Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reformation Day 2007

It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I come to Reformation Day each year. Much debate swirls about regarding Martin Luther's motivations in posting his 95 theses on that famous church door in Wittenburg, and whether one sees Luther as the Father of Protestantism or as a heretic of the true faith, the results of his actions are undeniable. (I see him as misguided and somewhat of a rabble-rouser; the Church undeniably needed reform, but others were working quietly, respectfully, and effectively from within the Church and would have accomplished much of the same ends as the Council of Trent, but that's only my opinion....)

Back to the results of Luther's action: I have no idea how many denominations currently exist within the Protestant church, but if I can't even keep track of how many different kinds of Baptists there are, much less the other denominations, there's something dreadfully wrong going on. However pure (or not) Luther's motives may have been, I do not think he would have or could have foreseen the repercussions of his actions that now separate Christians into so many different denominations. I sincerely hope that he would be shocked and displeased with how far other "reformers" after him took his ideas much farther than he himself had advocated, and how the idea of separation has ballooned within Protestantism.

We Protestants seem to agree on so little. Infant or believer baptism? Symbolic or Real Presence in Communion? Hymns or praise songs? Liberal or fundamental? Sanctuaries or auditoriums? Priests or pastors? Women priests or pastors? Crucifixes or crosses? Liturgy or free-form? Sola Scriptura or influences of tradition? Organs or guitars? Pews or chairs? The color of the carpet in the narthex???? And then we have the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox traditions to disagree with as well. All of the disunity, infighting, and accusations of "not being a Christian" or "not being saved" paints a very sad picture of Christianity to a world that needs Him so desperately. Where is our witness of "loving one another as Christ loves us"? I agree that we should never, ever compromise the Truths of the Christian Faith as found in the Apostle's or Nicene Creeds, but the other minor (in my opinion) issues should not remain an obstacle to an effective Christian witness to a hurting and needy world.

God has placed the unity of His church on my heart in a very tangible way. He calls me to pray about it daily and to share it with others often. I am grieved by the splintering of the Christian faith, and I think that our Heavenly Father is as well. A few posts below this one I pasted a great article by the InternetMonk (a post-modern Protestant) about the Reformation, and my Catholic friend RNW does not disappoint in her blog post on Reformation 2007 either, as she calls us to pray for unity in the Bride of Christ and that God will reunite His Church before the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting of the theses in 2017. Although it seems absolutely, utterly, completely impossible and unlikely that the complete reunification of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches could happen in a mere ten years, how likely was it for a poor Jewish girl to give birth to the Saviour of the World? After all, "with God, all things are possible."

So I ask you to consider what you (yes, you!) can do to promote unity within the church, or to even consider and perhaps begin to desire the unity of Christ's Church. RNW has some great ideas for Catholics in her article linked in the above paragraph, and to her suggestions I add two prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer regarding the health and the unity of Jesus' Church. As Christ Himself gave us the example of praying for the unity of His followers in John 17, so should we also follow His example and pray to God for the unity of His Church:

O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church, that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Praying" to the Saints

I've discussed this idea here before, but a Catholic e-pal of mine posted a blog entry that really took the idea of praying to the saints down to the nuts and bolts. I was going to link it, but didn't know how to link to ONLY this entry because I didn't want it to get lost as she wrote additional entries.

So many thanks, RNW, for distilling this issue down to its essence:



Middle English, from Anglo-French prier, praer, preier, from Latin precari, from prec-, prex request, prayer; akin to Old High German frāga question, frāgēn to ask, Sanskrit pṛcchati he asks

transitive verb 1 : entreat, implore —often used as a function word in introducing a question, request, or plea 2 : to get or bring by praying intransitive verb 1 : to make a request in a humble manner 2 : to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving

I have have been discussing, or rather mostly watching a discussion of Catholics and Saints lately. And I would like very much to answer a few questions...or perhaps set the record straight.

When a Catholic says "praying to St. [Really Holy Person], what they they really mean is (or should mean) "I am asking St. [Really Holy Person] to pray with me and for me. Notice the 'and' there; it's important. We are asking the Saint to pray in communion with us. It's that first definition that Catholics have in mind when they speak of praying to a Saint. There is no adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving that is due to God that is given to a Saint.

We do not think that the Saint is divine.

The Saint is NOT a mediator.

The Saint is an intercessor. Just like your Aunt Sally is an intercessor when you ask her to pray for you or when your Aunt Sally asks you to pray for her. If your Aunt Sally told you that she was having difficulties and asked you to pray for her, would you answer "You should go right to God!! Don't be asking me to pray for you." You are not a mediator for Aunt Sally, nor is she one for are INTERCESSORS, so please stop quoting me the verse about "one mediator between God and man." Believe it or not, I know that one.

And I've covered this before but Saints are not dead either. They are alive in heaven. When you [general non-Catholic you, not necessarily you specifically] tell me that the reason I should not ask Saints for pray is because they are dead, what you are really saying to me is that you don't believe in a life in heaven after we die. To me that seems a staggering denial of the Resurrection of Jesus....just a thought.

And Catholics, you could help our non-Catholic brothers and sisters by simply saying, "I asked St. [Really Holy Person] to pray with me."


If you would like to read more thoughts on Catholicism written by a convert from evangelical Protestantism, see the Catholic Postscripts link under "Blogs of Interest" in the sidebar; it's down a little ways. RNW is expert at explaining doctrine in a way that's profound yet has a funny bone, too.

Monday, October 29, 2007

In Honor of Reformation Day....

This wonderful post from the Internet Monk has much to say about the Reformation and the Reformers, almost all of which I subscribe to. I found this link on Carrie's blog, and I've become quite a fan of this blog. It's very thought-provoking, even when I don' agree with him -- or especially when I don't agree. It's that whole iron-sharpening-iron thingymajig.

You may read the Reformation article right here.

Peace to you, this Reformation week and evermore....

The Pilgrim Pathway

I read most of Annie Dillard's brilliant and poetic work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, over the weekend. It's a dense read, beautifully detailed in her observations of nature and metaphysical in outlook. As I read it, carried on by the sublime language, I began to consider the title of the book. What is a pilgrim, and why would one go on a pilgrimage?

I looked up "pilgrim" in my three-volume unabridged Webster's and discovered that the word "pilgrim" is derived from the Middle English and Old French words for "foreigner," "abroad," and "far afield." "Pilgrim" can be defined in the following ways:

1. one who journeys, especially in alien lands; a traveler, wayfarer.
2. a person who passes through life as in exile from a heavenly homeland or in search of it or of some high goal (such as truth, etc.).
3. one who travels to visit a shrine or holy place as a devotee
4. one who is new or strange in a particular locality

Then from Wikipedia -- "pilgrim":
"A pilgrim is one who undertakes a religious pilgrimage, literally 'far afield.' Thi is traditionally to visit a place of some religious significance; often a considerable distance is traveled."

