I made a book! It’s a weekly calendar book with a spread for each week of 2020. It features each of the 52 Fighter Verses for Set 5 and includes space for recording what you are thankful for each day. If you record three items each day, you will have thanked God for more than a thousand things by the end of 2020. I did the layout and typography, and my teen daughters helped with some of the watercolor backgrounds. You can preview the calendar and purchase yours through this link. Happy 2020!
When I first heard that Andrew Peterson, a songwriter, recording artist, and fiction-writer, was releasing a non-fiction book titled Adorning the Dark, I pre-ordered it right away because Andrew’s work really resonates.
About 18 months ago, I fell in love with his amazing song “Is He Worthy?” and really his entire album titled Resurrection Letters Volume I. His folksy songwriting style brings to mind Caedmon’s Call, the Ragamuffin Band, and the late Rich Mullins, a very gifted musician whose songs I first heard in college and still enjoy listening to a couple decades later.
Reading Adorning the Dark, I learned that those same artists actually influenced and encouraged Andrew early in his music career. Likewise, Andrew is himself a Barnabas type. He’s committed to encouraging other artists — whether they are musicians, writers, or painters. He’s been doing so for years through his ministry The Rabbit Room, which fosters Christ-centered community and spiritual formation through music, story, and art. And now his book Adorning the Dark extends that ministry in the form of a memoir/handbook.
One big take away from the book is the emphasis not just on writing but also on finishing. Every artist is tempted to slow down or get distracted or quit altogether, and so Andrew reminds his readers, “…it is only by discipline that you’ll finish, and it is only in finishing that you’ll be able to offer up your humble work to those weary souls who may need it.”
Adorning the Dark highlights the need to serve the work and serve the audience, too. Andrew writes, “Those of us who write, who sing, who paint, must remember that to a child a song may glow like a nightlight in a scary bedroom. It may be the only thing holding back the monsters. That story may be the only beautiful, true thing that makes it through all the ugliness of a little girl’s world to rest in her secret heart. May we take that seriously. It is our job, it is our ministry, it is the sword we swing in the Kingdom, to remind children that the good guys win, that the stories are true, and that a fool’s hope may be the best kind.”
If you’re like me and have a few unfinished creative projects gathering dust, Adorning the Dark may be just the encouragement and inspiration you need to carry it on to completion for the sake of adorning this dark world with the light of Christ.
Side note: As I write this during Advent, I am listening to Andrew Peterson’s album Behold the Lamb, which I highly recommend. And I’d be remiss not to suggest that Andrew’s fantasy-adventure series, The Wingfeather Saga, would make an excellent gift for any young readers on your Christmas list. My kids have thoroughly enjoyed the series and are hoping to soon update their personal libraries with the new hardbacks that feature captivating new cover art and illustrations.
With the switch to Daylight Savings Time coming soon, it seems timely to revisit Greenwich, England.
You’ve heard of Greenwich Mean Time. Folks here seem to have invented time itself. Well, to be more accurate, they invented how to measure time, and I am thankful for that.
Clocks, antique timekeepers, and all sorts of devices for astronomy and navigation are featured throughout the Royal Observatory here, which was founded by Charles II in 1675.
The Great Equatorial Telescope (1863) is impressive.
To fully appreciate what’s on display at the Royal Observatory, you have to realize the problem of being lost at sea and the problem of longitude.
Back in the 1700s, longitude was an urgent problem, especially for sea-going nations involved in international trade. The precious lives of sailors and the valuable cargoes their ships carried made navigation at sea a matter of life and death. Skilled sailors, out of sight of land, could only find their north-south position (latitude). They had no methods or instruments to accurately calculate their east-west position (longitude). They did not know where they were!
Unfortunately, mapping the night sky and trying to predict the complex motion of the Moon does not work so well on cloudy days at sea. So after lots of trial an error and a big invention competition, the problem was solved by the development of a portable clock that could keep accurate time on board ships.
John Harrison, an 18th century clockmaker, made the first practical marine timekeeper, a monumental development in navigation.
Way back in 1775, Harrison claimed that his clocks were a hundred times better than those made by his contemporaries. And a few years ago, this clock, titled “Burgess Clock B,” set a Guinness World Record for being the most accurate mechanical pendulum timekeeper of its type. It uses a radical theory proposed by Harrison, and it varied by only half a second in 100 days, finally proving in 2015 that Harrison’s claim was correct.
If you have time to read it, the book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time tells all about Harrison and how important longitude is to navigation. My sailor husband highly recommends it.
The biggest tourist draw at the Royal Observatory is not the clocks, though. It’s the Prime Meridian of the World. That’s zero degrees longitude, where the eastern hemisphere and western hemisphere meet.
And it’s a prime spot to stand in line outside to take a selfie.
The Prime Meridian covers 12,427 miles from pole to pole, but most of that is an imaginary line that doesn’t show up in a selfie.
Inside and away from the crowd, I couldn’t resist standing with one foot and one daughter in each hemisphere.
Learning about longitude and time made me ponder it for a while. How do we know where we are? Where does time go? Why does it disappear faster and faster the older we get?
