We Follow Jesus, Not Rules

“The greatest command is this: to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength. The second command is like to it: to love your neighbor as yourself. On these depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

“A new command I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

“I give you a new command, though it is not a new command, but an old one, that you should love one another.”

“By this do we know that we love God: that we love our brothers and sisters. Whoever does not love the brother or sister he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.”

“I, the LORD, look at the heart.”

This is the “Law” of the Christian Life, the heart of Christian “morality.” It is not about rules or regulations or laws, but about love, about the heart. Why matters a great deal more than what. Thus, God’s true law, the one He has shown to us in the life of His beloved Son, and the one which He has given to us to follow, is that of love, not of judgment or the strict adherence to rules.

Regulations and rules are the consequence of the Fall, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Continue reading “We Follow Jesus, Not Rules”

The Wind Song (Tara-lin – Children of the Dryads)

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Come to my aid
Come to the aid of the trees


Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Fly sudden swift
Turn the arrows’ way from us


Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Hear me now!
Gust and blow and swirl around!


Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Come with wildness
Wild and fierce and changing oft!


Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Come, wild and strong
Blow my way, gusts and torrents!


Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Answer to my call
Answer the need of your dryads!


Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Hear me now!
Gust and blow and swirl around!
Fly sudden swift!
Turn the arrows’ way from us
Come, wild and strong
Wild and fierce and changing oft!
Come with wildness
Blow my way, gusts and torrents!
Blow sudden swift!
Turn the arrows’ way from us.


Excerpted from Children of the Dryads, Copyright © 2021 Raina Nightingale

Released June 3rd, 2021. (List price: $9.99 USD Paperback, $2.99 USD Ebook.)

Escape from the Valor Hall: An Excerpt from Children of the Dryads

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Review: Black Smoke

Black Smoke

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Author: Mckayla Eaton

Genre: Catholic Space Opera

Description:

EVERY SAINT HAS A PAST AND EVERY SINNER HAS A FUTURE—EXCEPT MAYBE THE CREW ON BOARD THE ST. LAURENTIA

Earth is divided between the allure of a spiritual resurgence and the out-of-this-world high of an alien drug. When the spaceship carrying Celestine the VI, the new Pope, is commandeered by a drug lord, he finds himself facing possibly the shortest papacy in history.

Isi Hudson, a young nun on board the ship, is hoping the new planet ahead of her will bring more promise than the one she’s leaving behind, but the mutiny has her facing things about herself she was sure she’d managed to leave behind on Earth.

Being a Knights Hospitaller, life and death situations are nothing new for Srgt. Edmund Hope, but when he’s woken early from cryogenic sleep he expects to be punished for war crimes not tasked with saving the very man destined to excommunicate him. He has to decide quickly whether to save the Pope or join in the mutiny.

Rating: ★★★★

I don’t usually post reviews here (though this isn’t the first, and will probably not be the last) but I really enjoyed Black Smoke by Mckayla Eaton, much more than I expected to since this is Space Opera, and I don’t really like science fiction, so I’m finally getting around to giving her that review I’ve been meaning to for ages! Continue reading “Review: Black Smoke”

Escape from the Valor Hall: An Excerpt from Children of the Dryads

Over the weeks, more people arrived. Tara-lin was introduced to human ladies, and she found their company exasperating, for the most part.

It was not long before Lìrulin came to them. When Earnrìl had come back from the sea, she had borrowed her horse and ridden to them. It was now certain that she was pregnant. She stopped arguing with her parents about how she was going to go with her father.

One day, Tara-lin observed her mother and her father embracing. “I’d go with you, Eldor, no matter what, if I weren’t pregnant again… You must not die! You must not leave me with our second child an infant who’s never seen you.”

Tara-lin stood still, feeling horrible.

“I don’t intend to die,” said Sir Eldor. “We don’t know what this will be like, or what my role in it will be. But, if you don’t want that, we will have to make sure you don’t get pregnant again.”

“I love you,” said Lìrulin.

Tara-lin walked away. Just earlier that day, she had met a girl who did not irritate her as much as the other women – or men – around. Her name was Alis Luela, and though she spoke little she was definitely interested in what Tara-lin had to say about the animals and plants of the Elethrian forests. She was quieter than the other girls, and spoke little about herself and the other things interesting to them, and when she did ask Tara-lin a question it was about something in which Tara-lin herself had some interest. Continue reading “Escape from the Valor Hall: An Excerpt from Children of the Dryads”

Thoughts on Art of Martyrs and Martyrdom

For a long time, now, I have been thinking about this tendency of people to have and to keep images of martyrs and martyrdom that attempt some sort of what people call ‘realism’, and while I dare not condemn the practice for all, I think it has some serious flaws and dangers, at least for many of us.

