Wednesday, January 31, 2007


My friend Carmen (we sweated through graduate school at USD together) sent me a link to her weekly parish newsletter, and the subject was Ecumenism. I have copied this portion, written by Father Dennis, because I think it has real repurcussions for all Christians:

Think about this: there are more than two billion Christians in the world today, more than half of whom are Catholics. If the Christians of the world would tear down the walls that separate us and build bridges of understanding and acceptance, in mutual faith to bring us together, imagine what our impact on the world would be!

We cannot isolate ourselves in doctrinal cocoons and say we are doing God's will. Before His death, Jesus prayed that "...all may be one" (Jn. 17:21). It is God's will that e find ways to restore the sinful breach in Christian unity. Remember, too: "None who cry out 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt. 7:21). Dare we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the will of God for the good of His Church by failing to work for Christian Unity?

Fr. Dennis, San Rafael Parish, San Diego

The Catholics have been reaching out an olive branch since Vatican II's statement on Ecumenism, and Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have specifically made overtures to the Orthodox and Protestant communities. To quote the song from the sixties that we sang at Lake Murray a couple of weeks ago, "We pray that all unity may one day be restored. And they'll know we are Christians by our love...."

Amen ... may it truly be so.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bono and the Journey

When I entered the chiropractor's office this afternoon, Dana handed me a flyer for a special event at her church, Journey Community Church in La Mesa. Journey is one of those mega-churches that I tend not to like, but I've appreciated their approach to liturgy and art. For the past few years, I've attended their Stations of the Cross, which was very multi-sensory, with a gavel one can pound, perfume to smell, a stamp for our hands that we used as we left: "paid in full." And a prayer circle made up of pillows surrounded by candles everywhere. It was simply lovely -- so deep and meaningful. A few years ago we also attended their Good Friday service in which Old Masters' renditions of the crucifixion were displayed across huge screens at the beginning of the service -- I loved that! But the church was SO big that I felt squished and almost nervous; I much prefer small, intimate churches where everyone knows us.

Last year when I went to pray at the San Diego Mission de Alcala, the first church established in California by Father Serra, I saw a flyer for a pro-life walk with three Catholic churches involved, plus Journey Community Church. I love that Journey was willing to work with a bunch of Catholic churches -- so cool. I love ecumenism -- that's the way Christianity should be, IMHO.

Anyway, at their Friday night service and both Sunday services, Journey is hosting "an exclusive videocast interview with Bill Hybels" -- and he's interviewing ... BONO! The theme is "The Priority of the Poor," a topic dear to my heart. I'm very impressed with the coolness of this videocast and the poor. To quote Bono, "Woo-hoo!" I think that E and I will try to attend the Friday night service since we'll be "down the hill" for a field trip that afternoon anyway.

So I look forward to the "Journey" with Bono. How very cool!

Magnetic Poetry

Yesterday I pulled out our Magnetic Poetry set and sat down on the rug, spreading out words like "gorgeous," "knife," "dream," "blood," and "symphony." J made up a story using all the gory words, while T made up a poem about cooking chocolate and sausages.

I made up a couple of poems with the magnetic poetry set:

behind this white winter I sag
crying after the whisper
of our delicate eternity.
falling from essential beauty
to blow near the purple moment --
a garden still must elaborate.

one thousand tiny summers
beneath a symphony of sweet rain --
who would see life and death?
but time only
stares you deliriously
as a vision
to be gifted.

They don't make much sense, but it's fun to arrange words on the board, playing with sound and meaning. The boys enjoyed their impromptu writing class today -- not having to worry about spelling, and I enjoyed helping them find words that expressed what they wanted to say.

A fun writing day all around!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Books in Progress....

I started thinking about the books I'm currently reading and have set aside for one reason or another. It's rather sad, actually; they are stacked in a lonely pile on my bookcase, set aside when "something better" (or more interesting to read) came in from the library. Perhaps listing them will help me to get back to them and have the satisfaction of completing them:

Shakespeare of London by Marchette Chute: I was realy into this very readable biography of Shakespeare when a load of library books, including Plague Journal, came in from the library. Her research is impeccable! I WILL get back to it NEXT.

The Pilgrim Continues His Way, translated by R.M. French. This is the sequel to the Russian classic The Way of the Pilgrim. I started this in the fall while on our road trip, and have taught on it in our adult Sunday School class. Both are in a single volume, and I really would like to finish it. Very deep and thoughtful book.

Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird. My chiropractor's wife sent this to me, as she gets a lot of review copies of book in her work at a Christian radio station. Subtitled "A Guide to the Christian Art of Contemplation," it's an intriguing book and a good read. I set it aside for a stack of library books (again).

A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. Based on the famous Rules by St. Benedict and other Orders, this book is written to the Catholic homeschooling mother regarding how to have time alone with God while being a wife, mother, and homeschool teacher who glorifies God throughout her day. Convicting and very practical, I tend to read it in snippets as I feel desperation take over my days.

Let Go by Francois Fenelon, an Archbishop of the seventeenth century. Reminding me strongly of Brother Lawrence's little book, this one I also started while on our fall road trip. It's a deep little thing that requires much thought and contemplation, and I need to get it back to its original owner, a strongly-Episcopal Chinese lady who attended our Bible study in the fall.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I've started it twice and put it down because the copy I have is a HUGE hardcover that is too heavy for me to hold confortably. I have since found a cheap paperback and should have no more excuses.

I have also started Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship approximately three times, and I SHALL read it sometime. Along with Bonhoeffer, a large stack of Christian books sit on the bookcase and on the floor next to the bookcase, all of which require a bit more brain than I seem to have at the moment. Margery of Kemp, Julian of Norwich, Dr. Seaman's new title he sent me for Christmas, more books on contemplation, including two by Thomas Merton, plus Nouwen, Benedict, Underhill... all will have to wait a bit. I look forward to them greatly, yet somehow am drifting toward the "easy" reads that more easily distract my mind from my physical issues.

Well, here's to books started but not finished (as well as those purchased but not yet opened) ... rather like new acquaintances waiting to become true friends.


Here's E's photo that got buried when I reposted my old blog. She's waltzing with Travis here at the Winter Ball. Keith made the velvet jacket, and we found the dress at Ross for $20. A friend from church did her hair in a French braided up-do, and my dad partnered her for the parent-student dance.

Now in class she's learning the East Coast Swing in preparation for the Sock Hop and Spring Dance, both of which will be in March. She's so enjoying this class, even if she has to wear gloves for the class period.

For the first half of each class, the students hear a quick lecture on etiquette and manners, like RSVP and introducing oneself, and then they proceed into the dining room for their table settings/manners portion of the lesson. The last 45 minutes of the class is devoted to dancing.

The swing is proving a bit more difficult than the waltz, but it sure is more fun! The setting for the course is lovely: The San Diego Women's Club, a 1920s era building in Banker's Hill, where my great-great grandmother was active in the early 1930s.

1/24/07: Writers' Symposium by the Sea

I am very excited! I just registered online tonight for two of the "interviews" at next month's Writers' Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University. Not only did I receive my undergrad degree in Literature at Point Loma, but I also taught there in my beloved Lit Department for seven semesters, plus several substitute jobs, in the years after receiving my Master's from USD.

When I spoke with one of my mentors, Dr. Maxine Walker, a few years ago, she told me that she was very desirous of getting Anne Lamott as our keynote speaker for the combined Writers' Symposium and Wesleyan Center conference. However, Lamott had been either unavailable or beyond her budget. So imagine my surprise to receive in Maxine's New Years letter a few weeks ago a flyer advertising Anne Lamott as the main speaker for this February's conference!

Tonight I made my online reservations for the conference. Anne Lamott has been one of my favorite Christian writers in the past few years. Her books Traveling Mercies and Plan B have encouraged, challenged, and galvanized my faith life.

And apparently she has a new book just coming out. I hope to purchase a copy and get it signed at the conference. Entitled Grace, Eventually, it looks very intriguing!

With a March 20 release date, this latest title probably will not be available. So I guess I'll slug along with my well-read (and somewhat tattered) copy of Traveling Mercies and have her sign that.

Also at the conference will be Eugene Peterson, the translator/paraphrasist (is that a word?) of The Message, a version of the Bible that I just love for its modern feel and fresh language. It's definitely not a version for deep study, but it sure brings the Old Testament especially to life (with the sorry exception of the Psalms -- didn't do so well there!) as well as cause me to see the New Testament from a more essential point of view.

So my money is paid for the conference (gotta love online registration) and I'm hoping to attend with friends Judith and Kitty (we saw Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and my favorite Christian author, Frederica Mathewes-Green, of Eastern Orthodox persuasion, last year), and possibly with Kim, the "fearless leader" of our Tuesday morning Bible study.

If anyone is interested in attending, sign up NOW! Tickets are going fast!

1/22/07: From the Flames

Last week, the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) held its monthly meeting at the Pine Valley library. And I feel compelled to write a little something about our Featured Artist this month.

Artie Capozzi and his girlfriend lost everything in the Cedar Fire of three years ago. They got out with their animals, their vehicle, and the clothes on their backs, and when they returned to their home in Alpine, nothing was left. But Artie had an idea of what to do with all that burned manzanita wood that littered his yard.

