Thursday, November 21, 2019

Spotlight: Prayer & Praise: A Jane Austen Devotional by Shannon Winslow

We welcome to The Calico Critic today author Shannon Winslow. Known for her Austenesque fiction, Shannon has now written a Christian devotional with messages inspired by Jane Austen and her beloved characters. For today's post, she has given us a devotional to enjoy that centers on the concepts of pride and vanity, which of course is easily tied into Pride and Prejudice, although Shannon chooses a character that might not first come to mind when thinking of pride or vanity! Enjoy the following devotional, which begins with prayerful words from Jane Austen herself, and I hope it blesses you today:


Pride and Vanity

Incline us to ask our Hearts these questions Oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by Pride or Vanity.

Reading the words vanity and pride together, does your mind, like mine, go straight to a certain contentious conversation between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy? But looking again, I discovered that Mary Bennet was the real expert on this subject:

“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously… Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 5)

In today’s petition, Jane Austen warns that the failings of pride and vanity are particularly dangerous. Why? Because these weaknesses have the power to deceive us, to prevent us from seeing ourselves and our behavior for what they truly are.

I’m sure when Mary Bennet passed along her wisdom on the subject of pride, she believed she did so with appropriate humility. After all, her deep knowledge of the problem must have caused her to be on guard against falling into that trap herself, right? On the contrary; Mary is among the deceived. Jane Austen’s gift for irony is on full display here. With the preamble that Mary piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, Austen subtly lets her readers know that the person cautioning us against the prevalence of pride is herself one of its many victims.

Nevertheless, what Mary says is true. The sin of pride is common. Human nature is especially prone to it. Few if any completely escape its effects. And people sometimes only imagine they are superior in some way. But I especially appreciate the reminder that a person can be guilty of sinful pride even when their superiority is real. Paranoia is only paranoia if there isn’t actually somebody out to get you, but pride is pride either way.

God gives many good gifts to his children (James 1:17), and there are people who truly have been blessed with exceptional beauty, personality, talent, wisdom, courage, faith, etc. Many of these and other gifts can be viewed as necessary tools to accomplish what God has assigned a person to do in this life. If he has ordained that someone is to preach effectively, relieve human suffering, advance scientific knowledge, entertain or inspire people, nurture children, or whatever, we shouldn’t wonder that he also equips them to do it!

We are to thank God, enjoy his blessings, and steward them well, using what gifts he has given us for his glory, not hiding them away or denying they exist. Still, there is a fine line between having confidence in God-given abilities and beginning to take credit for them ourselves.

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert… He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat… You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth… (Deuteronomy 8:10-18)

When we fail at something, our natural tendency is to say, “It wasn’t my fault.” But when we are successful, we’re often quick to take the credit, even if it’s only on the inside. There’s a little voice that whispers in our ears that we deserve the praise and rewards. After all, we worked very hard to achieve them! Look at the years of education and practice we put in, not to mention at least metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears.

That voice is the enemy encouraging us to pride. For who made all those things possible? Who gave the natural ability to start with? Who gave the capable brain, the healthy body, the required personality traits? Who gave access to education or the favorable economy? Who gave the encouragement and fortitude to push forward?

Not one of us can conjure up these things out of thin air. Only God can do that. Only God can give life in the first place.

Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18)

Without God, we can do nothing. Without God, we would not even exist. Without God’s intervention, we would all be hopelessly lost, sinners condemned. Remembering this leaves no room for pride or vanity.

Let Us Pray

Father in heaven, for Jesus’ sake, keep us from the twin sins of pride and vanity by making us ever mindful of our true condition. The enemy would deceive us, encouraging us to think better of ourselves than we ought. But to you alone belongs all the glory, now and forever. Amen.

Let Us Praise

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. (The Common Doxology, 1674, Thomas Ken of Winchester College)

My Thoughts

Of the three devotionals that Shannon sent me to review, this one was my favorite, as it helped solidify a lesson I was learning recently. A family member called me out in a moment of pride and vanity, and to be honest, in my mind I was a bit put off by their assertion, and spent time trying to justify myself internally. This devotional reminded me that I need not be bragging about anything really-- and if I do brag, it needs to be about something or someONE worthy, as is mentioned in 2 Corinthians.

I like Shannon's format for her devotionals. They focus on different writings of Austen, and regardless of whether or not you have read her classic works, the devotionals still work well. I appreciate her interest in grounding her lessons in scripture, and while each devotional does have a supplicant prayer, I'm glad it also ends in a moment of praise.  So often we come to God with our "Wish Lists" of things we need (and we should offer our requests to him), but I think it's also important that we praise him for who he is as well.  These devotionals offer a nice balance.  Well done, Mrs. Winslow!

About the Author

Shannon Winslow claims she was minding her own business when an ordinary trip to Costco a dozen years ago changed her life. That was the day a copy of the ’95 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice fairly leapt off the shelf and into her oversized shopping cart. She has been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to begin writing her own stories a la Austen.

Winslow's 2011 debut novel, The Darcys of Pemberley, quickly become a best seller, praised for its authentic Austen style and faithfulness to the original characters. Seven more novels and a Jane Austen Devotional have since followed, with no end to her creative output in sight!

Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit Shannon at her website/blog:  Shannon Winslow’s “Jane Austen Says…” and follow her on Facebook.

Other Links


  1. I was glad to see a snippet of the devotional. Ah yes, Mary was a surprise, but then not really. :) Oh, how this one hits home. I'm eager to get my hands on this one. Thanks, Laura!

  2. Thanks for following the tour, Sophia, and for commenting along the way. Hope you have a copy of your own soon!



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