I myself have long avoided anything gory, and any detailed representation of torture; for much of my life the very word chilled my blood and made my heart thump, and for years I refused to call myself a Christian for terror of persecution and torture and the fear I would not find the Glory of His Name worthy. Then, I found myself lauded as ‘brave’ by American Christians, even while certain that I was the most terrified and fearful of them, and that it should scarcely be possible for a Christian to be as fearful as I. Some Christians report that, in preparation for what they expected to undergo, they absorbed as many details as possible and lived in discomfort and privation. Again, while I don’t necessarily say that there is nothing to any of this, and it is possible that some may sometimes find some of it helpful, I don’t think it is a practice that should be encouraged, and it seems that it goes against the spirit of “Do not say or think about what you will say beforehand, for the Spirit of My Father will teach you in that hour what to say,” but this diverges somewhat from that which I wish to discuss, at least in appearance.

A Coptic icon of Saint Mark the Evangelist that I think illustrates very well how depictions of martyrdom should point us to the overshadowing Spirit of Glory

It is far too easy for most of us to fear, even if I am worse in this way than most, far too easy for us to see pain and suffering as something to be avoided, far too easy for us to feel horror and terror. It is usually not easy enough for us to trust in God, to be confident in His grace, to be certain of His worthiness (of His worth to us). It is easy for most of us to fear torture (or other pain); it not so easy for most of us to be confident of the upholding hand of Christ, even, sometimes, when we have experienced that upholding time and time again. There are thousands and millions of us who fear too much, who see horror where there need be no horror if only we would trust and know Him. There is not one of us who has ever trusted too much in God or seen too much glory in the face of Christ.

picture of the martyrdom of St. Bibiana by Raina Nightingale; Christian virgin and martyr by being beaten to death; clothed in a pink robe, with pink roses flowing over her chest, chained with yellow roses to white gold-decorated pillar, with turquoise tiles with gold Christian Fish, and the sun in clouds shining above.
Here is a picture I drew illustrating the martyrdom of Bibiana. Her witness of “enduring the blows with joy” showed me God in a special way that has touched my life deeply, and I tried to show a little of how she showed me His love and goodness with this picture.

The martyrs are witnesses, as we also are called to be, to the glory of Christ and the greatness of His joy and the sufficiency of His grace; not to the greatness of the horrors or the extremities of the tortures devised by man or devil, or to their own courage. Those things, those fears, those horrors, are the devil’s lie and threat; hollow and empty of power when we see the glory of the grace of God in the face of Christ. There is no need for us to remind ourselves of them; there is rather a need that we should scorn them as unworthy of our thought or attention. If we desire art of the martyrs, it should not be art that provokes our fears, or that makes us think of their courage; it should be art that suggests, however dimly and imperfectly, the glory of God – that should remind us that these things are not what they seem, that horror is only a lie and illusion of the devil who has been conquered by Christ in Whom we also may tread upon his head, and that martyrdom is fact a crown of glory and a reward and that the grace of God is not only sufficient, but plentiful. “No good thing will He withhold from them that look to Him.” Art of martyrdom should have the same message in it that those sayings of the early Christians to speak of it had: “fulfillment,” a “crown of glory,” a “wreath of victory.”

They do not see clearly who think that American Christians have it too easy and think Christianity is “happy-go-lucky” as they put it (whatever that means), and that is the cause of their problems, and that it should be remedied by reminding themselves of all the tortures and sufferings and deprivations that Christians in other parts of the world and at other times have experienced. The only problem we ever have is that we do not see Christ, the Risen One, clearly enough. This problem may manifest itself differently in different people, and at different times and places, but that is always the problem. Thus, the only remedy desired is to seek to see Him, to see more of His glory, more of His loveliness, to see the trustworthiness and steadfastness of His love and promises. That will fix all our problems, and it seems to me ever more clear as the days pass that the problem of American Christians is really that they are afraid: that they have bought the devil’s lie, have believed in fear and horror, instead of in the glory of the face of our Savior. There is no need for us to focus on persecution, for persecution is not the point – Christ is – and if we are thinking about persecution, we are not thinking about Christ and following Him as the sheep follow their Shepherd. Martyrs are not a witness to themselves, but to the glory and triumph of Christ, His peace and His joy. They should point us always to the beauty of the Lord, never to the horrors and lies of the devil. They prove, as we may, the Lord who said, “Come to Me, all you are who are burdened and heavy-laded, for I am meek and humble of heart, and My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” and “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” and, “Do not fear, for your Father cares for you.”

