Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Being Good

Be good. It's a familiar refrain, one we probably say to our children a gazillion times. Whenever we send them off to a friend's house, or on those days when The Sibling Wars are especially fierce. It's understood that there are the good things to do and the bad. That those are, to a point, what define us. That it's by what we're judged by the people around us, at the least.

And in my ongoing quest to figure out how to be who God wants me to be in this world that seems more intent upon pursuing all the bad things rather than the good, I came across this verse.

"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."
~ I Peter 2:15-17 

In this section, Peter is cautioning people to live a Godly life before the world, abstaining from lusts of the flush and sinful things. Obeying the government. Then these verses above. I've no doubt read them quite a few times, but they really struck me the last time I did. Look closely.

By doing good you my put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

What does that mean? It means that our actions speak louder than the words of our enemies, of our detractors. It means that by doing good, doing the will of God, we point to Him, and in the face of it, no one can really say anything bad about us. It means that by being/doing good, we force the other side to bite their tongues. Because how can they argue with what is universally acknowledged as good?

But then it goes on. Let's examine verse 16. free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice...

This reminds me of the part in I Corinthians where Paul says, "Look, guys. You're free from the law. That means all things are lawful for you. But don't be stupid. It doesn't mean all things are good for you, that all things are helpful. Act like they are and you're just going to become a slave to them." (That's the Roseanna paraphrase.)

We are free. Yes, absolutely. Faith in Jesus frees us from law, from religion. But we're still responsible for our actions in the world. And what's more, people are still watching us. So we don't want to use freedom as an excuse to do bad things. That's just stupid. We have to find the balance to strike--embracing the freedom without abusing it. Rejecting the chains of the law, be it the ancient ones that Jesus was arguing with or the ones the church was pretty quick to develop within the first couple hundred years of Christianity--but not betraying the spirit behind all those constricting rules.

And here's the clincher. bondservants of God.

I've talked before about what it really means to be a bondservant of God. (Read that post here. It's one I go back to frequently.) In a nutshell, it means we freely turn our will over to Him. We swear to serve Him for all our lives, and in return we become part of His family, part of His household. A servant, yes, but one beloved by our master and even able to inherit. So if we're living out our liberty as bondservants of God, then that means EVERYTHING WE DO is for Him. In His interests. What He asks of us.

It means we're going to show respect to those in authority. We're going to love our brethren in Christ. We're going to be good citizens. We're never going to forget what God can do. We're going to be good. And because we are, others will see and respect us and love us and seek God. It means that the worst thing people will be able to say about us is that we follow a strange God who doesn't do the things that the world does, doesn't worship what the world worships, and leads others to this same God. 

Now that's a criticism we should all seek to have lobbed at us!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Remember When . . . Rifles Saved the Day?

It's my day on Colonial Quills, and today I'm telling you a fun story about General Washington used farmers' hunting gear--and their newfangled hunting rifles--to strike fear into the British militia.

It's a fun story! Hop on over to the CQ to read it!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Word of the Week - Willy-nilly

Willy-nilly. It's a phrase I've heard most of my life, and I knew how to use it. But it wasn't until a few years ago, when I was reading an old book and saw it written a different way, that I had a clue where in the world this word came from. In this book, it was written will he, nill he.

Suddenly it made more sense! It wasn't just a silly sounding word meant to portray a crazy method of doing things by its very sound (although...). It was a contraction! (Go ahead--say "duh" if you must, LOL.)

This phrase has been around since about 1600 and appeals to the verb will not in the "being" sense, but in the "purpose or intent" sense. So will he, nill he (or I or ye) meant "whether he means to or not." If something was done willy-nilly, it was without obvious purpose, haphazardly.

Now to begin my week in a way not willy-nilly. ;-)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Purifying Ourselves

This week, my husband went to a friend's Bible study to see about helping them with recordings. Then the next day we went to our Bible study with other young parents. Then the next day, we went to church.

And those three days in a row, using three different scriptures, the same message was spoken. Purify yourselves.

