Friday, November 30, 2007

Ahhh, the Blessing of Rain....

Finally ... real rain today.

Last year we received barely three inches of rain. So when I woke up to the patter of rain on the roof this morning, I found myself praying in thanksgiving for the blessing on rain.

And it has continued to rain all day. After taking the boys to Victoria Chapel today for Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist, we stopped by Starbucks and picked up kids' hot chocolates and ciders to celebrate a rare rainy day. My Monet umbrella received quite a workout as I dropped off the older two boys at Keith's office to work on their schoolwork and then proceeded with B to the chiropractor's office. After seeing Dr. Burns, B and I stopped at Henry's for a few items and then went to our favorite Starbucks to complete his schoolwork, our usual Friday treat. The Starbucks in downtown La Mesa feels like a cosy living room, with beautiful wooden tables, deep burgundy armchairs, plus our friend Posie works there, so her smiling face is always welcoming.

B and I ducked back out of Starbucks into the car, and after filling the Corolla with gas, we were back at Keith's office to heat up our packed salami-and-cheese sandwiches and hang out a little while Johanna tutored E in algebra and the older boys worked on their math assignments. We greeted Keith's dad with "Happy Birthday" (his 76th) and because of the still-driving rain, I drove him to the post office to pick up his mail, a trip he usually walks every day but obviously couldn't today. The kids came running out to the car through the rain, backpacks swinging and dripping, jumping into their seats and ready to drive home on rainy freeways, listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on tape.

After driving home through serious rain all the way up the mountain, we dashed out of the car, snatched our stuff out of the trunk of the car, grabbed the dog from his pen, and made for the front porch where we were protected from the driving rain. Being cosy in the house, reading aloud to the boys from our Bible, poetry anthology, and literature book as the rain filled the meadow road and what little is left of our lawn. And the rain is forecast to last all night and into tomorrow morning. The weather will be PERFECT for putting up the Christmas decorations, with holiday music playing as we put up our nativity set, our Advent calendar and wreath, and of course, our tree.

Aaah, rain ... welcome rain. A true blessing, especially in Southern California.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy Bee...

I've been beyond busy over the past week. After being ill last week, I managed to eeek my way through Thanksgiving dinner, eating mostly jello. Then on Saturday we threw Keith's sister a surprise 50th birthday party at Lake Murray. After church on Sunday, our Logos group met to discuss Cry, the Beloved Country -- what a wonderful, lyrical, poignant book!

We tried to catch up with home schooling this week, so we've been doing double history, religion, literature, poetry, science, etc., that we didn't get to last week while I was down with the flu. On Tuesday, our women's Bible study met as we continue to discuss St. Peter's first Epistle. Following the study, T and I both had dental appointments, and after a quick picnic lunch, T then had an optometrist appointment. We drove home after a quick stop at Trader Joe's for peanut butter, and we got home with fifteen minutes for me to dress and pack the car for the Arts Fair at the town's clubhouse. We started setting up at 4 PM for the Fair which lasted from 6 PM to 9 PM, and then had to clean up after the Fair was over.

Today we again tried to catch up with school, and I also finally was able to access the Internet again as AOL has been down for the past few days. So I also had computer things to catch up with as well, plus some serious grading that needs to be done for tomorrow's writing classes. I graded the Advanced (honors) class' essays on Monday, and I got through one set of contrast essays for the Intermediate (college prep) class. I'm afraid that they'll have to wait for their comparison papers for two more weeks unless I decide to stay up all night and still manage the 70-mile round trip to Class Day and teach two classes. I don't think so! I have double grading to do because we missed a class due to the fires, and I e-mailed them new assignments so we wouldn't lose much time. Getting ill definitely put me behind, but at least the students will receive feedback from one paper, and I'm planning on going over some grammar issues and formatting stuff that I'm seeing in a good number of the essays.

