Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Good Friday Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross at Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Alpine

I spent Good Friday noon at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Alpine, gathering with at least a hundred Christians to walk The Ecumenical Biblical Stations of the Cross. This event is hosted by the Alpine Ministerial Association and  involves Catholics and Protestants walking the 14 Stations of the Cross, the pastors of the various churches taking turns at reading the Passion story from the Scriptures as we listen and look out between the ten-foot tall natural wood crosses to see Alpine nestled below us, gauzy in the noon glare.

One of the pastors from Alpine Community Church reads the Scriptures to the assembled "pilgrims"; umbrellas give some of the elderly a break from the heat of the noon sunshine.

As the 100+ pilgrims nudge forward to the next cross, Father Acker of Blessed Trinity, the Anglican Church where I've been attending Friday morning healing services for the past nine years, leads us, playing his acoustic guitar, in a chorus of "Were You There?" that is related to the Scripture just read.

The Biblical Readings: The Way of the Cross:

Opening Prayer: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that He might draw the whole world to Himself. Grant that we, who glory in this death for our salvation, may also glory in His call to take up our crosses and follow Him; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Station 1: Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives -- Matthew 22:39-45
Station 2: Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus -- Matthew 26:47-56
Station 3: Jesus Before the Council -- Mark 14:60-65
Station 4: "My Kingdom Is Not of this World" -- John 18:33-37
Station 5: Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified  -- Mark 15:6-15
Station 6: Jesus Delivered to Be Crucified -- John 19:2-6
Station 7: Jesus Bears the Cross -- John 19:14-17
Station 8: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross -- Mark 15:20-21
Station 9: Jesus Speaks to the Women -- Luke 23:27-31
Station 10: The Crucifixion -- Luke 23:32-38
Station 11: The Criminals Speak to Jesus -- Luke 23:39-43
Station 12: Jesus Speaks to Mary and John --John 19:25-27
Station 13: The Death of Jesus -- John 19:28-34
Station 14: Jesus Is Buried -- John 19:38-42

Guitar in hand, Father Acker of Blessed Trinity reads the Scripture for the Eighth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross (Mark 15:20-21)

Perspiration trickles down the back of my neck, and I try to shade my eyes with my folded program stating the Fourteen Stations and the Scriptures to be read at each Station. As we near the end, a kind woman tilts her umbrella to offer me some shade, a complete stranger serving another in this time of contemplation of Christ's suffering and sacrifice, His passion and death. As the final Scriptures are read, we turn away from the pastors, the view, and the unrelenting sunshine to leave in silence, pondering the magnitude of His sacrifice for each of us.

The Thirteenth Station: The Death of Jesus (John 19:28-34)

Psalm 30:5b: "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

Quotation for the week: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people, and hallelujah is our song.”

~Pope John Paul II

With joyous Easter blessings,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Journaling Workshop with Dean Nelson

Dr. Dean Nelson at the Writer's Symposium by the Sea
The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) Writers' Workshop presents an all-day writing workshop on Saturday, April 18 with Dr. Dean Nelson, founder of the Journalism Department at Point Loma Nazarene University and of the Writer's Symposium by the Sea. Author of eleven books and numerous magazine, journal, and newspaper articles, Dean knows that real, brave writing comes from deep within ourselves. 

With that in mind, we are thrilled to offer an exploratory workshop with Dean that will focus on:

Journaling: A Roadmap into Life

In the rush of busyness inherent in our technology-driven culture, we rarely have time to slow down, ponder, and consider our thoughts in the Light of faith. But when we put pen to paper--or fingers to keyboard--we rediscover our identity as thinking, creative beings. Dean Nelson, journalism professor and author of 11 books, will lead us in exploring a unique pathway to a fuller life which enables us to develop our creative, expressive, and vital selves through guided journaling exercises. Come explore the possibilities with us!  