And also from Wikipedia -- "pilgrimage":
"In religion and spirituality, a pilgrimage is a long journey or search of great moral significance. Sometimes, it is a journey to a sacred place or shrine of importance to a person's beliefs and faith."

When I think of the words "pilgrim" and "pilgrimage," Chaucer's Canterbury Tales immediately came to mind. Chaucer died in the year 1400, leaving his masterwork far from finished, yet the idea of pilgrimage provides the frame for the various tales. The pilgrims, of all backgrounds and character, are traveling to Canterbury Cathedral where St. Thomas a'Becket was assassinated in 1170, on King Henry II's apparent orders. In the famous General Prologue to the tales, Chaucer informs us that when spring comes, "Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages." ("Pilgrimages" in Middle English is pronounced "pill-gri-mah-jez.")

Okay, back to Tinker Creek. Dillard spent over a year on the banks of the creek, living close to nature and observing insects and animals with a scientific eye and a poetic heart. She tells of sitting for hours, waiting for muskrats to appear so she could observe them. She spent most of her days out-of-doors, determined to live well and, to quote Thoreau, "suck all the marrow out of life" after a serious bout with pneumonia made her realize that she had not been living a life of meaning. She started keeping journals as she observed nature close-up, and when she accumulated over twenty journals, she began to transcribe the journal entries onto note cards. Over an eight-month period, she transformed the notecards into the 260-page book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction. Only 29 years old, Dillard was not happy with the fame that came with a successful and award-winning book and retreated from society for a while; she later returned to Connecticut and took up teaching.

The main theme in Tinker Creek is the search for God as deity is revealed in nature. Dillard asks the old question: "Can I trust a Being who created this nature that is both beautiful and cruel?" She ponders the question thoughfully, metaphysically, poetically, even transcendentally, through the details of the natural world she observes in her own backyard. I'll post some quotes in a separate post as it's getting quite late tonight, but I find her writing gorgeous, entrancing, and extremely thought-provoking and honest. It richly deserves the accolades given it -- especially when experiencing the work of a relatively young writer.

Dillard's work is rich in quotations from Van Gogh, Einstein, Thoreau, Emerson, Da Vinci, and many scientists -- she is an extremely well-educated person who draws on our uniquely American experience to enrich her writing and our reading of it. Her writing is also entwined with Scripture -- an allusion here, a story there, a quotation over there. Not only is she familiar with the Word of God, but she also is well-versed in theology, mystical Christian writers (she quotes Julian of Norwich, my personal favorite), liturgical elements, and true worship. At this point in her life, she had rejected her parents' Presbyterian faith which mainly consisted of social and business contacts rather than a real relationship with the Creator. In an article I read about her, Dillard refers to herself as "spiritually promiscuous" in her twenties, and this work is sprinkled with references to Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even the spiritual practices of the Eskimos are referenced multiple times. In reading about Dillard, after much searching and asking the hard, honest questions of a seeker, a true pilgrim, she rediscovered Christian faith and taught for many years at Wesleyan University. Recently she converted to Catholicism, which I can absolutely understand after reading about her love for rich worship and ancient practice.

I feel as though we all are pilgrims in one way or another. We who are of the Christian faith are also pilgrims, for though we have discovered faith in Christ, now we must walk in it. And walking this path, this path that has been trod for two thousand years by prophets, saints, martyrs, and ordinary "Joes," with its road markings and danger signs, is an amazing journey that leads us closer and closer to the God of Creation and His Beloved Son, Christ Jesus our Lord.

I'll post more quotes from Tinker Creek when I have time -- in the next day or so. My remarks are so flat and trite compared to the sublimity of her language and poetic phrasings. Aaaaah, to be a poet, an essayist, a novelist, and a writer of non-fiction, memoirs, and theology! What can't this woman write and write well?????

(Please ignore any and all professional jealousy here, especially regarding receiving the Pulitzer at the tender age of 29....)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What's Going On ...

The smoke has faded from our valley up here in the mountains. We got some lungfuls of smoke yesterday when we ventured down into San Diego for the first time since the fires began last Sunday afternoon. But today clouds came into our town, rather than smoke.

Both families from Lake Murray who have been evacuated since Monday mornings are being allowed home last this afternoon. One family has been staying with family while the other stayed at Steele Canyon HIgh School's evacuation center which closed this afternoon as the last evacuees went back to their homes. We pray that there will be no damage at the Valleses' and Lehnerts' homes when they finally get back; they will also be without electricity, water, phones, or cell service for who knows how long once they survey any possible damage to their properties and homes. We'll find out tomorrow how they fared when we see them at church.

Today I've been curled up in my reading chair, finishing Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for tomorrow's Logos meeting at the Belseys' home after church where we will discuss it with a good-sized group. I hope. It's dense reading but sooooooo beautiful; I am in awe of her every sentence. This work won the Pulitzer for non-fiction in 1975, and her craftsmanship is impeccable. I'll write a little more about the idea of "pilgrims" and "pilgrimages" that I've prepared for tomorrow's discussion.

Blessings to you all from a VERY BUSY San Diego County. It's been a frightening, worrisome, sad, and smoky week here in the county surrounding "America's Finest City." We "mourn with those who mourn [lost their homes and businesses] and rejoice with those who rejoice [whose homes were saved]," and pray for all this week. And God bless the thousands of firefighters who saved so many homes this week in San Diego and its outlying areas.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Fire Update

Cough, cough. Cough cough cough cough cough. Cough.

Yep, the smoke that's been plaguing the whole of San Diego County except for the eastern mountain communities has arrived to give us headaches, make our eyes burn, and make us cough. Cough, cough.

The fires area mainly under control. It was safe enough for President Bush to visit North County today, and only a couple areas are being evacuated while the vast majority of evacuees are returning home. Some people are so anxious to get home that they actually ran past a Highway Patrol blockade to try to get home to Ramona. The CHP rounded up the eighty or so cars that tried to get past the checkpoint.

Anyway, the fires are slowly edging in our direction with the change in the winds, but the fire line is still about ten to twelve miles away from our little valley. But the gift of smoke is definitely here. And I certainly wish it were not, especially since T is asthmatic. But we've had so little to suffer compared to so many thousands of others who have been evacuated or who have lost their homes, so I guess we can't complain too much....

Cough. Cough, cough.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire Update

I spent a good deal of my day answering the phone (calls from Cheryl in South Dakota, Vera from New York, Pastor Bob and administrative assistant Veneta from Lake Murray, Mindy from Class Day, plus answering all kinds of e-mails from others wanting to know how we are. We're doing just fine -- no flames in sight yet. We're much more concerned for our friends who have lost their homes, don't know yet if they've lost their homes, or are still evacuated. Our power here at home has stayed on for well over 36 hours straight, so we're quite pleased about that change after losing power eight or nine times since Sunday.