You see, he had a passion for this beautiful, mahogany-colored wood, but it is protected; it cannot be gathered unless it has been burned in a forest fire. So Artie saw the beauty and possibility of the scorched and twisted branches in his yard and in his neighbors' yards, and he started gathering the blackened manzanita branches and roots. Obsessively gathering it. As in, spending an entire year gathering it. Just because it was beautiful. And because he thought he "might be able to do something with it."

Artie started slicing the two-to-three inch root burls into eighth-inch thickness and sanding them through nine grades of sandpaper, then adding an environmentally-friendly oil in layer after layer, twelve coats in all. He allowed the burl slices to dry in the sun between coats of oil, and then he drilled a hole through one end of each slice and strung the slice on leather bands to create original necklaces. Later, he started adding silver and turquoise inlays in the burl slices which made the necklaces even more beautiful and unique. He has also started slicing sage roots to get a similar effect -- and does it ever smell heavenly!

We were awed by his phoenix feathers -- long feather-shaped slices of manzanita wood about a quarter of an inch thick and six or more inches long. Artie patiently fills in the holes of the wood with the scorching of the outer bark-covered edge of the wood, then sanding through the many layers of sandpaper and adding the oil to bring it to a bright sheen, darkened by the oil to a deep reddish brown that calls to be touched. In his more recent work, he has added delicate silver and turquoise inlays into the feather which increases the creativity and beauty. Everyone at the gathering felt compelled to run a finger down the velvety smoothness of the feathers, both the unfinished and the finished pieces he brought to show us.

Artie has been selling his stands and candle holders, made from manzanita, to a jewelry shop in La Jolla, and he is well on his way to being a self-supporting artist. We are proud to have him working on his art in our community, and his work astounds us in its beauty and simplicity. Artistic creativity rising from the ashes of the most devastating fire ever in California -- what a lovely and reviving thing to behold!

1/21/07: And Now Recovering from My Busy Week....

My busy week ended up with a not-busy weekend in which I either stayed in bed or wished I had. The doctor I saw on Wednesday thinks I may have Addison's Disease, which means that my body isn't making as much cortisol (from the adrenal glands) as it should. I have a note to take to Dr. Adema about starting me on a trial dosage of cortisol to see if it helps. I sure hope something helps because I hate wasting my entire weekend in bed.

Well, at least I started and finished an excellent and thought-provoking book yesterday: Plague Journal, by Michael O'Brien. His "Children of the Last Days" series is extremely well-written, emotional, exciting, and terrifying. I finished reading the book in full-on sob mode, probably brought on not only by the final betrayal of the book but also by my not feeling well. The order of the series is confusing because O'Brien didn't write them in chronological order. If you are interested in reading the series, do it in this order: Strangers and Sojourners, Plague Journal, Eclipse of the Sun, and then the final three (Father Elijah, Sophia House, and Cry of Stone) may be read in any order. I've now read the first three of the series and am completely hooked. I read Eclipse first, before I realized the true order of the series, then S&S. And I read PJ pretty much in one day. Thought-provoking stuff in the end-times genre, with a Canadian and Catholic twist.

I've never read "The Left Behind" series, mostly because I don't ascribe to La Haye's rapture theory and don't care much for his style of writing, having read some of his non-fiction. But "The Children of the Last Days" series totally eclipses (pun intended) anything that La Haye can put out there. So beautifully written, so expertly developed, so real that you forget your own reality and merge into O'Brien's. I've rarely read books so disturbing yet so compelling. I do recommend them wholeheartedly.

1/18/07: What a Busy Week!

I'm sorry I haven't been actively posting, but this week has been crazy-busy. Here's what I've been up to:

Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council meeting: I'm secretary, so I have minutes to keep, type, print, as well as artists to contact to be the Featured Artist (will write a separate post about this -- Artie's work deserves its own entry). And whatever else I get volunteered to do. :)

Lady Berean study at Lake Murray: This week we studied Judges 15 -- Samson and the jawbone and all that. With our leader down for ankle surgery, I facilitated the group, which of course means a little more preparation for class that usual. I love studying, but it can be tiring. I caught the gist myself and then studied some of the Hebrew words and also read Wesley's Commentary. I was bowled away by the depth and symbolic meaning behind so much in these seemingly straightforward twenty verses.

Doctor's appointment: After seeing Dr. Howe, I can now reduce chelation treatments to once per month -- yay! It's bad enough to be hooked up on an IV for two hours, but it's even worse to have to pay $95 to do so. So that saves our beleagured budget nearly $300 per month. I am also to check with Dr. Adema about starting on cortisol, which means I may possibly have Addison's Disease. He gave me a note to drop off to Dr. A this week and see if he agrees.

Mountain Empire Creative Arts board meeting: We discussed adding our organization to the Southern California Center for Youth, Nature, and the Arts which is based in Alpine. This move would give us immediate 501 (c) 3 status with no work on our part. We can remain autonomous and only have to pay a little toward liability insurance each year. Stephanie Wells, the founder of CYNA, attended our board meeting at Myrna's home. Myrna made us a lovely lunch of split pea soup while we discusses the many pluses and few minuses of joining this larger organization. We're also planning an art contest and a summer youth program.

All this is in addition to the usual things of my life: homeschooling four kids, grading papers and assignments, mothering, chiropractic appointments, library visits (multiple!), piano lessons for the boys, and etc. Tomorrow T and J go to Sheri's for California History, and all three boys have a painting class at the library.

So that's why I've been a bit scarce this week. Next week I have a Brave Writer deadline to meet; I'll be writing about an Alice Walker short story and the famous Herrick poem, "To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time." ("Gather ye rosebuds while ye may...") for the high school crowd. I hope to get online a bit more as this week I've been cuddling under the blankets on the sofa in the evenings, trying vainly to stay warm in this unusually cold weather.

It SNOWED in Malibu and Venice Beach yesterday ... right on the Southern Cal beaches. On Sunday morning, our low was 9 degrees above, with a wind chill of 1 below zero. That may sound like nothing to people back east, but please remember that this is San Diego County where 60 degrees is a cold snap and 80 degrees is a heat wave; basically if it isn't 72, then everyone freaks out in a major way.

When I woke up on Sunday at 7:15, the thermometer on our front porch read 12 degrees. Until this week, our lowest temperature of the five years we've been here was 17 degrees. The HIGH on Sunday was 26. Again, remember -- this is San Diego, where the weather-wusses dwell. Pipes have been bursting everywhere, not only in the mountains but "down the hill" (in the San Diego suburbs) as well.

Brrrrrrrrr!!!! Crazy, crazy cold!

1/13/07: Lazy Day....

After yesterday's incredibly busy day, today was a day to read in bed, surrounded by flannel sheets and watching snow flurries out the window. I curled up with and finished Anne Perry's latest Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mystery: Seven Dials.

Covering Victorian-era London society, these mysteries are a wonderful escape, especially since Thomas was sent to exotic Alexandria to pursue clues regarding the latest murder. These books are exactly the right ones to enjoy on a cold, cloudy, snow-flurry Saturday when one has nothing else to do but a little (or a LOT) of laundry. A few patches of snow remain on the ground from a dusting of snow this morning, and today's high was 39; the low tonight isforecast for *12* -- a wee bit cold for Southern California! In fact, if the temperature dips that low, we'll have a new record low for our five years in the mountains.

So if you're a mystery buff and haven't yet explored the world of Anne Perry, I can recommend a real treat for you! Don't miss this series which now spans 12-15 titles.

And I have two more Anne Perry books lined up for me: short Christmas novellas that center on Lady Vespasia in her prime. I can't wait to dive into them, especially since we have a forecast for VERY cold temperatures over the next few days. Flannel sheets, here I come!

1/12/07: SNOW!

Early this morning I woke up to the unusual sound of the front door opening and closing. Looking blearily at the alarm clock, I saw it was just after 7 AM, not a time when the kids were up on most mornings. The light coming through the blinds over the bed and in the bathroom was brighter than usual, which meant that we probably had snow on the ground. Yes, the boys were going outside to revel in the inch of white stuff, and yes, the whiteness was reflecting the sun more brightly than usual through the window blinds.

When I came downstairs, T was building what he called a "snow meerkat" on the front porch railing, and J and B were playing soccer on what used to be the front lawn. All were dressed in the sweats they usually sleep in, but they had added gloves, hats, boots, and parkas to their pajamas before going out to enjoy the white stuff.

The meadow in front of our home looked lovely -- all untouched whiteness, unmarred by footprints or tire tracks. It was hard to make the kids go "down the hill" to go to church (B and I) and to go to Keith's office (he and the other three kids who needed to do their schoolwork) and leave the beautiful snowy scene behind us. Although I scraped the inch of snow off my windshield and back window, my car was still covered with a layer of snow by the time I got to Victoria Chapel in Alpine for Friday's healing service with Father Acker. His wife, Alice, laughed when she saw us drive in, and I told her that we'd had "a wee bit of snow" overnight. The day warmed, and sure enough, by the time we got home, the vast majority of the snow had melted, including all the snow in our yard. The kids were disappointed to not have any more snow to play in, although the remainders of T's meerkat still guarded the front door.