This all-day workshop will start with registration at 8:30 AM in Expedition Hall at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. The workshop will begin at 9:00 AM and will end around 4:00 PM. Lunch will be provided in the dining hall of the conference center. 

Dean is my former creative writing professor and when I was teaching as an adjunct at PLNU, he kindly shared his office with me. Dean has been a mentor and a friend for over 25 years, and this venture will be his third writing workshop that he has done with the MECAC Writers' Workshop.  

The cost for this workshop is $30, including lunch. 

Please register with Susanne Barrett at Booklovingbunch@aol.com

For questions and further information, please contact Judith Dupree at adlib_pv@sbcglobal.net or Dianne Holly at holly@theaterdance.ucsb.edu

We hope to spend a most wonderful and enlightening day with you and Dean Nelson on Saturday, April 18

Susanne for the MECAC Writers' Workshop

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Deep in the Quiet Wood" of Life and Poetry

James Weldon Johnson, American Poet (1871-1938)

This month is a busy one. And I don't mean just "busy"; I mean crazy-busy, staying up until 3:00 AM nearly every night, working all weekend--that kind of busy. I adore teaching online literary analysis classes at Brave Writer, but the time and effort and brain invested in teaching a single work for a month to a group of 15 students who write six assignments a week...it's overwhelming and wonderful and amazing and exhausting. We're reading and discussing Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca this month, and it's all of these...and more. ;)

I have wonderful notes on attending the 20th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea which featured an interview with Joyce Carol Oates, but they still need to be typed up before I can share them. I also attended a wonderful session with Doug Brunk who graduated from PLNU with me and another local writer on getting our work published; I have notes for that session to type up, too.

But today, with at least ten hours of work before me, I can only pop in to share a gorgeous poem that greeted me this morning in my inbox, courtesy of The Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day e-mails. Weekday offerings present us with the newest contemporary poems while weekend e-mails include classic poems.

At PLNU, I did a huge research paper on the Harlem Renaissance, and my heart has been with these extraordinary poets and writers since I turned 21. So to see a poem by one of the foremost poets of that age in my box was a lovely surprise, and reading the poem refreshed my tired soul.


Deep in the Quiet Wood

James Weldon Johnson
Isn't this poem amazing! I leave it with you, and encouragement to
"catch, yet faint, elusive strains" of beauty this very day.

With warm thoughts of "heavenly peace/ And holy harmonies,"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent Beginneth!

As my daughter and I cook pancakes for dinner this Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Night as it's known in our household), I'm also preparing myself spiritually for the beginning of Lent.

Tomorrow evening I'll attend the Ash Wednesday Imposition of Ashes with the kind folks of Blessed Trinity Anglican as we meet together at the SCAIR Center in downtown El Cajon.

I have my Lenten fast decided and my Lenten additions ready. I don't usually tell either one publicly--only my family knows so that they can help keep me accountable.

As I continue with last Lent's addition of The One Year Book of Hymns to my Compline prayer time before bed each night, last night's hymn struck me, and I want to share it here as well as copy it into my Common Place Book (quotation journal) as it expresses many of the reasons why Lent is my favorite time of year:

Lenten Hymn
by Claudia Frances Hernaman (1838-1898)

Lord, who through these forty days
For us did fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins,
And close by Thee to stay.

As Thou with Satan didst contend
And didst the victory win,
O give us strength in Thee to fight,
In Thee to conquer sin.

As Thou didst hunger bear and thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live
By Thy most holy Word.

And through these days of penitence,
And through Thy Passiontide,
Yea, evermore, in life and death,
Jesus! with us abide.

Abide with us, that so this life
Of suffering overpast,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last!

The Scripture verses accompanying this hymn in this devotional is Mark 1:11-12 from The Living Bible: 

"Immediately the Holy Spirit urged Jesus into the desert. There, for forty days, alone except for desert animals, he was subjected to Satan's temptations to sin. And afterwards the angels came and cared for him." 

