Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Greetings from Melanie M. Jeschke


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            December 2014         
 Dear Friends and Family:                                                           
Greetings from the Jeschke clan! We send our warmest wishes for a joyous Christmas season and a blessed New Year. This past year, we welcomed two precious granddaughters into the family: Zoë Ryan to Brett & Barbee on August 7 and Brooke Lynne to Cheryl & Brian on Sept. 10. Our next to youngest son Brendan, graduated from Eastern Mennonite U and promptly found a job, for which we are grateful. Regrettably, his job training took place the same week as the triennial C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Oxbridge conference, so although this was his turn to attend, his younger brother Kevin took his place. I (Melanie) obtained a grant to give “Inklings” walking tours to conferees in Oxford and teach a seminar on Jane Austen in Cambridge. Meanwhile, my Oxford Chronicle books are slowly rolling out in newly revised e-book editions. Our wonderful church family at The King’s Chapel (TKC) keeps Bill busy, and we are blessed that all our children are involved in the ministry. Speaking of children: this summer the entire clan, including Christen’s family from Missouri, were able to gather on Topsail Island and celebrate our 38th  wedding anniversary--- in the middle of Hurricane Arthur---a bit tense but memorable! My siblings and niece have come to visit my parents Earl & Betty Morey, who moved in with us nineteen months ago. My dad, struggling with congestive heart failure, still manages to give excellent Bible teachings weekly at TKC, while my dear mom suffers from Alzheimer’s. Your prayers for them and us, as we face their on-going health issues, are appreciated. We are grateful for our times together as a family and look forward to hearing from you, dear ones, over the holidays. May Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Lord, be born anew in our hearts today!                                                              Many blessings, 

Melanie, Bill, & the Jeschke clan     

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanks, Mom! (Again :)

Note: The authors of Helping Hands Press are hosting an Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and Care-givers Month blog tour. For this event, I am contributing this revised and abbreviated version of an earlier blog post. 

      While watching the amazing young athletes of the Winter Olympics last February, I enjoyed the “Thanks, Mom!” commercials in which the athletes thanked their mothers for supporting them. Moms—and Dads—do deserve a great deal of credit for encouraging (and often paying for) the success of their children, and I found those tributes heart-warming and wonderful. Who couldn’t share the excitement, relief, and pride of Meryl Davis’ and Charlie White’s mothers, cheering their ice dancing prodigies on from childhood championships to Olympic gold? I could personally relate to the tearful pride of the Olympians’ parents, as I have (proudly and tearfully) celebrated my children’s collegiate national championships in cheerleading and soccer, as well as countless games, tournaments, and competitions.
     Although I continue to support my children in their endeavors, I am now also supporting my parents in theirs. Just two years ago, we had five sons living in our home and a steady stream of their friends visiting. Now with all our children—but the two youngest—happily married, we’ve entered a new season of caring for my elderly parents.  Our home has rapidly gone from a youth hostel to an assisted living facility.  My biblical scholar dad has a failing heart, my beautiful mom has Alzheimer’s, and I now have the role of caregiver.  My mother’s decline is particularly sad and difficult to watch—especially when I owe her so much. She and my father instilled in me a love for literature, history, travel, and most importantly, the Lord. For this reason, I dedicated my first book Inklings to them. My mom has been one of my biggest cheerleaders in my writing career. As an excellent proof reader and editor, she contributed more than anyone to making certain my books were well-crafted. I’m saddened that my mother can no longer play that active role in my writing-life. Once more, however, I would like to thank her publicly for all she has done —by God’s grace —to mold me into the wife, mother, teacher, and writer I am today.

“Thanks, Mom!”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What's in a Name?