The Santa Ana winds have diminished today -- they're not gone yet, but the winds have decreased and humidity has increased which is very good news for the firefighters. Very few fires burned new area today, and most are now 10-15% contained, with full containment expected by October 31-November 4. New evacuation warnings (not orders, just warnings to get ready in case) have been given out for Lake Morena and Campo which are to the south and east of us. Right now the Harris Fire is moving in our direction, about six miles to the east of us, although I don't know how far south. It's moving in a slow northeasterly direction. I saw on the news tonight that one resident of our town called in and said that he could see flames just south of Interstate 8, (out town is half a mile north of the freeway) so the fire is definitely getting closer. It would have to jump Interstate 8 to get to us, which would be difficult unless the southwest winds really pick up, which they may do over the next few days.

I still don't know the fate of Carmen and Jeff's home in Escondido just north of Via Rancho Parkway, or the fate of the homes of two church families in Jamul where the fires have been at their worst today, burning exactly in their area. Kevin, Renee, Dad, and the cousins are all fine, and their homes in Rancho Barona, just south of the San Diego Country Estates in Ramona are safe, but Ramona is still under mandatory evacuation and also has no clean tap water; all water needs to be boiled before consumption. Julian is still in great danger with no power, no phones, and the fire closing in on two sides of the historic mining town. I stopped by my PV friend Judith's place today, and they got most of their felled cottonwoods cleaned up and are grateful to only have slight damage to their garage after the 100 mph winds that blew through here on Sunday and Monday.

150,000 people have been allowed home, but there are still at least 400,000 people still evacuated. Everything is going fine at Qualcomm and other evacuation sites with tons of food, volunteers, bands coming by to play music and entertain the crowds, and dignitaries all over the place. Governor Arnold was back in Jamul tonight, and President Bush is to tour the area tomorrow.

For the first time this afternoon, we could see a bit of smoke from our front porch -- just the very top of a huge smoke cloud as we look west. That's how the Cedar Fire started getting dangerous for us four years ago, but the danger is still quite distant for us, unless big changes happen. If (and that's a huge IF) we have to evacuate, we should get plenty of notice.

So we're still fine, but as the winds make a big change over the next few days as a cold front comes in, we could end up in a bit of a pinch. Will keep you posted....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wildfires 2007

560,000 people evacuated in San Diego County -- it's unbelievable.

We're still fine -- no smoke at all. Blue skies. Just very windy. Even driving to the library to drop off books before dinner, I felt my Corolla being pushed about on the main street -- I was only going 30 mph. I think the winds were going faster.

Our dear family friends, Dan and Francie Barrios, lost their home yesterday; they found out this morning. I've known them since I was eight years old, and they are aunt and uncle to our kids. Francie had awakened at 4 AM, coughing from the smoke. When they saw how close the fire was, Dan ran from door to door, waking the neighbors. Dan and Francie only had time to grab Francie's jewelry, a change of clothing, and drove off in their two vehicles. Whew.

I heard from one of my friends in Escondido who evacuated safely and found out that their home just escaped. Right now there's a huge battle outside the gates of the division where our good friends, the Cox family, own their home that overlooks Lake Hodges. The firefighters are trying to hold the line at Via Rancho Parkway and not allow the fire into the gated subdivision; we can only pray they succeed.

All schools and universities are closed for the week, and I received word that Class Day is canceled for Thursday. I'm debating about e-mailing the new assignments out to my students rather than missing two weeks of assignments. We'll see....

Anyway, we remain fine. Keith's dad and brother and family are all fine -- the little ones are getting stir-crazy but they're all safe, as is their home thus far. Six people have died, and 1500-2000 homes have burned. And I still can't believe that 560,000 people have been evacuated. Wow.....

More to Come...

Last night the power went out once again just after 10 PM, just after I posted the update about the fire below. At 4 AM I woke to hear the TV blaring from downstairs and as I went down to turn it off, I found myself mesmerized. Mount Miguel in Spring Valley was burning -- and the NBC affiliate's view cam on top of the mountain filmed the fire coming right up the side of the mountain, then exploded as the fire consumed the camera.

We're now getting crosswinds -- in the eastern part of the county (where we live) the winds are still gusting up to 50 mph, but along the coast, the winds are beginning to change and turn onshore, which if the winds DO change that direction, we could eventually be in trouble as that's what happened during the Cedar Fire in 2003.

Currently there are more people displaced by these fires than were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, the thousands who stayed overnight at Qualcomm stadium were peaceful, even in a good mood. I'm sure that the National Guard troops staying there helped, as did the thousands of volunteers. Governor Arnold has been here since yesterday afternoon; he visited the evacuees at Qualcomm and also the ones at the Del Mar fairgrounds where he managed to get the elderly at the fairgrounds into Balboa Hospital (the local Navy hospital). Unlike the last devatstating fires in 2003, the county, city, state, and federal governments are all working together beautifully. I guess we learned our lesson in 2003, and everything has gone very smoothly.

It's just so strange that the fires are heading all the way to the Pacific. I'm listening to additional mandatory evacuations for Del Mar and Solana Beach as I type. The media has been so helpful in getting information out. Interstate 15 is open this morning, but Interstate 5 may close down as the fire approaches the beach cities. The Cedar Fire of 2003 jumped I-15 but didn't get close to I-5; these fires are quite different.

I received an e-mail from Father Acker of Alpine Anglican last night and another this morning. After packing up their things just in case (Alpine got burned TWICE in the 2003 fires), Father went out to the Campo Community Center, the furthest eastward evacuation point, where he was able to comfort the neighbors of the man who died in the fire near Tecate. Father has been trained as a Sheriff's chaplain, and he's out there on the front lines of evacuation, volunteering and helping those who can't go home and those who have lost their homes.

Right now Spring Valley is being evacuated, and several people from church live there and are probably being evacuated last night and this morning. The voluntary evacuations for Crest, Harbison Canyon, and west Alpine are now mandatory -- if that part of the fire turns eastward, we could be in danger. But right now we're safe, and the fire in Descanso nearest us is fully contained.

The winds are still howling around the house and probably will do so for most of the day, and the power will probably still go of and on throughout the day and night. The humidity in downtown San Diego is 9%, and up here it's about 4%. It's so dry and will be even hotter today, even though the winds are letting up slightly. Please keep on praying for our firefighters, police officers, media, and volunteers in your prayers. It's still a very volatile situation for all of San Diego County.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Scary Day ... and More to Come

The first frisson of fear struck me as we drove home from church yesterday. I found it difficult to keep the minivan in its own lane as the high winds shoved us about; I was forced to grip the steering wheel off-center in order to keep us traveling straight. The winds were so strong that I decided it would be prudent to exit the freeway five miles before we usually do in order to drive the final leg of the journey home on the back roads where the winds aren't nearly as troublesome. As I exited the freeway and rolled to a stop before turning onto Highway 79, I glanced left, then right, and as I looked right, I saw grayish brown clouds directly south -- a fire that appeared to be burning near the Mexican border. Fear gripped me for a moment as I considered the high winds -- this fire could definitely turn out to be trouble. Big trouble.