Copyright 2021 Raina Nightingale

By the way, this song, All I Have is Christ, is done with a beautiful animation that is very good.

Liebster Award

Hi. So I’ve been nominated for this Liebster Award by both Julia Witmer (https://juliawitmerblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/19/the-liebster-award/) and EG Bella (https://egbella.com/2021/02/05/the-liebster-award/) (thanks, and sorry for being so late). I’ll be answering both their questions (as well as I can; some of the answers aren’t real answers), but I will only be giving out one new set of questions (that, and finding nominees that fit, is what I really struggle with). Thanks to both of you, and let’s get to Bella’s questions first, since she nominated me first, and why this has taken me so long! My apologies on that count.

The rules:

Thank the blogger who nominated you.

Answer the eleven questions he/she asked

Nominate eleven more bloggers for the award. Make sure they know you nominated them.

And ask your eleven nominated bloggers eleven questions

1. When did you first get the idea to start a blog, and why did you decide to?

A couple years ago. I’d been writing an occasional essay for the purpose of explain

ing my thoughts to friends, and I’d just made a Twitter account (Twitter.com/rainanightinga1). I thought it might be a good idea to post my essays (often somewhat altered) to my blog, and link to them from my Twitter account. After all, in depth explanations are difficult there! From there, it has grown into what it is now, with a blog that consists largely of religious and philosophical essays, but an occasional book-related post, and then a page with lots of information and links to other pages with more information about my novels and worlds.

2. What is your dream job?

The one I have in dreams? Hmm. I’m not really sure. The one I wish I could have? That gets horribly complicated. In this world, as it is? Or in the world that I wish this one was? In this world as it is, I want to tell people that God is good and there is no reason to be afraid! But is that a job? On another level, I’d like to help people enjoy the world and the beautiful things God has given us – animals and trees and sunsets. And, of course, I write. I want to share the good I see through stories. I feel like that’s the way I think best myself, and so it’s probably the way I communicate best, too. But there’s lots of things that would be great to do, other than sit and write, too – in fact, how could one write well if one isn’t at least interested in getting know the world, the mountains and trees and flowers and streams and animals and volcanoes and storms and so forth, even if doing so isn’t feasible?

3. If you could domesticate any wild animal to keep for a pet, which would you choose and why?

An elephant, maybe? They’re smart, they seem kind, and they live for a long time – oftentimes, longer even than we do. It would be cool to make friends with an elephant.

4. Chocolate or vanilla (or other)?

Boring question. Whatever (though there are some things people have come up with that I’m sure I don’t like). I’m not that prone to favourites, though.

5. What’s the next book you hope to read and/or movie you want to watch?

Maybe The Mirror of Simple Souls by Marguerite Porete. But you never really know what a book is like until you read it. I did just read The Treekeepers by Susan Britton, though, and it is very good. It’s a children’s novel, but it’s suitable to all ages. Unfortunately, it is out of print, so it may be a little difficult to get print copies, but you can get the ebook from Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-treekeepers-susan-britton/1005616207?ean=2940015723779 . I would write a review about it, but I feel like the better a book is, the harder it is to write a good review about it – for me, that is.

6. What fictional world do you wish was real?

None of them? For one, it might not look at all like the fictional worlds, but I’m sure all that’s good and beautiful is fiction is true and better somewhere in reality. Unless the good of it is in being the fiction, in which case it’s good for it to be a fictional world and not a real one! But enough for that. I think that if you’re wishing that a fictional world was real, there’s a lot you haven’t noticed about the real one! I think it’s more magical than any of us have yet discovered and… if you’re really yearning to go on a heroic adventure that might kill you to defeat a terrible evil that’s threatening the world or something you love… we ll, I’m pretty sure those evils exist in the real world, and that if you want to go on such an adventure or quest that might be an option.

7. In three words, how would you best describe yourself?

Really, anything I say here is going to be really bland, and at the moment I can’t think of anything good/descriptive. Believer-of-Goodness is the best I can come up with at the moment. I am very bad at these sort of questions, but that does at least convey something very important and solid about me!

8. If you had to pick one season to live in for the rest of your life, which one would you pick?

That would really be horrible! How would it even work?! No, I want all the seasons. No season is itself without the rest of them. That said, I think Spring is really beautiful. I really like flowers, and I like rain and flowing water and green things sprouting up and growing everywhere (not sure I’d want to live in a tropical rainforest, though).