The snow was nice while it lasted. I'm sure that Sunrise Highway, the road leading up the mountain above us, will be packed with lowlanders coming up to see the snow (a rarity in Southern California), unfortunately leaving their tracks and their trash behind. The cold weather is remaining behind the storm, making us grateful for a working furnace (not always the case this winter!), burning candles, and a warm doggie with which to cuddle.

To those of you east of California, watch out! A cold storm is a-coming your way.

1/11/07: Weird Winter Weather

It's been a weird winter. Cold snaps (and snow in December) have been swapping places with Santa Ana winds and temperatures in the 70s here in the mountains (80s in town).

Right now the blue skies are turning grey, and clouds are filling in our tiny valley. Winds are ruffling the tall pines in the neighbor's yard, branches swaying to and fro like arms waving a warning. I can hear the wind groan as it passes between the tree limbs -- a low, mournful sound that rumble in my stomach. Even the forlorn roses and hollyhocks remaining in my garden are tossing about, battered and bruised by the cold winds.

Inside, the heater is blowing warm air around our ankles, and a candle is burning steadily on the mantel. Keith's homemade bean soup is waiting to be rewarmed for dinner. Hot tea is the beverage of choice as one child after another grasps a mug filled with their favorite herbal flavor: E loves peppermint; J prefers apple cinnamon, and I inhale the clean scent of blueberry. God bless Celestial Seasonings!

The weather report varies as to the snow levels of the incoming storm: some say 4500 feet (above us); others say 3000 feet (below us). My sister-in-law just e-mailed me a projection of snow levels down to 900 feet (which encompasses a good part of East San Diego County!). We're battening down the hatches and putting away the bicycles as we prepare for the storm to arrive in its full force tomorrow.

So as storms start here in California and blow and bluster eastwards to your home, may you stay safe and cosy, warmed by hot tea, good furnaces, bean soup, candlelight, and the love of family and friends.

Cheers to winter!

1/10/07: Silence

In the online community I frequent, we've been discussing our 2007 devotionals. This is my plan (held loosely) for my prayer times for the next year:

Morning: Morning Office from 1928 Book of Common Prayer, including daily Psalter readings, which means reading through the entire Psalter every month. Also, I am reading and meditating upon My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The kids and I are also reading the Scripture selections (NIV) for each morning listed in the BCP.

Evening: Evening Office from 1928 BCP, including Psalter readings. I am also reading from the Old Testament in The Message and reading the daily meditations in The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, which consists of excerpts from the works of Father Thomas Keating.

While reading the latter work last night, I ran across this excerpt that I thought was worthy of sharing here:

"There are all kinds of ways in which God speaks to us -- through our thoughts or any one of our faculties. But keep in mind that God's first language is silence."

That thought has been reverberating about in my mind since I read it last night. How can we listen to God if His primary language is silence? It seems to me that we need to share in His silence in order to be able to hear Him.

For me, it's difficult to hear God in the midst of homeschooling my four kids, in the midst of noise and confusion and multi-tasking. It's when the house quiets down for the night -- when the kids are abed and the TV is off and the iPods are stowed -- that's when I hear Him. When the only noise is the occasional sputter of the fire and tick of the clock -- when my pen is filling my journal with the account of my days, joined to my thoughts and ponderings -- that's when He speaks. In the quiet. In the dark. When my mind is free to unite with His. That's why getting away for an occasional day to drive alone to Julian or someplace quiet is so important to me. Once Keith gets his home computer fixed so he can once again bring his work here to do, I will take my twice-monthly days to be in the quiet, to nestle in close to His heart, to listen to His still, small voice, and to enjoy His deep, profound silence.

Find Him in His holy silence ... and meet Him there.

1/9/07: Tuesday Doings

Tuesdays are my crazy days. We spend the whole day in the city, and every other Tuesday, we're "down the hill" for over twelve hours. At least I wasn't hooked up to a chelating IV for two hours in the afternoon as I usually am since I am waiting for my appointment with Dr. Howe next week before resuming treatment. But today looked like this:

I took B to the Bible study on Judges with Lady Bereans from 9:30 - 11:30. Then drove B to Keith's office where other three kids were completing their schoolwork. We ate lunch between spelling lists, and then taught Bible, history, and B's phonics. While E had her weekly algebra tutorial from Johanna, I took the boys to the El Cajon library for a treat as it's five times larger than the one in our little town. I settled the boys in the children's section and wandered over to the Christian stacks. The boys reappeared a few minutes later, with a written warning from a security guard that said I couldn't leave the boys unattended in the children's area, even though I was only a few stacks away. So I dragged them through the Christian and the mystery stacks, then I sat in the kids' section so they could look at books. Seemed a little ridiculous to me, but perhaps the library is having too many parents dropping off their kids at the library in lieu of daycare or something like. T selected eight or so books on owls, his latest obsession, and B checked out a Bionicle book that T has promised to read out loud to him.

We drove back to Keith's office, and I exchanged three boys for one girl in my car. A visit to Dr. Burns at 3:00 was in order, and he did some different stretching things to my neck that brought tears to my eyes but we hope will help with the pain so I can sleep better at night. He's also ordering in some iodine for my thyroid. Then E and I settled ourselves at Starbuck's over carmel apple ciders while she finished her algebra and science and I read Shakespeare of London. After a quick look around our favorite haunt, Barnes and Noble, an early dinner at Chili's followed which broke our gluten-free diet: we split a BBQ ranch burger and fries. We made it to the San Diego Women's Club almost an hour before we needed to be there, so E had plenty of time to change and prettify herself before class began. At Junior Cotillion, Ms. Kent first taught about dress codes (informal, semi-formal, formal), table settings, then taught the students the basic footwork of a new dance, the East Coast Swing. During the last dance, the students practiced a simple turn; it was amusing to watch but most got it the first time around. And we got home just in time for House M.D.

Yes, it's been a busy day, but a good one. I just hope I can get up in the morning, especially as T has an orthodontic consultation at noon tomorrow, right before his piano lesson.

1/08/07: The Sign of the Cross

I received this e-mail from Frederica Mathewes-Green, my favorite Eastern Orthodox writer. She just wrote a foreward to a book on the Sign of the Cross. Read the foreward below:

At my Orthodox church every Sunday I see families arrive at church and go up to the iconostasis, to greet the icon of the Lord. The parents stand before his searching gaze and make the sign of the cross fluidly: the right thumb and first two fingers together to recall the Trinity, and the last two fingers together and pressed down to the palm, to recall Christ’s two natures and his descent to the earth. They touch forehead, abdomen, right shoulder, left shoulder, then sweep the right hand to the floor with a deep bow. After making two of these “metanias,” they kiss Christ’s hand, then make one more sign of the Cross and a last bow.

With practice, what sounds like a very complicated ballet becomes second nature. Behind the parents come their children, who execute the same moves but have a shorter trip to reach the floor. And then there are the toddlers. If you’re seated to the side, you can see a look of stern concentration come over the chubby face. Then there’s a blur, as a tiny fist flies from ear to elbow to knee to nose, or just makes quick wobbly circles over the tummy. If these gestures were literally analyzed as to their symbolic meanings, they might be signaling heresies not yet imagined. But all this commotion is concluded by the little one stretching up on tiptoe to kiss the hand of the all-compassionate man in the painting. That hand is giving a blessing; it is making the sign of the Cross.

These children are doing what we all do to some extent: we take part in mysteries we can only partly comprehend. We do it within the safety of our Father’s home, following in the footsteps of our elders.

In this case, the footsteps go back further than history can discover. It was perhaps 204 AD when the brilliant North African writer, Tertullian, composed his essay “The Crown.” He begins with a story then in the news: the Roman emperor had given laurel crowns to a band of victorious soldiers, but in the procession it was seen that one went bareheaded. When challenged by his tribune, he responded that he was not free to wear such a crown, because he was a Christian. At the time of Tertullian’s writing the soldier was in prison awaiting martyrdom.

Some local church members criticized the soldier for rocking the boat; they had been enjoying a period of peace, and feared such boldness would provoke another bout of persecution. (Tertullian observed tartly that they were no doubt already preparing to flee from one city to the next [Matthew 10:23], “since that’s all of the gospel they care to remember… [T]heir pastors are lions in peace, deer in the fight.”) But some retorted that nowhere is it written that Christians are forbidden to wear ceremonial crowns.

It is in responding to that challenge that Tertullian gives us a very intriguing glimpse into the daily lives of early Christians. There are many things we Christians do, Tertullian says, that don’t have a written mandate. In the Orthodox tradition, at baptism a person is immersed three times, after renouncing the devil, his pomp, and his angels. He makes a profession of faith “somewhat ampler…than the Lord has appointed in the Gospels.” Christians receive the Eucharist only from the hand of the one presiding over the assembly. “If for these and other such rules, you insist on having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none…The proper witness for tradition [is] demonstrated by long-continued observance”.

Among the items that had had “long-continued observance,” even at the dawn of Christian history, was the sign of the Cross. “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting off our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the Cross,” Tertullian wrote.

It seems that the sign of the Cross was such an entrenched element of Christian practice that a believer would not consider refraining from it. Tertullian believed it to be universal, and already ancient in 204 AD.

