Saturday, January 26, 2008

U2 in 3D

I am soooooo excited about this U2 3D experience -- Pastor Rollo Casiple forwarded this coolest of news to me, and I am thrilled! San Diegans: It's playing at Edwards Mira Mesa Imax in limited release. E and I are SO going. We simply "can't leave it behind."

Woo-hoo!!!! Too cool. Absolutely too cool.

MIA and Dickens....

So sorry I've been missing-in-action this week. It's been a very busy one, filled with both the mundane stuff o'life and some great opportunities. Right now I'm reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations for our Logos literary discussion group at Lake Murray. And as I'm only halfway through the novel and must be leading a discussion on it in less than 24 hours, I'm just jotting down a few thoughts.

First of all, not having read this book since 9th grade, I'm truly in awe of his wit and sarcasm -- it's quite a hilarious little book if one appreciates dry wit and biting sarcasm. As a high school freshman, I had missed this wonderful component of Dickens' writing.

Secondly, his insights into the human personality are, well, insightful. Each person, even the minor characters, is drawn with such perception and depth that I fell as if I could easily recognize a Herbert or a Mr. Jaggers walking down the street. Keen insight into human foibles and triumphs definitely mark the characters in Dickens.

Thirdly, watching Pip make mistakes makes me very uncomfortable. I felt the same way reading David Copperfield, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. It's just one of those things with me -- perhaps also why I can't stand watching "I Love Lucy" episodes either -- I want to scream at them, "Don't do it! Don't be a dolt! Don't go there! You'll make a fool of yourself!" I want to shut the book on such characters rather than watch them make such horrid mistakes, just like I have to leave the room when Lucy starts making stupid decisions. Don't know why -- it's just the way I am. I'm hoping that it won't be that way throughout the entire book; perhaps having Pip tell the tale from an adult point-of-view, well-aware of his foibles, may take the edge off. I hope.

So, I'd better get back to reading the last 240 pages as well as do a little research on Dickens himself for our meeting tomorrow after church. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the novel ... as long as Pip doesn't make a lot of poor choices -- which I know he will as I do remember quite a bit of the novel, even though I last read it in 1980.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Getting Published!

On Saturday we discovered an abnormally full mail box at the post office (we have no mail delivery in our small town), and in the midst of all the assorted political flyers, bills, and credit card offers were four letters from Creative Communications. Three letters were addressed to E, T, and B, and one to me as their teacher.

Last November I had typed up a poem written as a language arts assignment by each child and entered them online in a poetry contest, limit of one poem per student. The resulting anthology, A Celebration of Young Poets, publishes about 45% of the poems submitted and also gives monetary prizes in each age category. So we were quite pleased when three of the four poems we submitted were chosen for publication. I was worried about J's reaction to not having his poem chosen, but he took it in stride: "I didn't like it that much, anyway," he said.

Yesterday we examined the proof sheets to make sure that all was correct, making a few corrections to B's poem. I enclosed an order form and check for one book ($21.95 plus shipping, not bad) that we'll share with my parents, and we'll receive the book in 6-8 months. The prize money has yet to be awarded, but I signed up online to be a judge for T's age group (7th grade). Prize money would be nice, but we'll have to wait and see....

Also in my letter was the notification that one of my Class Day students in Advanced (Honors) Writing also had her poem selected for publication. So I'm thrilled for N as well -- I may have to embarrass her in class on Thursday by announcing her poem's publication....

It's been a great experience for the kids -- for all four of them actually. It taught them that their written work doesn't have to be relegated into a file when they're done with it but that publication is indeed possible. It also taught J to deal well with disappointment and to be happy for others despite not having his poem selected. In addition, the other three are learning to be gracious "winners" and to not brag about their poems' publication (or at least not in J's hearing).

Other poetry and essay contests are available this winter and spring if anyone else is interested; you can click on this link to check out Creative Communication's next contests.

So congratulations to E, T, and B for having your poems selected for publication in your age divisions, and to J: we appreciate your good sportsmanship!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

B's Baptism Today

Our Southern California baptismal font: at the Reynolds' home in El Cajon. This is the life -- my apologies to my East Coast friends who are experiencing a REAL January in all its snowy glory while we enjoy temperatures in the 70s.

Pastor Nathan Hogan asks B questions that affirm B's faith in Christ his Lord as B answers that he loves Jesus and intends to follow him all his life. Nathan had to broadcast B's answers as he whispered them to Nathan. Being baptized in front of almost a hundred people can be a little (or a lot) scary to an eight-year-old!

Pastor Nathan immerses B after B answered his questions and affirmed his faith in Christ.

Amidst all the cheers and applause, Pastor Nathan helps B out of the jacuzzi after his baptism.

Keith helped B out of the jacuzzi and into a towel to dry off. Here is a happy B, very proud that he made it through this ordeal and never has to do it again!

We had sincerely hoped to have Father Acker from Alpine Anglican there to help with baptizing B, but he and his wife were on a plane back to San Diego after a retreat in Northern California and they were going straight from the airport to a memorial service at Fort Rosecrans for the Arnolds' uncle, a Pearl Harbor survivor and hero.