So I'll be teaching tomorrow, then coming home in the midafternoon to continue teaching history and literature and poetic forms to our own boys. Friday morning consists of Anglican chapel and a chiropractic appointment plus a tutoring session with Johanna who teaches E and T mathematics and algebra. I also need to contact families to light the Advent candles at Lake Murray this Sunday and throughout Advent. The kids want to decorate the house for Christmas on Saturday, and we also need to go to Lake Murray on Saturday afternoon to decorate the church for Advent and Christmas. And I'm planning on going to hear The Messiah at PLNU on Sunday night as my doctor as well as a good number of our choir members are singing.

So it has been and will be a busy time for me. I have lots of things to write about, so I hope to get back here again now that AOL is cooperating and share what's flitting through my wee leetle brain....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ewwwwww ... The Flu

Last week J then T succumbed to one of the nastiest stomach viruses I've ever come across. T got away easy, but J was sicker than the proverbial dog for four days after eight hours of violent illness and three-and-a-half days of exhaustion and weakness. Even more than a week later and the boy doesn't have his full appetite back. It's one nasty, nasty bug.

Then on Sunday night, E became ill. Violently ill. And after dinner and while I was writing up lesson plans for the next week, it got me as well. It came on so fast; I was perfectly fine one minute and hanging over the toilet bowl the next. Both of us girls were up most of Sunday night and Monday morning, and then we slept most of Monday after the worst was over. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on the sofa and recliner, watching reruns of Project Runway,Crossing Jordan, and CSI: Miami. We managed to make it through Thanksgiving with dabs of turkey, a roll, and much Jell-o and 7-Up. My stomach still is tetchy, and we're both rather weak.

Most blessedly, the nasty virus by-passed B (who as the youngest tends to be a rather miserable patient) and Keith (who had to bake three pies for our Thanksgiving celebration with his family in Ramona). Karla, Jim, and the girls are here from Arizona, and E has spent Thanksgiving night and most of today with them because she gets so little "girl time" with her three brothers. She's quite close to K&J's girls who also are home schooled and are around her age. E was looking a bit peaky last night, so I hope she's not wearing herself out with her cousins today. We're both still a little shaky after this illness.

So that's where I've been. Typing still makes my head spin a bit, and my poor photo blog has been sadly neglected, but there's only so much one can do when a nasty stomach bug comes home to roost....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Piano Recital

T playing "The Kraken" from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on the keyboard....

J performing "Sword Dance" on piano....

Last night both T and J performed in their second piano recital with Mrs. A's other piano students. We crammed into the A's' home in rows of chairs and listened to ten students perform from one to five pieces each.

T played three musical pieces, two from film soundtracks, "Theme from Star Wars," and "The Kraken," as well as one classical selection, "Theme and Variation." (Variation of what, I don't know.) He played the first and third songs on the piano, and the second, as can be seen above, on the keyboard because he could make it sound spookier with the keyboard settings. Mrs. A. mentioned T's gift of arranging music; most of the soundtrack music that is simplified for kids tends to leave out the best parts, and apparently T has been adding some of these parts back in and rearranging the songs to make them play better. It's a real blessing to discover a hitherto hidden talent in one's child.

J performed five selections by his own choice, two from Harry Potter films: "Hedwig's Theme" and "Double Trouble." He also played a few fun songs: "Our Detective Agency," "Sword Dance," and "The Pirates of the North Sea." He played the most pieces of any of the students, very willingly so. He enjoys playing piano so much -- he has a great ear for music and wonderful dedication to learning and performing music.

Both boys can't walk past our piano without playing at least part of a song, and during our home school hours, I have to make them wait until after their math to practice piano or they would spend most of their school hours playing our second-hand piano (perhaps even third or fourth-hand -- it's an old one from the Bible camp). Playing piano is a passion for both boys, and one I'm very glad that they possess as I've always wanted to learn to play piano but never had the opportunity. My dad, who used to play organ quite well, showed my brother and me a few notes and chords on our electric organ we had as kids, but we never had any formal lessons; we could muddle our way through a few Christmas carols, but that was about it. Keith took organ lessons for a while as a kid, but I'm not sure how much he enjoyed them.