J.R.R. Tolkien found inspiration in words and names. After inventing his own languages, he began to wonder about the people who would have spoken them.  What was their history and culture? His musings led to the creation of an entire mythology in The Silmarillion and eventually to The Lord of the Rings.
To a far humbler extent, I also find inspiration from my characters’ names. Just as my husband and I prayerfully and carefully chose the names of our children, I give considerable thought to the names of my characters and the back-stories their names evoke. Let’s take for example the protagonist of my series The Oxford Chronicles: David MacKenzie. David happens to be the first name of one of my sons as well as my nephew, and I like the name for its kingly biblical connotation and its meaning of “beloved.”  The name David suggested to me that my protagonist would be a man of strength, a warrior (at least in a spiritual sense), an athlete, a leader, a beloved son, and a “man after God’s own heart.” My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was “McKenzie,” a Scotch-Irish derivative of the Scottish “MacKenzie” (which means “son of the king”), but a dear friend with Scottish heritage, who had greatly encouraged me in my early writing ventures, urged me to use the Scottish spelling.
The Scottish identify opened a whole new story line to me. My protagonist’s father had to hail from Scotland. How did a Scotsman end up in Oxford, England? What was his back-story? My friend and her husband traveled with me to Scotland to help me “discover” the history of David’s father, Eric MacKenzie.  We located the MacKenzie clan’s lands near Gairloch in the north western highlands of Scotland, and stayed there in a lighthouse over-looking the Irish Sea. Naturally, a good Scotsman has to be a golfer, right? And so, we drove to the eastern shore of Fife and walked the Old Course of St. Andrew’s, where providentially we met the head caddy who “happened” to be a MacKenzie and who shared some wonderful stories about other MacKenzie caddies. We visited the nearby fishing village of Anstruther with its picturesque harbor and stayed in stately Cambo House with its lovely gardens and golf course along the coast. The richness of the Scottish setting evoked Eric MacKenzie’s back-story and inspired the plot of my World War II novel Evasions.

So, to quote the Bard: “What’s in a name?”  Why, possibly a great deal. A name could just spark the plot and setting for a new novel. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ambivalent about Autumn

So it’s here upon us already: Labor Day Weekend. The official end of summer. Back to school, back to schedules, back to stress. Sigh.

Every year I dread the end of summer. I love sunshine, warmth, flowers, ice cream cones, iced tea, swinging in my hammock, and lying on the beach. Summertime evokes long sunny days, opportunities for adventure and travel, and relaxing with family and friends.  In “Once More to the Lake,” E.B. White lyrically expresses this longing for an endless summer:

 Summertime, oh, summertime, pattern of life indelible, the fade-proof lake, the woods unshatterable, the pasture and the sweetfern and the juniper forever and ever, summer without end…

But it does end. Every year.

We all think: How did the summer go by so fast? But does anyone ever say, “Boy that was a short winter!  How did it go by so fast?”  I think that’s my problem: that sense that with summer’s end comes autumn, and then boom! Winter. 

Don’t get me wrong; I actually love much of the autumn season. What’s not to love about crisp cool weather, clear cerulean skies, and brightly colored leaves? My husband and I met and fell in love in the autumn. On one of our first dates, we went apple-picking among the stunning fall foliage of the Shenandoah Valley. Soccer games, football, bonfires, hayrides, pumpkins, hot chocolate, chrysanthemums, and October’s bright blue sky—“these are a few of my favorite things.”               

But autumn is so short! Even shorter than summer, and before we know it, winter returns.  Not the winter of Christmas and the first snow. I’m talking about the long months of winter’s brief dark days, bitter cold, and just plain dreariness; the White Witch’s Narnia when “it’s always winter and never Christmas.”  (The older I get, the more I understand the “snowbirds,” who escape the northern climes each winter and head to Florida, and the more envious I am of my sister who lives year round in Florida at the beach!).

So, that’s why I’m ambivalent about autumn. Even though I enjoy living in Virginia where we experience the full range of the seasons, I also dread the inevitable end of summer and the return of winter. Thinking about this ambivalence, causes me to reflect on God’s plan in the change of seasons.  Each brings its own delights and serves its own purposes. The Lord God promised Noah that “while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:23). Just as the “heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1), so does nature visually tell the story of Christ’s death and resurrection in the passage of the seasons.

 Ironically, my moments of experiencing the “joy” or sehnsucht  which C.S. Lewis describes— that  “nostalgia”  or yearning we feel—most often occur on an achingly beautiful bright October day when the sight of scarlet and gold trees against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky pierces me with a poignant longing for something “more.”  Lewis writes most aptly in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”  If Lewis is right, and I think he is, then this longing for “something more” or for an “endless summer” is really a longing for eternity and heaven where, as Aslan declares in The Last Battle, “the term is over: the holidays have begun.”

