Sunday, March 30, 2008

Preserving Bible Times Seminar

On Friday night and Saturday morning, we spent several hours at Lake Murray as part of a great seminar put on by Preserving Bible Times. The subject was "Engaging the Bible in its Context" and the thesis for the four-session seminar was "If we are going to connect with the fuller meaning of a passage today, we first have to know what those words meant to those we meet in the Bible." The theme was (phrased two ways): "Context rescues biblical truth from the familiar" and "When reading the Bible, we see what we know but do not always know what we see."

Preserving Bible Times has assembled one of the finest archives of Bible Times related images in the world, including thousands of high-quality aerial and land photographic images of Bible Times archeology, culture, geography, as well as hard-to-acquire museum pieces. These images and contextual elements allow the Scriptures to increasingly come alive for 21st century people as they did for 1st century hearers. The contexts that we have to pay attention to the historical, cultural, literary, and geographical elements.

We first studied Bible Geography 101, looking at flyover filming of the Galilee District (Galilee, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Nazareth, Cana, and Megiddo) and the Central Hill Country (Jaffa/Joppa, Jericho, Bethany, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem). Very cool. Next we studied some familiar Bible passages and their meaning to 1st century Christians, like "the land of milk and honey," the barrenness of Elizabeth and Zechariah, John the Baptist, village culture in the Prodigal Son story, the raising of Lazarus, the Last Supper and the Tri-clinian Table, and the last words of Jesus. We also learned the idea of a "remez": hinted meanings that hearken back to a certain phrase or story earlier in the Old Testament. Modern examples of "remez" are if I start out "Mary has a little lamb," you're going to give the next line, "and his fleece was white as snow," or if I sing, "O beautiful, for spacious skies," you'll sing, "For amber waves of grain, /For purple mountains majesty, /Above the fruited plain." Just a word or two hearkens to something in our culture, and we can finish the line, verse, song, etc. But in the 1st century Jewish culture, everyone knew the Old Testament so well that every young man at his Bar Mitzvah had memorized the entire Old Testament! So just as we can finish a nursery rhyme or a song, the people of the first century could hear a phrase and immediately put it in its context. For instance, the "Son of Man" phrase that Jesus calls Himself over and over refers back to the prophecies of Daniel 7 which tell of the Messiah that is coming. So "Son of Man" equals "prophecies of the Messiah" to the Jewish audiences of Jesus, and they knew whom He was claiming to be. The rabbis and Bible writers were able to use the "remez" 'shorthand' and still invoke the longhand meaning, but as our culture does NOT memorize the entire Old Testament -- and many Christians have never EVEN read the Old Testament at all -- the "remez" intended by the original writer's meaning is lost. There are at least 250 direct uses and many, many more indirect uses of "remez" in the New Testament.

Many of these "shorthand" phrases were explained to us, plus we looked at the entire Middle Eastern Worldview of a Biblical passage, including the history, literary form, linguistic composition, village life, religious culture, Roman culture, Messianic prophecy, the climate, topography, proximities, physical site, and agrarian life. But for us trying to read the Scriptures twenty centuries later, we have a hard time as we've lost the vast majority of the context and instead of gaining a first century eastern mindset, we end up trying to filter the Scriptures through a set of western paradigms: evangelical mindset, churches, denominations, experiences, achievement, and more. So we need to learn how to rightly handle the Word of Truth so that we can be transformed by the Scriptures, and we are to do so by reading the text, adding in original context, kinetic visuals, and cultural insights.

So the Content Restoration Sequence is to: 1) Start with the MACRO CONTEXT (the Really Big Picture OF Scripture), then put in place the 2) MICRO CONTEXT (Prior Conext Assumed by the Writer), then examine the 3) SPECIFIC Context of the chapter/Passage being studied, then 4) Retell the Narrative with Imagination, discern the 5) Original Meaning of the Passage, then discover the 6) Purpose and then Applications of the Passage, then marinate your heart and mind with the passage by use of the 7) Spiritual Disciplines (think Richard Foster), as you alow the Spirit 8) to Transform YOU. In other words, TEXT + MACRO/MICRO/SPECIFIC CONTEXT + RETELLING WITH IMAGINATION + AUTHOR'S INTENT, PURPOSE, MEANING to INFORMATION (reconstruct the narrative) to PENETRATION (spiritual disciplines) to TRANSFORMATION (head, heart, hands = knowledge, understanding, doing).