Frequently in motherhood, when I see my kids growing taller and notice the years flying by so quickly, I want to panic like a sailor lost at sea. It’s easy to feel like time is running out and I don’t know where in the world I am. It’s easy to wish for some way to stop the clock or maybe even turn back the hands on the clock.
But I don’t truly want to go back in time. Not really.
One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, writes: “I watch the hands move grace on the clock face. I’m growing older. These children are growing up. But time is not running out. This day is not a sieve, losing time. With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling time, gaining time. We stand on the brink of eternity.”
Likewise, author Elizabeth Foss writes: “No, I don’t really want to stop time. But I do want to fill it. I want to fill it with gratitude and grace worthy of the days I trade for them… I want to take each one of these days…and really live the story [God] intends. I don’t want time to stand still, but I do want to still my soul and fill the time with His blessings.”
The idea of filling time with gratitude and stilling my soul encourages me.
My prayer is that God would teach me to number my days so that I gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). My prayer is that, as I count the days, that I make the days count. And my prayer is that I would walk carefully and wisely, making the best use of my time and understanding God’s will for me (Ephesians 5:15-17).
The fresh, woodsy scent of balsam fir fragranced the living room as I hung three new ornaments on our tall, skinny tree. Each ornament came from a royal palace – two in England and one in France. All three were souvenirs of our family’s first summer vacation in Europe – a trip somehow squeezed in between frequent jaunts to the dance studio, the orthodontist and the library.
Visiting a palace is a humbling experience.
Even before you set foot inside, the high gates, uniformed guards and long “cues” remind you that you are one of many foreign tourists, not really a guest.
Inside, massive collections of fine art and treasured possessions join with expensive décor to offer an impressive glimpse into the personal lives of the kings, queens, princes and princesses you read about in history books. Looking at Queen Victoria’s own doll house as we stood in her childhood bedroom, the very room where she was born, was a memorable moment.
In London, Kensington Palace is now home to Prince William and his growing family. And Buckingham Palace is still home to Queen Elizabeth II. But in France, despite its glittery gold gates, grandiose Baroque architecture and expansive gardens, the Palace of Versailles is no longer home to any royalty.
Long gone are King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Both were beheaded in 1793 when the monarchy was abolished in the French Revolution.
It’s strange indeed to gaze at the king and queen’s magnificently grand lifestyle knowing how terribly their reign ended. The kingdoms of this earth totter and fall.
While touring the homes of kings and queens was fascinating, at some point, no matter how old or fancy it is or who once owned it, stuff is just stuff. No matter how rich or powerful a ruler is, eventually he passes away and leaves it all behind.
This realization could make life seem rather meaningless. But by God’s grace, it instead reinforced for me what is meaningful and made me long for God’s eternal kingdom.
Can I tell you about the glorious splendor of God’s kingdom? First Timothy 6:15 says our God is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. Psalm 145 says God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion endures through all generations. And 1 Peter 2:9 says we who are God’s children are His special possession, chosen and royal.
One glad day the King of kings will welcome His children into His holy palace not as tourists or guests but as adopted sons and daughters. Members of His royal family!
As King David prayed in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name.”
I pray this gives you hope and joy this Christmas. And I pray that God draws you ever closer to Him in 2018. Merry Christmas!
On this day, Oct. 16, in 1555, a few powerful words were exchanged between bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer just before they were both burned at the stake in Oxford, England.
“Be of good heart, brother Latimer, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.”
–Nicholas Ridley (1500-1555)
“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
–Hugh Latimer (1485-1555)
Well-known and favored as bishops under Henry the VIII and Edward VI, these men were disliked by Queen Mary as she came to power and restored papal authority and Roman Catholic doctrine. They were accused of heresy for spreading the truth of God’s Word. They were imprisoned and mistreated in the Tower of London, tried for treason and then sentenced to death. Queen Mary’s terrible persecution of the Protestants gained her the nickname Bloody Mary.
“Latimer and Ridley share more than a martyrdom,” writes Scott Hubbard, a seminary student at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis. “The bishops also join each other on the list of England’s most influential Reformers — men and women whose allegiance to Scripture and the glory of Christ transformed England from a Catholic kingdom to a lighthouse of Reformation.”
Until a few months ago when I stood in Oxford on the steps of the Martyrs’ Memorial — just yards away from the place on Broad Street where their martyrdom took place — the powerful stories of these two men and their counterpart Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, were pretty much unknown to me.
I had very briefly heard about Cranmer when my daughters and I studied Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days after the death of Edward VI at age 16. But otherwise I somehow had missed these martyrs and their remarkable contributions to the Reformation and church history.
A great way to learn the stories of Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer is to listen to the Here We Stand podcast, a 31-day journey about the heroes of the Reformation, produced by Desiring God. Cranmer’s story is featured in episode 14, titled “The Gospel Lobbyist.” Latimer’s and Ridley’s stories are featured in episode 16, titled “The British Candle.”