Heaven: my endless summer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

No Whine Zone

Sadly, many of my blogs have been inspired by death and grief. Today our church, The King’s Chapel, mourns the loss of another dear saint as Nora Phelps gave up her long battle with MS and went to be with her Lord and Savior.  We rejoice with Nora that she is no longer imprisoned by her failing body, but naturally, her friends and family---especially her husband who devotedly cared for her---will miss her terribly. She is one of those unique individuals who could maintain her sense of humor in the midst of crushing physical disability. Most remarkably, Nora did not complain. I have known her for over two decades and watched as the MS slowly took away all her mobility, but I never once heard her whine, grumble, or bemoan her situation. She always remained cheerful, kind, and concerned for others.

I once asked Nora how she could stay so positive, and she explained she had decided from the outset of her disease that although she couldn't control her physical body, she could control her attitude.  She had a choice whether or not to live her time out as a bitter, complaining woman. But she knew that if she chose bitterness, no one would want to be around her and she would lose all her friends and family. She would become a lonely, bitter, complaining woman. Nora chose wisely to be happy and to make those around her happy. Nora chose joy and lived her difficult days in a no-whine zone. Needless to say, everyone loved Nora and enjoyed her company.

Nora’s life and example have challenged me to do better. I confess that I can easily fall into whining and complaining. My husband and I tease each other: “Do you want some cheese with your whine?”  Recently, I experienced God’s grace despite my whining. Someone ran into the back of my little car and totaled it (my husband was driving and thankfully was uninjured). As a pastor’s family, we don’t have fancy cars but rather drive very old, used, but faithful Hondas. From a previous and similar experience when someone t-boned and totaled my parked car, I knew that the insurance company would only give us the Blue-book value of the car and not what we had paid for it or what we would need to buy a new one. Plus my husband was suddenly saddled with the hassle of having to spend time he didn't have taking our car to the shop, getting estimates, and looking for a new car with all that entails. I was very upset with the unfairness of the entire situation and couldn't stop whining about it (even to my home group fellowship). My husband would try to remind me that God could bring something good out of this mess, but I didn't have the eyes of faith to see how.

However, God did have a plan. Our mechanic told us that he thought he could fix the car for less than the money we had been given to replace it. Meanwhile, a very generous man in our church had a car his son was trading in, and he graciously gave it to us. Turns out this car is a fully-loaded 2008 Toyota, ten years newer than my little Honda! Having that new car meant that our college-aged son, whose car had died in the fall, could have our “totaled” Honda once it had been fixed. Even though we had suffered an accident, God was gracious enough to work it for good and help us come out ahead. I am humbled that, despite my whining and complaining, God still bestowed His grace, His truly unmerited favor, on me.

I have been planning to tell my car story for some weeks now, but because of Nora’s passing and her example, I felt compelled to sit down and write it today. With God’s grace and with Nora’s inspiration, I will endeavor to stop my whining and complaining and make my home a “No-Whine Zone.” Then perhaps, like Nora, I can shine like a star and bring others the message of a joyful life.

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may be innocent and pure as God's perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, 16 as you offer them the message of life.             
                                                    Philippians 2:14-16 (Good News Translation)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Reflections: Mothers' Sons


                   "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).                               

Memorial Day has changed for me since my nephew Gunnery Sgt Ryan Jeschke, USMC, was killed in Afghanistan in August 2012. In the past, I honored the memory of my husband’s Marine Corps family members who had faithfully served our country, but who died in their beds after living a full life.  Now Memorial Day is not only a day of remembrance; it is a day of mourning.

While most Americans play and picnic and mark the beginning of summer fun, I know Ryan’s young wife, mom and dad, sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends are marking another reminder of his ultimate sacrifice to enable all of us to enjoy the freedom to play and picnic.

In another conflict, one hundred and fifty years ago, Unions and Confederate troops clashed on the rolling fields of the Shenandoah Valley near New Market, Virginia. Among them were teenaged cadets sent up as reserves from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), ten of whom lost their young lives. Although the South’s struggle to uphold slavery was morally indefensible and rightly defeated, these boys were fighting to protect their homeland, families, and friends. They were all, on both sides, mothers’ sons.