I will leave Fr. Andreas to fill in the story of how this sign came down to us today, and how its expression varied with time and place. His appealing book provides us not only with this history, but with insights into the limitless, profound meaning of the sign of the Cross. The sign of the Cross is a prayer in itself, one that is easy to include in the busy day – at the sound of an ambulance siren, as an expression of thanksgiving, as preparation for a difficult task, or on learning of a need for prayer. And, despite its mystery, the sign is a gesture simple enough for a child to adopt.

It is my hope that this small book will acquaint many readers with a Christian custom that has roots deeper in the common history of our faith than anyone knows. The action may at first seem awkward; it may take time to acquire the gracefulness of those who have woven it through their prayers for decades. But there is hardly a more visible way to “take up your cross,” as the gospel of Matthew says, than this, and join the company of those who in all ages have borne witness to Christ before the world.

1/06/07: A Blessed Epiphany to You!

Today, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany.

It's the day we celebrate the Magi coming to worship the Christ Child. Epiphany is all about God revealing Himself to these three Gentiles, thereby foreshadowing His plan of salvation for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

The Collect for Epiphany, or The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is:

O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tonight we lit our Advent wreath for the last time in our darkened kitchen, symbolizing the light of Christ shining into a dark, sinful world. Then we read the Collect as well as the Scripture reading from the second chapter of St. Matthew's gospel. After dinner we cleared away the wreath and placed the three Magi and the baby Jesus in the center of our table, and there they shall stay through Epiphanytide.

We also cleared away all the Christmas decorations this afternoon -- one of the jobs I hate the most! The kids helped, but it still took three hours and we were all grumpy while we dismantled the tree, packed up most of the Nativity scene, and took down the stockings. Candles were changed from red and gold back to pale green and rose, but we did decide to keep out some of our snowmen collection to be a centerpiece on the school table -- 'til spring, at least.

A blessed Epiphanytide to you and yours! Enjoy the next eight days!

1/05/07: Happy Twelfth Night!

Happy Twelfth Night!

Yes. today was the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and tonight we celebrated Twelfth Night with Alpine Anglican. I made a gluten-free spice cake to take to Father Acker and Alice's home.

We arrived at 6:30, and Father asked me to read from St. Luke's gospel, the third chapter, the fifteenth to the twenty-second verses.

Then we proceeded out to their backyard, where Father had set up an metal washtub with some kindling. It took three tries, but Father finally got the fire started (with jokes flying from the Beadle), and then we laid in the dried greenery branches Father had given us, making quite a little conflagration. The light of the fire symbolizes Christ, the Light of the World, and His Light going out to the Gentiles. The light also symbolizes our light, our witness, as it goes out to those who do not yet believe. Father prayed that we, as Christians, would shine into this dark world with the Light that is Christ our Lord.

Then, gazing into the flames of the fire, we broke into the "Phos Hilaron," an ancient Eventide prayer that we learned from Pastor Rollo at Lake Murray several years ago:

O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

And then to close the service, we sang "Silent Night" together around the fading fire before proceeding back into the house.

Then we chatted together over trifle, spice cake, fudge, sherry, tea, coffee, and cocoa. Father and I talked about our visits to England; he loved Salisbury Cathedral and the southern area best, while I preferred Cambridge and the middle section of Great Britain. The boys were flitting about here and there, rather high on sugar, especially after everyone left after only an hour. We stayed a few minutes later and were sent back up the hill with warm wishes for a Merry Twelfth Night and a Blessed Epiphany.

Tomorrow is Epiphany -- the time to celebrate the Wise Men coming to find and see the Christ Child, the Gentiles coming to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Also celebrated on this day is the Baptism of Christ and the Wedding Feast at Cana. Too see a great outline about Epiphany, see Beth's post on our new yet-unnamed forum:

Twelfth Night also reminds me of Shakespeare's wonderful play which E and I saw performed at Point Loma several years ago and which E just read for school a few weeks ago. I also bought Marchette Chute's Shakespeare of London today at Maxwell's House of Books where I had a short chat with Craig Maxwell, the owner. He wasn't open when we first got there, but he turned up as I read the newspaper clippings about his bookshop in the front window; in doing so, I found out that he is the grandson of the original Wahrenbrock, who started my favorite used bookstore in downtown San Diego (now owned by Chuck Valverde). I used to frequent Wahrenbrock's very often when I worked at Harcourt Brace years ago. Craig also attended the University of San Diego, where I did my graduate degree. (I even found out today that Dr. Burns' grandson is currently attending USD as a freshman.)

Speaking of USD, I drove out there with B today and was able to check out that Master's thesis I mentioned earlier this week from the library. I'm very glad to get a hold of that book for my genealogical research. Woo-hoo!

It's been a wonderful Christmastide for us -- lots of fun times and precious memories. I hope it was for you, too.

So a Happy Twelfth Night of Christmas! And a blessed Epiphany to you as well!

1/04/07: Waiting

This is from my morning devotional, the classic My Utmost for His Highest:

"There are times when you cannot understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait. The blank space may come in order to teach you what sanctification means, or it may come after sanctification to teach you what service means. Never run before God's guidance. If there is the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt -- don't."

Dear Oswald really nailed me here. There is much I desire to do, especially physically, that I just can't do. So I've often "filled in" the blank space of my life instead of waiting to see what God has for me.

I've been in a blank space for nearly five years; on January 11 it will be five years since the doctor spoke those words: "fibromyalgia," which were then followed by "rheumatoid arthritis" and "chronic fatigue syndrome." I went from jogging through my town to needing a wheelchair in four months. I went from being a carefree, joyful person to being a pain-ridden, joyful person, but the joy is the gift of God; it has nothing to do with me. I am only the recipient of His grace. Yes, there have been low times when joy makes itself scarce, but that's usually my own fault because I'm looking too closely at myself instead of broadening my focus so I could glimpse joy waiting in the wings.

But WAITING. What a huge thing it is! It's especially hard in these days of fast food and instant gratification to think about waiting. We chafe at waiting, whether it be at a stoplight or in an emergency room. But waiting is what both Advent and Lent teach us: to wait with expectation, to wait with joy, to wait for Him to speak, to reveal Himself, to perhaps even put a stop to our waiting.

I love the twenty-seventh Psalm that concludes: "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." (KJV)

The NIV version of the same verse reads: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."

That's where my joy comes from: from waiting for my Lord and my God. So I wait, full of the strength He gives and "taking heart" -- which means to me to be joyful in the midst of all that's going on -- and yes, WAIT.

Happy Eleventh Day of Christmas! And enjoy the WAIT.

1/03/07: A Genealogical Beginning

Happy Tenth Day of Christmas!

After getting my new non-metallic crown put in today (ugh - dental work!), I stole off to the University of San Diego library. It's one of the most beautiful libraries I've ever studied in -- I remember cramming for my comprehensive exams (in place of a thesis) for hours in there -- overlooking the rose garden. The wooden floors and Gothic-styled chairs of the Reading Room are lovely, lit by large east-facing windows.

I came in search of a Master's thesis on the architects of my family. When I Googled my great-great grandfather's name a few weeks ago, a history thesis from USD popped up which recounts the firm's history and buildings (William, Edward, and Charles Quayle). Since this one document may provide a great deal of info, I thought it was worth the trip to locate it. First of all, it wasn't on the shelf, and it took the librarian quite a while to locate it. When he handed it to me, I was a bit nonplussed; it was at least four inches thick, so my plans for photocopying went right out the rose-scented window. Then I realized that my USD Alumni card, which allows me to check out books, was fifty miles away, in my desk drawer at home. And I wasn't in the computer system since I haven't used my USD library card for nine years. So the tome is on hold, and I hope to pick it up Friday.

It looks very much like it will be worth the trip. There was a huge list of EVERY building the Quayles designed from Illinois to Colorado to San Diego, including family dwellings, buildings for the 1915 Exposition in Balboa Park, and theatres, fire stations, police stations, etc. Lots of stuff -- I'm excited about reading it all and finding all the information in one place. I hope that finding this thesis will save me a LOT of time and the trouble of going to the archives in Balboa Park. From past experience, it is NOT easy to find material there.

So that was the main event of the day. We're also looking forward to the Twelfth Night celebration Friday night at Father Acker's home. I picked up a gluten-free spice cake mix that we used for Christmas Eve so that our kids will have something nice and fun to eat. Gluten sensitivities can be a pain! At least there are a few good gluten-free mixes and products available. Since the cake was absolutely delicious on Christmas Eve, I think it will be agreeable even to those who don't have gluten issues.

Again, Happy Tenth Day of Christmas!

0/02/07: Movie Review: Night at the Museum

Happy Ninth Day of Christmas!

Today I took the kids to see a movie, not something we do often as a family. But this afternoon after my chiropractic appointment, I took the kids to see Night at the Museum. And what a great, fun family movie! Woo-hoo!

Any movie that combines Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, Andy Rooney, Owen Wilson, and a host of amazing character actors is sure to be a winner -- and it was!

It was fun, amazing, suspenseful, touching, romantic, and plain hysterical! We laughed SO hard! And many times. Definitely a two-thumbs-up.

I highly recommend Night at the Museum! Don't miss it - especially in the theatre. It's one of those movies where you'll something new each time you see it. It's a KEEPER.

1/01/07: Happy New Year!

Yes, today is a new year -- a new beginning!