The winds were howling across our town all afternoon. Our apple tree, which was fully leaved before we left for church, was nearly bare by evening, and I think all the leaves tumbled across the meadow and blew up against the post office. My friend Margo called from Lake Morena, further east than we are, asking if we were doing all right with the winds and sharing the news that Judith had some damage on her back deck due to a falling tree. The wind continued shrieking around the corners of our house, shaking the windows so much that I jumped off the bed twice during my nap, positive that the glass was going to shatter. Then after dinner we noticed those little news lines running across the bottom of the TV screen: in addition to the small towns near the Mexican border, the entire town of Ramona, population 36,000 and thirty miles northward, was under mandatory evacuation orders. I was soon calling my parents in Hawaii to give them the news, and somehow resisted calling Keith's brother, Kevin, Kevin's wife, and their five children as well as Keith's dad who lives next door to them, all of whom live south of Ramona. I watched the TV news until after 1:00 AM when I finally headed to bed. Between the power outages throughout the night and the wind rattling the windows as well as screaming across the roof, I didn't sleep much. Although the power remained off from 1:30 to around 5:00 AM, it went off and came back on several times between 5:00 and 7:00 AM; each time the power was restored, my green digital clock flashed the time on my weary eyelids until I rolled out of bed and reset it. (Once I missed the reset buttons in the dark and turned on the radio, to Keith's great annoyance.)

I immediately fell back to sleep after turning off the alarm and didn't crawl out of bed until nearly 9 AM, and then promptly at 9:30, the power went out once again and remained out until nearly 2 PM. During that time I had no TV source of news and no Internet, so J brought out his battery-powered boombox, and we tuned it to 600 AM, KOGO, which carried up-to-date news that I listened to between homeschool lessons. Even though every school in the county was off school, we continued our lessons because it kept us distracted from all that was happening. I found out from Keith's dad and his sister Karen that all of the family were able to evacuate safely from Ramona by midnight last night.

Once the power (and thus the TV and Internet) was restored in the afternoon, we tracked the many, many evacuations throughout the county, from Ramona to Solana Beach, from the Mexican border in the south to Fallbrook (on the county line) in the north. The eight fires in San Diego County appear to be even more dangerous and destructive than the Cedar Fires of 2003 which was the largest fire in California history, until today. Fire swept through the communities of Ramona, Poway, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Lakeside, Escondido, San Pasqual Valley, San Marcos, Valley Center, Fallbrook, Potrero, Barrett Junction, Jamul, Dulzura, Descanso, and other parts of the county. And many other communities are in danger: Solana Beach, Del Mar, Alpine, Harbison Canyon, Sorrento Valley, Crest, and others.

The winds continue to gust to 70 mph, and they are not predicted to slow until Wednesday. The temperatures in the inland valleys are running between 90 and 100 degrees, and in some places, the humidity was down to 1% this afternoon. These conditions are perfect, unfortunately, for a firestorm of almost epic proportions. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated (probably more), and there is no count of how many homes have been lost. So far there's been one death and twenty-some injuries, including several firefighters who are in critical condition in burn units. And one hospital (Pomerado) has been evacuated.

Interstate 15 has been closed in both directions, and as the fire drives closer to the coast, Interstate 5 may close soon, too, and if that happens, then there will be no way to travel north remaining to San Diegans. Interstate 8, the east-west freeway, is closed to high-profile vehicles because of the high winds, but that could change to include all vehicles, depending on where the fire travels overnight and tomorrow.

The main evacuation center is Qualcomm Stadium, and the Red Cross has set up other centers in high schools all over the county. Large animals are being kept everywhere from the Lakeside rodeo grounds to the Del Mar fairgrounds to Fiesta Island near Sea World. Tomorrow all schools in the county will be closed, including public and private universities, and we've been asked to stay off the roads if at all possible. Keith went to work today, but he may not go tomorrow, depending on the fire danger.

Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter, and the winds could grow even stronger before the Santa Ana begins to fade on Wednesday (if it obeys the weather forecast). We're planning on staying home tomorrow, keeping track of the news, and praying lots for the people who have lost homes and for the winds to die down so that the firefighters can begin to get the upper hand on the flames. With twelve fires burning from Santa Barbara southward, the fighting capability on these fires is extremely limited. We're perfectly safe for now -- there's not even any smoke to be seen from our town. But that's how the Cedar Fire began in 2003, and we were evacuated later in the week after the winds changed. Obviously, we hope that history will not repreat itself.

As I prayed last night on my photo blog, I will pray again tonight:

Lord, have mercy on us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Intriguing Thought on "Turning the Other Cheek"

As I was reading over my several daily digests (all the posts from a single day in a single loooong e-mail) from the Catholic Spitfire Yahoo Group (which are quite lengthy and complex, requiring much time and thought to "digest"), I ran across this post from Eric, who just joined the group in the last few days:

I once read where the "turning the other cheek" was based on the
Oppressor (Romans in this case) back handing the oppressed. The
oppressed were expected to cower in submission; however, Jesus
saying, "turn the other cheek," was intended to invite another hit,
but with the open palm of the Oppressor. This was unacceptable as it would've put the Oppressed on equal footing (socially) with the
Oppressor. Only Equals, in Roman eyes, deserved to be struck with an open palm.

The idea of "turning the other cheek" comes from Scripture, specifically from Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:24]: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other one also. (The fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, the 38th and 39th verses)

I had always understood the above verses as restraining our natural impulse to strike back when we are stricken, but that we are rather to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). But I rather like the idea also that Eric expressed which looks at the social practices of the time of Christ. I still believe that we are to indeed not take any opportunity of revenge in the least but instead by acting contrary to the ordinary impulses of human nature, to demonstrate that we are born of the Spirit and thus are different from those who would give into their desire for "right."

I don't say the above to seem "superior" or "better than" those who are not believers in and practicioners of Christianity, but rather to say that with God's help (not of our own desire or volition), He does enable us to do what we would not be able to accomplish in our own strength. How difficult it is to allow others to speak or do that which is demeaning to us, and to not only NOT retaliate, but also to open ourselves to another attack of the same. It is rare for our humanity to operate in this selfless manner; therefore, it is God at work within us which allows us to rise above our selfishness and to allow others to continue in their abuse of us without retaliation, without revenge.

The detail that Eric mentioned is intriguing because if the Romans were to strike again "on the other cheek," then they would be admitting that the follwer of Christ was their equal. At this time in history, the people following Jesus were Jews, whom the Romans considered as filth, almost as animals. So to have equality declared by allowing another strike on the other cheek was forcing the oppressors of the Jews to acknowledge the Jews' status as social equals of Roman citizens. What a concept....