So Lent consists of the forty days before the Resurrection, not including Sundays (which are always a celebration of the Resurrection) and thus Lent parallels the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before starting his earthly ministry.

Lent prepares our hearts for the joy of Easter--the celebration of the Resurrection of our Living and Loving Lord. How can we truly celebrate without suffering just a little first? Through fasting and prayer, we draw closer to the heart of Him who loved us first.

Can we fast and pray at any time? Sure. But do we? Not enough--or at least, I know that I don't fast and pray enough. Lent reminds me to do so, to allow the Holy Spirit into the dark corners of my soul and do a spiritual "spring cleaning" and show me my sin so that I may confess it and be cleansed.

To read more about Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent you may read my post On Lent using this hyperlink or by going to the "On Lent" page beneath my blog header.

I wish you all a Holy and Blessed Lent as we all draw closer to our Lord and King!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Grammar Goes...Poetry Pops (In)

On Friday I finished teaching my first Brave Writer online course of 2015...which happened to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Brave Writer! The Groovy Grammar Workshop is the only course I teach that I didn't write myself; it's Julie's brilliant brain child. Grammar rules drilled into us since third grade melt away while we learn to play with words and create nonsense words--and even a nonsense poem! Grammar, after all, is about writing clearly and powerfully, and that philosophy underlies Julie's "topsy-turvy" approach to the grammar monster hiding under our school tables. If we learn to play with language, to experiment with strange word combinations, then we will learn to write more effectively...and with a panache that brings out the wordsmith in us all.

So Monday marks the beginning of the next phase of playing with the power of words: The Playing with Poetry Workshop.  I have been pleasantly surprised that this is my third course in a row to fill up and be closed before the class begins; the same happened with the MLA Research Essay class and Groovy Grammar. This closing of classes has never happened in my nearly thirteen years with Brave Writer, so I'm very pleased and blessed to have full classes. In this poetry workshop, we'll be writing all kinds of poems: the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka, shape and visual poems, traditional stanzas, and lots of "found" poems. Again, the emphasis is to experiment with the power of language, to have fun playing with words and phrases, exploring the musicality of words (even approaching song lyrics as poetry!), and simply enjoying the unbounded creativity inherent in each of us.

This class is especially fun because the moms (and quite often the dads, too) write their own poems along with their kids, so poetry becomes a true family activity. We advise that at the end of the workshop, the favorite poems be gathered, editing, and published in a family anthology of verse. What a memorable way to finish the course!

Last year, an eight-year-old student in our Playing with Poetry Workshop (with the help of her mother, of course) published an illustrated book for kids on writing poetry. Here's the link to Cassidy's book on Amazon: Roller Coaster: A Kid's Guide on How to Write Poetry. Isn't that amazing??!!

So as Playing with Poetry Workshop begins tomorrow, I thought I'd share my favorite poem with all of you. Despite my adoration for 19th century British literature, my two favorite poets are Americans, and my favorite poet is even from the 20th century. The brilliant e.e. cummings (1894-1962), both artist and poet, saw the world in a way that emphasizes the beauty in the ordinary. Each spring my mind quotes "[in Just-]-" as I work the winter soil in preparation for summer flowers and summer trips to the beach bring to mind "maggie and milly and molly and may." But this strange poem that I first encountered in my high school sophomore English class has been and probably always will be my favorite:

Flowers and Hat: Patchen Place by e.e. cummings (c. 1950)

[anyone lived in a pretty how town]
by e.e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


(For a printable copy and to listen to cummings read the poem, check this link:
"[anyone lived in a pretty how town]" --The Poetry Foundation)

So wishing you all as joyous a month [of poetry] as I will be enjoying!!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Vintage" by Amy Lowell

One of the delights of my mornings is reading the "Poem-a-Day" e-mails from the Academy of American Poets

The weekday poems are contemporary--poems usually published within the past year. Reading these "cutting edge" poems helps to keep me current in the styles and content of the poems of our time.