Last night, Luke, Sheri, and their four (youngest adopted from Taiwan just two months ago) came over and we enjoyed nearly two-and-a-half hours of their company before their smallest two began needing their own beds. We toasted the New Year with champagne around New Years, EST (9:00 PM Pacific) and chatted, played, and ate delicious snacks until they had to go.

After they left, the kids and I broke out our new board game, LIFE, Pirates of the Caribbean edition, and played until 11:50. So we waited out the last ten minutes of 2006 and welcomed in 2007 with Dick Clark and ringing the brass ship's bell on our front porch. We sent the kids to bed with special prayers and blessings, and headed to bed now too long after.

I slept in today until nearly 1:00 PM, and was soon grafted into a new round of LIFE Pirates. We played until now, 5:00 PM, sometimes with all the boys, and a couple games with just E and myself.

In the Anglican Church calendar, this is also the Eighth Day of Christmas, which is known as the Circumcision of Christ. Here is the Collect for the Day (1928 Book of Common Prayer):

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today is also a day to contemplate, to ponder, to plan dreams and goals for 2007. My aims are this:

1. To improve my physical being by getting to bed earlier (11:00 at the latest) and by keeping sweets to one small serving per day (mostly dark chocolate). When I am able, I would like to add some mild exercise into my routine.

2. To improve my spiritual being by committing to Morning and Evening Prayer daily, and to the reading of the Holy Scriptures at one or both prayer times.

3. To improve both my spiritual and emotional being by taking a weekday off from homeschooling and having Keith take over, twice per month. During this time I want to pray, journal, write, read, and study.

4. To improve my emotional being, I wish to journal daily as often as possible and to write in this blog at least four times per week. When I can express myself in words, I find myself much more content.

So, I wish you all a blessed New Year! May God work mightily in your lives this year and every year!

12/31/06: New Year's Eve

Happy Seventh Day of Christmas!

The Collect for today is the same as for Christmas Day -- this Collect is in use throughout the Octave (eight days), including Christmas and until a week past:

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Tonight is also New Year's Eve. We invited friends in our small town, Luke and Sheri and their four children, to come spend the evening with us. Champagne for celebrating the New Year is ready for pouring, and both families will be providing fun snacks to eat while playing board games, etc.

Thinking back over this past year, I'm thankful for Keith, for our children and our ability to educate them at home, for extended family, for dear friends, for the blessing of two churches with two very different worship styles, both of which speak to my heart. I'm thankful for the opportunities of this year: speaking at retreat, quiet days of study, reading a few of my poems at Ad Lib, becoming closer friends with Judith and Kitty, writing more and feeling more sure about the quality of what I write.

Today we're shifting B out of the toddler bed and into the bottom bunk, J from the bottom bunk into the top bunk, and T into a "new to us" IKEA bed from our piano teacher that Keith picked up yesterday. So T will move into the play room while the other two will have the bedroom. E is directing the shifting of furniture and the cleaning of floors while I wash sheets. Keith has taken down the toddler bed that he built for E, and now he's setting up T's IKEA bed. We stopped by Target after church to buy B new sheets and a comforter -- a nice orangy red, his favorite -- and thanks to sales and a gift card, our only output was $13.

So now my "baby" is getting a big bed, and I feel OLD. Nice way to end the old year, eh?

Tonight we'll ring out the old year and ring in the new, and tomorrow I'll post some dreams and goals for 2007.

Happy New Year!

12/30/06: Holy Innocents

Perhaps the saddest day after Good Friday on the Church Calendar is the Remembrance of the Holy Innocents, which takes place on the Fourth Day of Christmastide. On this day, we remember and mourn that horrific terror of the killing of Jewish male children as ordered by King Herod.

As Saint Matthew's gospel, in the second chapter starting at the sixteenth verse, relates:

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

The Collect in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer reads thus:

O Almighty God, who out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy Holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

On the occasions that I have visited the lovely San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside, one of the original California Missions that remains an active parish to this day, I have found myself drawn to the cemetery. In a corner of the cemetery is a plot dedicated to children who died at birth, and on a wall is a huge plaque, dedicated to the Holy Innocents of our age, who have perished by abortion. I can't help to be touched by these sacred places, and I get a small inkling of the grief of the Rachels of this world, two thousand years ago and even now. And I also mourn for those who don't mourn, for those who have aborted their babies without thought and without remorse.

If you live in the San Diego area, stop by there sometime. Enjoy the gorgeous architecture, the amazing church, the wonderful history. Then stroll around through the cemetery and give a thought and a prayer for those Innocents who have perished, both 2000 years ago in Bethlehem as well as daily in our country and around the world.

12/30/06: Saint John, Apostle and Martyr

On the Third Day of Christmas, December 27, St. John is celebrated. Through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, St. John wrote not only his gospel, but also three epistles and the Revelation given to him by God. He was on of the iside circle of apostles, present at the Transfiguration of Christ, and he referred to himself repeatedly in his gospel as the "disciple whom Jesus loved."

In the Scripture readings to commemorate this day, we are told to read St. John's first Epistle, starting at the first verse of the first chapter, and St. John's gospel, the twenty-first chapter, starting at the nineteenth verse.

The Collect for the 27th day of December (1928 BCP) reads thus:

Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it, being illumined by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May God empower us to love as St. John loved, to see as he saw, and to spread the gospel of Good News as he so faithfully did.

12/30/06: Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

Christmas is more than the celebrations of Eve and Day. Christmastide lasts for Twelve Days, until the Eve of January 5, with is Twelfth Night Eve. But a lot to commemorate occurs in these twelve days. These celebrations were completely foreign to me within my evangelical community, and I wanted to share them here so others may learn as well.

The Second Day of Christmas is Saint Stephen's Day. We read about St. Stephen in the sixth and seventh chapters in St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles. In the sixth chapter of Acts, starting in the eighth verse, we are told:

"Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue...."

Then, as the sixth chapter closes:

"All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel."

St. Stephen then gave a rousing speech to the Jewish leaders, recounting their history and the birth of the Messiah. The leaders were so angered by Stephen's testimony and accusations that he was immediately stoned.

Thus St. Stephen is remembered as a saint who stood up for Jesus the Christ against great odds, and became the first martyr of the New Way.

The Collect in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for December 26 reads thus:

Grant, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

May your Christmastide shine with the Light of Christ our Lord!

12/29/06: Preparations for the New Year

First of all, Happy Fifth Day of Christmas!

Well, we made my annual trek to beloved Barnes and Noble to purchase new journals, calendars, etc.

My new journal is a Shakespeare Journal! His face is embossed in gold on a burgundy leather book -- lovely! I also had to purchase "Much Ado About Nothings: Shakespearean Sticky Notes." Inside are a rainbow of small tab stickies, then medium-sized stickies with Shakespeare's signature and a dip pen, and on the other side of this mini-book are larger stickies with Shakespeare's face, signature, and dip pen. Perfect! (Question: Must I use my dip pen to write journal entries? Answer: I'll see if the ink dries sufficiently well first; then I'll decide.)

[Note to self: Remind children that the wonderful Shakespeare canvas bag at B&N was only $10 and that my birthday is in early March.]

I also nabbed the very LAST copy of the precise calendar I wanted: The Reading Woman Calendar. Nothing like beautiful paintings of women reading, especially when the art is from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston! (I shall go there some day -- I shall!)

I also bought my traditional Farmer's Alamanac Gardening calendar that we use for school. Gardening reminders are a handy-dandy thing to have on one's wall, even if it's mostly used for keeping attendance for our home school.

We trekked all over East County before locating E's Harry Potter calendar, even though we found her a beautiful antique-look red leather journal at B&N. We found a gorgeous Castles calendar for Keith's office (he is tired of Escher), and the boys discovered a hilarious calendar for their room with ferrets dressed to represent different TV shows (Lone Ranger, Miami Vice, Gilligan's Island, etc.). We are all amused.

Since Keith bought me my New Yorker 2007 Desk Diary for Christmas, I spent much time yesterday transferring all my birthday reminders for family and friends from this year's B&N Desk Diary to the 2007 New Yorker Diary. So now I am OFFICIALLY ready for the New Year, sly cartoons included.

Come, 2007! We're ready for ya!

12/28/06: Did Christmas REALLY Occur on December 25?

Even in Christian circles, we often hear that Jesus' birth wasn't really in December. And even if the Messiah WAS born in December, then how in the world can we say that He was born on the 25th? Most Protestant and Catholic resources I've seen report that Christians co-opted the pagan solstice celebrations, placing Christmas on that date in order to "Christianize" the pagans.

Well, my dear online friend, Cheryl, investigated the actual date of Christmas. Raised in Christian family who didn't celebrate Christmas because they viewed it as a "pagan" holiday, she intended to "prove" that the Christ wasn't born in December at all, much less on the 25th. But what she discovered in ancient documents proved precisely the opposite.

Read her story here:

A blessed Christmastide to you!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

12/28/06: The Twelve Days of Christmas

I found this wonderful reminder of the possible meanings behind the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Even though my favorite Urban Legends site debunks these meanings as "false," they also couldn't show evidence for this NOT being true. So whatever the historical truth is, the devotional below, courtesy of CRI, points us to Jesus in a wonderful way.


