I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Praying your 2013 is healthy, peaceful, and rich in the love of the Lord, family, and friends.God bless you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holy Innocents

Like so many others, I am still reeling from the devastating tragedy which occurred Friday, Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults lost their lives in a school shooting. I thought it fitting to re-post a devotional on the Holy Innocents from a few years' back.

Please join me in praying for the families and victims in Connecticut, and for those in our own communities who suffer the loss of a child.


Isn’t it a blessing to know that Jesus loves kids? That He embraces them in His arms and marvels in them?

One of my kids’ Christmas wish lists was a page and a half long, and included a metal detector just in case there’s treasure buried in the yard. Outlandish? Materialistic? Yes, perhaps. But the crazy-long list also reminded me that my child so trusts in my love for him that he asks me for things, no matter how excessive, because he knows I want to bless him.

I’ve learned so much about God from being a mother. My kids have helped me grow in humility, patience, and love, but I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of God’s love for me. If He feels more deeply about me than I do about my own kids, His forgiveness must be sure, and He must really, really love me.

Kids and Christmas…they do go together, don’t they? Not just because of Santa Claus, cookie decorating, and page-and-a-half long wish lists. But because Jesus was a child, too, and on Christmas we celebrate His incarnation, remembering what He gave to be born of a woman, live and die to save us from our sins. God’s gift of His Son is the biggest gift we’ll ever receive.

Following the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s Gospel, we’re given a brief account of the children who were near the stable that first Christmas. In a horrible postscript, Jesus’ neighbors in Bethlehem are mentioned:
The Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, by...Image via Wikipedia

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled. “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, for they are no more. (Mt. 2:16-18)

Two verses only, but they are devastating in their impact.

These little boys from Bethlehem, traditionally called the Holy Innocents by the church, were perhaps only a few dozen in number, just peasant children easily disregarded by history. Nevertheless, several denominations remember these children, who were beloved by their parents and their God, commemorating their loss on December 28.

Over the years, the name Holy Innocents has come to refer not just to those babies from Bethlehem, but has embraced other children who departed from our arms too soon. Young victims of violence or illness are remembered this day, as are infants who were never born, due to abortion or miscarriage.

bundled.Image by capturedbychelsea via Flickr
When I suffered my own miscarriage and placed my own Innocent into God’s arms, God taught me several things, but one of the most important lessons was how much He loves my children. God cares for our babies more than we do. He wants what’s best for them, knows them intimately, and cares what happens to them.

He loves them so much that He’s made a place for them, and they are safe in His arms.

As Jack Hayford writes in his book, I’ll Hold You In Heaven, “Rather, each of those little ones are present with the Father. They have identity, individuality and deserve to be known for what they are – eternal beings. They still have a divine purpose which, though it may transcend our understanding for the moment, we shall perceive clearly when the day dawns that we no longer see as through a glass, darkly, but then face-to-face.”

What a gift, to have eternity with those we love! Even if we’ve never seen each other’s faces, or the time we had to adore those faces was far too short.

That is part of the miracle of Christmas: in our world of sin and loss, of Herod’s cruelty and a mother’s grief, a Baby came and penetrated the darkness, offering us hope, salvation, and light. And a place for all of us, even those whose faces we have yet to behold.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lifted by Angels

To the Christian, the Bible provides tantalizing information about angels, but a great deal of mystery surrounds them. What do they look like? How do they interact with people today? Does everyone have a guardian angel?

Product Details"Lifted by Angels: The Presence and Power of Our Heavenly Guides and Guardians," by Joel J. Miller is a fascinating Christian read that delves into what both Scripture and the early Church tell us about angels. 

While compact at seven chapters, the book manages to be academic without being fusty while offering a thorough survey of angelic orders, purposes, and relationships to God and humanity.

Miller does an admirable job of citing sources, both Scriptural and ancient, and I appreciate the glimpses into early Church thought. My only complaint is that writings of the ancient Church are cited, but not interpreted for the reader, and at times, I would have liked to know why certain theologians thought what they did or what Miller thought about their claims, especially when he quoted Apocryphal writings.