The recital didn't last too long as the kids just played all of their selections at one sitting rather than changing players after every selection. All ten of the kids, most of whom are beginning students, seemed to enjoy performing although there certainly were a few cases of nerves among the younger students. T and J felt like a recital was "old hat" by now and really weren't nervous at all. (Or if they were, they certainly hid it well.)

After the recital, we enjoyed a few snacks and drinks as the kids played around and the adults chatted. It was just a fun night, and I am so very thankful for having such a talented piano teacher available for the boys, and she even comes to our house rather than our having to travel anywhere. I tutor Mrs. A's oldest daughter in Intermediate Writing which covers half of our piano tuition. The A family is a real blessing to us, and the boys work very hard to please Mrs. A. and also just because they love creating music themselves.

So congratulations, boys, on a great piano recital! We're very proud of your hard work, discipline, and dedication to learning and playing music.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Day Retreat

I spent over five hours in this chair today over at the Bible camp on the other side of our small town. Sheri rode her bike over, and when I arrived at 10:15 this morning, she was already settled in an Adirondack-style chair beneath the bare trees. We chatted for a while and caught up a little; as we both have four kids and homeschool, we don't often have interrupted time to talk. But soon Sheri returned to her journal writing and reading of Dallad Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines while I pulled out my morning devotional books: my beloved 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Diary of Private Prayer, King James Study Bible, My Utmost for His Highest, and The One Year Book of Hymns. I spent well over an hour with these books, and when Sheri left shortly after noon to run errands and attend a soccer game, I finished up and started some journal writing.

Imagine my surprise in seeing four dear women from Lake Murray Community Church strolling past me on their way to lunch just fifteen minutes after Sheri left! Yep, Laura, Monica, Jan, and Laurie came over for a quick word before proceeding to the dining hall; they were attending a special retreat for women's ministry leaders. After another half hour of journal writing, Norm stopped by and we ended up chatting for almost an hour. Norm lives and works at the camp, and I've come to know him from our creative arts council; he is quite a successful plein air painter in acrylics and his stuff is selling all over Southern California. We talked about Keith's stained glass window project, about my health, about a wheelchair-bound artist he's met who needs some encouragement, about having an arts workshop at the Bible camp, about our arts council, etc.

After Norm went back to work, I continued to enjoy the day; the weather was simply lovely. The sun was almost too hot, but the slight breeze was crisp and the grass under my bare toes was soothing. When I finished writing in my journal, I played around with part of a poem I found in the back of another notebook, nibbling on some trail mix, and tried some Centering Prayer for a short while. After the meditative prayer, I picked up the book I'm reading for Logos this month: Cry, the Beloved Country and spent nearly an hour engrossed in the characters and their issues, both personal and political. I am nearly halfway through it and am greatly intrigued; I'll write more about it when I finish the book. When my watch and the sudden cooling of the weather informed me that it was past three o'clock, I got up, returned my extremely heavy bag o' books to the Corolla, took out my camera, and shot a few snaps of the camp, including the chair above where I spent five blissful hours talking to both people and God -- and enjoying every second of it.

Aaaah, the peace of relative solitude and silence! Sheri and I hope to go back for another day retreat in a couple of weeks, weather permitting. This kind of day is the type from which one comes home absolutely, totally, completely refreshed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

I have become entranced by Annie Dillard's writing. I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek as a college student when a friend recommended it. I enjoyed Dillard's style so much that I taught one of her essays in my freshman composition courses several years later.

When Kitty and I were discussing books to choose for the reading group we were starting at Lake Murray and as we prayed over possible titles, Annie Dillard again came to my mind. As the fires burned in San Diego, I reread her book joyfully, enjoying her specificity in detail, her poetic insights, and her metaphysical and mystic streak revealed in her writing. Her writing overflows with Scriptural references as well as quotations from Van Gogh, Thoreau, and many other writers, artists, thinkers, scientists, theologians. Unfortunately, not many of the Logos group liked the book, but at least they learned to appreciate Dillard during and after our discussion.