Anyway, nearly a hundred people poured into the beautiful garden and pool area belonging to the Reynolds family. Four children were baptized, along with three adults, so ages 7 through the 70s were baptized today from Lake Murray Community Church. Despite asking to be baptized this past summer, B has been VERY nervous in the last few weeks, especially after he found out that Father Acker wouldn't be present. Meeting with Pastor Nathan last week really helped calm his nerves, even if B wouldn't look Nathan in the face during the entire interview. But B did it! And we are so very proud of him.

So today was a joyful day, and the weather certainly agreed with temperatures in the low 70s and blue, blue skies that seemed much more like May than January -- perfect weather for a huge barbecue and a great church-wide celebration. It was a blessed day, and especially blessed for us with our youngest child being baptized (the other three were baptized in San Diego Bay a few years ago). We're proud of you, B! Welcome to the Family of God, little guy!

St. Fabian and Walking the Walk

Each morning, bleary-eyed and clutching a large mug of organic green tea, I open my e-mail in box and find a wonderful little resource that gives me a glimpse into the past, encouragement for today, and hope for the future: The "Saint-of-the-Day" e-mail from Each day I read of a different Saint and his or her contribution in obedience, faith, and even martyrdom. Each morning I am reminded, as the post below for today reminds me, that we do not walk this pilgrim pathway called the Christian Life alone. Not only do we walk it with our fellow parishoners and Christian friends of our time, but we also follow the same path that the Saints and martyrs and ordinary saints like us walked over the past twenty centuries. In fact, the apostles, through the Word of God, and the saints of the last two thousand years through their writings and the writings of others about them, have marked the path with signposts and warnings, with encouragement and with joy in the midst of unfathomable hardship and persecution.

The fact that I walk this pathway in the company of other believers over the past twenty centuries brings me immeasurable comfort and also the encouragement to keep slogging along the pilgrim way, filled with joy at some times and sorrow at others, but still walking on, no matter what may befall. The U2 song "Walk On" has always encouraged me, as the chorus demonstrates:

I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much...
But walk on.

The saints of the past walked on, right into the glory that was waiting for them when they arrived at the end of their path. And to know that the same glory awaits me when I come to the end of my life enables me to simply "walk on," no matter the effort involved to keep moving toward God.

Here's today's "Saint of the Day" in its entirety -- Saint Fabian, Bishop and Martyr:

January 19, 2008

St. Fabian

(c. 250)

Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope. Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian. This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in a.d. 250. St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”

We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition. A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world. We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Norm Daniels: Featured Artist

Last night we assembled at our town's small library and even smaller community room off the library for our monthly creative arts council meeting. This month our Featured Artist was Norm Daniels who lives and works at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center and is also quite an accomplished artist in oils -- a plein air Impressionist of the Surfer School, I suppose. He and Keith attended college together in the very early 80s where Keith remembers him as a crack cartoonist. Norm is selling his work exclusively through the McKibben Studios Gallery in Corona Del Mar, and is doing very well.

Norm started off the evening kicking his flipflops into a convenient corner and then walked us through a few of the paintings he had brought with him. He tends to work from sketches rather than photographs which seem too "flat" to him. He takes his sketchbook everywhere: Hotel del Coronado, Balboa Park, the beach. After he has established via sketches what seems to work for him as a composition, he takes his tripod, art case, and duffel bag full of paints, brushes, and assorted supplies and sets up to paint -- barefoot, of course. He tends to take about an hour or two to paint most works -- he works so very quickly as we saw as he set up his tripod "easel" and took a sketch of the Hotel Del from an orange "wash" to a full painting. He mostly paints on cheap artboards using the cheapest paints and brushes he can (he likes things "juicy" and with lots of texture, so cheap brushes and palette knives are his main tools of the trade).

His brushes and palette knives moved with amazing assurance and speed as he painted and talked at the same time -- occasionally stopping to wipe a knife and chat with someone, but he mostly painted and talked simultaneously, answering questions, explaining technique, making self-deprecating wisecracks. When someone asked him if he planned the different layers before painting, Norm replied, "I want to paint on purpose," but apparently he rarely does. He quoted someone who said "Painting is just a series of corrections," and he definitely lived that maxim out as he showed us when something was not quite right and needed correcting. I felt sympathy for his poor wife when Norm said, "I own two kinds of clothes: clothes with paint on them, and clothes that are gonna to have paint on them." I wouldn't like doing his laundry.

Norm's joy in creativity shone as he worked, and his love for people shone as well as he welcomed questions, made jokes, gave information, explained what he was doing in mixing paints, highlighting architectural details, shadowing areas, creating a textured and "juicy" sky, etc. The evening slipped away so very quickly as Norm completed his painting -- well, it was 90% complete, he said. He'll do a few other things when he's not under fluorescent lighting in the library, he said. Perfectly understandable.

