is also a trained psychologist, again thanks to Maurice. She has learned his methods of quieting her mind, of putting herself almost literally into others' "shoes" by mimicking their posture, movement, and even their walk. Often Maisie gets a fairly clear idea of the "who," but until she has clearly settled the "whys," she is never satisfied.

In this book, we are also introduced to Billy Beale, a wounded veteran of the Great War (has a "game leg" and damaged lungs from mustard gas) who eventually becomes her assistant just as she was Maurice's. The lovely part for Maisie is that Maurice is nearby, having purchased the Dower House at the Comptons' estate in Kent. Lady Rowan and Lord Julian, for whom Maisie had been a maid starting when she was twelve, continue to support Maisie by insisting that she stay in their London townhouse as they live mostly in Kent at this time. And Maisie's father, a costermonger by trade but a horse expert at heart, remains the head of the Comptons' stables and lives in a cottage near the Dower House.

Thus, Maisie often drives her MG (which she purchased from Lady Rowan) to Kent in order to visit her father, keep Maurice apprised of her cases (and he is happy to point her in a particular direction), and visit with Lady Rowan. From time to time, Maisie also calls upon Lord Julian because of his connections during the war may help with her cases.

I find the way in which Maisie's mind works fascinating. The way in which she and Billy create a "case map" on the back of old wallpaper in order to track all of the various threads is brilliant (as Maurice trained her, of course), and her frequent run-ins with Detective Inspector Richard Stratton, a widower with a young son, is also intriguing.

I'm rather reviewing all nine of the books I've read here--they've all bled together in my mind after I galloped through them without making notes or writing reviews this spring as there simply wasn't time. But I adore Maisie Dobbs, and right now I'm on the waitlist for the tenth of fifteen books in this series.


Pardonable Lies Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third novel of the Maisie Dobbs series finds Maisie searching for the truth of an airman's death during the Great War, eleven years after the Armistice. Maurice is concerned about Maisie returning to France to discover the precise events of the airman's death, especially as it seems that one of her best friend's brothers (Priscilla lost all three of her brothers in the war) may also be involved. Maurice knows that Maisie still bears scars from her wartime service as a nurse, especially the bombing of the aid station near the Front where she worked alongside her fiance-in-all-but-name, Dr. Simon Lynch. Together, they had treated Billy Beale who becomes Maisie's assistant, Simon miraculously saving Billy's leg when almost any other surgeon would have given up or failed.

Many secrets are revealed during this time in Maisie's life, including how deeply involved Maurice was in the war effort--namely, in espionage. Maisie unearths much about the death of Priscilla's brother and his involvement in the war and with a young French girl. But following this line of inquiry is extremely taxing for Maisie who has buried so much of the horror of the war deep within her psyche.

She continues to avoid visiting Simon, who survived the war but lost his mind in the attack that nearly killed both him and Maisie. Unable to speak, to recognize, to feed or dress himself, Simon remains in a wheelchair, eyes unfixed on anything, lost in time and space. Maisie forces herself to see him, but each visit is heartbreaking for her.

So Maisie methodically uncovers the truth of the airman's death, also unearthing the truth of Priscilla's brother's death, his legacy, and Maisie's own fragility is also revealed. For her, as for many, many others, the Great War may never cease. A brilliant study in PTSD, the psychology of wartime, the scars left by this first of the world wars, the machinations of governments, and the secret loves that burgeoned during global upheaval.

* * * * *

So I hope I haven't given too awfully much away in my reviews of this series. I have read and reviews the seventh, eighth, and ninth books in this series as well as I await the tenth from the library. While I wait, I am reading the latest Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson, and as I started reading it, I realized that I had somehow missed a couple of books preceding the last few of this series, so I'm going back to re-read the one before the two I missed, then I'll read those two. I've checked out all three e-books from the library. So I can now wait without too much angst for the tenth Maisie mystery with these lovely turn-of-the-century New York mysteries to keep me company.

Reading avidly,




Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Blessed Pentecost to You!!

An Eastern Orthodox icon of the Christian Pentecost. This is the Icon of the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. At the bottom is an allegorical figure, called Kosmos, which symbolizes the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

A re-post from the Archives as I attempt to keep up with my wonderful Brave Writer families and students in Literary Analysis: Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing...

I just do not understand something. Why don't evangelical churches celebrate Pentecost? Because of a family emergency last night which meant I didn't get to bed until after 3:00 this morning, I was not able to attend church this morning. Thus, I have no idea if this year was different and our church, Pine Valley Community Church, celebrated Pentecost during the church service. I hope so! It broke my heart not to attend, but I really could not move until after church was over, and even past that. 


Scripture tells us that the Gift Jesus promised His disciples has arrived at Pentecost: the Holy Spirit. We read Christ's promise in the 14th chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, beginning at the 15th verse:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.... 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you..." (ESV).


Then on the Feast of the Pentecost, with Jerusalem filled with Jews from around the known world, Christ fulfilled his promise fifty days after His Resurrection. We read in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles:
2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.' 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" 13 But others mocking said, "They are filled with new wine” (ESV).


Peter then preaches to the astounded visitors to Jerusalem (also in the second chapter of Acts), quoting the prophecy of Joel hundreds of years past as well as passages from the Psalms of David while also relating what he and the other disciples witnessed of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as well as the many sightings of Christ following His resurrection from the dead until His ascension to the right hand of the Living God. Peter concludes:
"32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" (Acts 2, ESV).
And then we read the response of the crowd listening to Peter:
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2, ESV).