9. What’s one of your favorite quotes (about anything)?

I tend to like stories more than quotes! But I’ll try to think of something. Here’s a few I actually looked up to find them since I am so poor at favorites! There’s lots of quotes I like, but they are so many that I often don’t think of any at the mention of favorite quotes – also, since stories and sometimes poetry, not quotes are my favorites, well… Anyway, here are a few I like.

“I have never made a sacrifice in my life” – Hudson Tayler, missionary to China

“In all this I saw no sin, for I believe that sin has no part in being nor manner of substance” – Julian of Norwich

“God rejoices to be our Father, God rejoices to be our Mother, Jesus rejoices to be our savior” – Julian of Norwich

10. Who is a fiction character you think you’d get along well with? Who is one you don’t think you’d get along with?

Well, one never really knows until one meets someone how well one will or won’t get along with him or her – and, another thing, fiction characters, no matter how realistic their authors make them or how real they are in their authors’ head, aren’t real like real people, with as much breadth as real people do, with all the innumerable, unmentionable quirks and personality traits any real person has, so this makes it really hard to think about. Also, under what circumstances? I dare say there are people who might enjoy sitting under a tree together and watching the sun, or playing a game of hide-and-seek, but who would really irritate each other trying to find their way down a slippery, ice-and-snow-covered mountain in the middle of the night with orcs and gargoyles hunting them. I daresay under most circumstances I and my own character, Tara-lin (Children of the Dryads, Legend of the Singer Book One), would probably be able to tolerate each other, though. I doubt I and another of my own characters, Arendellie (The Three Scrolls, Kaarathlon Series), would practically ever enjoy each other’s company.

11. What’s one of your favorite childhood memories?

Probably playing with my parents.

All right. Now for Julia’s questions.

1. What is one of your favorite books?

Well, The Treekeepers, which I mentioned in EG Bella’s questions, is definitely a favorite. I

also really liked The Last Herald-Mage Trilogy (Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, Magic’s Price). The author is definitely not Christian, but her view of death is so much more Christian than what I see almost everywhere.

2. What is your favorite thing about your blog, specifically?

Hmm. That I write for it when I feel like it, and I post when I want to, despite the fact that that can get woefully sporadic. Also, I really like the name of it. Enthralled By Love. That’s what I want my life to be. That’s what I want the world – everyone and everything else – to be. That’s what I hope it’s about.

3. How did you first get into blogging?

Well, I’d write essays and snippets either just to get my thoughts down on paper or to share with people. Then, when I started my twitter account (@RainaNightinga1 – though if you’re almost solely interested in the novels aspect, the newer @Areaer_Novels might be the one for you) I thought that the tweets were short, but people might take an interest in my thoughts put down in a larger, more complete way.

4. What would be your ideal working environment for blogging/writing?

A place where I can write, obviously a frame of mind in which I both have something to write and have the faculties to write it. Other than that, I don’t know.

5. What’s one of your favorite foods?

What is it with all these boring questions? At least, and I should thank Julia for this, she asked about what’s one of your favorite foods, not what’s your favorite food. Anyway, I like many kinds of fruit.

6. What’s your proudest achievement?

I have no idea. I probably have none. I don’t keep a record-list. What would a proudest achievement even be? That would be for God to judge, but I have I feel He doesn’t judge that way, either. It’s less achievement and more being to Him. Really, I have no idea. I mean, there are things I enjoy doing, things that have given me thrills of delight, but, as I said, I don’t keep a record or list of them, so I don’t have a clue where they rank. And, as I once wrote in one of the essays on my blog, experiences are so unique. Who could judge them? The greatest joy or pain or sorrow or delight is always, or almost always, the one we’re experiencing right now, or at least that’s held mostly true in my experience.

7. How do you motivate yourself to keep your blog up and running?

It appears that I have not been. I have probably a dozen essays I want to write, some of them half-started, but I can’t pull them together and write them, and so it’s mostly sitting.

8. What’s your favorite thing to write about?

The love of God, and I write about it in half a dozen, or maybe half a hundred, or maybe two hundred different ways. When it comes to style/genre, I really enjoy writing characters.

9. What’s your least favorite thing to write about?

Almost certainly something I don’t write about, and so how would I know? I suppose scenes where I have to dance around with writing the scene in order to give the reader the emotional feel and all the pertinent informations without ever even having to visualize myself any of the gory details or torture mechanisms involved … well, figuring out how to do that is probably not my favorite thing to do, though, if I had favorite scenes, some of those scenes might make into, or even very high up, the list of favorites (lots of things would make it very high up the list of favorites for me – after all, the list is wholly theoretical, since I very rarely have anything that half-way qualifies as a favorite; only things I like so much I can’t even begin to say it). Also, actually visualizing the details would be an even less favorite thing to do, and writing the details would be an equal un-favorite thing to write about, so … my least favorite things to write about are definitely things I don’t write about, but there’s probably things I would hate writing about even more, that I’ve never even thought of writing about.