If you would like to see more of his work, you may check out his website here. I also have a few photos of the evening on my 365 blog here. We enjoyed an amazing evening with Norm as our Featured Artist, one that few of us will forget in a hurry. Thanks, Norm Daniels, arteeste extraordinaire!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Casting" our Cares

I've had a run-in with the same verse in two different venues in the same day -- a remarkable occurrence that I want to share.

In reading and discussing Psalms 3 and 4 for the Bible Book Club (see Blogs of Interest if you would like to join us in reading through the Bible in three years), Carol posted 1 Peter 5:7:

Casting all your cares upon Him [Jesus], for He cares for you.

I spent last night preparing for Lake Murray's Lady Bereans Bible study where we started the last chapter of 1 Peter, chapter five. And our last verse to study was the above verse: 1 Peter 5:7.

Carol wrote about physically "casting" her cares at one point in her life. She stood with a fishing rod in hand, and each time she "cast" it, she surrendered something to the Lord. It was a wonderful word picture illustrating the above verse.

In my life as well I have applied this verse physically. After seeing a certain doctor/chiropractor in Phoenix, he advised me to go home and really make this verse live. So after arriving home, I collected a pile of pine cones that are usually scattered all over our lawn and stacked them near the back fence. I bent over, picked up a pine cone, named what or whom it represented, and chucked it over the fence into "God's territory" (i.e., "into God's in box," as my friend Noko says). I threw about twenty pine cones over the fence that day, and I felt so light and free when I was done.

My problem is that I (figuratively, of course) tend to sneak into "God's territory" and snatch up a pine cone that I previously chucked and take it back to my side of the fence to "take care of." Occasionally I "cast" it back, but more often I keep it. Bad idea, I know. Why do I think that I could possibly "care" for something better than God can? Ridiculous. But I still find myself sneaking through the gate to sneak a "care" back to my side. I've gotta just "cast" those "cares" and let 'em stay with God.

The best thing is the reason behind God's taking care of our "cares": because He cares for us! He loves us and doesn't want us worrying about stuff that He's in charge of anyway. It's wasted energy, wasted worry, wasted thought, wasted time. I have little control over many (most) aspects of my life, so why grasp on soooo hard to something I can't control anyway? Why worry about what I can't change? God loves us so much that He desires us to REST in Him -- to surrender everything to Him -- to follow His leading in doing this action or that action because He wants the very best for us.

Sometimes God's best doesn't look like it could possibly indeed be "God's best." Is rheumatoid arthritis God's best? Is a ten-year-old with leukemia God's best? Is someone suffering from ALS God's best? From this side of heaven, it sure doesn't look like it. It sometimes looks like God is doing a crappy job. But that's where faith steps in. I'm thankful in many ways for my own illness because it has brought me so close to God, and it has interrupted my busy-ness to give me time to pray, time to contemplate, time to reevaluate. It has given me a depth to my writing I didn't have before. It has opened possibilities I had never thought possible. And it has shown me the goodness of the Body of Christ as women drove up the mountain to clean my home on a weekly basis for several years. I've learned to receive as well as to give. And although the pain is still hard to endure, I've learned to receive it with thanksgiving and with even joy at times. I can't answer for others who suffer in different ways, but I have faith that God IS at work, that He IS taking care of our "cares," and that He does so to help us to grow, learn, and mature, to become better people and more loving, thankful, and gracious in living our lives.

So it all revolves around that intangible thing called "faith." And it also involves trust as well. Do we trust God with our cares? Do we think He will do a better job than we can? Do we trust Him to do it in the right time frame? And it also involves love -- His love for us. He does it because He. Loves. Us. That's the Creator of the Universe we're talking about here. The King of kings and Lord of lords, as Handel reminds us.

Faith. Trust. Love. Pretty heady qualities, those three. He's just waiting for us to demonstrate our faith and trust as we "cast" a care or two into His hands, just to show us "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." That's worth trusting, in my humble opinion.

I may go and lob a few more pine cones over that back fence when I get done typing here....

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Favorite Books and Film of 2007

On the Lamp Post (see address under Sites of Interest), over the last few days we have been discussing our favorite books and movies we read/saw this past year. The books and movies didn't have to be released in 2007, but we had to have read them or have seen them for the first time during the last twelve months.

Many of the women voted Amazing Grace as their favorite film, and several selected Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as their favorite book. I debated with myself and scrolled through my book and film lists for 2007, writing down my favorite fiction and nonfiction books as well as films, and I somehow ended up with eight novels, eight nonfiction books, and eight movies that I would name as being truly "excellent." From those eight, I narrowed down each list to four, and then finally to one. It wasn't easy, but here are my favorite "picks" for fiction, nonfiction, and film for 2007:

Favorite fiction book I read in 2007: Father Elijah by Michael D. O'Brien

Favorite nonfiction book I read in 2007: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Favorite film I saw in 2007: Miss Potter

In case you're interested in runner-ups, my other two favorite fiction books were: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Thirteenth Tale. My other favorite nonfiction books were: My Life with the Saints, Grace (Eventually), and Eat This Book. And my other favorite films were: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Amazing Grace.