Anyway, there is much to ponder and "digest" in these concepts, especially if equality with Romans was something that was sought by the early followers of Christ who, after all, were waiting for their promised Messiah who, they thought (and wrongly so) would defeat the Romans, remove them from this sacred territory, and return the Jewish state to full independence. Hmmmmm.......

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Aaaaah, A Day Away... (and Annie Dillard)

A day off on my own is a rarity. Especially on a Saturday, on which I usually sleep in until 11-12 and rest most of the day. However, this Saturday I was up and out of the door by 7:15 as E needed to be in Clairemont Mesa (45 miles away) by 8:15 for our school's PSAT testing. I dropped her off, paid the $20 fee, and after a quick stop at WalMart (where I bought nothing), I found a Starbucks, bought an apple fritter and popped one of my own English Breakfast with Pomegranite teabags into a free vente hot water (I know, CHEAP! CHEAP! CHEAP!). I relaxed first over my prayer book while the tea cooled, praying and reading the appointed Psalms for the twentieth morning (Psalms 102 and 103).

Then I had two and a half hours until I had to pick E up again from the church where the PSAT was being held. So I graded one set of papers for my Advanced (honors) writing class and also read the first chapter of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard which I am discussing with our literary group at Lake Murray Community Church next Sunday (28th). I so enjoy her writing -- it's so densely written, so richly expressed -- she explores nature in a way that's sacramental without being religious. Know what I mean? Dillard easily sees "otherness" in all that she observes so minutely, and she considers what she sees do deeply that her writing feels like a psalm of praise without being sappy or sentimental in the least -- not at all! I can tell that Thoreau is her hero; she mentioned him twice in the first chapter, and from works of his that I read in grad school. Dillard truly is a modern-day Thoreau in her attention to detail and in her willingness to learn of nature, to not just admire and enjoy it but to allow nature to take her beyond what she observes into a metaphysical universe. I thought it extremely interesting that in the first chapter, Dillard used the word "mystery" seven times, four times on a single page. And that's what her writing is about -- it stretches past blackbirds and creeks and sunsets to a sense of mystery and otherness. I admire Dillard's attention to detail and her deep thinking, and I'm truly looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

So I enjoyed my three hours at Starbuck's, quietly considering and thinking, praying and reading, grading and encouraging. After I picked up E, we did some thrift store shopping and made a couple of stops at different WalMarts as I tried to find a knee-length black skirt -- with no luck! But we had a nice time together, and that's not something we girls get to do often.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Poetry Reading

The poetry reading went very well tonight, thanks be to God! We ended up with about a dozen people at our town's library (a good turn out for such a small town). We spent time talking about one man's plans for a woodworking class for selected kids in town (including my oldest boy), and we discussed his ideas until almost 7:15. So I only had half an hour to fill, which was fine with me. I ran out of time to do a short poetry workshop on cinquains, diamantes, and haiku, but I distributed the papers in case anyone wanted to write some poetry on their own.

It helped immensely that my dear poet-pal Kitty called me this afternoon to encourage and pray with me. She stressed again the good things about my writing after her critique, and I realized that I had only heard the negatives and had blocked out the positives when we discussed my work Sunday evening on Kim's driveway. It wasn't a conducive time for me to discuss my work anyway as I was in more pain than usual which tends to contribute to tears and negative thinking. Sharing with her (we're so much alike!) and praying together really marshalled God's spirit in me, and I was able to put the finishing touches on my preparations and even grab a short nap.

So after breaking down in Bible study this morning and breaking down again as I spoke and prayed with Kitty this afternoon (and crying Sunday evening and Monday morning), the talk really couldn't have gone much better tonight. (I know, silly me! I always do this before I speak to peers!) I actually had the bravery to tackle revising a few of my poems late this afternoon, starting with her more positive comments and working my way through the more negative. Some poems needed so much work that I really couldn't tackle them, but others just needed a few lines revised here and there, so those were the ones I concentrated on.

Tonight I talked about "what poetry is" and alluded to the movie Dead Poets Society and the "greatness" scale for poetry in the intro to their poetry book -- how poetry is an issue of the heart and mind, not of a sliding graph of supposed greatness. I spoke Mr. Sebastian at Granite Hills and Dr. Seamans at Point Loma who most influenced my love of poetry with their own passion. I read "anyone lived in a pretty how town" aloud as a memorial for Mr. Sebastian (and I mentioned reading it at my Internet community's very first retreat, too), along with the openings of a few other poems to illustrate how he taught us poetry -- he used to recite them completely from memory while tipping back in his chair, one toe hooked under his desktop to keep him from falling backwards. I also read one of the poems I wrote in high school that was published in the yearbook.

I talked about how academia and birthin' babies got in the way of my pursuit of writing poetry -- how many brain cells I lost during the '90s and how my main poetic influence for the decade was Dr. Seuss. Then I spoke about how Kitty and Judith got me back to writing again over the past three years. And then I read about six of my poems. After I read the poems, a few people commented and seemed to really like them. And then I discussed my current book which may take a miracle to finish with all the research there is to do, besides homeschooling, teaching, etc.

Here's one of the poems I revised this afternoon. It was the one that Kitty seemed to like best, and I only had to tweak a few things.

Traveling in Colorado

Hemmed in
by flat-topped mountains,
our motorhome only a tiny ant
crawling between, among
vast brown expanses of grasses,
peaks crowned with snow,
gray-green pines shielding the over-modest land.

“Pass with Care”
advises the square white sign
alongside the deserted two-lane --
wisdom given not only for highway travel,
I think.

(Copyright 2007 by Susanne Barrett)

So it went much better than I thought it would. People seemed to laugh at the right places, and Judith congratulated me on the way home. The next time I freak out about a speaking engagement, please remind me of tonight!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cold Feet

On this coming Tuesday evening, October 16, our area's art council is meeting for our usual monthly get-together where we share announcements then highlight a "featured artist." This Tuesday the "featured artist" is to be ME. And I'm getting cold feet.

You see, I wrote a lot of poetry when I was in high school; I ended up publishing the literary magazine at Granite Hills High and my staff chose several of my poems to be included. (They were selecting "blind" so they didn't know whose work was whose.) In college I also edited the literary magazine and again published poetry. And with just a couple of exceptions (one poem published in a local MENSA newsletter and a couple "published" on Internet forums), I didn't write poetry again for almost twenty years.

You know how it is: life gets busy. And I was too busy diapering bottoms, scolding little boys for throwing rocks at the cat, and just plain old raising four kids to write much. Every once in a while, a phrase would come to me and settle in the front of my brain briefly, then back it would go, disappearing with the other brain cells I lost during those sleepless baby/toddler years.

Then a friend came into my life. She bravely stood at the podium during our Christmas Tea three or four years ago, and she read some of her poetry to the nearly one hundred women present. Her act gave me the bravery to go back, pick up my pen, and to start composing again. So I've been writing a little over these past three years -- some poetry, some other stuff, too.