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
          ~ II Corinthians 7:1 (NIV)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
            ~ James 4:8, 10 (NKJV)

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
             ~Titus 2:11-14 (NKJV)

The force of them all, in the various contexts, was the same. If we want to be something different...if we want to be set apart...if we want to avoid getting sucked down into the culture around us...well, this is how we do it. We purify ourselves of the things of the world. We get rid of all the contaminants.

How? In the first of those Bible studies my husband attended, that's what they were talking about. The how. And I love the answer they came to. That we do it by filling ourselves up with God. When we do that, when we fill ourselves up with Him, we don't have to worry about how to get rid of the earthly things. They just don't fit us anymore.

It's kind of like eating right. I don't know about you, but I love my junk food. And if I just try to cut out junk food, it's agonizing. BUT, if I instead focus on putting good stuff in--if I make up my mind that I WILL eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, do you know what I've found? That I'm so busy eating the good stuff, which fills me up, that I don't have room or time for the bad stuff. It just stops mattering.

On the way home from church we were discussing the Purify Yourselves theme of the week, and my husband asked, "So why do you think this message is being preached right now? Is it something ominous? I mean why do we have to do this right now? What's coming?"

I can't really answer that, obviously. But to me, it didn't feel like a doom-and-gloom threat--purify yourselves or else. It felt like a key to a promise. So often lately we've been talking about how we can change our culture. How we get the attention of the world and point it toward Him. How we speak to this generation. 

To me, this message felt like a how-to. It felt like God saying, "Do you want to change the world around you? Then start with you. Get rid of the world inside you so that I can fill you up. And then you'll shine with Me, and others will see, and things will start changing."

It goes back to a saying we heard a few years ago:

I wanted to change the world.
But I couldn't.
So I decided I'd change my community.
But I couldn't.
So I thought I'd change my church.
But I couldn't.
I figured I'd change my family.
But I couldn't.

So I decided to change myself.

With God, I changed me.
And then my family saw and was changed.
Then my church saw and was changed.
Then my community saw and was changed.
And then the world saw...

We can't just change the world. We can only change ourselves. But WHEN we change doesn't go unnoticed, my friends. But I also believe this isn't a message just for my house. This is a message for the church.

Do we want things to change? Do we want the culture to realize where they're heading? Do we want to reclaim our spiritual heritage? To we want to embrace the full authority of the Holy Spirit and all He can do through us?

Then it's time we get off our rears and onto our knees. It's time we purify ourselves. That we wash away the filth of the world by filling ourselves with Him so fully that there's just no room for anything else.

And then...then we get to watch what He will do through His servants.

Pouring Water photo credit: Global Water Partnership - a water secure world via photopin cc
Overflowing Bucket photo credit: Kamoteus (A New Beginning) via photopin cc

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Remember When . . . History Was in the Works?

Some years, WhiteFire has a lot of contemporary titles...other years, a lot of historicals. This year is shaping up to be history-filled. And of course, I have my new historical series beginning with Bethany House in September. So for me, 2015 is going to be a year full of history!

I thought it would be fun to give you a peek at what will be filling my calendar for the year. =)

Gathered Waters
by Cara Luecht
I've already shared a bit about this one when I did a cover design post on it last August. (View the post here.) In short, Gathered Waters is set in the late 19th century, following some of the first Swedish Baptists from their home in Sweden to America. This book is a beautiful glimpse into what defines us, where we draw our lines in the sand, and what we're willing to sacrifice for our faith.

The Sound of Diamonds
Steadfast Love Series, Book 1
by Rachelle Rea
Set in the Elizabethan days, The Sound of Diamonds is about a Catholic lady who has taken refuge at a convent in Holland after her parents' murders...only to be caught up in the Iconoclastic Fury, when Dutch protestants hunted down any Catholics they could find and killed them, setting fire to Catholic churches and monasteries and nunneries. She has to get home--but the only man who can help her is the one she hates above all the world--the man wanted for the murder of her parents.

Adventure, romance, and look into a little-known side of the great Catholic/Protestant struggle...oh yes. =)
The Lost Heiress
Ladies of the Manor, Book 1
by Me (Bethany House)

I should be getting my cover for The Lost Heiress very soon--for now, this is my very much unofficial title image, just so I have an image to post. ;-)

I have official catalog copy for this now, so here it is!