The events of this Pentecost are simply incredible, and it is from this amazing Gift of the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit of God, that the Gospel of Christ first began to spread and the Church began to form. Why evangelical churches do not regularly celebrate Pentecost is a mystery to me. It always lands on a Sunday and thus it can be easily celebrated with Scripture readings, with praise songs and hymns about the Holy Spirit, with sermons focused on the Holy Spirit, and perhaps even with baptisms since approximately 3,000 people were baptized and added to the Church on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection in Acts 2. Pentecost is a Biblical holy day, and we can celebrate it Biblically, too, with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart[s]" (Ephesians 5:19, ESV).

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, one of the Collects (collective or public prayers) for Pentecost reads thus:

Almighty and most merciful God, grant, we beseech thee, that by the indwelling of thy Holy Spirit, we may be enlightened and strengthened for thy service ; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
And the Book of Common Prayer 2011's Collect for Pentecost (also in the sidebar of this blog):
"O GOD, you teach the hearts of your faithful people by sending us the light of your Holy Spirit; By your Spirit, give us right judgment in all things, so that we may rejoice forever in his holy comfort; Through the victory of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and rules with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen." (References: John 14.26; Acts 2.1-4; Philippians 1.9-10; Acts 9.31)
The Anglican Church has an interesting name for Pentecost: Whitsunday which comes from the white garments worn by those who are baptized this day, just as over 3,000 people were baptized on that first Pentecost in Acts 2. In the above hyperlink to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry of "Whitsunday," an interesting fact is given:
Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:8 probably refers to the Jewish feast. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday; besides it was so closely bound up with Easter that it appears to be not much more than the termination of Paschal tide [Eastertide].


So why is this important Biblical Holy Day, celebrated from the very earliest days of the Christian Church, hardly mentioned in evangelical churches, including my own? I don't know. I simply don't get it. But I pray that the evangelical churches will indeed start to celebrate Biblical Holy Days more and more in the future, pulling on the rich, 2,000-year heritage of Pentecost/Whitsunday.

I close with this quotation (also in the sidebar of this blog) on the importance of Pentecost:

"Bethlehem was God with us, Calvary was God for us, and Pentecost is God in us."

~Robert Baer

Wishing you a blessed Pentecost,

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A Blessed Celebration of the Ascension!


Updated from the Archives...

Today is the Sixth Sunday After Easter, also known as Sunday after Ascension Day which was celebrated on Thursday. Ascension Day is celebrated forty days after Christ's Resurrection when He gave His final earthly encouragement and directions to His disciples before Ascending to the right hand of the Father. The Epistle reading for the Feast of the Ascension is from Acts 1:

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (English Standard Version)

The Gospel reading relates the same event, also told by Luke at the close of his gospel account:

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.(ESV)
"Ascension" by Benjamin West
The Collect for Ascension Day from The Book of Common Prayer 2011 which Father Keith Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity modernized and I helped to edit:   

ALMIGHTY God, as we believe your only eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven; Grant that we may also ascend into heaven in heart and mind until, at the last, we may dwell with him forever; Who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always. Amen.


Father Bosco Peters, an Anglican priest in New Zealand who runs the amazing Liturgy.co.nz site, posted a wonderful reflection on Ascension can be read in its entirety here: Ascension Day.

On Twitter, Father Peters noted that Ascension Day is a holiday in several European countries, such as France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc. Yet we in America hardly even know of this Biblical holy day, at least among American evangelicals. Part of Eastertide which lasts until Pentecost (just one more week!), Ascension is obviously noted in Scripture as being forty days after Christ's Resurrection. 

This holy day has been celebrated since the early years of the Church, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
The observance of this feast is of great antiquity. Although no documentary evidence of it exists prior to the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine says that it is of Apostolic origin, and he speaks of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time. Frequent mention of it is made in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and in the Constitution of the Apostles. The Pilgrimage of Sylvia (Peregrinatio Etheriae) speaks of the vigil of this feast and of the feast itself, as they were kept in the church built over the grotto in Bethlehem in which Christ was born (Duchesne, Christian Worship, 491-515). It may be that prior to the fifth century the fact narrated in the Gospels was commemorated in conjunction with the feast of Easter or Pentecost.... Representations of the mystery are found in diptychs and frescoes dating as early as the fifth century.
You may read the full article from the Catholic Encyclopedia here: Feast of the Ascension.

"Ascension" by Giotto di Bondone, 1305

I just don't really understand why American evangelical churches do not celebrate these Biblical festivals, or at least Pentecost if not Ascension. Pentecost lands on a Sunday every time, so there's really no excuse not to at least mention it...if not read the Scriptures recounting the gift of the Holy Spirit to the waiting disciples and perhaps even preach on the subject. Yes, every day of our earthly existence should be a celebration of what Christ has done for us, and every Sunday should indeed be a celebration of the Resurrection power and love of Jesus. But noting and celebrating these other Biblical holy days seems like a wonderful idea to me, one in which we can walk in the footsteps of our Risen Lord, glorifying Him who first loved us.

Enjoy a blessed Octave of the Ascension,

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