But right now I feel as if every image in my poetry is cliche. Like every metaphor is purple prose. I went through a "crisis of identity" when I was at an artists' retreat last fall, and I spent a great deal of the weekend in tears. This same friend helped me through that crisis, too, and encouraged me.

The crisis is back -- and it seems worse to me now than it did then. At least I could hide myself at the artists' retreat somewhat -- but this time I have to be front and center, quivering and quavering before people while attempting to read my work. Tomorrow night. I'm scared of making a fool out of myself. I'm terrified that I'm producing fifth-rate verse and that my writing has no merit whatsoever. What wild idea was this, to volunteer to be a "featured artist"?

My feet are very, very cold right now. I just hope they warm up a little before Tuesday evening. Please, just a little, Lord?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Still Busy... and Grace

I would love to be writing daily (or nearly daily) thoughts in this blog, but the last ten days of so have been so busy and involved with many activities that are not usual for our home life and school life. And at present I'm preparing for a poetry reading at our small town's library on Tuesday evening. My dear partner-in-poetic-crime, Kitty, has been looking over my poems and will be giving me some feedback so I can do some revisions before my reading. (And not sound like an idiot -- I sincerely hope, anyway....)

I think that I want to talk about more than my own work at the reading, however. I'm not sure which direction to pursue: a workshop where perhaps we all try to write? To drag out some of my early work (which involves locating my old literary magazines)? To discuss the value of literature as a whole to the human spirit? (I wrote a paper about that in college that I can summarize; I think I know where it's stowed.) I'm not sure whether to take a biographical or more of a workshop experience angle. Or whether to stick with poetry or expand into literature and teaching/education. I have a lot to think about and very little time to do so. Tomorrow after church I'll seek out my earlier works and perhaps that paper on the value of literature and start there.

Today should have been devoted to working on the above-mentioned talk as "Featured Artist" for our area's creative arts council (which I serve as secretary), but I really needed a day to simply "jell." The kids were nearly as tired as I was today, and with the cloudy and cool weather we are experiencing, perhaps curling up on the sofa with episodes from "NCIS" and "Northern Exposure," courtesy of Netflix, was a splendid idea after all. Yes, I should have been working on my presentation, or at the very least reading my book for Logos (our literary group at church) for which we're reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for October. All of this is to say that yes, I shall be more regular in my postings once this craziness dissipates and providing that I survive my reading this Tuesday....

Recently I've been pondering the word "grace" and ran across an intriguing distinction in a post written for one of the Catholic homeschooling Yahoo loops I frequent. The poster differentiated between the Protestant (evangelical) definition of grace as "God's unmerited favor" -- a definition just made by Pastor Steve very recently in one of his sermons -- and the Catholic definition of grace as "God's very life in our soul," which includes but is not limited to "unmerited favor." Hmmmmm. I'm still chewing about that one....

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Although I wrote a little about seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls below as part of the events of the past week, I wanted to write a more detailed version of the experience. It was sooooo amazing. If you want to see the information at the Natural History Museum website or purchase tickets, you can click here.

The San Diego Natural History Museum is halfway through its six-month exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 in caves just outside of Qumran, an ancient city sixteen miles from Jerusalem. In total, eleven caves were found containing thousands of parchment fragments that date from 250 BC to 68 AD when Qumran was destroyed by the Romans. In fact, some of the fragments show the evidence of being hacked by swords, most likely by the Romans who destroyed Qumran in 68 AD and the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Because these scrolls are so delicate, they can only be on display for three months at a time, and then under special lighting and in cool temperatures. Last week the first display of scrolls was changed out, and a second collection put on exhibit, including the best preserved of the Deuteronomy manuscripts which include the Ten Commandments. (Amazing!!!!)

Once we entered the museum and showed our pre-purchased group tickets, we were directed to the second story of the museum for the first portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit which was entitled "Journey to the Dead Sea." This portion of the exhibit consists of amazing enlarged photographs (around 5' by 5' or so) of the Dead Sea region, including flora, fauna, and landscapes as well as geological formations, all captured by Israeli photographers. The similarities between the climate and landscape of the Dead Sea region and our own dry San Diego area was well demonstrated. We were also able to see original archaelogical tools, artifacts, and photographs of the people involved in the discovery and the study of the scrolls, from the Bedouin man who first threw a stone into a cave and heard the sound of breaking pottery to the tremendous scholars who first realized the original age and rarity of the scrolls.

After completing that exhibit, we traveled to the basement to examine the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves in the second part of the exhibition. Once we entered the cave replica that opened the exhibit, we were immediately transfixed by a computer-generated timeline that showed who had occupied the area of the Mediterranean and Fertile Crescent (including the Dead Sea area) from 3000 BC to 2007 AD -- fascinating, especially since we're just now studying Alexander the Great in our home school world history lessons. We also saw fragments of shoes, hair combs used for picking lice (eeewwww!), and a variety of coins found in the caves surrounding Qumran, including a coin that almost exactly matched the "widow's mite" pendant I often wear, a gift from Keith. According to the exhibit, it's a bronze coin from the time of Herod the Great which exactly matches the information we were given when Keith bought it. I felt like part of the exhibit!

Then we came around a corner into a darkened area, and there were the scrolls! Each scroll was in a protected glass-covered box set into the surface of a table-top exhibit. On the wall above the table was a photo enlargement of each scroll as well as a placard with the translation, information regarding where the fragment was discovered, who had pieced it back together, what kind of work it was, etc. I had not known that less than a third of the scrolls discovered were actual Scripture; the rest consisted of Scripture commentaries, extra-Biblical works, and even legal documents and other business "papers" dealing with life in Qumran.

I was quite surprised by the size of the scrolls. Most were only three to four inches high, and the length varied from just a couple of inches to several feet. Some of the highlights were the amazing copper scroll, the gorgeous Psalm scroll, and the Leviticus and Isaiah scrolls. Also, at the end of the exhibit were illuminated manuscripts and Scriptures in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English, including modern manuscripts written in stunning calligraphy with stellar illustrations, all dated since 2000 from the St. John Project, I believe. I had to be dragged through the last of the displays because we had to attend a reception further down the Prado with my dad's Rotary Club. While we refreshed ourselves with vegetables, cheese, crackers, bread, and warm artichoke dip, I was anticipating the lecturer whom we would be hearing at 6:30 PM.

Dr. James Sanders teaches at Claremont Colleges and was the first scholar to open the Psalms scroll and to work on it; he had the scroll completely translated within four years. In addition to a several-page paper written by Dr. Sanders, I took notes in small cursive, covering an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet (the back of the scholarly paper) completely. Dr. Sanders gave us the information about the sword evidence among the 10,000+ fragments, plus a good idea of the different theories regarding the Qumran site: Essenes, Sadducees, male-only, a copy center for Scripture and other literature, etc. He also discussed the impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the history of early Judaism and Christianity, plus the impact on the concept of canonicity in Scripture and textural criticism. Dr. Sanders also informed us that all the scroll fragments have been pieced together and translated at this point. For me, the most interesting point was that in examining the extent of the Scriptural fragments, there is only a 5% difference between the Dead Sea Scroll Scriptures and the much newer copies, most a thousand years more recent, that have been the basis of Biblical translation for centuries. God has protected His Word throughout the millennia -- so amazing!