With the 150th anniversary of many Civil War battles, my husband and I have been visiting battlefields: Gettysburg as well as Manassas/Bull Run and Bristow Station, which are near where we live. A month ago we decided to walk the New Market battlefield with our son, who was graduating from nearby Eastern Mennonite University. We had heard the tragic story of the fallen cadets back in the fall when we had toured VMI, my father-in-law’s alma mater.  We walked through the meadow, named the “Field of Lost Shoes” because torrential rains had turned the field into a muddy bog, which pulled off the boys’ boots and shoes as they charged barefoot up the long hill.  Walking a battlefield is a moving and sobering experience. One can easily imagine the flying bullets and the falling men—all mothers’ sons.

In one of those amazing providences, on our return from this excursion, we received an invitation to the premiere of a new feature film, Field of Lost Shoes, which opened the 8th annual GI Film Festival held in conjunction with Memorial Day observances here in the nation’s capital.  A dear friend from college and one of my husband’s groomsmen, David M. Kennedy, wrote and produced the film. Dave is an Irish-Catholic genius, who was the President of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia, a Commander in the Navy, a top-gun pilot, and the military consultant for films like Pearl Harbor and Behind Enemy Lines. We had last seen Dave at Arlington National Cemetery for the burial of his brother alongside his oldest brother, a hero killed in action in Vietnam. While there, Dave took the time to visit Ryan’s grave with us, where he and his son Sam, a ROTC student at UVA, gave Ryan an honor salute. Needless to say, we were very touched by their tribute.

For many years, Dave had dreamed of making a feature film about the VMI cadets who fought and died at New Market. What a thrill to be invited as his “honored guests” to the premiere of this dream fulfilled.  We hope Field of Lost Shoes will get the attention and distribution it deserves.  I’m pleased to say that the film is excellent and a moving tribute to these mothers’ sons.

This weekend I trust we will all take the time to pause and remember the many men and women (sons and daughters all) in countless conflicts, who have laid down their lives to protect our homeland and our freedom. And while we remember and honor the fallen, please pray for their families who are also remembering---and mourning.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrating the Life and Faith of Shawn Kuykendall   (1982-2014)

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).

I have been putting off writing this blog about our young friend Shawn Kuykendall, who passed away March 12th of cancer at 32.  The thought has been too painful. Just last October, I wrote of the “royal fellowship of death” our church has experienced over the past 18 months, and now we have one more name to add to that roll. I also posted a poem I had dedicated to friends whose sons had died too young, and now I have one more friend to add to that dedication.

I’ve known Shawn since he was born. Shawn’s parents and my husband and I have been friends since we were newlyweds; and Shawn’s dad has been an elder in our church, a soccer mentor and coach to our family, and one of my husband’s closest friends. Our children grew up ten minutes from the Kukykendalls and were buddies through home-school, public high school, college, church, soccer, etc. They played together as children and hung out together as teens and young adults. The ties are so deep that they’ve been in each other’s weddings and two of our sons and their newly-wed wives have even lived in the Kuykendall’s basement apartment. Walking through Shawn’s eight month battle with cancer has been heart-breaking for our entire family and our entire church family.

Shawn was known for his joie de vivre, his panache, his style, his outrageous sense of fun, his considerable soccer prowess, his zest for life, but most of all, for his love for the Lord. Shawn continues to touch lives; his life and legacy have made an incredible and far-reaching impact.  USA Today, the Washington Post, and even Brett Baier’s Special Report on Fox News paid homage to Shawn’s courage and faith, touching literally millions. Others have written and spoken far more eloquently and poignantly about Shawn than I can, and so I’m listing some of those links below.

However, I’d like to add two things. Because of the flurry of these heart-felt tributes and because over 850 people came to celebrate Shawn’s life at his memorial service last Saturday, many, many people have heard the Good News that “God so loved the world that He sent his only Son; that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have life everlasting” (John 3:16).  Shawn is with the Lord, and his desire is that we too will be with Him for all eternity.  The greatest tribute anyone can give Shawn is to give serious consideration to his Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ. 