On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so . . . ." (Luke 13:34)

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Two Turtle Doves
The Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God's self-revelation in history and the creation of a people to tell the Story of God to the world.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Three French Hens
The Three Theological Virtues: 1) Faith, 2) Hope, and 3) Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Four Calling Birds
The Four Gospels: 1) Matthew, 2) Mark, 3) Luke, and 4) John, which proclaim the Good News of God's reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Five Gold Rings
The first Five Books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, and 5) Deuteronomy, which gives the history of humanity's sinful failure and God's response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Six Geese A-laying
The six days of creation that confesses God as Creator and Sustainer of the world (Genesis 1).

On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: 1) prophecy, 2) ministry, 3) teaching, 4) exhortation, 5) giving, 6) leading, and 7) compassion (Romans 12:6-8; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Eight Maids A-milking
The eight Beatitudes: 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, 2) those who mourn, 3) the meek, 4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 5) the merciful, 6) the pure in heart, 7) the peacemakers, 8) those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. (Matthew 5:3-10)

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine Fruit of the Holy Spirit: 1) love, 2) joy, 3) peace, 4) patience, 5) kindness,
6) generosity, 7) faithfulness, 8) gentleness, and 9) self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Ten Lords A-leaping
The ten commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before me; 2) Do not make an idol; 3) Do not take God's name in vain; 4) Remember the Sabbath Day; 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not murder; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not bear false witness; 10) Do not covet. (Exodus 20:1-17)

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven Faithful Apostles: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas bar James. (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed: 1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. 4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8) the holy catholic Church, 9) the communion of saints, 10) the forgiveness of sins, 11) the resurrection of the body, 12) and life everlasting.

Graphics for the Twelve Days of Christmas by The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Thanks to Yvonne Edwards for suggesting this page and finding the graphics.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2006, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved

12/28/06: A Happy Christmastide to All!

I had written a long description of our Christmas activities two nights ago, and my connection was lost just as I was uploading my long missive, and all was lost!

Well, today is the Fourth Day of Christmas! I love celebrating Christmas for the traditional Twelve Days, even though I've been in bed for the vast majority of Christmas thus far, as I recover from the Christmas Eve and First Day celebrations with family.

On Christmas Eve, we attending church at Lake Murray in the morning. Somehow we squeezed two services into one, even though there was standing room only along the back wall. The fourth Advent candle, the Angel Candle, was lit, and we sang carol after carol, finishing with "Go, Tell It on the Mountain."

Then at 3:00, the Keith's side of the family started arriving at our home. Kevin and Renee brought their five kiddos, along with Renee's parents and sister from Michigan. Karen brought along her friend, Rob, and two of her grown ones, Steven (currently in the military), and Connie. Dad came down with Renee's folks to help us set up. We had a hors d'oeuvre meal, with sandwich stuff, wings, egg rolls, cheese and sausage platters, vegetable and fruit plates, chips, etc.

After the meal, Dad read to us all from the second chapter of St. Luke's gospel. T and J played a few carols they learned on the keyboard, and we opened gifts. Afterwards, we sang "Happy Birthday, Jesus" over a gluten-free spice cake and enjoyed cookies, toffee, fudge, peppermint tea, and other goodies. Everyone was on their way home before 9:00.

Keith and I managed to sleep until 9:00 on Christmas morning. The kids opened their stockings first, then we had a nice breakfast of eggs and sausage before opening the presents under the tree. B was thrilled with his Darth Vader voice changer, and J loved his black cowboy hat and Pirates of the Caribbean sword. T enjoyed a new influx of spyware, and E received a pile of CDs (mostly soundtracks) and some Harry Potter stuff.

The boys gave Keith some long-sleeved T-shirts, and E presented him with a watercolor she painted in Colorado. I gave him some Williams-Sonoma pie plates that he had been drooling over. He gave me my first cashmere sweater (blue cardigan), a New Yorker Desk Diary, a long black-beaded necklace, and warm wool socks. B gave me a new wallet, while the other boys gave me necklaces. E presented me with a vase she painted in Colorado and with a Bible box.

We dressed quickly and drove up the mountain to my parents' cabin. The kids were excited to see snow still on the ground, just enough for sledding. The boys certainly took advantage of that opportunity, even though it got a bit muddy off the trail. So we had a White Christmas after all, which we celebrated with my parents, my mom's brother, sister, and sister's husband, and my brother, his wife, and their two kids. So having only fifteen people felt small, but was a good thing in the 600 square-foot cabin.

After the ham and chicken dinner, the kids discovered a dead fawn that a predator apparently dragged into the driveway while we were eating. I'm sure now that this Christmas will be remembered as the Dead Deer Christmas which fascinated the boys and repulsed everyone else.

We had a lovely but busy two days, and I'm still recovering. But we all enjoyed every minute!

Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy ALL Twelve Days!

12/21/06: Ick! Ick! Ick!!!!

I'm coming down with a nasty cold! It's a mere four days until Christmas, and I'm sucking down the Cold Eeze, spraying cherry-flavored Chloraseptic down my throat, blowing my nose into the handiest Kleenex, and resting in bed as much as possible.

I had plans today to clean the kitchen which will have to be caught up with later. My messy desk, backed up against the fridge (where I am currently sitting) is the biggest problem; I'll try to get to it tomorrow after getting home from Alpine Anglican's service, seeing my chiropractor, filling my pain prescription, and grocery shopping for Christmas Eve with Keith's family here and the pies we're bringing for Christmas Day with my family up the mountain.

I may just end up crawling back into bed when I get home tomorrow, but I hope I can at least tidy up my messy corner before nap time.

Today all I did was do laundry and take the kids to the library. At the latter, I returned my Cliff Janeway mysteries (very cool -- I enjoyed all five greatly) and picked up Chocolat to watch tonight with E as we must do something with no Survivor on tonight. T checked out more bird books so he can use the pictures as models for his owl watercolor series. J returned a cool pirate book, and B picked it right back up again. The boys also got some Bionicle, Lego, and Anasi books to read.

So I'm heading back to bed to continue rereading Dorothy Sayers' Nine Tailors. It was a wonderful read about a year ago, and I'm only up to reading something light and fun. Perhaps in the New Year I'll start biting off some of my theological books I've been collecting this year, books on Christian mysticism, Merton, contemplative prayer, etc. I just need a clear brain to attempt these, something I don't have when on these pain meds.

Got Kleenex? Check. Cold Eeze? Check. Throat spray? Check.

Okay, ready for bed. And I hope and pray I can shake this oncoming cold and be well and ready to celebrate Christ's birth with dear family and friends!

12/20/06: A Christmas Down Under

My dear, dear, dear friend lives in Australia, and I must say that she's a bit of a gourmet. She e-mailed me their traditional Australian Christmas Dinner menu.

Since it tends to be especially hot in the Land Down Under on Christmas, grilling is the usual thing to do:

Christmas Menu:

Mediterranean Antipasto:
--Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and rockmelon
--Feta and sun-dried tomatoes
--Baby chili bocconcini
--Pepper spears
Australian Gourmet Cheeses and Bickies

Main Event:
Mixed Grill of Australian Seafood and Meats
--King Tiger Prawns
--Grilled Octopus
--Tasmanian salmon steaks
--Organic Lamb and Rosemary Sausages
--Organic Lamb Backstraps
--Mango-apricot chicken

Grilled Vegetable and Couscous salad (hot)
Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpea salad (cold)

Christmas pudding (tropical fruit and macademia) with brandy sauce and
Mini-pavlovas and fruit tarts

Sparkling juices
Hard dry ciders
White Wines

12/19/06: A Late Survivor Entry

Yep, Sunday night was the Survivor Cook Islands Finale. And where were we? At our church's Christmas Choir Concert and Dessert.

So Keith and E recorded it for me, and I watched it between snowball fights on Monday.

So here are the final five: Yul, Becky, Ozzy, Sundra, and Adam:

The first one out was Adam, which left the Aitu members together in the final four. Yul, with the Immunity Idol, and Ozzy, after winning individual Immunity, were not threatened at the next Tribal Council, so it was down to the women. Ozzy, very fairly, thought to have the women fight it out in a tie-break so that team unity would be preserved. It took over 90 minutes (yawn!), but Becky finally managed to win the fire challenge. So Sundra became the final jury member.

And all three, Yul, Becky, and Ozzy ended up at the Final Tribal, answering questions from the jury and then being voted on. Becky received no votes (duh!), and it ended up with Yul winning over Ozzy by *one* vote!

Yes, I would have preferred Ozzy to win, but I'm okay with Yul. It all came down to Adam keeping his promise to Yul for voting off Jonathan at a certain juncture. That one vote for Yul put him over the top. Who knew Adam would keep a promise? Hmmm.....

Anyway, it was a great season, and we're looking forward to the 14th season for Survivor, this time in Fiji.

Survivor -- still the best reality show ever!

12/18/06: Go Chargers!!!!

I'm still not sure I believe it.

Are the San Diego Chargers really at 12 - 2? Whoa!

It seems like aeons ago (and it was) that the Chargers were in the Snow-Ball, playing the Bengals in blizzard conditions when I was in high school. When the Bengals pulled ahead, my brother and I suspended our stuffed tiger from the pepper tree in the front yard and played pinata with it, beating it with a black plastic baseball bat.

Then the Chargers were in the Superbowl, and we dressed E in a toddler cheerleader outfit, and she waved her blue and yellow pom poms. They lost, of course. It's been hard to be a Charger fan sometimes.