Next we examined the REALLY BIG PICTURE OF SCRIPTURE, The Five Story Lines of Scripture found in Genesis 1-12: 1) God, 2) Adversary, 3) Mutiny, 4) Human Condition, 5) Rescue and Restoration. After we read a chapter or portion of Scripture, we need to ask ourselves five questions: 1) What do we learn about God and how He does things in the passage? 2) What do we learn about the adversary and how he does things? 3) What have we learned about the nature, character, and consequences of mutiny (rebellion against God/sin)? 4) What have we learned about the essence of the human condition? 5) What have we learned about God's eternal plan of rescue and restoration?

On Saturday, we examined some examples from Scripture in context and asking the above questions after we first learned about parallelism in Hebrew literary forms within the Bible. First we looked at Luke 4 when Christ teaches from the Isaiah scroll and the inverted parallel structure (like "When the GOING gets TOUGH, the TOUGH get GOING"). We discovered that Jesus was a Pharisee (something I had never realized), for only a Pharisee would be allowed to read and teach in the synagogue. He then preached an inverted parallel structure from Isaiah: Proclaim good news(proclaim, P) to the poor; He has sent ME to proclaim release to the captives (social justice, SJ), the regaining of sight to the blind (compassion, mercy, CM), Set free the oppressed (SJ), and proclaim the year's of the Lord's favor (P). So the entire structure is P, SJ, CM, SJ, P -- inverted parallelism. Then we discussed Jesus' encounter with Simon in Luke 5 1-11, Jesus and the Leper (Luke 5:12-16), Jesus and the Paralytic in Luke 5:17-26.

It was a very interesting weekend, one that I won't forget easily, and I would love to do more studies like this one. Context is everything -- which is why I preferred the New Historcism to the Formalism and other brands of literary criticism that ignores the context of a work that will fully inform the meaning. I intend to use many of these tools in our Inductive Study of 2 Peter as well as in my readering n Leviticus. Very cool stuff! We also watched so many cool flyovers of the different geographical areas of Israel, many of which were filmed from helicopters over areas in Palestine that have now been paved over by development.

I took oodles and oodles of notes; in fact, I had to refill my fountain pen between the first two amnd the second two senses. There were many resources also for sale at a table in the foyer, but we could barely afford the admission fee ($25 apiece) so the extra materials were not a possibility right now. My hand is still a bit tired from all the handwriting, even though the fountain pen makes it much easier on my back. About 50 people attended, most of them from Lake Murray, and it was a revolutionary way to look at Scripture (at least, I hope it will be!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Break

We're still on spring break -- our last day of school was Wednesday, March 12, and we won't be back to a regular school schedule until Thursday, April 4. We are officially starting school this Monday, March 31, but our school is having its standardized testing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so we won't actually be back at the table together until Thursday of next week.

It's been a busy but fun vacation, despite some sad events. We spent two days at Knott's Berry Farm with my family and an additional day at the Discovery Science Center, so I'm counting those as two school days all together. Knott's works as a "school day" because of the activities we did in addition to riding roller coasters: panning for gold, exploring an 1880's one-room schoolhouse, touring a full-sized replica of Independence Hall, going on rides that explain the logging and mining industries in early California, etc.

Then I was very busy during Holy Week, attending a Seder meal plus the Triduum services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday Vigil, plus two Stations of the Cross. I caught up on some work around the house and some studies I had gotten behind in doing, as well as at least an hour in prayer each day.

This week we also have two school days to add to our total in that we went on field trips to the art museum and the zoo on Tuesday, and today was Class Day, so the kids took all of their usual courses: E studied biology lab and self-defense; T was sick today so did not attend art, basketball, or chess; J experienced art, P.E., and cooking, and B went to art, science, and P.E. and I taught my two high school writing classes. My advanced class (honors) is learning to write persuasive essays in the five-praragraph format, and my intermediate class (college prep) is starting their MLA research papers. I also wrote a grammar tutorial this week on clauses for my friend Carmen's community college composition course.

