Monthly Archives: January 2015

A 1700’s Message for Today’s Christian Educators

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  I recently stumbled upon a very old copy of Divine and Moral Songs written by Isaac Watts in the early 1700’s. My copy must have been printed some time in the 1800’s because it was a gift to someone in 1884 from a boy and girl’s religious society. When I opened the delicate book, I was struck immediately by the beautiful old artwork, attention to detail, and the old print type used during the time of its publication. But it was the preface that truly gripped my attention.

            Isaac Watts wrote the preface sometime in the early 1700’s. In his message, he addressed “all that are concerned in the education of children.”

Being a homeschool mom, a Sunday school teacher, and a volunteer youth leader, I recognized that this was addressed to me. In only a few pages, of very readable language, Isaac Watts gave a challenge that is very applicable to our society today. As I read, I was gripped by the fact that these words were penned to an early 1700’s society, when it could have been written to our society three hundred years later.

In the intro, Isaac reminds his readers of the important charge given to those concerned in the education of children. “The wisdom and welfare of the succeeding generations are entrusted with you beforehand, and depend much on your conduct.” Is that not true today? The wisdom and welfare of future generations are greatly influenced by our conduct. “The seeds of misery or happiness in this world and that to come, are oftentimes sown very early; and therefore, whatever may conduce to give the minds of children a relish for virtue and religion, ought, in the first place, be proposed to you.”

Watts reminded those in his generation that the seeds of faith are sewn early and that it is vital to train up our children with a passion for Christ at an early age.

Watts explained that “verse was at first designed for the service of God, though it hath been wretchedly abused since.” Of course, I absolutely love his use of strong adverbs and verbs like “Wretchedly” and “abused,” his point is very clear. He explained that parents of old taught their children “the precepts of morality and worship in verse.” They’ve been using songs and rhymes to help children learn truths for thousands of years. Not only that, but we as believers are encouraged to “teach and admonish one another by hymns and songs, (Col.iii.16)” …I just had to write it the way Watts did.

Watts told us there are four advantages to using verse to teach children:

  1. “There is a great delight in the very learning of truths and duties this way. There is something so amusing and entertaining in rhymes and metre, that       will incline children to make this part of their business a diversion.”

Watts encouraged readers to even use the lovely little book itself as a reward for learning the verses. I found it very cool that even in the 1700’s they were using the reward method of motivation.

  1. “What is learned in verse is longer retained in memory, and sooner recollected.”   Watts said that the learning of scripture and moral songs   learned in one’s youth will help guide their moral decision making.
  1. “This will be a constant furniture for the minds of children, that they may have something to think upon when alone, and sing over to themselves.”

Watts points out that learning in this way will “raise a young meditation.” He said, “Thus they will not be forced to seek relief for an emptiness of mind, out of the loose and dangerous sonnets of the age.”

When I read that last sentence I stopped and reread it again. This was written in the 1700’s… and Watts was concerned about the dangerous music of his time? What would Watts have to say about some of the songs popular in our country today? I found it interesting that Watts explained the seeking of such sonnets is to “seek relief for an emptiness of mind.” How often do we see kids sit filling their minds with music containing disturbing lyrics, allowing those words fill their minds like dirty water soaked into an empty sponge? Watts called it dangerous.

  1. “These Divine Songs may be a pleasant and proper matter for their daily or weekly worship, to sing on in the family, at such time as the parents or  governors shall appoint…”

Watts encouraged the use of these songs during daily or weekly worship, and while I’m sure not many of our children have governors, I loved his encouragement to sing together as a family. What a wonderful time to train up your child and worship together.

The preface was wrapped up with a few more encouraging words in the training up of a child in Christ, and ended with a prayer.

    “May the Almighty God make you faithful in this important work of education; may He succeed your cares with His abundant grace; that the rising generation of Great Britain may be a glory among the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.”

I am sure you caught the Great Britain part. I found it interesting that, just like me and my concern for my country, Isaac Watts wanted his country to be a “glory among the nations, a pattern to the Christian world, and a blessing to the earth.” I would like the same thing for the United States. The point is, we as Christians have an important job. We are called by God to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6).

I felt it was fitting to chose a song from the book and write the lyrics below. Of course, it is far more lovely and artful in the original little book with beautiful drawings above each verse. When I showed it to my daughter, I said, “Look, these are the inspirational Instagram messages of the 1700’s.”

 

Song II.

Praise for Creation and Providence.

 

I sing the almighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise;
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
 
I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The noon shines full at His command,
And all the stars obey.

Watts desktop 2

 I sing the goodness of the Lord,
That filled the earth with food;
He formed the creatures with His word,
And then pronounced them good.
 
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed
Where’er I turn mine eye!
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky.

 

There’s not a plant or flower below

But makes Thy glories known;

And clouds arise, and tempests blow,

By order from Thy throne.

 

Creatures, as numerous as they be,

Are subject to Thy care;

There’s not a

place where we can flee
But God is present there.

The Fun Behind Until Proven Innocent

Until Proven Innocent book cover amazon The fun behind Until Proven Innocent

I love to write. It gives my mind opportunity to slip away in to other times, other places, and see into the lives of other people. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, writing helps me formulate my thoughts.

One of the beauties of writing is that it lets me be creative. As with any art form, writing lets me use words to paint a picture that can send a message and evoke emotion in the hearts of my readers.

Until Proven Innocent was a fun book to write because, while the story is historical fiction, it takes place in Northern California, where my husband and I once lived.

Northern California is a place rich with history and natural beauty. Known for its many wineries, vineyards, beautiful coastline, redwood and sequoia trees, and picturesque cities, Northern California is a beautiful backdrop for a love story. While living in California, my husband and I took many trips along the Lost Coast, camping, exploring, and hiking along remote trails and rocky hillsides.

The love story behind Until Proven Innocent was fun to paint. Within any love relationship there needs to be trust and mutual respect. The relationship between Bethany and Tanner stems from a selfless desire to lay aside personal needs and bless someone else. Both characters threw aside their own safety, needs, and comforts, in order to help the other. Against the odds, they learn to trust one another and find unconditional love.

As with any love story I write, Christ is a central figure in the plot. Just as He is a central figure in my life, His presence is crucial in the lives of my characters. His hand in their lives is the driving force behind their love and guides their steps in ways only our heavenly Father could.

Another fun part of creating Until Proven Innocent was the book cover design. It was exciting to watch the cover models as they stepped into the persona of their characters and wrapped themselves in the image we wanted to create. Bethany (the name of the model as well as the main character) and Sam are both college students who have amazing acting talent. I think they had just as much fun with the photo shoot as we did. It was difficult to choose the photo for Until Proven Innocent because there were so many nice ones.

While it would have been wonderful to photograph the cover photo in Northern California, we settled on a small historical site in central Ohio. Historic Roscoe Village is an 1800’s canal town in Coshocton, Ohio and a great place to step back in time. Since Until Proven Innocent is a historic fiction novel, Roscoe Village seemed like just the right backdrop for the cover art.

There are beautiful places everywhere and beautiful love stories still to be written. But the most beautiful love story in the world is the true story of our Creator and His love for us. No writer in the world can create a story so rich and perfect in love, as the One Who has given us everything and desires for us to love Him and follow Him. I pray that the message of His love will be reflected in everything I write.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”   John 3:16

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.”  – A.W.Tozer The Pursuit of God

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I love the sassy little grin Bethany has on her face in this picture. Sam is taking himself very serious.

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Bethany and Sam had an amazing way of capturing the emotion we expect to see in Bethany and Tanner.

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The charm of Historic Roscoe Village and the sweetness of this couple make this picture one of my favorites.