The other wonderful thing to come out of this earthly tragedy was to watch the church, the Body of Christ, work together so beautifully. Our church, The King’s Chapel, is a medium-sized congregation. My husband, the senior pastor, and his staff were frankly concerned how we could handle the huge crowd anticipated for the memorial service.  But the Lord raised up gifted people who could organize every aspect of such a large service, and many others stepped up to bring and serve food, direct traffic and parking, run a shuttle bus service, decorate, clean-up, etc. Someone provided a tent for over-flow attendance, and God provided a lovely spring day for our comfort. The event went seamlessly. Shawn’s life was celebrated. And God receives all the Glory.

We all feel incredible pain at Shawn’s passing; nevertheless, God has done amazing things through the pain and, I trust, has more amazing things in store.

Some links for more tributes and information about Shawn Kuykendall:

Shawn even has a Wikipedia page:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Thanks, Mom!"

I very much enjoyed watching the Sochi Winter Olympics these past two weeks while braving winter weather and snowstorms, snuggled in a warm blanket in front of a cozy fire.  Besides cheering on the amazing young athletes and hearing their compelling stories, I appreciated viewing the series of commercials run by Proctor & Gamble where the athletes thanked their moms for their support. Moms---and Dads---do deserve a great deal of credit for encouraging (and often paying for) the success of their children, and I thought those tributes were heart-warming and wonderful. Who couldn’t share the excitement, relief, and pride of the mothers of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who had been cheering their ice dancing prodigies on from their childhood to Olympic gold? I could personally relate to the tearful pride of many of the parents, as I’ve proudly, and tearfully, celebrated collegiate national championships in cheerleading and soccer with two of my nine children, as well as countless games, tournaments, and competitions with the others.

But, although we as parents are grateful for their appreciation and certainly share some of the credit for our children’s success, they are the ones who put in the hours of work and practice. They are the ones who have the skills, abilities, and drive—by the grace of God---to achieve their dreams. It’s an interesting dynamic, isn’t it?

I recently was asked to speak about God’s spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1) at a women’s meeting at our church. I shared a testimony from my younger mom days when I was feeling a bit depressed, staying home with then four little ones and having no real ministry or impact ( at least to my mind).  My husband encouraged me to “seek the Lord” and pray that He would speak to me in this time of feeling down. In prayer I felt led to read Isaiah 8: 17-18. Verse eighteen reads: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts.”  The message to me was that my children were my ministry and that as I devoted myself to them, the Lord would use us as signs, witnesses, testimonies, and blessings to His people.  This verse has given me great encouragement and peace over the years as I have quietly served my family, while my husband has had the more public ministry to our church.  Soon after I received this verse, a young woman in the church came up to me and said, “You know, Melanie, you and your children are such a testimony to me.”  Years later when I was experiencing a difficult pregnancy with our youngest, an elder in the church told me he had been praying for me and he had a scripture verse to encourage me: it was the same verse in Isaiah I had received years before!
Fast forward twenty years, and I can boast in God’s grace that all nine of our children (and their spouses) not only love the Lord, but are actively involved in ministry. The Lord has more than fulfilled His promise to this once young, struggling mother. All of my children truly are blessings to the people of God. Although I am gratified and grateful for the times they say, “Thanks, Mom,” I’m even more grateful for God’s blessing and what He has done in and through them.
Just a year and a half ago, we had five sons living at home and a constant revolving door of young people. Now with all our children, but two college-aged sons, happily married, we’ve entered on a new season, caring for my elderly parents.   In less than two years, we’ve gone from a home like a youth hostel to one more like an assisted living facility—but that’s a story for another time. My beautiful mother has Alzheimer’s and I’m finding our roles are reversing as I assume more of the caregiver/mother role with her. It’s sad and difficult to watch her decline—especially when I owe her so much. She, and my father, instilled in me a love for literature, stories, history, and travel, and most importantly, a love for the Lord.  My mom has been one of my biggest cheerleaders in my writing career. As an excellent proof reader and editor, she contributed more than anyone to making certain that my books were well-crafted. For this reason, I dedicated my first book Inklings to my parents. I’m saddened that my mother can no longer take on that important role for me with any of my future writing. However, I would like to once more take this opportunity to publically thank her for all she’s done to mold me, by God’s grace, into the wife, mother, teacher, and writer I am today.
“Thanks, Mom!”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jane Austen: A Writer's Inspiration

 For the last few weeks, I’ve been immersed in Jane Austen—a happy occurrence while I’m teaching my favorite class for Marymount University: an upper level literature course on 19th century British women authors. (I especially enjoyed being snowed in this past week so that I could watch a marathon of the BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth :). Re-reading Jane Austen’s novels and various biographies has given me some insights to Jane Austen’s writing life, which have inspired me, and I hope will inspire you as well.