Tomorrow I'll be going down to Alpine (halfway down the mountain) for chapel with the Anglicans, and then back up home to do a little gardening, work on finances, and read The Picture of Dorian Gray for our church's literary group, Logos, which will meet on Sunday after church. On Friday night and Staurday morning, we'll be heading into the city to Lake Murray to attend a "Bible Alive!" seminar; Keith, E and I will attend, and the boys will watch movies in the downstairs children's area. The seminar is supposed to really bring the Old Testament alive for 21st century Christians, so I'm really looking forward to it. The speaker gave a little promo talk a few weeks ago, and he seems like an interesting speaker -- interesting enough to keep us awake for more than six hours, anyway.

I have just finished reading Exodus today with the Bible Book Club, and we start on Leviticus tomorrow. I've also written out a new "Rule of Life" in the spirit of my Lenten Rule, and have hung it on the wall in front of my desk. One of my "Rules" is to be in bed by 11PM, and right now it's 11:15, so I have a way to go to make this rule work. Aaah, well, I'll get to bed earlier than my 1 AM average lately. I'm trying to get up earlier to have more time with the Lord before my day starts and to have more time to write, read, etc. So, "with the help of Christ my Saviour, I hope to keep this Rule of Life."

The weather has been gorgeous lately, so I've been enjoying walking to the post office and sitting on the front porch, enjoying our brief season of green from the winter rains. Green isn't our normal vegetation color here in the mountains of Southern California; brown is. But I do like the green for the short time it remains. Time for a little more gardening, I think, even though the daffodils are fading fast and the irises are beginning to form their large buds; I found a fuschia tulip coming up in the corner of my front flower bed as well. Gardening is so relaxing and wonderful!

So what's going on with you? Are you still on spring break, or are you back in the grind of life? Are you enjoying spring or are you still in the grip of winter?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Update on Homeschooling in California

From the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), dated March 26, 2008:

On March 25, the California Court of Appeal granted a motion for
rehearing in the 'In re Rachel L.' case--the controversial decision
which purported to ban all homeschooling in that state unless the
parents held a teaching license qualifying them to teach in public

The automatic effect of granting this motion is that the prior opinion
is vacated and is no longer binding on any one, including the parties
in the case.

The Court of Appeal has solicited a number of public school
establishment organizations to submit amicus briefs including the
California Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department
of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and three
California teacher unions. The court also granted permission to
Sunland Christian School to file an amicus brief. The order also
indicates that it will consider amicus applications from other groups.

Home School Legal Defense Association will seek permission to file
such an amicus brief and will coordinate efforts with a number of
organizations interesting in filing briefs to support the right of
parents to homeschool their children in California.

"This is a great first step," said Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA.
"We are very glad that this case will be reheard and that this opinion
has been vacated, but there is no guarantee as to what the ultimate
outcome will be. This case remains our top priority," he added.
I'm very glad that the February 25th decision has been "vacated." Although many of the filers of the amicus briefs will be against home schooling, at least the Superintendent of Public Instruction will be pro-home education as he has stated since the February 25 ruling. I'm hoping that HSLDA and the different home schooling groups statewide will also be allowed to file such briefs on the value of home education.

I have a neighbor who grudgingly admitted that myself and another friend are doing "okay" at homeschooling, but that she knows of a homeschooling mother who is "not educating her kids at all and that even her older kids cannot read." I do not know who this "other mother" is because I know of no one in our town's homeschooling community who is not doing an excellent job. But then I think of my own husband who slipped through the public school cracks even in the late 60s and didn't learn to read until his parents pulled him out of public school in sixth grade and put him in a private reading school. Kids can fall through the cracks in any situation; a public school teacher I know was just telling me in the last month that he is forced to give no grade lower than a "C" to any student and is not allowed to fail or hold back any student, even if the student can't read (he teaches 4th grade). Plus this same neighbor is blaming the local homeschoolers for the possiblity that our local school may have to close down next year because there aren't enough students in the school to keep it running. When J was attending, the school had 140 students in grades K-6; now the number is down to 80-something, and all of the teachers are forced to teach combination classes in order to keep the school open. It sounds like bussing the kids to the next town's much bigger and better-staffed school is a good idea compared to the current mess that's going on. But I digress; small town politics, I know....