Here are a few quotes that demonstrate Dillard's gorgeous poeticism, her attention to detail, and her transcendental bent:

It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get. (Three by Annie Dillard: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek p. 22)

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery. The surface of mystery is not smooth, any more than the planet is smooth; not even a single hydrogen atom is smooth, let alone a pine. Nor does it fit together; not even the chlorophyll and hemoglobin molecules are a perfect match, for, even after the atom of iron replaces the magnesium, long streamers of disparate atoms trail disjointedly from the rims of the molecules' loops. Freedom cuts both ways. Mystery itself is as fringed and intricate as the shape of the air in time. Forays into mysteries cut bays and fine fiords, but the forested mainland itself is implacable both in its bulk and in its most filigreed fringe of detail. "Every religion that does not affirm that God is hidden," said Pascal flatly, "is not true."

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? This is where the great modern religions are so unthinkably radical: the love of God! For we can see that we are as many as the leaves of trees. But it could be that our faithfulness is a cowering cowardice born of our very smallness, a massive failure of imagination. Certainly nature seems to exult in abounding radicality, extremism, anarchy. If we were to judge nature by common sense or likelihood, we wouldn't believe that the world existed. In nature, improbabilities are the one stock in trade. The whole creation is one lunatic fringe. If creation has been left up to me, I'm sure that I wouldn't have had the imagination or courage to do more than shape a single, reasonably sized atom, smooth as a snowball, and let it go at that. No claims of any and all revelations could be so far-fetched as a single giraffe.

The question from agnosticism is, Who turned on the lights? The question from faith is, Whatever for?
(pp. 141-142)

What do I make of all this texture? What does it mean about the kind of world in which I have been set down? The texture of the world, its filigree and scrollwork, means that there is the possibility for beauty here, a beauty inexhaustible in its complexity, which opens to my knock, which answers in me a call I do not remember calling, and which trains me to the wild and extravagant nature of the spirit I seek. (p. 137)

The creek is the mediator, benevolent, impartial, subsuming my shabbiest evils and dissolving them, transforming them into live moles, and shiners, and sycamore leaves. It is a place even my faithlessness hasn't offended; it still flashes for me, now and tomorrow, that intricate, innocent face. It waters an unserving world, saturating cells with lodes of light. (p. 102).

My God, I look at the creek. It is the answer to Merton's prayer, "Give us time!" It never stops. If I seek the senses and skill of children, the information of a thousand books, the innocence of puppies, even the insights of my own city past, I do so only, solely, and entirely that I might look well at the creek. You don't run down the present, pursue it with baited hooks and nets. You wait for it, empty-handed, and you are filled. You'll have fish left over. The creek is the one great giver. It is, by definition, Christmas, the incarnation. This old rock planet gets the present for a present on its birthday every day. (p. 103).

The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit's one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fjords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock -- more than a maple -- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can't take it with you. (p. 258).

I'm looking forward to reading more of Dillard's works, especially The Writing Life. Her writing dazzles me and inspires me. I'm definitely jealous of her Pulitzer at age 29....

Children of Hope Concert

I'm sorry that I've been rather scarce lately; a combination of busy-ness and not feeling well has contributed to my absence here. Last week was busy plus I went down another "step" on my fentanyl patch, and I'm definitely feeling more pain and less energy. But despite all that, I do want to write about the amazing concert that the kids and I saw last Wednesday night.

The Children of Hope performed last week at Lake Murray. Fifteen kids, ages five to eight and from the countries of Philippines, India, and Uganda,performed praise songs and some hymns for about 45 minutes or so; the entire presentation lasted just over an hour.

This organization usually performs at larger churches than ours, so we felt especially blessed that they came to our little family church in addition to the mega-churches in the area like Shadow Mountain, Skyline, Faith Chapel, Journey, the Rock, etc. I knew that we were in the presence of a very professional organization when the "programs" we were handed by a little girl from India (what a cutie!) were of thick, glossy paper and contained a quote from St. Bono. (My little joke there....)