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.
The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.
As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities. When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?
And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession—and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her.

A Fair to Remember
The World's Fair Series, Book 1
by Suzie Johnson

Let's all admire the beauty of this cover photo--for which I can take no credit. ;-) The heroine of A Fair to Remember looks like the famous Edwardian actress, Lily Elsie. The above photo is of said actress...but colorized by a very talented Czech artist who granted us permission to use this one, and who will be colorizing old photos for the second two books in the series too! We're all very excited about using actual Edwardian photographs, given a modern twist, for these. =)

We're really excited about the concept of this series too. Each of the 3 books will be set during one of the World's Fairs of the early 20th century, beginning with the Pan-American expo in Buffalo, New York, where the president was shot...

The series will combine history and romance with a bit of suspense, and I for one can't wait to get my hands on it. ;-)

The Sound of Silver
Steadfast Love Series, Book 2
by Rachelle Rea

The cover for this is done, but not revealed you're just getting a wee little glimpse here. ;-)

The Sound of Silver will be the continuing adventure of Gwyn and Dirk from The Sound of Diamonds, taking the reader into the questions of new love and faith, and the price of proving one's innocence.

Giver of Wonders
by Yours Truly
I also already shared a bit about this one in my cover design post from just a little while ago. (View the post here.) =) Giver of Wonders will be the story of St. Nicholas that led to one of our beloved Christmas traditions--gifts in stockings--but will of course not be all about Nick himself. It will instead focus on the recipient of his gift, my fictionalized heroine named Cyprus and her twin sisters, Alexandria and Rhoda. A story of sacrificial love and the boundlessness of faith, this will be another installment of the Visibullis family's story.

It's going to be quite a year! And that's not even looking at the contemporaries and non-fiction on our plate. ;-)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Word of the Week - Raise V. Raze

A week or two ago, my best friend sent me one of those hilarious "someecards" photos on Pinterest that totally sums up my outlook on housework.
I love this. But I'm also enough of a grammarian that I had to point out the typo, LOL.

I was in college, reading all the ancient Greeks with their love of flattening opposing cities, when I came upon the word raze. While raise means "lift up," the homophone raze means "tear down." Don't you just love English?? LOL

Apparently raze, which dates to about 1540, is an alteration of rasen, a 14th century word coming from Old French that meant "to scratch, slash, erase." We see that meaning preserved in erase, which is quite closely related (who knew?).

Raise, on the other hand, comes from a Scandinavian source, likely Old Norse. It dates from about 1200 and has always meant what it means now, in the physical sense. The meaning like "raise from the dead" comes from a literal "make higher" that is taken from that physical sense, and is from about 1300. "Increase the amount" joined the fray in 1500s, usually speaking of money or price. "Bring up a question" dates from the 1640s. In the 1660s it was also applied to growing crops. It was applied to rearing children in about 1744 (though not everywhere--apparently American Southerners used it to speak of breeding slaves, and Northerners wouldn't use it of children at all, only of crops.) And finally, in the 1820s, it became a phrase used in playing cards.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Being Deliberate

I often, like many others, pray for a word for the new year as the old one draws to a close. Unlike most people I know who do this, I don't generally get my word before the year begins, LOL. Instead, mine seems to come the first time I go to church in the new year. Don't ask me why, but that's the pattern. ;-) This year, we were iced out of our first service of the year, so this past weekend was our first church of 2015. And lo and behold, on the drive in, it hit me.


This is an idea that has been coming at me from every direction in recent months. Our church is going from a branch church to a full member of our conference this year (hopefully), which requires that we examine our constitution and by-laws and make any changes we feel are necessary. As we spent hours pouring over this foundational document in recent months, there it was: be deliberate. We were engaged in a rather sacred endeavor, establishing how our church is to run until someone takes it upon themselves to change the constitution. We were setting up education, membership, and business practices. We had to be deliberate in how we did this, and where we wanted the focus to be. We had to be deliberate in giving the authority to whom it belongs. Ultimately God, and then those who follow Him.

It came up again in our Bible study that we have with friends. We're beginning a new study on parenting, were talking the other night about how we educate our children (those present on Friday were all homeschoolers). And it hit me again. Be deliberate.