I asked the question in order to glean a few books and films for my own "to read" and "to see" lists, so if you'd like to share some of yours, please put them in the comment area.

Whew! The End of a Busy Week!

A very busy week it has been indeed. School's back in session, and schooling four kids takes up the vast majority of my day. E has needed additional time to discuss The Odyssey, plus the boys have been catching up on their own literature. My voice is rather thrashed this week as I'm out of practice reading aloud for huge chunks of each day. For the boys I read aloud Bible (actually, all four kids are together for that), Biblical history, world history, world literature, poetry, and art history, plus I have to teach them language arts, spelling, Latin vocabulary and grammar, and their Greek/Latin roots vocabulary. Besides those group efforts, I also have to explain their individual subjects to them: mathematics to all three, plus with B we do his phonics, reading, phonics workbook, and language arts all one-on-one. Plus there's just the normal directions, encouragement, discipline, etc., that all mothers and/or teachers must give in the ordinary activities of each day: "Leave your brother alone." "Don't jostle the table when everyone is doing handwriting." "Stop drawing and start your math." "Is that your essay on the floor?" "Are you finished with that math quiz?" "Did you practice the piano today?" "Keep your pencil on your own paper." "Is your reading done?" "Please make your lunches, and help your brother make his." "Stop bothering your sister." "Keep the volume down to a low roar, boys." "No cartwheels during math. I don't care that it "helps you with geometry." "No reading under the table." "No, you know very well that you can't play X-Box until your school work is finished. Don't ask again." You know ... normal stuff.

So this week has been filled with the normal stuff of life: encouraging kids back into a full workload after three weeks of Christmas vacation. Getting up early so I can have some time for myself and God before my day begins. A strong 16-oz. cup of English Breakfast to get me through the morning, even if I have to reheat it three times (and leave it in the microwave each time, forgotten). Starting some beginning yoga -- very gently with my physical limitations. Keeping up with the Bible Book Club readings (reading through the entire Bible in three years) plus as morning and evening prayer as well as the daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalter readings (all from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer)and my own daily devotionals (My Utmost for His Highest, The Diary of Private Prayer, and The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living). I'm also reading Great Expectations by Dickens at the reasonable rate of four chapters per day for the reading and book discussion group at Lake Murray and trying to read The Family Cloister (based on the Rule of Benedict) and apply some of its ideas into our family life.

I also spent this week grading essays for the two writing classes I teach at Class Day; fortunately, I only had one class (the smaller honors class) with papers due before the Christmas break. However, the story they were analyzing, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's The Revolt of 'Mother,'" tends to stir up more than a little controversy especially in conservative Christian circles. We had quite the interesting discussion on Thursday in class. I also had to prepare to teach both classes on Thursday -- having Keith make copies of handouts and stories, assigning papers, looking over lecture notes I haven't used for five years, etc. In addition to Class Day preparations, I also wrote a proposal for a high school Shakespeare class for homeschoolers I'm offering to teach for tuition at Lake Murray on Tuesday afternoons. I was hoping to use this class to make some extra money to help with our very tight finances. The e-mail went out to all of the homeschoolers who attend our ISP, but thus far I've only received one phone call. We'll see if I receive more responses when the flyer goes out in the school newsletter early next week. My proposal is to teach five plays over the course of the semester: Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. I've also communicated to Julie at about teaching an online Shakespeare course in May (when my writing students will be involved with their research papers and my grading workload will be minimal), and I'll have to write a proposal for a four-week class for her as well. We'll see how it all works out, but I have been quite busy with classwork beyond that of my own children this week.

I've also been trying to keep myself healthy with the wonderful ladies of the SL Trusting Daily Yahoo loop where we homeschooling moms keep each other accountable in exercise, healthy eating, drinking enough water, time with the Lord, etc. We're in a B2B (Back 2 Basics) set-up right now in which we're divided into teams to keep each other accountable daily and cheer each other on as this New Year starts with some basic goals of exercise and eating healthily. So I've been online quite a bit, reporting my progress and encouraing my team. I've also been helping the daughter of one of the ladies with a college entrance essay and resume. My old computer doesn't always do well with attachments, so I had to mark the essay and resume three times before my computer finally saved the changes and I was able to send them (I hope) this morning.

In addition to all the normal activities of weekly chiropractic appointments, weekday chapel with Father Acker (Anglican), piano lessons for the boys, a meeting of our town's writer's group, algebra tutoring for E and T, straightening the house, laundry, menu writing, tracking finances, etc., B and I also met with Lake Murray's associate pastor regarding B's upcoming baptism on January 19th. I also had work to do for our arts council in getting out the word about our Featured Artist meeting next Tuesday and will need to make a few phone calls to alert people to Norm's presentation. His art is truly remarkable, and I'm hoping that we'll get a good turnout at the meeting on Tuesday.