Although some mysteries about angels can be answered through Scripture, not everything can be known, yet through Miller’s book, it’s enlightening to learn how the ancient Church affirmed the existence, activity, and importance of angels in God’s creation. The book also serves as a reminder that we are cherished and loved by a saving God, and He has provided heavenly help for us.

I received this from Thomas Nelson for the purposes of review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Beauty and the...Beast?

The young English gentleman probably paced through the drawing room, willing his his nerves to calm. After all, it was a momentous day. He was about to meet the woman he'd grown to love, poet Elizabeth Singer, for the first time.

They'd fallen in love through letters. Elizabeth wrote to him first, expressing her admiration for his work. Their friendship deepened and they'd even talked of marriage. The young gentleman, Isaac Watts, felt as if he'd found his match.

Isaac and Elizabeth seemed a perfect pair, both young marvels well-known for their writing, intelligence, and grasp of theology. Elizabeth was even sought out by a bishop to paraphrase Scripture—quite an achievement for a woman at the end of the seventeenth century.

But Isaac certainly wondered, would she like him?

Perhaps a better question might be, who wouldn't? Isaac Watts, who may now be best known as the author of "Joy to the World," was a bit of a boy wonder.

Born in England in 1674, Isaac showed an ability with words from a young age. He was also aware of his sinfulness early on, and was converted by age fourteen.

As a teenager, he disliked the somber way Psalms were sung during church. Not being the sort of fellow to sit around complaining, he began producing hymns based on Psalms. His congregation adored his efforts, so he continued to write them. In the meantime, he became a tutor and later, a pastor.

In 1719, Isaac published a collection of hymns interpreting the book of Psalms through the perspective of the New Testament. Psalm 98, the inspiration for “Joy to the World,” is a song of rejoicing and anticipation, looking to the day when God judges the earth with righteousness.

(Which means that “Joy to the World” wasn’t intended as a Christmas song. It was written looking toward Jesus’ second coming.)

Isaac wrote over 600 hymns in his lifetime, many of which are still found in our hymnals: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” and “Jesus Shall Reign.” He also published works on themes as various as theology, logic, and grammar. Among his friends were notable Christians such as Jonathan Edwards and John and Charles Wesley. He was well-respected, prolific, intelligent, and righteous.

No wonder Elizabeth Singer initially wrote to tell him how much she appreciated his work. No wonder she grew to admire Isaac even more through his letters.

At last Elizabeth entered the chamber where Isaac waited. Just as he imagined, she was beautiful: auburn haired, pink-cheeked, and blue-eyed.

The sparkle faded from those blue eyes, however, when she took in his appearance.

Contemporary accounts describe Isaac as small, perhaps five feet tall. He was often ill, leaving him with a yellowed complexion. His “disproportionately large” head boasted a hook nose.

Despite her admiration for Isaac's personality, righteousness, and works, Elizabeth could not get past his looks. She said (either to Isaac or of him, reports conflict), “If only I could say that I admire the casket as much as I admire the jewel it contains.”
Isaac Watts, who doesn't look so bad to me

He proposed; she turned him down. He later wrote,

I am persuaded, that in a future state we shall take a sweet review of those scenes of providence, which have been involved in the thickest darkness, and trace those footsteps of God when he walked with us through deepest waters. This will be a surprising delight.

A surprising delight, indeed.

I’m not judging Elizabeth for not being attracted to Isaac, nor am I insinuating she was shallow, cold, or a "beast" to his true "beauty." You can't fake chemistry. But I can’t help but feel for Isaac. We’ve all experienced heartache and rejection, and some days I yearn for that day in heaven when no one will ever be broken, beat, demeaned, or rejected again.

Isaac never married, but devoted himself to writing hymns until his death in 1748.

Today, his appearance doesn’t matter a jot, although the story of his broken heart makes him more real to me. I can relate to him a bit better, and I am even more inspired by his determination to use his gifts in service to God, no matter his disappointments, frailties, or challenges. His obedience and God-focused perspective bore fruit that still blesses us today.

This December, as you sing “Joy to the World,” perhaps you’ll recall Isaac. As you celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus, you may also be inspired to allow God to lead you through the difficult times, just as Isaac did, anticipating a “surprising delight” on that day when "heaven and nature sing."