10. What’s something you were obsessed with as a kid? (i.e. horses, reading, a certain movie, etc.)

Given the line of thinking that was going on answering the last question … martyrs. I lived through rather a long period of wondering how and why the martyrs were motivated, what was the source of their joy and confidence. Oh yes, and making sure I never found out the details of their deaths any farther than, “So-and-so was beheaded,” or maybe, “So-and-so was beaten to death.” After all, I’d learned about those quite early, and as unamusing as even those are, I really couldn’t hope to avoid bits of information as that. Now, how someone was beaten to death … that might be something I do not ever want to learn (and even if it is to happen to me, I have a feeling it won’t be any worse for not having learned of it ahead of time).

To answer the question more properly … dragons, and I’m still fairly obsessed with dragons. The kind that form deep, empathic relationships. But anyone who reads my novels will soon discovered that, though there’s a way in which I will always love someone else’s dragons.

11. Do you still like the thing you were obsessed with as a kid?

Seems I already answered this one. Unless someone wants to know if I still like martyrs – or is it martyrdom? As for the first, they’re people. I probably would like some of them. Others of them probably have personalities that may mean we’ll have to be in Heaven to be best friends the way it’s easy for some people to be here on earth. Then again, I may like a few here and now. Who knows which of us will be awarded that crown? As for martyrdom, like is hardly a sufficient word if one is talking about the glory of the Spirit and the vision of the face of Christ at the right hand of the throne of the Father, even so much of it as I have glimpsed, and … no, words fail. I will say no more.

My questions:

1. What’s something you enjoy about blogging?

2. How do you feel about rain and/or snow?

3. What’s a theme you really enjoy in other people’s writing? Feel free to share more than one.

4. What’s a theme you find recurs in your own writing? Feel free to share more than one.

5. What’s a style or genre of writing you like, and something about why you like it? (This could be anything from prose/poetry/story to Young Adult Historical Fiction or Middle Grade Fantasy or Religious Devotions, etc)

6. Is there something in nature that seems or is dangerous, but that you enjoy in some way?

7. Is there something in nature that is not generally considered dangerous that you really enjoy?

8. Is there something that’s really common or even necessary for life that absolutely has you in awe and holds your wonder or that you really, desperately, enjoy?

9. Is there a myth (I’m using this word loosely; Christian ‘myths’ count) that you really like? Can you tell us something about why or how it draws your attention?

10. Is there a mythical creature that you really like?

11. How do you feel about night and/or day?

Nominees:

1. Tina Wanis (howtowritecoptic.wordpress.com)

2. Mikayla (truthfulstoryteller.wordpress.com)

3. Julieanneriddle (agirlandhergod.blog)

4. Strength of His Might (strengthofhismight.wordpress.com)

And anyone else. I’m supposed to choose 11, but I’ve spent too long on this and not come up with anyone else I know who I expect would be interested. By the way, my apologies if the formatting is terrible. I’ve never used the new Block Editor before, and I hate it, but I can’t find the Classic one right now. It looks like WordPress Admin isn’t available anymore, so if anyone knows how to get back into that, my sincere thanks!

The Gifts of Faeri – Book Review and Author Interview

Julia Witmer, Author

The Gifts of Faeri by Raina Nightingale starts off strong, with opening pages that draw you in and an interesting concept from the very beginning. Coming in at 64 pages, The Gifts of Faeri is a quick and easy but enjoyable read, suitable for a young adult audience (ages 13+, especially for ages 13-18).

I am so glad I got the chance to read and review this book as a part of Raina’s launch – and, on top of that, I also got to interview the author! Stick around for a slightly more in-depth look at the book (which will remain short and to the point, as the book wasn’t horribly long, and I want plenty of room for the author interview), and an interview with Raina herself! Here’s a discription of the story:

The Gifts of Faeri by Raina Nightingale

Faeri has…

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Learning from the Childhood of God and Children

I recently saw a comment to the effect that “it is amazing how Joseph learned from the baby Jesus.”

It occurs to me that this is a strange amazement in light of the belief that not only from birth, but from conception itself, there exists a human person, a soul specially and uniquely made in the image and likeness of God (though that Creation, of which we all receive, is a wonder of God). The Child Jesus is God as well as Human, but is not every human child a person, uniquely made in the image of God, a living soul, capable of all that which being a person entails – of knowledge, of choice, of love? Continue reading “Learning from the Childhood of God and Children”