Also, if you’re studying the Reformation this month in connection with its 500th anniversary, you’d probably enjoy this great biography titled Lady Jane Grey by Simonetta Carr. It’s excellent for kids and adults.
Finally, another fantastic and very concise book on the Reformation is Michael Reeves’ Freedom Movement: 500 Years of Reformation.
In this book, Reeves concludes: “For us today, the Reformation has sparkling good news — news of an enjoyable and satisfying God. A God who lavishes His love on those who have not made themselves attractive to Him. A God whose love can liberate the most broken and guilty.”
He continues, “What Martin Luther discovered in the Bible pulled him out of despair and made him feel he had ‘entered paradise itself through open gates.’ Nothing about that message has changed or lost its power to brighten lives today.”
Indeed. The Gospel continues to change lives. And by God’s grace, Latimer and Ridley’s candle shall never be put out.
On Day 2 in London, we set off to Kensington Palace wearing raincoats and carrying an umbrella. But the rain didn’t begin until we were inside the palace, and it only lasted a short while because the sun came out by the time we made it outside. Brief rain showers are not uncommon in London, I’ve learned.
My favorite room on the tour was the room where Princess Victoria (who became Queen Victoria) was born on May 24, 1819. It became her childhood bedroom, and on display are her doll house, dolls, and other toys, along with many portraits of her as a child.
My girls enjoyed rummaging through a toy box of antiques in this room.
Several of Queen Victoria’s frilly and flowery dresses are on display. She was tiny and measured 5 foot tall.
Before becoming queen, Victoria was required to be escorted down these stairs as a precaution because she was heir to the throne.
This staircase is where young Victoria met her cousin (and future husband) Albert for the first time in 1836. She wrote: “Albert, who is just as tall as Ernest but stouter, is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth.”
This table is in the very room (The Red Saloon) where Queen Victoria’s first privy council took place the day of her accession to the throne in 1837. In the background is the 1838 painting The First Council of Queen Victoria by Sir David Wilkie, which portrays the noteworthy event.
Another famous resident of Kensington Palace was HRH Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived here 15 years. A grand collection of her elegant dresses — along with sketches by her fashion designers — is on special display in the palace this summer.
I was surprised by how tall Diana was. At 5’10” she was a full 10 inches taller than Queen Victoria!
Stepping outside, the gardens at Kensington overflow with a breathtaking array of blooms in tribute to Diana.
Not far from the entrance is the Round Pond, where dozens of water fowl and pigeons gather.
This swan glided along with quite a majestic air about it.
A short walk from Kensington Palace is St. Mary Abbots church. This particular structure was built in 1872, but Christians have been worshiping at this site since the 12th century. Isaac Newton was among them.
Our exploring continued beyond Kensington as we took the Underground (aka “the Tube” train) back to Westminster Station. Look kids, Big Ben!
There we boarded a clipper/water bus on the River Thames. Because why would we travel underground like moles when we can go by boat instead?
Here’s the clipper coming in to dock, and that’s the London Eye across the river.
We traveled the river to Bankside, where we hopped off to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, reconstructed in 1999. Later in the week we returned here for a full tour of the theatre.
Up next is Oxford and the C.S. Lewis Close — one of our most memorable days of the trip!
After years of daydreaming about it — not to mention enduring my husband’s countless business trips to Europe and elsewhere overseas without me — I finally crossed the pond and visited England and France a few weeks ago. An extra delight was that our daughters were able to join us for this very educational trip.
It was fascinating to visit palaces where kings and queens lived, to see ancient castles on distant hillsides, and to humbly enter majestic cathedrals where so many notable saints have worshiped — all the while pondering the centuries of history that each of these places called to mind.
On our first full day in London, we toured Buckingham Palace. It was quite a tour that included the State Rooms, the Throne Room, the Ballroom, the Drawing Rooms, and the Picture Gallery.
Getting to see Queen Elizabeth’s carriage as well as a very lovely tribute to HRH Diana, the former Princess of Wales, made up for the fact that the guards outside were not wearing red uniforms or bearskin hats. On special display were Princess Di’s desk, trunk, typewriter, pointe shoes and several other personal belongings chosen by her sons to honor her as England marks the 20th anniversary of her tragic death.
Another favorite part of the tour for me was seeing Queen Victoria’s piano as well as the painting The Royal Family in 1846, which is a family portrait of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their five oldest children created by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. It was huge!
As you may have guessed, pictures were only permitted on the exterior of the palace. This rule helps boost sales of the palace’s official souvenir guide. (Yes, I bought one.)
Not a long walk from Buckingham Palace is Westminster Abbey, where coronations take place, where kings and queens are married and buried, and where other notable Englishmen, such as Isaac Newton, are buried. We arrived just in time to attend a beautiful Evensong service, which featured a choir from Michigan.
The Parliament buildings and Big Ben are also quite near Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. We didn’t visit those but I did have to take a picture and say, “Look, kids! Big Ben” as we walked back to the train station.
Up next is Kensington Palace, which I thought was actually a much better place to tour than Buckingham because the crowd was remarkably smaller. And as a bonus, Kensington allows pictures inside!