Good Afternoon everyone,
How are you this week? I can’t believe it’s already February! January was so busy and fast paced that I couldn’t do much apart from working, but I did manage to start a book club with some friends, and I hope we can maintain this monthly habit of discussing books 🙂
This month, two of us were reading JAFF and that was a nice touch for our first meeting, but I hope the next time it will be 3 of us reading JAFF…we do tend to spread out the word after all 🙂
In February I hope to have more time to plan my 2020 vacations and work a little more on the blog, which I’m still trying to renovate. But until that happens, I continue to bring you reviews, guest posts, excerpts and many more posts Jane Austen related!
Today my guest is Shannon Winslow who surprised me a while ago by writing a book that shows us a side of Austen that is hardly mentioned. Did you know she also wrote prayers? Shannon Winslow did, and she was inspired by Austen’s three preserved prayers to present to us 50 messages that will associate well-known characters and situations from Austen novels to spiritual principles.
This book is so different from everything I’ve ever seen that I confess to have been very curious, but I will let Shannon explain to you a little better what you can find in it 🙂
Did you know that Jane Austen wrote prayers in addition to her six classic novels? She was not only a woman of celebrated humor, intellect, and insight; she was a woman of faith.
Prayer & Praise is a treasure trove of thought-provoking messages inspired by the lines of Austen’s three preserved prayers. Atop a solid foundation of scripture, these 50 devotional segments (each finishing with prayer and praise) enlist familiar characters and situations from Austen novels to illustrate spiritual principles – in creative, often surprising, ways!
Which one of Austen’s characters developed a god complex? Who was really pulling Henry Crawford’s strings? Where do we see examples of true repentance, a redeemer at work, light overcoming darkness? With a Biblical perspec-tive, Austen’s beloved stories reveal new les-sons about life, truth, hope, and faith.
You can find Prayer & Praise at:
I’m thrilled to have the chance to visit From Pemberley to Milton again and to share with you an excerpt from my most recent book. Thanks, Rita, for inviting me!
With eight novels under my belt (all but one Jane Austen related), I began feeling a pull to do something different – something potentially more consequential. I often pray that God would use my gifts for His glory, and now I felt a tug to put that prayer into action. In this case, that meant combining my love for God’s Word and my dedication to all things Austen into one project: a devotional inspired by Jane Austen’s prayers.
I begin each of the 50 messages with a line from one of Jane Austen’s three preserved prayers, bringing in illustrations from her novels and from related scripture, then finishing with prayer and praise, which gave me the book’s title: Prayer and Praise: A Jane Austen Devotional.
I hope you enjoy the sample segment below. But first, a disclaimer or at least a necessary explanation – one which I give readers in the book’s introduction:
In these devotional segments, I speak of Jane Austen’s characters as if they are real people with real thoughts and experiences. Jane Austen drew them so true to life (part of her genius), and I have spent so much time in their company that they are like old friends to me. Perhaps you feel much the same way. In any case, for our purposes here, the lines between fact and fiction can be safely discarded in favor of what these characters and their stories can teach us by illustrating Biblical principles.
Gratitude and Contentment
Give us a thankful sense of the Blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our Lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by Discontent or Indifference.
I don’t live in a grand style, but I know that I am blessed with more comforts and conveniences than the majority of people in the world – present and especially past. I turn on the faucet and clean, drinkable water comes out. I flip a switch and I’m almost guaranteed there will be light. There’s food in the refrigerator, a reliable roof over my head, a car I can drive to get where I need to go, and generally enough money to pay the bills. Although I try not to, it’s easy to take for granted things that have nearly always been there for me.
But who do you suppose most appreciated the comfort and luxury Mansfield Park provided – the Bertram children, who were born to it, or Fanny Price, who had known poverty and deprivation? While Julia and Maria bickered about who should sit where in their fashionable carriage and which one of them should have the best part in the play they were putting on for their own amusement, humble Fanny felt deep gratitude for the simple things and the smallest acts of kindness – a favor done for her brother, being spared an ordeal, the warmth of a good fire in her no-frills attic room:
While her heart was still bounding with joy and gratitude on William’s behalf, she could not be severely resentful of anything that injured only herself…
This was an act of kindness which Fanny felt at her heart. To be spared from her aunt Norris’s interminable reproaches! He left her in a glow of gratitude…
The first thing which caught her eye was a fire lighted and burning. A fire! It seemed too much; just at that time to be giving her such an indulgence was exciting even painful gratitude. She wondered that Sir Thomas could have leisure to think of such a trifle…
These three references in Mansfield Park (chapters 31 and 32) are only a few of many expounding on Fanny’s gratitude and thankfulness.
Among modern-day readers, Fanny Price may be Jane Austen’s least admired heroine. Today’s popular culture teaches us to prize assertiveness not modesty, to demand our ‘rights’ instead of being content with anything less than the very best. And yet Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), taught us quite the opposite. He said blessed are the humble, the meek, those who seek righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who suffer persecution for doing right.
Doesn’t this describe Fanny perfectly, even down to suffering for doing right? Remember how she received her cousins’ censure by refusing to participate in the play (which would have been an assault on her modesty, and of which she knew her uncle would disapprove). Think of how she quietly endured Aunt Norris’s constant persecution and her uncle’s displeasure and punishment over her refusing Henry Crawford’s proposal. Among Christians at least, perhaps pure-hearted little Fanny should be Jane Austen’s most admired heroine.
Jane Austen knew hardships – economic and otherwise. Although the practical necessity of having something to live on is a common theme in her books, her heroines demonstrate her own sentiments by prizing love in marriage above great wealth and its trappings. Austen herself lived out this credo when she turned down a proposal from a very wealthy young man she couldn’t esteem, thereby choosing genteel poverty instead. From today’s prayer excerpt, we see that she rightly counted the many comforts she did enjoy as blessings from God for which to be thankful. She was also conscious of the danger discontent and ingratitude represented.
Here again, popular culture leads us astray. The raging cult of celebrity, promoted by all forms of media, trains us to admire the rich and famous, making idols of our sports and entertainment stars (many of whom set very bad examples). Home improvement shows teach us to be discontented with our houses and everything in them. Personal make-over features imply we should be dissatisfied with how we look. And advertisers offer to come to our rescue, selling us the car, makeup, deodorant, cosmetic surgery, house, vacation, dating service, and latest smart phone we can’t possibly be happy without. This flies in the face of godly wisdom.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:6-10a)
Have you ever fallen into the trap of discontentment? Do you feel an unhealthy desire for more and more material things? Has too much spending resulted in debt or perhaps conflict with your spouse? Always striving after more prevents us from appreciating the many good gifts God has already given us, chief among these, our restored relationship with him through Jesus Christ. True satisfaction grows out of gratitude for what we have, not from getting everything we want.
Does this mean it’s sinful to make a lot of money or have the ambition to be successful? No, not if these things are used for God’s glory instead of our own. But no one is given success only to bestow accolades and luxuries upon himself. Here is the superior joy God wants us to experience: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
Let Us Pray
Heavenly Father, you are the giver of all good things. As we go through each day, help us to notice and appreciate every blessing as from you, not taking even the basic necessities or simple pleasures of life for granted. Root out any seeds of discontent, and give us hearts of gratitude to generously share what we have with others in the name of Christ. Amen.
Let Us Praise
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (Psalms 16:5-6)
Thank you so much for visiting today Shannon! I hope readers will appreciate your efforts with this book.
I know I have it with me to read when needed. It is not the kind of book one readers only once, but that is read over time, so I expect to look at it several times in the future 🙂