The Dead Sea Scrolls provided a powerful experience in history, antiquity, Scripture, and faith. It was so mindblowing to see these ancient writings, learn about them, and to experience a taste of life over 2000 years ago along the banks of the Dead Sea.

When Life Gets Crazy....

My apologies for not posting for over a week. Life has been more than busy; it's been crazy! A week ago I wrote a long, beautiful post on our sailing excursion around San Diego Bay, and just as I was posting it, it blinked and disappeared,; it's traveling around cyberspace, very lost and lonely. In frustration with computers in general and Blogspot in particular, I closed my laptop and haven't had time to draw a deep breath, much less post, in the week since.

So what have I been up to this past week? Allow me to give you a glimpse.....

Wednesday, October 3: We studied our lessons until 11 AM when I dropped Judith's birthday present by her home before driving myself and the three kids 50 miles to the coast where we met my parents and brother at the Harbor Island Yacht Club where my parents have a membership that allows them to put the majority of their monthly fees toward boat rental. We sailed a Coronado 27 from the yacht club, around Harbor Island, then south through San Diego Bay between downtown and Coronado, between the skyscrapers and the navy ships (USS Reagan, USS Nimitz, among others). We turned around just after we sailed under the Coronado Bay Bridge, then started tacking our way back through the bay. The day was gorgeous, and as it was a weekday, the bay was almost empty of sailboats so we had free reign. We had to motor back most of the way as the winds weren't favorable for getting us back within our four-hour rental time. It was such a lovely, lovely day -- I grew up sailing as a kid on my grandfather's sailboats, so my parents and brother know how to crew well. I'm very fortunate in being able to share an important part of my childhood experiences with our children today, and they all seem to be as hooked on sailing as I am.

Thursday, October 4: I was out the door by 8 AM so I could be at the dentist's office near College Avenue before nine for the joyous experience of a root canal. Oh, joy! I came home with a vanilla shake to sip and stayed on the sofa most of the day, supervising the kids' school work. After dinner, E and I packed up our overnight things and drove to Mom and Dad's place in Pacific Beach where we spent the night in order to attend Dad's Rotary meeting in the early morning.

Friday, October 5: E and I were up at 5:30 (unheard of in our household!) to follow Dad to the La Jolla Marriott for the 7 AM meeting of the Golden Triangle Rotary Club where my brother Tom met us. Tom and I were both recipients of the Paul Harris Fellow award for Dad's donations to Rotary in our names. Pam and Geoff, good friends of my parents (Pam was my mom's maid-of-honor and Dad had dated Pam first before settling on Mom in their college days) were there also, with Geoff receiving the same award. The speaker was especially interesting, a professor from my grad school, University of San Diego, who had helped with the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit currently at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park. His talk was absolutely intriguing. After the meeting, we met with several great Rotarian friends of my dad, and then E and I hopped into my car and scuttled from La Jolla to Alpine for Friday morning Anglican services with Father Acker. We missed the beginning of Morning Prayer but weren't too late, fortunately. (I had warned Father ahead of time that we might be late.) After the service, I dropped E in El Cajon at Keith's office so she could meet with Johanna, her algebra tutor, and I proceeded to Dr. Burns' office for my chiropractic appointment at 11 AM, then studied a book on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Starbucks until my return to the chirooractic office for meridien testing. Afterward, I picked up the kids and we drove back home to finish our school work for the day.

Saturday, October 6: Usually Saturdays are a day of rest for me -- I just put the laundry through its paces and rest as much as possible, after sleeping in for the vast majority of the morning. But in this busy week, of course that didn't happen. I was up before 9 AM and on the road with the kids to the SDG&E Old Timers' Picnic at Lake Poway where we met my dad and my brother Tom with his two kiddos. It again was a lovely fall day, and the cousins plus a few other kids played happily on the playground equipment, and we enjoyed a nice hamburger/hot dog lunch. Some of the people there remember me as a toddler and small child when my dad sued to bring me to his office. As Tom took all six kids for a hike around the lake, I snapped a few photos and then changed from jeans into good black slacks. I had to leave early to attend Miss Ellie's memorial service at Lake Murray; Miss Ellie was the wife of Pastor Bob, our seniors pastor, and I didn't want to miss her service. Since Dad's convertible didn't have enough seatbelts for the four kids, I drove his car to La Mesa and later he followed with the kids in our Sienna and we switched cars back. The service lasted for two hours and was a beautiful memorial of a life well-lived despite great pain and suffering. Our former pastor, Kirt, gave the opening prayer -- it was the first time he had been at Lake Murray in four years. Trust Miss Ellie to bring people together; it was truly her gift. We didn't stay long after because the kids and I were all getting tired, so we hauled on home around 4:30 PM, and we continued our usual Saturday evening activities of bathing boys, making up the menu and grocery list for Keith's shopping on Sunday morning, etc.

Sunday, October 7: Sunday was my mother's birthday, but she was on a cruise to Cabo with 27 other women from my dad's office; we had given her cards and gifts the day we all sailed together. We were all out the door by 8:15 for church as usual; the kids and I attended 9 AM Sunday School and Keith joined us for 10:45 worship. As it was the first Sunday of the month, Communion was served by the elders. I always have my 1928 Book of Common Prayer in my lap during Communion at Lake Murray because the prayers of preparation and the thanksgiving afterward are so reverent and beautiful. We came home and I rested most for the afternoon, and in the evening I wrote our lesson plans for the next week. I should have been grading the stack of papers for Class Day, but I really needed to rest a little after such a busy week.

And this week has been busy as well:

Monday: Keith's birthday was Monday, and he wanted no gifts. It was also the observance of Columbus Day, so I gave E a make-up day as she had become a little behind becuase of all of the activity of the past week, and the boys had a day off after helping to clean the house. While she studied and the boys vacuumed and cleaned bathrooms, I baked Keith a double-batch of his favorite Snickerdoodle cookies, per his mother's excellent recipe. At 2:30, Erika came to watch the boys while E and I, dressed in skirts and nice jackets, drove to the city, picked up Keith, and arrived at the San Diego Natural History Museum to meet Dad. He had purchased tickets for the four of us to see the Dead Sea Scrolls with his Rotary Club, attend a reception, then enjoy a lecture by the scholar who had first opened the Psalms scroll. The scrolls were fascinating -- well over 2000 years old, and, as the scholar told us, with only about a 5% difference to the Biblical manuscripts we already had. God has definitely guarded His Word throughout the millennia! I was especially impressed by the scroll of the Ten Commandments and the long Isaiah and Psalms scrolls. The scrolls were much smaller than I had imagined, and at the lecture I found out why: most of the scrolls had been sliced up by Roman swords when the area of Qumran was overrun by the Roman army in 68 AD, two years before the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, sixteen miles away. I had learned quite a bit about the settlement of Qumran through the children's Advent books Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, and Bartholemew's Passage, all of which are currently out-of-print. I had to hurry through the last room of the exhibit because we had to rush to the reception at the Prado restaurant then back again to the museum for the 6:30 lecture which was fascinating. After leaving Dad and Balboa Park, Keith decided he wanted Round Table Pizza for his birthday dinner, so we three stopped at the restaurant in Santee and enjoyed a delicious, gluten-y pizza with all the toppings.