Celebrating T's Birthday

Yesterday, March 25, was T's 13th birthday. I can't believe that my Boyo is a teenager! Anyway, we had a busy and fun day as we celebrated his entrance into the teen years.

Before we left, T opened his birthday gifts from the family after enjoying gluten-free pancakes topped with butter and fruit preserves.

Then we drove 50 miles to downtown San Diego where we were meeting some other homeschoolers for a special workshop at the San Diego Museum of Art. As the museum facade was undergoing renovation (as was the California Tower), I photographed the Botanical Garden next to the art museum. It was the loveliest of days, with temperatures in the mid to high 70's and just a few white clouds scudding across the blue skies.

At ten o'clock we met with our docent, Margie (Mar-gee), who took us upstairs into the European portrait gallery for a lesson on portraiture. First she discussed what we can learn from a portrait as far as details about age, level of society, time period, etc., of the subject. Then she led us to several other portraits throughout the museum, from portraits of an 18th century queen, to one of a young Hispanic girl in the 1950's, to some Chinese nobles of the 16th century, to a modern computer-generated infospecialist supposedly in 2030 when libraries are a thing of the past (Books were made into furniture that we sat upon as part of the "experience."). Then we went back upstairs, and the students drew their own portraits, either self-portraits or portraits based upon the art they had viewed today.

We also explored other parts of the portrait gallery and of the museum as a whole until we went outside to picnic with the other homeschooling families in front of the botanical gardens where the boys played Capture the Flag after we ate. (Actually, it was "Capture the Flip Flop" as they didn't have a flag.) They were all well-exhausted after playing for almost an hour, but we could easily check PE off for the day.

After the art museum trip and lunch in Balboa Park, we hopped into the car and drove a few blocks down Park Blvd. to the San Diego Zoo, our traditional birthday destination. The zoo was incredibly crowded as many kids were still on spring break, and it took us 20 minutes to locate a parking place in the completely full lot. It was so crowded inside the zoo that the kids found it difficult to navigate my wheelchair through all the people. We spenjt most of our time in the Children's Zoo where T himself took the above photo of his favorite zoo animal: the otter.

We tried to get through the front part of the zoo where we passed by these lovely flamingos, but it was still so very crowded that we instead explored the reptile and gharial areas behind the reptile house (in which we had NO hope of getting close to the window displays of snakes and lizards with my wheelchair as it was packed with people).

We gave up on the zoo after just a couple of hours: it was hot (we all were a little sunburned) and crowded, and the kids were very tired after our museum trip and their strenuous game on the lawns of the park. So we drove home, making stops at the chiropractor, Trader Joe's, Keith's office for water bottle refills and bathroom breaks, and finally the gas station to refill Molly, our Corolla. The kids and I settled in to watch T's new Indiana Jones movies (the four-pack DVDs with the three films and a bonus disc of special features), and Keith ordered in pizza, a real treat that we only indulge in for the boys' birthdays. After watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, we enjoyed rootbeer floats and sang "Happy Birthday" to our new teenager. He said that he had a wonderful birthday, and I'm glad he had a great time, despite the zoo not being as fun as usual.

So Happy Birthday, T! You are one special young man, and we love you dearly, Boyo!

March 25: The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation. Occuring nine months before Christmas, this is the day the Church recognizes the holy events retold in the Gospel according to Saint Luke:

"... the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, 'Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.' And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

And the angel said unto her, 'Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.'

Then said Mary unto the angel, 'How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?'

And the angel answered and said unto her, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.... For with God nothing shall be impossible.'