So I've been scared to watch much this season, afraid I'd somehow "jinx" my Chargers. But once I know they've won, I'm happy.

Fair weather fan? Not quite. Just a very nervous one, I think.

But I gotta say it: Go Chargers!

12/18/06: Third Sunday in Advent

The third Sunday of Advent, in which the rose candle is lit, is, according to Focus on the Family, called the Shepherd Candle.

The color rose, rather than the penitential purple, symbolizes the joy we feel as we anticipate the celebration of the Lord Jesus' first coming in the Incarnation and as we also anticipate His return as promised in Scripture. The Scriptures for today focus on God as being our perfect Shepherd: Isaiah 40:8-11. Verse 11 states:

"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young."

What a picture! The Lord gathering us in His arms, carrying us close to His heart! And the promise that He leads those of us with young! Oh, that brings such peace to my mothering heart.

Here is the Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for the Third Sunday in Advent:

O Lord Jesus, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

We continue to celebrate Advent by daily praying the week's Collect, reading daily Scriptures, reading Scriptures from our Advent calendar, reading Tabitha's Travels, and singing carols together at the keyboard. The two middle boys have been taking lessons from Mrs. Teri since September, and they are practicing their carols and Christmas songs regularly.

So may you also celebrate this Holy season of Advent, anticipating a closer and more intimate walk with Jesus Christ our Lord.

12/18/06: Oh, the Weather Outside...

... was simply delightful!

Yes, it was our first snowfall! To those of you in the eastern or northern parts of the country, that may sounds nice but rather ho-hum. But please remember that I live in San Diego County in Southern California, where a snowfall is an EVENT. People come driving up the mountain, without snow tires or chains, sliding around the icy meadows in flip flops and hauling huge amounts of snow back "down the hill" in the beds of their trucks. That's life when one lives in the mountains during winter.

In fact, I woke up this morning to a young lady from our church in the city, calling to see if we had snow in our small town. I told her that we didn't and that she'd have to try further up the mountain. However, I had to call her back a few hours later to tell her differently.

On Sunday morning we awoke to a nearly transparent dusting of snow on the ground. The boys were uninterested in such a paltry showing. But today ... REAL SNOW!

I had e-mailed a friend from church that we had a 30% chance of "frozen mix" (which sounds more like a margarita than a weather prediction), according to the local online weather source based at the school down the street. About 1:00 this afternoon, we looked outside and the yard was white! Snow was falling in clumps of flakes, and yes, the kids and I were right out in the middle of it as soon as we suited up. We caught snow on our tongues. We scraped it off the hood of my car in order to make slush balls. We let Dash, our dachshund, take a run through the fresh powder. T built a snow otter on our front porch railing, tail and all.

With Dash on his leash, the kids and I took a short walk to the school and back through the meadow, singing "Winter Wonderland" and "White Christmas." We even made up a song about the little red mini dachshund straining at his leash for the entire walk:

Dashwood the white-nosed dachshund
Had a very frozen nose
And if you ever saw him
You would even say it froze.
All of the other dachshunds
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Dashwood
Join in any dachshund games....

We took breaks inside to warm up and watch the Survivor Finale that Keith recorded last night when we were at our church's Christmas concert Sunday evening. E and I also watched The Bells of St. Mary's with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Great film!

Our furnace broke last night, so Keith got up at 2 AM to build a fire in the wood stove, and then I kept it going all night. With temps down in the low 20's, we needed to keep the house warm! Tomorrow we need to call the propane company because apparently the problem lies with the new tank they just provided for us. Argh! And brrrrr!

But today in the snow, with kids racing around, singing and having fun, with J yelling "This is the best vacation ever!," showed me that this is what Holydays are all about: the wonder of nature, the joy of children, the beauty of God's world!

So our first snowfall is all that we wanted. And even more.

12/16/06: More Favorites....

After posting on my favorite Christmas carols, I thought posting on some other "Fave Fives" might be fun.

Today, it's MOVIES!

I found I couldn't, just couldn't narrow my choices to five, so here are my Top Ten Favorite Movies:

1. Pride and Prejudice (A&E with Colin Firth) (1995)

2. Dead Poet's Society (1989)

3. Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh) (1993)

4. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

5. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

6. The Importance of Being Earnest (Colin Firth again) (2001*)

7. Clueless (1995)

8. Finding Neverland (2004*)

9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

10. Return to Me (2000)

(One of the greatest soundtracks EVER!)

(* means I'm guessing at the date!)

So there they are: Susanne's 10 Favorite Films!

And yes, I own them all. Gotta love DVDs!

12/16/06: My Favorite Thing about Christmas

It's the MUSIC!!!!!

I love carols! The older, the better, of course.

For that reason (either being older or sounding older or using Latin, etc.), here are my top five Christmas Carols:

(Aren't you lucky???)

1. "Greensleeves" ("What Child Is This")

2. "O Holy Night"

3. "Angels We Have Heard on High"

4. "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"

5. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Why, ask you?

Well, each carol obviously has a bit of a history. A friend gave me a wonderful book called Christ in the Carols, which has a little history and devotion about each carol.

Unfortunately, they missed my favorite! But I learned somewhere that "Greensleeves," my #1, was an old English tavern tune, then later more appropriate words were set to the tune in 1865. However, the melody itself dates, I believe, back to the 1500s. And with all simplicity, John Denver sings my favorite version.

My #2 favorite, "O Holy Night" makes me want to "fall on [my] knees/ O hear the angel voices," even if I happen to be walking through Target at the time. John Denver's rendition again is my favorite; I videotaped him on the Today show, singing it the Christmas before his death, and I watch it every Christmas Eve after the kids are all abed. It's a French carol, dating back only to the nineteenth century, but the Gospel truth portrayed, especially the world "in sin and error pining," always touches me.

#3, "Angels We Have Heard on High," gets me with the Latin every time. "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" -- Glory to God on high! This carol is also not listed in the book cited above, but it remains one of my favorites to both play and sing. I also like to hear Bing Crosby or Charlotte Church sing this one.

"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus," #4, is a carol that I didn't learn until recently, but the words simply stab me in the heart. It was penned by Charles Wesley in 1744 and captures so perfectly the expectation of the Israelites for their Messiah. Lines like: "Israel's Strength and Consolation," "Joy of every longing heart," and "Born to reign in us forever" make my heart strain to become His more fully than ever.

My fifth favorite, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," I prefer to hear in Bing Crosby's mellow voice. The words are Longfellow's and were written in the throes of the American Civil War. The setting of wartime is clearly seen in the verses: "For hate is strong/ And mocks the song/ Of peace on earth, good will to men." Then we are reassured: "The wrong shall fail/ The right prevail/ With peace on earth, good will to men!"

So take time to sit back and really, truly HEAR the words of these familiar carols. Curl up with a mug of hot cider or cocoa, look dreamily at your Christmas tree, and remember once again and even more fully, He who is the Reason for the Season.

12/15/06: A Taste of San Diego History

I believe I've mentioned in several of my blog entries that my family has long been San Diego natives.

I did a little Googling this week, and found out that yes, we've been in San Diego for a loooong time. Just over a century, to be precise.

In 1900, William Quayle and his sons Edward and Charles moved from Denver to San Diego to continue the family architectural firm. Despite amazing work in the Denver (including the H.H. Thomas House in the 1870's, now on the Denver Historical Registry, as well as the First Avenue Hotel in South Denver) and Fort Collins areas, William transferred the firm to Southern California. William died in 1906, and then his sons, the Quayle Brothers, took over and built some of San Diego's landmarks.

They worked on creating Balboa Park for the 1915-1916 California Exposition by designing the Salt Lake and Union Building just east of the present Organ Pavilion. They also designed the North Park Theatre in 1928, the Old Police Station in downtown San Diego in the late 1930's, The Silvergate Lodge Masonic Temple in 1933.

Currently as part of downtown redevelopment, Edward's classic Fletcher-Sammons Building on 6th and Broadway (1906 and expanded in 1910 by both brothers) is being renovated into valuable loft spaces. They also designed the Pythias Lodge Building on the corner of E and Third, as well as the Elks Club on Cedar Street, which currently houses the Cal Western School of Law. They also created beautiful single-family homes in the neighborhoods of Mission Hills and Golden Hill/South Park.

I have much more to look at. Apparently a family member long ago put together a catalogue of all their buildings, and I also found a Master's thesis on William, Edward, and Charles Quayle in the University of San Diego library. Since I am an alumnus, I think I can find and copy it. I hope to get there over the Christmas break. My mom has tons of stuff at her house, including the catalogue, which I plan to document.

And the burning question .... Are we in the Quayle line related to the former VP, Dan Quayle?

The answer, although not verified, is "most likely." William hailed from the town of Ramsey on the Isle of Man, and that's where Dan Quayle's heritage also lies. I plan to check it out quite thoroughly as soon as I have both the time and the strength.

12/14/06: Who Will Survive?

It's that time of year again -- Survivor Finale Time!

I was disappointed to see Parvati leave, although I really could have done without the nude jacuzzi scene....

Her smile, her being the underdog much of the time, and her surprising agility in the challenges seemed to make up for her flirtiness and her scheming.