What does that mean?

Well, it means that I'm not to be washed to and fro by the currents of the day. I'm not to just go with the flow. I'm not to do something just because it's how it's done. I'm not to call things "good enough" and leave them. I'm not to do things thoughtlessly, by rote.

In my world, there's a lot of routine, a lot of habit. All well and good...but not enough. Because I don't just want to be a leader, or a follower of God, or a writer, or a friend. I want to raise leaders. True followers of God. Focused and determined people. A man and a woman who know the value of friendship, of honesty, of sacrifice.

Will they learn just by observing? To a point...yes. But also no.

This is another something my husband and I were just discussing, as he reads the works of John Lake, a truly great evangelist whose teachings helped found several worldwide denominations. David had just gotten to the chapters where Lake was mourning the death of the movement he had helped begin. Where he was looking at these floundering church groups and realizing that there was no one to take up the mantle. That they had assumed, he and his colleagues, that others would follow like them, ready to lead and continue the work.

But there was no one.

I mused, as we spoke of this, that perhaps it was because great leaders are often so focused on their calling that they're not focused on raising up the next generation. Because they believe (idealistically--not badly, but not realistically) that just as they watched and were convicted and accepted a call, so will others be. They think they need to be always on the front lines, not behind them teaching those who come next.

We've been talking a lot about how to change a culture slip-sliding its way into decay. But you know what? No matter what answers we come to, they won't matter unless we also figure out how to keep it. Unless we figure out how to teach our kids that there's no such thing as "the way things are." There's just "the way things are going right now."

You can see it over and again in history--one generation feels a deep conviction, makes changes. They set up a society in a given way, and raise their children in it. But then, to those children, it's just the way it is. They don't remember the reasons. They live it, but they don't teach their children anything but the "facts" of their world...and so those children rebel. Go astray. Decide they'd rather taste this other way.

Because no one is deliberate.

We need to be! Oh, how we need to be. Because it doesn't take long--a generation, two at the most--for religion to take the place of faith. For prejudice and judgment to overcome us. For ideals to be overwhelmed by rules. It has happened countless times in the church, it has happened in society, it has happened in our schools. Good intentions slowly morph into legalism until the original intent is buried so far beneath the mountain of words no one can even remember what it is anymore.

I want to raise my children with deliberation. I want to raise them not to believe the lies of the world. The lies that say there's only so much we can do, so much we can change. The lies that things are what they are. NO. I want my kids to fully understand that the world, their culture, their lives are ever-changing and always able to be influenced. That their God is bigger than the enemy. That they can do all things through the strength of Christ. I want them to know that there's no such thing as second-generation faith. They need their own.

How to teach them this? Well not by a lesson in church every week and nothing else, that's for sure. Not just by setting an example. No, sorry--if I'm going to teach them these important life-lessons, then it's going to have to be through deliberate choices. Deliberate guidance. Deliberate words given at deliberate moments to usher them along their own path. Not mine. Theirs.

As a homeschooling mom, I'm not sure if this sacred charge is easier or harder. On the one hand, it's far more difficult because I'm with them every moment of every day--and it's hard to be deliberate 24/7. But then, it might be easier, because I know what they're being exposed to every moment of every day. I know what conversations to have when. There are no surprises when they get home from school and say, "Well Jake said that..."

When I pray for a word for the year, I don't always get one. But when I do, it's never just a word for the year. It's a word for my life, forever. Like "Shine"--I'm still living that one, working on it. "Deliberate" is going to have to be the same way.

Because if I want to be a woman of faith, I have to choose it every moment of every day. I have to make a conscious effort to listen to Him, to walk in His power and truth. If I want to be a mother who raises children who understand this, I have to deliberately foster them in their growth. I need to not accept pre-boxed, ready-made answers and instead encourage and help them in finding their own. I need to make sure they understand that faith is work.

I think a question for the ages might be "How do you overcome generational decay?" And I believe this is the answer: by not assuming our kids will understand what we've come to learn. By not thinking "just living it" is enough. No. We have to be deliberate--otherwise all we build will be forgotten.

Stone man photo credit: Travis S. via photopin cc
Winding road photo credit: bobarcpics via photopin cc