The kids sang and danced to the praise music while images from their home countries or the song lyrics appeared behind them on the wall. The dancing was very African/hip-hop style, with the young boys often playing hand drums -- perfectly (and professionally) choreographed and sung well. Often the kids would come forward one at a time to recite Bible verses -- the words were on the screen as the kids' accents are still rather thick. When the tour is over in ten months, the kids will be returned to their countries where they will be taken care of by the sponsoring organization, World Help, which is striving to take care of children orphaned by AIDS, war, and extreme poverty. Their goal: to safely house and educate one million orphaned children around the world.

At the end of the kids' singing and dancing as well as the speaking and video presentations, the kids came up the center aisle then came across several rows, hugging everyone they came across. A little boy from India hugged me, then hugged E, her friend, and the boys as he proceeded across our row. It was so sweet -- E and I were both in tears for these sweet orphans (several sibling sets, too) who have been through so much pain in their lives (all have been either orphaned or abandoned) and travel so far to sing and dance such joyful praises to the Lord.

World Help is very like World Vision, except that World Help is an overtly Christian organization and includes spreading the Gospel as well as education, medical attention, orphanages, sanitation, etc. After the concert, we were able to go downstairs to meet the kids and to gather information regarding supporting a child as an individual or supporting a house or village as a church. The kids were fun to talk to, and I took a couple photos of them with E and her friend.

Bono is quoted in the program handed out to each of us as we entered the church:

Imagine for a moment that 10 million children were going to lose their lives next year due to the earth's overheating. A state of emergency would be declared and you would be reading about little else. Well, next year, more than 10 million children's lives will be lost unnecessarily to extreme poverty, and you'll hear very little about it. Nearly half will be on the continent of Africa, where HIV/AIDS is killing teachers faster than you can train them and where you can witness entire villages in which the children are the parents.

Will American Christians stand by as an entire continent dies?

Something I has heard before at a presentation I attended at Journey Community Church that featured a video-talk by Bono is that only 3% of evangelical churches are willing to help with the AIDS crisis. That is such a sad, sad number, and one that World Help is trying to change as they specifically target the evangelical church in America to pitch in and help these children and families who have been devastated by disease and poverty. When one looks at how the Catholic and Anglican Churches are on the front lines in Africa, battling disease and poverty (and have been for the last century at least), it makes the evangelical church look a bit woeful. But all of that can change -- and I pray it does. Better yet, I pray that Catholics and Protestants can work together in serving these poorest of the world to the glory and praise of our Lord Jesus Christ who told us to help the widows and orphans as a sign of our love for Him. May we glorify God hand-in-hand and heart-in-heart as we work together against disease and starvation.

If you're interested, you can find out more about the Children of Hope and about World Help by clicking on this link.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Not-to-Miss Article: "I Believe in One Church"

I have recently become a devoted reader of the writings of John H. Armstrong, a Baptist pastor and leader of Act 3 Ministries. Today I found this amazing article on ecumenism -- an issue extremely dear to my heart -- in my inbox. I just subjected my poor Tuesday morning Bible study group to my favorite "soapbox" tirade as we studied 1 Peter 3 together.

Read, consider, and ponder what Armstrong has to say about believing in one Church:

"I Believe in One Church"

Monday, November 5, 2007

Height of Coolness....

While perusing some of my favorite blogs (see sidebar) today, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my Reformation blog entry was recommended and linked from someone else's blog: Postcripts. Now, it is written by my pal RNW and as I've gushed more than a bit about her blog, she has now referred to mine here.

Plus, in answer to my "All Souls' Day" questions about praying for the dead, RNW has also addressed my questions (as well as others' questions as well) in a series of entries; you can check out her point of view here, the first of a three-part series. (I highly recommend reading them all!) I've never heard of these theological points, but they do make some sense; I'm still mulling the ideas over and, like the Bereans, I'll check them against Scriptures and I'll also pray about these issues. It's definitely an intriguing idea that our prayers, like God Himself, can transcend time as well as space. Rather mindblowing, but isn't God like that anyway?