The weekend poems, however, are classic poems by poets from Chaucer to Dylan Thomas and everyone in between. Because my taste for poetry is firmly fixed in the 19th century with rare forays into the early 20th century (namely e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, etc.), I delight in these poems, greeting them as old friends.

Often while the poets are familiar, the poems posted are not. Rarely do the weekend offerings include well-known poems; rather, the poems are often as new to me as anything by today's poets.

Such is the case with "Vintage" by Amy Lowell. I don't know a great deal about Lowell except for name recognition from literature classes in 20th century poetry and that she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, but I really enjoyed the powerful imagery in this poem and thought I'd share it with you this morning:


Amy Lowell1874 - 1925
I will mix me a drink of stars,—
Large stars with polychrome needles,
Small stars jetting maroon and crimson,
Cool, quiet, green stars.
I will tear them out of the sky,
And squeeze them over an old silver cup,
And I will pour the cold scorn of my Beloved into it,
So that my drink shall be bubbled with ice.
It will lap and scratch
As I swallow it down;
And I shall feel it as a serpent of fire,
Coiling and twisting in my belly.
His snortings will rise to my head,
And I shall be hot, and laugh,
Forgetting that I have ever known a woman.

I wish you all a lovely week! 
With warm poetic wishes,

Monday, January 5, 2015

Twelfth Night

Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Although our school schedule states that we are starting back into our homeschooling today, I made this day very light: B is doing math only in order to stay current with his tutor's schedule, and J is reviewing his Russian from last semester in preparation for returning to Grossmont Community College for the second semester Russian class...plus an algebra class.

I am responding to the Welcome and Introductions posts for my new Brave Writer class that begins today: the Groovy Grammar Workshop which is full to capacity with 25 families and I have several more Definition essays to grade for the Expository Essay class I teach at our homeschool program's co-op Class Days. My students are juniors and seniors and are very hard workers, so I really enjoy their thoughts about the abstract terms they are attempting to define.

But tonight we'll trundle down to the vicarage and enjoy the "Burning of the Greens" as part of the Twelfth Night festivities with Blessed Trinity, a conservative Anglican church that we have been attending on Friday mornings and on Holy Days since 2006. After Evensong, we'll enjoy sherry and treats as well as each other's company as we say farewell to Christmastide and welcome Epiphany.

As I was praying through one of my devotionals last night, The One Year Book of Hymns, I came across a hymn that was more of a poem and knew immediately that I wanted to share it here. The title and refrain were familiar to me because Thomas Howard used it as a title for one of his books that has long been on my "to read some day" list.  

Lead, Kindly Light!
Lead, kindly Light! amid th' encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on;
Keep Thou my feet: I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on;
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years.

So long Thy pow'r has blessed me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

~John Henry, Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)

The story that accompanies the hymn tells of Newman returning from a trip to Catholic leaders in Italy. On the way, he contracted Sicilian fever and boarded a ship bound home to England. But the ship remained in the Mediterranean Sea, a lack of wind and dense fog keeping them motionless. Restless and ill, Newman wrote this hymn. Finally, the ship's captain pointed heavenward and said, "The star is shining tonight. If a wind rises, we can chart our course. At night one little star is sufficient." Newman took these words as divine assurance. Later he wrote that he had been searching for dazzling sunlight to be his guide, "but He sent me the kindly light of a star to show me the way one step at a time."

The Scripture included with this hymn and story is Revelation 7.15-17, TLB: 

"The one sitting on the throne will shelter them; they will never be hungry again, nor thirsty, and they will be fully protected from the scorching noontime heat. For the Lamb standing in front of the throne will feed them and be their Shepherd and lead them to springs of the Water of Life. And God will wipe their tears away."  

So as Christmastide wanes and Epiphany comes, and as we start a New Year in God's grace, may we keep in mind that His "kindly Light" will indeed lead us, often one step at a time. But that one step is sufficient if we trust in the One who kindly leads us along His pathways. 