But the big excitement of this week is a possible new job for Keith. A wonderful friend of ours has invited Keith to work with him on a project he has bid upon with the utility companies. I don't understand all the details, but it involves the tracking of alternative energy plants and their productivity. This job is really the perfect job for Keith as it will allow him time to work on his artwork and will also allow us to not only pay our bills (a real struggle lately with the downtown in new housing; it's NOT a good time to be an independent draftsman) but also start paying off my medical debts. So we're praying that our friend will indeed win the contract because Keith is more than ready to try something new as the drafting has become less and less enjoyable, especially with the new building code adopted at the first of the year which is causing Keith's dad to want to retire anyway. So we're hoping that this job will work out -- it certainly seems like it's made-to-order for Keith, and he's really excited about the prospect.

So I do have rather a lot on my plate, so that's why a few days may go by between posts here on my blog. I'm sure you understand, don't you?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Great Epiphany Article

As readers of this blog well know, I have become quite a fan of the writings of John Armstrong. His ecumenical tone is welcome in these days of political wrangling inherent in an election year. His most recent Monday offering is about The Epiphany and it's quite thought-provoking. You may read it here.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Back 2 Skool

Yep, our long three-week break is over, and this morning at nine sharp the four kids and I met at the school table. E sits in the small recliner by the window, hair mussed as usual in the morning, and with Dash snuggled up under the afghan with her. The boys and I take our seats on four sides of the large square school table that Keith built for us eleven years ago when we first started this adventure of home education.Bleary-eyed and gripping my 16 oz tea mug of English Breakfast, I pulled out the Bible, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the boys' Bible Field Guide, our memory verses (Exodus 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments), and our huge poetry anthology. And thus our eighteenth week of school commences.

By three in the afternoon I was finished with the boys and questioned E on her reading of The Odyssey. The boys still had their individual math and reading assignments to finish, but we were able to be done in fairly good time considering that we were all a little rusty regarding this school thing. I had time to prepare my writing classes for Thursday and also to grade one revision paper from my Intermediate class. I also was able to deal with plans for a Shakespeare class I'm thinking about teaching next semester in a class setting, possibly holding the class at Lake Murray as well as work out details regarding a new writing student to tutor.

So we're back, with piano lessons for J and T on Wednesday, Class Day writing courses to grade for, finish preparing, then teach on Thursday, math and algebra tutoring with Johanna on Friday, and the list goeth on. Despite the groaning at the school table this morning when I welcomed my four sleepy students back to academic endeavors, it's rather nice to be back in the swing of our school schedule. I enjoyed a full hour of Morning Prayer and Bible reading before school which is a huge blessing as well as being the very BEST way of starting back into our school routine.

May the blessings of the revelation of Christ in the Epiphany be yours this day and always!

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Today, January 6th, is the celebration of The Epiphany, or The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the Anglican tradition. Below you'll find an excellent description and explanation of Epiphany from the CRI (Christian Resource Institute) website which I edited down to cover the basics. (The author, Dennis Bratcher, is a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University from which I received my undergrad degree and also at which I taught as an Adjunct in the Literature Department when my children were quite young.)

The Collect for Epiphany from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer reads:

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.

From the CRI website:
The Season of Epiphany
Dennis Bratcher

In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King's Cake as part of the festivities of Epiphany. The Season of Christmas begins with the First Sunday of Advent, marked by expectation and anticipation, and concludes with Epiphany, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. The one or two Sundays between Christmas Day and Epiphany are sometimes called Christmastide. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. In some western traditions, the last Sunday of Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.

The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. The colors of Epiphany are usually the colors of Christmas, white and gold, the colors of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year.

As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.

The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian brotherhood and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.

In past years, we have given our children their "big gift" on Epiphany. When Keith's business was doing well, we gave them an X-Box or a the complete set of Star Wars movies, or something else for them all to share. This year we can't do that, but I will bake up a batch of brownies to eat after we take down the Christmas things (always a somewhat depressing job in itself) which should help us to celebrate a little bit.

The calendar worked with us well this year, enabling us to remain on vacation from school all the way through Christmastide. But tomorrow the grind begins again with school for all and teaching for me. We have Class Day on Thursday (and therefore I have quite a stack of grading to do!) and most of our schedule is back up and running. So it's back to work, finishing up our semester this week and gathering together grades for my own four students as well as for my two writing classes.

I wish you and yours a blessed Epiphanytide, and also blessings as we all return to the joy and work of ordinary days.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." -- St. Matthew 5:16, KJV

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Holy Rule of St. Benedict

I've always wanted to read The Rule of St. Benedict as it has been not only the basis for most of monastic life since the sixth century but also because it has been of such great impact on church history and doctrine. The problem is that most book editions of The Rule are chock full o' commentaries by various wise people. Now, I have nothing against commentaries; in truth, I think they're usually of immense help in reading a work as long as the one commentating is trustworthy. But I've been wanting to read The Rule without any commentary -- I just wanted to read IT and then go on to commentaries.

So I found a copy online that I could just print up. (If you Google "The Rule of St. Benedict," I printed the third one down on the first page.) And over the past few days, I highlighted most of those 28 pages. Yes, I know that highlighting everything means that nothing stands out, but I've also found that for me, the act of underlining or highlighting aids my understanding and retention. So after drying out one highlighter on The Rule, I finally got through it.