I've also been thinking of mysticism. Today I got slightly involved in a conversation on the Sonlight theology forum regarding "gut reactions" to the concept of mysticism. For me, it's always been a completely positive word. I think of Julian of Norwich, of Teresa of Avila and also of the modern theologians who support the spiritual disciplines as a method of listening to God, such as Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and Charles Swindoll. The latter's little book, Intimacy with the Almighty, encourages silence, solitude, and surrender in order to quiet our minds sufficiently so that we can listen to the "still, small voice of God." I have a friend or two who have said that I'm a bit of a mystic; I am definitely interested in mysticism, especially in the medieval mystics. It's such interesting stuff; I'm definitely fascinated by the way that God speaks to and through His saints.

Anyway, these are a few things I'm pondering right now. I should be grading papers for my Intermediate Writing Class for Thursday, but pondering transcendent prayer and mysticism is much more fun....

Saturday, November 3, 2007

All Souls' Day -- November 2

All Saints' Day is a big Holy Day in the Church calendar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the service on Thursday night at Victoria Chapel with Father Acker and a few parishoners from Blessed Trinity. It was a beautiful service, with lots of candles, beautiful icons, and a nice sermon on the "fellowship of the saints" and "having such a great cloud of witnesses." There is such joy to be had in realizing how we do not walk this Christian life in isolation but rather with fellow sojourners, past, present, and future. Such a worshipful time we had together!

This morning B and I joined Father Acker, his wife Alice, and another parishoner for the All Souls' Day service. B did acolyte duties which were a bit strange to him as we were in the Ackers' dining room rather than in the chapel. For Morning Prayer, we prayed two Psalms from the "Burial of the Dead" service, Psalms 39 and 90. We did not pray the "Gloria Patri" as usual throughout the Prayer service, but in its place, Father said:

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord.

And we responded:

And let light perpetual shine upon them.

We didn't pray the Venite as usual, either (portions of Psalms 95 and 96). Between Morning Prayer and the Requiem Mass for All Souls, Father explained a little about All Souls Day to B. (As he's only seven, I'm sure that some (most?) went right over his head.) Father explained about the black vestments (which I had only seen on Good Friday before) and the way we miss those who have died and are with God in heaven, etc., etc. Father also had prepared special booklets for Requiem Mass which was quite different from the usual Holy Communion service for the Liturgy of the Word (first half). We had different readings than usual, different Collects, different responses, different Scriptures. I read from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, the eighth chapter, starting at the fourteenth verse (Romans 8:14-19, 28, 31-32, 34-35, 37-39). Father read the Holy Gospel which was written in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel accroding to St. John, starting in the first verse (John 14:1-6).

The Communion portion of the service was pretty much the same as always. B had the opportunity to ring the "big bells" that are used for the Sunday services which was quite a treat for him. The only things that was slightly different was the Prayer of Thanksgiving that immediately follows the reception of Communion; it was focused much more upon the death of God's saints; I think it was also taken from the Burial of the Dead service, but I'm not positive since we were praying from a prepared booklet rather than the Prayer book as is the usual custom. It was an extremely solemn service yet beautiful in its own way.

Again, this thing about praying for the dead is my only serious sticking point with Anglicanism. They don't believe in Purgatory as the Catholics do; if Purgatory was an Anglican belief, then I would completely understand praying for the dead. But if the dead are already in heaven and can now see through a glass clearly, why do they need our prayers? They're already in the presence of God if they are believers in Christ, right? And if they weren't believers, isn't it too late for them (and us) to do anything about it? I can absolutely understand asking the saints in heaven to pray for us; they're in heaven in the presence of Christ and therefore are alive and can intercede for us. But praying FOR them once they've passed away? I just don't get it, and it's one of the only things I just don't understand in Anglican theology. The Beadle explained it to me via e-mail quite a while ago, but I still didn't understand. He even posted my questions and his answers in the weekly "Beadle's Report" that Alpine Anglican sends out to describe the Sunday service (contains the Collects and Scripture passages for each Sunday, plus a summarization of the sermon as well as the church-wide prayer list and any other needs, issues, etc. that are of interest to the church and also to the homebound who cannot attend).