Merry 12th Day of Christmas!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Films I Watched in 2014

Just as I track the books I read each year, I also jot down the films I watch each year. Here's my list for 2014:

films i've seen in 2014:

  • A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1980 Made for TV)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1989 Masterpiece Theater)
  • A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014 in theatres)
  • Captain America (2011)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014-in theatres)
  • Captain Blood (1935)
  • Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
  • Frozen (2013)
  • Ghost Adventures (2007)
  • Great Expectations (2012)
  • Hamlet (Tennant, 2009)
  • Holiday (1938)
  • Jane Eyre (1999)
  • Jane Eyre (2010)
  • Lincoln (2012)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • Monkey Business (1952)
  • Murder on the Home Front (2013)
  • Peter's Friends (1992)
  • Red Dawn (2012)
  • Sense and Sensibility (2008)
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
  • Tangled (2010)
  • That's Dancing (1985)
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2013)
  • The Monuments Men (2014)
  • The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Just as with the books I read during the year, I also track the films I watch in the sidebar of this blog.

Happy watching!

Books I Read in 2014

For the past fourteen years, I've tracked the books I've read each year, and here is this year's list which includes a great deal of Austen fan fiction:

books i've read in 2014:
·  A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell (2008)
·  A Plain Death (#1) by Amanda Flower (2012)
·  A Plain Scandal (#2) by Amanda Flower (2013)
·  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
·  Almost Matched (#1) by A.O. Peart (2013)
·  An Age of Extremes (A History of US Book 8) by Joy Hakim (2003)
·  Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke (2010)
·  Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (2013)
·  Death on Blackheath by Anne Perry (Pitt #29) (2014)
·  Dorchester Terrace by Anne Perry (2012)
·  Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly (2012)
·  Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson (2009)
·  Feint Art by Hailey Lind (2006)
·  Impulse & Initiative by Abigail Reynolds (2008)
·  Innocence by Elise deSallier (2013)
·  Midnight at Marble Arch by Anne Perry (2013)
·  Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale (2012)
·  Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly (2012)
·  Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds (2010)
·  North by Northanger (#3) by Carrie Bebris (2006)
·  Passion and Propriety by Elise deSallier (2014)
·  Pride and Prescience (#1) by Carrie Bebris (2004) (re-read)
·  Protection by Elise deSallier (2014)
·  Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers (1930)
·  Suspense and Sensibility (#2) by Carrie Bebris (2005) (re-read)
·  The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History by A. Kenneth Curtis 
· The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh (2010)
· The Book Stops Here (Bibliophile Mystery #8) by Kate Carlisle (2014)
· The Deception at Lyme (#6) by Carrie Bebris (2011)
· The Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie (1949) (re-read)
· The Executive's Decision by Bernadette Marie (2011)
· The Intrigue at Highbury (#5) by Carrie Bebris (2010)
· The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke (2006) (re-read)
· The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice by Abigail Reynolds (2010)
· The Matters at Mansfield (#4) by Carrie Bebris (2008)
· The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain (1882)
· The Tidings (A Ghost Huntess novella) by Marley Gibson (2012)
· The Truth in Lies by Jeanne McDonald (2013)
· The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler (2008)
· Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh (1998)
· Treason at Lisson Grove by Anne Perry (2012) (re-read)
· Twelfth Night at Longbourn by Maria Grace (2013)
· Waiting for Rachel by KR Jordan (2013)
· War, Peace, and All That Jazz (A History of US Book 9) by Joy Hakim (2003)
· What Would Mr. Darcy Do? by Abigail Reynolds (2011)
· Wholly Unconnected with Me by Maria Grace (2014)
· You Had Me at Merlot by Marley Gibson (2014)

So as my goal for 2014 was to read 50 novels, I made it to 47 which isn't too awfully terrible considering how crazy-busy my year has been. 

2015? Let's try to read 50 again. Any takers? My running total will be in the sidebar of my blog throughout the year, as usual. 

Happy reading!


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