One reason that I've been desiring to read The Rule is that it apparently applies to family life as well as monastic life. My dear friend from church, Kitty, has a cousin who pastors a Presbyterian Church in the Portland area, and he has written a book called The Family Cloister which is subheaded: "Benedictine Wisdom for the Home." David Robinson's book has been sitting in my teetering stack of books "To Be Read" for at least two years, and I'm thrilled to be finally getting to it. I'll let you know how helpful it is in the practicality of our family's life.

Now back to The Rule. Coming from a time when the ascetics were the most admired of the monastics, when wearing hair shirts to "mortify the flesh" was supposedly a sign of great religious commitment, St. Benedict's Rule seems almost relaxed. But it's the plain ol' simple common sense of St. Benedict's Rule that has caused it to endure. The life of the monastery is laid out in an organized fashion that gives time for worship around the concept of the Daily Hours as well as set times and guidelines for divine reading, physical labor, eating, and sleeping. Uncomplaining and cheerful obedience is the mark of St. Benedict's Rule, and the virtues of silence, humility, and reverence are also of great importance.

In the Rule, St. Benedict calls for a certain kind of man to be an Abbott, or leader of the monastery, and he also distinguishes what kind of men the monks should be. St. Benedict also discusses in detail how and when worship is to be given to God, how the Psalms are to be read aloud during mealtimes so that all of the monks heard the entire 150 Psalms every single week. He also names disciplinary infractions and how such faults are to be dealt with, mercy, love, and prayer always being at the forefront. Benedict's monks were to own no personal possessions, not even a pen of their very own as all items were to be held in common; even letters from home were to be approved by the Abbott before the monk could receive them. He also organizes the various work of the monastery such as who is to have kitchen duty and how much physical labor is to be done according to the time of the year. How to receive guests and new monks is described in the latter portions of The Rule, as well as how to elect an Abbott and Prior, how to select a porter to open the door (at all hours of the day and night) and how the porter was to deal with travelers, the poor, etc.
As The Rule closes, being obedient to each other is stressed, as is the "virtuous zeal" that the monks should have in Christ.

Throughout The Rule of St. Benedict, the author quotes Scripture to explain or fortify his mode of organization for the monastery, keeping in mind human frailty and sin but also remembering that mercy and love and obedience are the hallmark of a life devoted to Christ. In fact, Scripture makes up a considerable amount of The Rule itself, and it is in the reading and obeying of Scripture that St. Benedict's Rule is most helpful to me. I'm looking very much forward to see how David Robinson's book mentioned above will utilize The Rule of St. Benedict in the life of the ordinary Christian family.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Vote in Iowa....

Well, it's Huckabee for the Republicans, and Obama for the Democrats in Iowa, the kickoff for the primary season. I can't believe that the primaries have begun when the champagne glasses from New Years Eve are barely dried and put away. Gosh, Christmas isn't even over yet -- it's only the tenth day of Christmas and we still have two days left until Epiphany. And our once-late California primary has moved from June to February 5th. Way too early. Ugh.

Obviously as I am as dyed-in-the-wool Republican as they come, mostly because the Republicans have made it much easier for little self-made businesses (like Keith's) to prosper with tax breaks and other breaks. I also agree with the Republican (mostly) pro-life stance, and with their idea (even if they don't follow through) that government should be smaller and be there only as a safety net for those who need it rather than the supposed answer-to-all-our-ills. And homeschooling. Democrats rarely support homeschooling as they are always the ones trying to either regulate it more or stop it all together; I read about it weekly in e-mails from our national homeschool legal association. And the war -- we've gotta finished what we started, and after having three nephews over in Iraq (and one there now who gave up an assignment in Hawaii to volunteer for Afghanistan/Iraq), it's personal when I see those people on the corners waving their anti-Bush signs that ask for his impeachment and revile the lives lost and the freedoms won for the Iraqi people. So, with the way I think and feel about all these issues, I definitely find myself in the Republican camp, and Keith is even more so.

So... Huckabee. Keith is a total Huckabee fan. However, I keep thinking that his name sounds much more suited for Arkansas than for Pennsylvania Avenue. President Huckabee????? I feel like I need a hay straw betwixt my teeth and dung-covered cowboy boots on my feet just to speak his name. Not a real issue to hold against a candidate, I know, but, hey, I'm allowed to be as unreasonable as the rest of the electorate, right? But as my favorite Republican is not going anywhere this time around -- Alan Keyes, that is -- I guess that Huckabee is the fall-back guy for the moment. I watched Huckabee "pull a Bill Clinton" on the Tonight Show last night, playing along with the band on his guitar. I'm not sure that a Baptist preacher will make a good president, or that he has enough foreign policy expertise. But I like his idea, weird and revolutionary and perhaps impossible though it seems, to toss out the IRS and use the "Fair Tax" (sales-based tax). I don't know if it will ever fly, but it sounds good. And I agree with him on the vast majority of the issues. And he does make me laugh -- that may be his most important quality. We haven't had a comedian in the White House before, unless we've watched Man of the Year. And we all know how THAT turned out. Sigh ... I just hope that the next President manages to close the dang border that lies just fifteen miles to the south of where I now sit....