Lesson One: Importance of observation

Jane Austen is known as a keen observer of her society and social sphere.  Her wit and ability to catch the nuances in voice of different characters has stood her above most writers for the last two centuries. By modern standards, her life appears rather uneventful, touching only a narrow sphere of society; and yet, she captures so vividly commonplace details, social conventions, settings, conversations, and characters that we are transported easily to her world. Social historians still utilize her writings to learn more about daily life among the gentry class in her era.  As writers, we need to observe and listen—even ordinary life has great wealth for the imagination.

Lesson Two: Keep writing (and revising)!

Jane Austen wrote stories, poems, letters, satires, novels, and even prayers for most of her life. She was only published in the last five years of her short life, the final two of her six novels not appearing until after her early death at 41. Despite rejection of Pride and Prejudice in its first version as First Impressions, she continued writing. Sixteen years later, after Sense and Sensibility finally met with success, Miss Austen revised Pride and Prejudice, which was immediately bought for publication. Her novels have held international acclaim and have never been out of print. Few of us will ever enjoy that kind of success, but we can at least be encouraged not to give up writing--even when faced with rejection. 

Lesson Three: Don’t stress about the “fallow” times.

I’m in a fallow time myself now when I’m not producing anything new other than these occasional  blogs, and this unproductive time can be quite frustrating. Besides just the normal busy-ness of a pastor’s wife and mother of a large clan, I’ve taken on a care-taking role for my elderly parents who have moved in with us.  I’m also an English adjunct professor with piles of student papers to grade, and I’m barely getting the edits done for putting my existing books into e-book format. So, for this season in my life, I’m often frustrated (and embarrassed) by my lack of productivity in the writing department. I’ve been encouraged to realize that Jane Austen also had a fallow period. Her first versions of Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey were all written in her early twenties. Then on her father’s retirement, the Austen parents and (unmarried) daughters moved to Bath. Jane Austen attempted little writing during this period of her life. Some critics speculate that she was unhappy in Bath. I think the evidence weighs more on her being extremely busy with an active social life and the care of her parents. In any case, after the death of her father and several moves, Jane and her mother and sister Cassandra were able to settle down at last in a lovely home in Chawton on the estate of her older brother Edward. In Chawton, Jane was finally able to get back to writing and revising and from there her six published novels were produced. I don’t believe that Jane’s fallow time was ill-spent. I think her observation skills had been sharpened and she had much more life experience to enrich her stories. This consideration makes me hopeful that my fallow season will not last forever and that perhaps my best writing will come in the not too distant future. 

 Lesson Four: Faith can be subtle

Some scholars have actually argued that Jane Austen was devoid of faith as her books bear scant reference to it. Many biographers ignore her religion altogether. In graduate school, I wrote a paper on Jane’s faith and my research revealed that not only was she a devout Christian from a devout family, but that her faith permeates her thinking and writing. Jane Austen is quick to satirize the religion of hypocritical clergymen like Mr. Collins, while her finest characters reflect a strong morality grounded in true religion. Although Jane Austen deliberately kept her religious beliefs from being overt so as not to “preach” to her readers, her Christian world-view informs the strong moral message which under-girds all of her novels.  C.S. Lewis aptly describes the author’s skill of keeping Christianity “latent” in a story. In an August 1939 letter in response to Sister Penelope’s praise of his science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis writes: “Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.” (Collected Letter of C.S. Lewis, Vol. II 264).

Like Jane Austen or C.S. Lewis, we Christian fiction writers have the opportunity to tell compelling stories which illustrate spiritual truths--- but hopefully, like them, we will do so with subtlety and grace.