Tuesday: Yesterday I had to flip around our usual school schedule because I had to be at the PV Library by 12:30 for the board meeting (every two weeks) of our creative arts council. As secretary, I had to bring along copies of the minutes for review and approval, something I had forgotten to do at the last meeting so we had double to attend to at this meeting. Judith picked me up on the way and gave me the lovely tea cups she had bought for me on her recent Colorado trip and from which I'm sipping Irish Breakfast tea even as I compose this lengthy post. She also had some old issues of Touchstone, my new favorite magazine, some informative National Geographic and US News & World Report mags for the kids on history (Jamestown and Eqypt), and even some gently-used black handbags for E and me. After the meeting, we stopped by Myrna's place to visit her as she's been either in the hospital or in residential care since early June and just returned home in the past few days. Myrna is our creative art council's youth coordinator, and she's simply so much fun! Now in her mid-fifties, she was in a terrible car accident in her early twenties and has been in a wheelchair ever since. Myrna is such a card, and we all want to do some stuff for her as far as fixing up her house which is crumbling around her and taking care of her heating needs, which is especially important here in the back country where even this morning at almost 9 AM we were still in the thirties. After visiting Myrna, I came home and helped the kids finish their lessons. In the evening, I attended our small writing group in PV at the library where we shared and discussed our attempts at flash fiction and also discussed Jess' seventeen-page long short story. Next month I'm on the spot, having to bring along some of the beginnings of my book. I definitely have my work cut out for me!

Wednesday: Today I have nothing on besides our normal school day plus grading papers for tomorrow's Class Day writing courses. At least all my prep is done! I also have to catch up here as well as on my 365 blog which hasn't seen a new photo in a week; they're all still in my camera. I also have a few phone calls to make and the minutes from yesterday's meeting to type up, e-mail to the other board members, plus print, sign, and file in our notebook.

So what's ahead for the rest fo the week?

Thursday: Class Day from 9:30-1:30, plus I need to drop off some baby things (stroller and portable crib) at church for some missionaries returning from Russia to stay here for a while. I have grading to finish for Class Day, plus two classes to teach. One class will be doing an in-class timed assignment, so I hope I can grade most of their papers they're turning in while they're writing. I'm teaching the compare/contrast format to the college-prep class.

Friday: Chapel at 9:15 AM in Alpine with Father Acker. 11 AM chiropractic appointment where we'll discuss my meridien results and also pop my neck back where it belongs. Then after a quick stop at Trader Joe's, I need to have the boys at Oma's Pumpkin Patch in Lakeside by 12:15 for a field trip with our school. We will also need to finish up the remainder of our school lessons after the field trip.

Saturday: I hope that I'm not doing a thing except laundry! If Kitty gets my poems back to me by then, I'll be frantically revising for my poetry reading on Tuesday where I am the Featured Artist at our monthly creative arts council meeting. I'm not sure volunteering was such a good idea after all ....

So that's what I have been doing, what I am doing, and what I will be doing. And that's why I've been derelict in posting over the past week and why you may not see another post until, say, next week, possibly....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lady Bereans

Today in our inductive study of St. Peter's First Epistle, two of my favorite "soapbox" topics came up in our discussion: church unity and lectio divina.

Kim read a little excerpt from one of her commentaries about Andrew Jackson. During the late days of the War of 1812, General Jackson's men had developed a critical spirit toward one another. They squabbled over little things and generally got on each other's nerves. This disunity brought troop morale to a very low point, and would be affecting their ability to fight the British. So one day, the General collected his troops, pointed at the British battlements, and stated: "Gentlemen, the enemy is OVER THERE."

The Church should indeed be the same way. The "in-fighting" over the years has not only tarnished our witness for Christ but has also allowed Satan, our enemy, to run amock. If we Christians agree on the "majors" (the creeds, let's say), then we should consider each other on the same side and not as enemies. We have an enemy, Satan, and he's OVER THERE. We believers in Christ need to be united -- not divided, not arguing over minor points not related to salvation issues, not starting a new church every time we don't agree with a doctrine or don't like the color of the "auditorium." We have a common enemy, and we need to be, in the words of Christ's own prayer for the Church, "ONE, as my Father and I are ONE." So the Church, Eastern and Western, Catholic and Protestant, liturgical and evangelical, need to take our rifle sights off of each other and aim our weapons at our true enemy, Satan, who delights in our disunity and "in-fighting" and name-calling. Kim's point today in Bible study was one that has been near and dear to my heart for the past seven or eight years.

The other important issue that came up today was Kim's reading a selection from a book called A Deeper Walk that discussed the practice of lectio divina, a very slow and meditative way of reading the Scriptures that dates back to the early Church and the beginning of monasticism. On my sidebar under "Web Sites of Interest" is a handy-dandy link to a site that shows how to do lectio divina. Lectio is of interest to me currently because I'm still slowly plugging away at Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book, the second half of which discusses the practice of lectio. This practice will also make up a chapter in my book (if I ever have time to actually write it, and that's if I finally get done researching it....). Lectio divina and its method which slows us down so we can truly read, meditate upon, pray, and live the Word of God has been of great importance for nearly two thousand years, and it's a process that we should be learning and practicing now in the 21st century when busy-ness is a national epidemic, one from which the Church is far from immune.

So besides our researching and discussing and exegesis of 1 Peter 1:22-2:3, these topics also brought us into the presence of God in a way that demonstrates His perfect love and absolute graciousness to us, and in particular today, to me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Another Quote of the Day

I came across this definition of grace as I read the latest article by my favorite Christian writer, Frederica Mathewes-Green, who is Eastern Orthodox. The entire article, which concerns how men view and respond to church, can be read here.

This definition was written by a priest whom she interviewed for the above article:

"Grace is not just a static concept, as in the old acronym, 'God's Riches at Christ's Expense.' Grace is God's activity in the world and within us, and we're supposed to share in it and participate in it."

Quote of the Day

From John H. Armstrong of Act 3 Ministries, in his weekly e-zine article dated today, October 1, 2007:

"Faith is the willingness to risk something in order to gain something that we do not yet have."

See entire article (third of a series of three), "Weeping in the Desert" (on Desert Spirituality) here.


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