Anyway, today was my first All Souls' Day service as it happened to land on Friday, our usual chapel day. It was interesting and beautiful, but still somewhat of a mystery to me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints' Day

Aaaah, one of the most joyous holy days of the year -- All Saints' Day! On this day, we celebrate all of the holy people who, for the past two thousand years, have followed Christ with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This pilgrim pathway we walk in not an untrod road; Christians have walked this path, this Way, for two millenia and have given us encouragement, warnings, exhortation, and, most of all, the example of a beautifully Christ-led life. As St. Paul taught the Church in Philippi, "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:9, my emphasis). As St. Paul exhorts the Church to follow his human example as a follower of Christ, so may we also look back through the ages to the examples of other saints, other holy people, and draw encouragement and lessons from their lives.

Reading stories of saints who were martyred is one way to be encouraged in our faith. I rather like the recent publications from Voice of the Martyrs and the Christian band DC Talk called Jesus Freaks; I think that at least two volumes are available. These books relate both classic and modern stories of those who suffered and/or died for the Christian faith. The stories, though not easy reading, are encouraging in that we can learn more about these ordinary people who are placed in extraordinary circumstances and clung to Christ through persecution, torture, and often eventual death. Yet even our own ordinary lives, often lived in relative quiet and seeming ease, can also be extraordinary just because Jesus lives within us. No Christian is truly "ordinary" since we live in Christ and He lives in us. Tales of both Catholic and Protestant martyrs are found in Jesus Freaks (unlike Foxe's Book of Martyrs), so my little ecumenical heart thrills to these recent books.

If reading martyrdom stories isn't your cup o' tea (which I completely understand), then I would challenge my evangelical/Protestant friends to read up on a Catholic saint or two. Some great saints to learn about are St. Therese of Liseaux, Mother Teresa, St. Benedict (I'm reading his rule right now), St. Cecilia, St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Joan of Arc, St. Jerome, St. Augustine (his Confessions is a classic!), St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. George ... the list could go on forever. And if you're a Catholic friend, I encourage you to read about some of the saints of the Protestant tradition: John and Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Milton, Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby, John Newton, William Wilberforce, and etc. Try to inform yourself (and perhaps even allowed yourself to be inspired) by saints in traditions other than your own. Doing so can be a mind-stretching (and perhaps even a soul-stretching) experience, and perhaps will strenghthen our appreciation of and love for each other, as Jesus Himself calls us to do.

The Collect (a prayer to be prayed collectively, not only by a congregation but throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion) for All Saints' Day from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is as follows (and is to be prayed daily throughout the Octave (for eight days, through next Friday):

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle Reading for this Holy Day can be found in seventh chapter of the Revelation to St. John, starting in the second verse. (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-17)

The Gospel Reading for All Saints' Day is written in the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, starting in the first verse. (Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes).

I hope to attend the All Saints' Day service tonight at Victoria Chapel with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. If I am not able to do so, at least this morning in our homeschool devotional time the kids and I prayed the Collect and read the Epistle and Gospel readings for this Holy Day. We also discussed the Saints and what a blessing we can all be in helping and encouraging each other in this Christian life as well as looking back through the ages to find other wise and holy people who can also encourage us through their example and, sometimes, their own writings. We are so blessed to be able to share this pilgrim pathway with other believers both in the present and from the past. What a beautiful gift from God to His saints!

As I read this morning in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest:

"There is no such thing as a private life -- 'a world within a world' -- for a man or woman who is brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ's sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other." ("Ye Are Not Your Own," November 1)

For Christians, all of our lives entwine around each others'. No one is separate; no one is alone. And today, All Saints' Day, is one day in which we can formally and joyfully celebrate our union as brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the ages. A blessed All Saints' Day to you!


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