I was even more thrilled when Jonathan the jerk went home last week. Gosh, it was about time! Argh! What a horrid guy, especially after his food purchases, going around the camp burping obnoxiously into everyone's faces. Ick, ick!

But my favorite is Ozzy. He is simply amazing in agility, skill, and friendliness. He's come back from the edge a couple of times already in the game, and his kindness and friendliness combine to make him my favorite. I wouldn't mind if Yul won, or even Becky, but not Adam or Sondra. Adam was willing to let Parvati go without a fight, besides being just a selfish dude in general, and he definitely needs to get back to his sweetie, Candance. Sundra seems to be just riding on her alliance's coat tails, not really adding anything to the game. Becky is a strategizer, so I feel that her planning with Yul justifies her being in the finals.

Having five in the finals is a difference from the earlier Survivors. So I'm looking forward greatly to the finals on Sunday night.

And I'm cheering on Ozzy. And I won't mind much if Yul or Becky win. As long as it's NOT Adam!

GO OZZY! GO! Woo-hoo!!!!

12/14/06: Doing the Happy Dance!

Cuz I am DONE with my Christmas shopping!!!!


Now, I do still need to take the boys shopping for their gifts to give(although I am trying my darndest to get my dear husband to take that task over, for this year at least). At least E is finished as well. Much wrapping needs to be done, but at least the purchasing is complete.

I should have all my Christmas cards done by tonight and ready to mail tomorrow, except for a couple that I don't have addresses for. Even the ones for our church family only need to have photos and letters stuffed in them, and then sealed.

Keith mailed all our packages today, so those are done as well.

All the Holy Days decorating was done on St. Nicholas' Day (December 6). During that day E carefully put up the ceramic nativity scene on the mantel over our woodburning stove, with greenery and white lights behind and a candelabra (holding two red and a gold candle) on one end and a hurricane lantern on the other, both decorated with red bows. After clearing our usual knick knacks and books from most surfaces in the living room, I put out our snowman collection on the small table between the front door and the Christmas tree, and the collection of music boxes joined the mantel clock on my great-grandmother's treadle sewing machine. Red bows jauntily chher up lamp shades, wall lamps, candles, baskets, etc.

The gorgeous handsewn Advent calendar (made by Keith's sister) takes up the wall behind the dining table (which is our school table nine months out of the year). On the table, built by Keith, we place a century-old white tapestry napkin, and then center our angel on it, surrounded by two red candles in brass candle sticks. The angel is too heavy for our small tree, but she makes a lovely centerpiece with her flowing white satin gown and beautiful brown ceramic curls and purely glowing face. On the wall behind her hangs our Christmas card holder, made up of green and red flannel with the words Savior, Messiah, and King each on the three pockets. The boys also used dental floss to hang tiny white snowflakes from the dark rafters of the living room.

The kids put up the tree, and we decorated it after dark to the music of the Brian Setzer Orchestra. First, the clear lights, then the strands of gold beads are carefully draped. The tree is topped with a wide red bow hung with golden bells below. Then I slide the wire hangers onto each ornament as the kids come to take it and hang it on the tree with care. Most are handmade, either by family members or friends; most have an important memory attached. Some are carved scenes and Scriptures from St. Luke that tell the Christmas story, along with a new cross I bought this year, also engraved with Scriptures from St. Luke's Gospel.

Outside on the front door hangs our new greenery wreath, along with a green corded Christmas tree that my mother macrame'd with red wooden beads when I was in junior high, and a "Merry Christmas" sign my brother painted for us at least fifteen years ago. We don't do lights here as no one can really see the front of our house. (I wouldn't mind some icicle lights under the eaves of the front porch, but Keith hates hanging lights.)

On the kitchen table stands our wooden Advent wreath that Keith made us -- greenery and purple decorations wrap around five candles: three purple, one rose, and one white in the center. The Christmas place mats that Keith made for my grandparents (all deceased now) when we were first married grace the table that he also made. My snowman cookie jar supplants our usual classic Winnie the Pooh on the kitchen counter, and my window sill above the sink is filled with candles and a miniature nutcracker.

I just need to cut some greenery closer to Christmas for the tops of my bookcases. And once we're done with school (after tomorrow the 15th, that is), I'll stow away our books and decorate the top of the encyclopedia bookcase with candles and baskets full of pine cones from our own trees.

So we're well on our way to relaxing for most of the Holy Days. What a blessed time to curl up with family, a roaring fire in the stove, candles, carols, good movies, and satisfying books!

So blessed Holy Days to all! And to all a joyful heart!

12/13/06: Pajama Party!!!!!!

Last night, after a long "Super Tuesday" down the hill which included the majority of my Christmas shopping, I headed over the the annual pajama party at Kim's home at seven.

The theme is It's a Wonderful Life, which we watch every other year. On the off years, we watch a different Christmas movie. (Last year we watched The Preacher's Wife.) All of us women, in our pj's and slippers, come bearing goodies to snack on and much to share of in our lives. We cuddle on Kim's couch with hot cider, fragrant tea, or bubbly sodas, and a beautiful china Christmas plate bearing an assortment of goodies: Keith's toffee, Rae's cinnamon rolls, Diana's jam thumbprints, and Kim's pecan pie, which also doubled as a birthday cake for our lovely Mrs. Albertson.

A little after ten, Kim, Diana, and I were grabbing tissues to wipe our teary eyes and noses as Jimmy Stewart held Zuzu under the Christmas tree with the gorgeous Donna Reed by his side, as the bell rang. Yes, Clarence got his wings, and the Christmas season may now begin.

12/10/06: Second Sunday in Advent

This Sunday is the second Sunday in Advent. According to the Advent materials from Focus on the Family, this Sunday we light the second purple, or the Bethlehem Candle.

The verses to be read for today are Micah 5:2-4:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.

Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is labor will give birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

And he will be their peace.

Isn't that wonderful? That Bethlehem, that little "podunk town," as Pastor Rollo used to call it, would be exalted as it became the place of the Messiah's birth?

Here's the collect for the second Sunday in Advent, from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer that we use at Alpine Anglican. I have to admit that it's my favorite collect of the entire year, and my friend Rachel, who is a Lutheran, says that her church uses it as well, and that she loves it, too. So here it is:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

12/08/06: Ecumenism at Work!

Woo-hoo! Last night both of our churches, Lake Murray Evangelical Free Church and Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, worked together! And it was the coolest thing ever! I'm still trying to believe it actually happened.

Several weeks ago after a Friday healing service, I was telling Father Acker about Lake Murray's monthly service at God's Extended Hand, a place that feeds the homeless both meals and the Gospel. He wanted his own church to do something like this -- to learn to serve despite their small size -- so I contacted Alan, who leads our Lake Murray homeless ministry. And he was cool with having the Alpine gang come alongside us to work together for the common good.

So last night the kids and I picked up Father, his wife Alice, and their neighbor, Martha, and we drove to downtown San Diego. It was wonderful to see Father Acker up there, playing guitar with the worship team. I read part of the sixth chapter of St. John's gospel to the crowd. Alice, Martha, and E, T, and J helped prepare and serve food, and B sat on my lap most of the time. My wheelchair was in the way a bit, but it all worked out.

The kids were reluctant about going at first, but once they were there, they had a great time. J was excited that he got to help with the chicken, and E was stirring pasta while T was doing a little of everything. Then they worked hard distributing the trays to everyone who came for the meal.

Seeing our two churches working together in a ministry project was too cool to describe!

Although I'm very tired and sore today from all the activity of the past few days (B's birthday, homeless ministry, etc.), I'm very glad we did it all, and I'm very glad to rest most of today.

And I will get to my Christmas cards sometime soon -- I promise!

12/07/06: A Day to Remember

December 7th.

Yes, it's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. And it's so much more.

You see, my grandfather was at Pearl Harbor, the most devastating attack upon American soil until 9/11. Notice, please, that I didn't say "in" Pearl Harbor. No, he was on the USS Ward, an insignificant destroyer that was patrolling outside the harbor in the early hours of December 7.

Yes, the crew of the Ward saw something curious in the waters outside the harbor. Quickly they identified the curious object as a Japanese submarine, upon which they emmitted a depth charge and sunk just outside the Harbor before dawn. And thus, the crew of the USS Ward discharged the first American shot of World War II.

Many, many years later, the submarine was found by divers, right where the Ward reported discharging their weapons.

Then December 7 became even more important for my family when 1944 rolled around. The Ward was hit by a Japanese kamikaze pilot and my grandfather, Captain Farwell, managed to evacuate all the men with no casualties.

The men of the Ward were rescued by the USS O'Brien, captained by William Outerbridge, who piloted the Ward at Pearl Harbor. Outerbridge had to give the order to scuttle the Ward, so with my grandfather at his side, the two men who had captained the Ward watched it disappear into the sea.

Here's a link to a picture of my grandfather in his later years:

And a link to his version of what happened at Pearl Harbor:

Other 7's run through my family: my grandparents were married on January 7, 1942, and my mother was born on October 7, 1943.

Then I gave birth to my youngest child on December 7, who was named for my grandfather; we gave our baby his middle name. My grandfather was not alive to meet his namesake, but I think he'd be proud just the same to have a great-grandson born on this memorable day.

So Happy 7th Birthday to B, born on this most important day in the history of our family.


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