Huckabee sounds like a very nice guy. Very funny, very quick. I would probably enjoy sitting down to talking over the issues with him. But will he make a good President? I don't know. All I do know is that I like the other guys even less than I like Huckabee, with the exception of Alan Keyes, of course. Winning Iowa will put Huckabee in the nation's sights, and he'll either perish or survive. He was exactly right when he said last night on Leno that anyone who can't stand seeing his own blood should never run for President. Too true. Far too true, unfortunately. I like that he pulled back from airing attack ads in Iowa, although realistically I don't know how long he can refrain from doing so, despite my intense dislike of negative campaigning.

We'll see how Huckabee does in the months to come. At this point, I suppose that he has my vote in our February 5th California Primary. And perhaps I'll be more excited about him by then.


I just don't like campaigning. I shudder at the idea of any sort of conflict (retch, really), and the Presidential campaign is chock full of nothing but. Months and months and months of he said, she said, they say, you say. Mud is slung from every direction, sometimes sticking and sometimes not. Somehow in November we'll have narrowed down the pool to a mere two candidates, one who terrifies me and one whom I'll vote for. I'd rather just skip right to November 4 and not see or hear a single campaign ad or receive a single flyer in the mail. And I definitely don't want to have to throw away all of those letters stuffed with scare tactics and pleadings for funds because the world will come to an end if the "other guy" wins. (Talk about ruining the environment with paper waste!!!!! Let the poor trees live!!!)

So come, November 4. Come NOW. Let's get this baby overwith.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Matter of Time....

Time slips through my fingers. I glance up at the crystal clock perched on the bookshelf above my desk and am astounded that two hours have slunk by, unnoticed. Yes, I've been on the computer, framing responses on The Lamp Post (see sidebar) to the question of New Years' Resolutions, of evaluation of the past year and hopes for the next. I've been reading incoming e-mails from Home School Legal Defense Association and from our Class Day coordinator. I've been reading and responding to the Bible reading for today at the Bible Book Club (see sidebar). So how has the day slipped away? How has it become 3:45 in the afternoon and I have so little accomplished?

Yes, the computer is a huge time-consumer. It chomps huge chunks of time, hour by hour. It feels as though something so important is being done: reading about Scriptures, evaluating, thinking, and composing posts, copying and pasting books and movie lists for the past year. After all, I did read 50 books this year and watched 71 films -- isn't it beneficial to share these lists for the benefit of others? Perhaps.

But the computer isn't the only thing that fritters away precious time. A "quick trip" to the library and post office with my daughter ends up taking forty minutes. Helping one child locate a lost reading book takes more time. Playing a game of "Set" with our youngest swallows up the time until lunch. Listening to my eldest son recite the closing of his latest reader also involves an investment of time. Yet investing time in our children, even on a day "off" from school (despite their need to "catch up" on a few subjects), doesn't seem like a waste of time; it is, as I stated earlier in this paragraph, an investment.

I also spent nearly an hour this morning in prayer and Scripture reading -- also time well-invested. Lighting a candle, kneeling in my special corner, praying Scripture, Psalms, Collects, and intercessions, reading from Psalms, Genesis, Isaiah, and 1 John, and quieting my spirit before His Spirit -- all of these bring peace to my heart as well as glory to my Lord. Time well-spent.

So time flows. Some of it is "invested" more wisely in some pursuits than in others. And still, the laundry calls to be folded and the bathroom floor cries to be swept. The glasses that are not dishwasher-safe are lined up on the kitchen counter, waiting to be washed. The boys must be followed up upon to make sure that they've truly been catching up on their reading. My daughter needs help with her literature assignment.

So is time on the computer unwisely spent? Not in spiritual pursuits, I'd say. What about in building or sustaining relationships both "in real life" and in cyberspace? Spending time thus seems justified. If I had spent my time on the telephone rather than on the computer, it would have slipped away just the same.

Perhaps, most of the time, computer time isn't as important as time spent with my family or time spent with God. Yet there is still an intrinsic value in time spent in cyberspace. Even if time seems to slip away uncontrollably. My husband uses his computer time to share the Gospel with people around the world, most of them in closed countries like China -- time VERY well-invested.

My desire for today was to spend time researching for my book. Actually, it's been my desire throughout this vacation (of which only five days remain) to read and write about stuff for my topic. Yet real life and computer time seem to have always taken away from the time I desire to spend on my book. Part of it, I'm sure, is avoiding the hard work this book demands -- deep thinking, concentrated reading, detailed notetaking. So I avoid it by letting something else take precedence so that I never quite get around to reading The Rule of St. Benedict or starting on the writings of Julian of Norwich. It's easier to avoid the work than to actually do it, and as most of us cyberbugs know, the computer is an excellent way to avoid work. For instance, take this blog post which has taken at least twenty minutes of time that I could have devoted to Benedict and Julian.... Yeah, point taken.

Time. It's such a strange being. It rules our lives, makes up our lives, and even becomes our lives. Am I content to just let it slip away? Or do I desire to invest my time wisely? Do I allow myself to hide behind activities that distract my time so that I can avoid certain more strenuous ways of spending my time? What about procrastination? How does that element work together or against the time I desire for my goals?

Once school begins on Monday, I will again have little time for the pursuit of writing and researching. My days will be consumed with mathematics and Bible, Latin and history, literature and phonics. My lunch break becomes a sanity break when I rarely want to "waste" time eating and instead desire peace, quiet, and a time for solitude.

And now I must interrupt these musings on time in order to spend time with my daughter who needs help with her Bulfinch's Mythology assignment that she needs to catch up with before school recommences on Monday. So more time will slip away ... I mean, be invested ... right?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Last night, E, T, Keith, and I managed to make it to midnight in order to "ring in" (with the brass bell on the front porch) the New Year. While Keith plied us with onion dip, chips, BBQ wings, and onion rings, the kids and I spent the evening playing board games: CLUE which T won (Mrs. White in the billiard room with the lead pipe) and Pirates of the Caribbean LIFE which I won (as Will Turner, a Landlubber). It was 11:30 when this game finished, and we sent a very sleepy and somewhat cranky B and J off to bed. E and I broke out a card game, SET, while T played X-Box until five minutes until midnight. We watched the "ball" in Times Square drop as we counted down the seconds left in 2007 with Dick Clark, and then we toasted each other with Martinelli's and I jumped out onto the porch to ring the brass bell. Then I prayed blessings for the New Year over the two older kids as I had over the younger boys when they headed to bed.

Sigh. A year gone, just like that. I didn't believe my elders when they told me that time flies by faster as one grows older, but I am beginning to believe them. It seemed like just a few months ago that I was nursing babies and chasing toddlers, and how I have managed to now have a high school girl and a "baby" who just turned eight years old is a mystery to me. The gray in Keith's hair (and the white strands in mine) seem to have appeared overnight, and I shake my head is disbelief as T approaches my height. What happened to my babies????

This morning we slept in quite a bit, and I started reading through the Bible with the Bible Book Club (look under "Blogs of Interest" in sidebar). Just after noon we drove up the mountain to my parents' cabin atop Mount Laguna. My parents, my brother and his family, and my mom's cousin and his wife joined us for chili, cornbread, salad, and cheesecake to usher in the New Year. I avoided the sauerkraut which is supposed to bring good luck to us, according to our Germanic family tradition. Not that I don't need some luck, but I just can't stand kraut. Ugh!

After eating, the kids, Mom, Tina, and I gathered around the coffee table to play APPLES TO APPLES, a wonderfully fun game of nouns and adjectives. M won, with T in second place, and Tina, Mom, and I tied for third place. The guys looked at photos on my dad's computer and cleaned up the kitchen while we played. Tom's family and Mom's cousins went home a little before we did, and we drove back down the mountain around 6:30. Mom and Dad will take down the Christmas decorations and clean up the cabin before battening down the hatches and turning off heat and water until they go up to the cabin again -- such a lovely little place. It's amazing how 600 square feet can bring such joy and warmth to a family....

So tonight we're home. The boys are in bed, and E and I are going to cosy up on the sofa to watch TV together with Dash. Our doggie is a bit worn out from having his brother (same parents but different litter) stay with us between Christmas and New Year's. I don't think those two dogs stopped playing much for the five days they were together.

It seems as though everyone has resolutions for the New Year, and I am no different. However, I have decided to take on one goal a month rather than a pile of resolutions that I will give up upon by mid-January. So for this month I resolve to get up a little earlier each morning in order to do stretches and have my private prayer time with the Lord, during which time I'll pray the Morning Office and read through and meditate on the chapter(s) for reading through the Bible in Three Years (see Bible Book Club under "Blogs of Interest"). Once this habit is fully formed, I'll tackle another. So that's my plan to enact change for the New Year, one I pray will work!

So we wish you a very Happy and Blessed New Year (and Merry 8th Day of Christmas!) to you and yours.

The Eighth Day of Christmas and The Circumcision of Christ

What a weird thing to celebrate as part of Christmastide -- the circumcision of Christ? Well, it is the eighth day after His birth, and every Jewish male child is circumcised on that eighth day. Recent medical research relates that around the eighth day of life, a baby bleeds less copiously and endures less pain in the circumcision process than doing the procedure earlier or later. So God knew what He was doing (duh!) when He commanded that baby boys be circumcised on the eighth day after birth.

After staying up to ring in the New Year, I never seem to get myself up early enough to attend the Anglican service commemorating this day, but here is the Collect that is prayed on this eighth day of Christmas in honor of the circumcision of Christ:

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.

The Epistle for this day can be found in the second chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, starting in the ninth verse:

God hath also highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

The Gospel is written in the second chapter of the Gospel According to St. Luke, beginning at the fifteenth verse:

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go even now unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Happy Eighth Day of Christmas! And a Happy New Year in which God will be glorified through us, His beloved children.


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