And Mary said, 'Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.'
(Luke 1:27-38)

The Collect for this holy day from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message on an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The "Saint of the Day" e-mail message I receive from stated thus:

"The celebration of the feast of the Annunciation goes back to the fourth or fifth century. Its central focus is the Incarnation: God has become one of us. From all eternity God had decided that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity should become human. Now, as Luke 1:26-38 tells us, the decision is being realized. The God-Man embraces all humanity, indeed all creation, to bring it to God in one great act of love. Because human beings have rejected God, Jesus will accept a life of suffering and an agonizing death: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Mary has an important role to play in God’s plan. From all eternity God destined her to be the mother of Jesus and closely related to him in the creation and redemption of the world. We could say that God’s decrees of creation and redemption are joined in the decree of Incarnation. As Mary is God’s instrument in the Incarnation, she has a role to play with Jesus in creation and redemption. It is a God-given role. It is God’s grace from beginning to end. Mary becomes the eminent figure she is only by God’s grace. She is the empty space where God could act. Everything she is she owes to the Trinity.

She is the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38).

Together with Jesus, the privileged and graced Mary is the link between heaven and earth. She is the human being who best, after Jesus, exemplifies the possibilities of human existence. She received into her lowliness the infinite love of God. She shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life. She exemplifies what the Church and every member of the Church is meant to become. She is the ultimate product of the creative and redemptive power of God. She manifests what the Incarnation is meant to accomplish for all of us."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Resurrection Sunday

We started off Resurrection Sunday with a breakfast of Easter eggs, colored yesterday by the kids, and lemon scones made with white flour, sugar, and butter -- a real treat for this health-conscious family. Then we drove down the hill to Lake Murray's Easter services.

After studying the Gospel of Matthew for some three years, we ended up at the Resurrection today! Talk about God's perfect timing. We also shared prayer requests, and I updated the group on C's relapse. We've been praying for a cure for her leukemia weekly, so we'll redouble our efforts in the wake of the news.

Second hour worship started with a wonderful choir performance:

Unfortunately, we didn't sing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," which is a MUST in my book for Easter worship! I was extremely disappointed, but at least we did sing one hymn, "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus." It just doesn't contain that same experience of joy, though. First hour sang all the great hymns of Easter: "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "He Arose," "Come Christians, Join to Sing," and "He Lives." If I didn't have to be in second service in order to go to church with our kids, I would SO be attending first service; they get to sing all the good stuff! I really wish that we could have the same "blended" services both hours, especially as it's mostly parents who attend second hour. Oh, well....

I enjoyed the few Easter decorations around Lake Murray; they were all that really proclaimed the day as Easter except for an opening talk by Pastor Stephen. We mostly sang the usual praise songs second hour, so it didn't really feel like an Easter celebration at all.

After church we drove home, unloaded the groceries, changed clothes, and headed up the mountain to my parents' little cabin on Mt. Laguna. My brother and his two kids were already there when we drove in, and my parents had dinner well under-way. After initial chatting, we adults hid eggs for the kids, finding some rather creative hiding places around the cabin. The kids enjoyed their Easter egg hunt very much, even if the land surrounding the cabin is rather wild.

After the egg hunt, the kids hid the eggs for the adults, and then they sat down to divvy up the eggs into all of the kids' baskets:

We had a lovely dinner: barbecued chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, beets and eggs (ick!), and garlic bread, with lemon yogurt pie, strawberry yogurt pie, and Easter cookies for dessert. Part of the celebration was also in honor of T's 13th birthday on Tuesday. He opened presents from his cousins (a cool surfing t-shirt) and from his grandparents (a huge art kit and some Hawaiian wall decorations for his bedroom). His cousins also bought trick candles that were supposed to reignite, but T was so thorough in his blowing that they stayed out.

The weather at the cabin was a lovely 65 degrees, much better than the 91 degrees in the church parking lot in La Mesa! So driving 45 minutes inland and 5500 feet upward in elevation to the mountains was a very good call for this Easter celebration.

Extra Easter photos can be seen at my 365 Extras blog.

He is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Great Vigil of Easter

J, B, and I barely made it to Victoria House in time for the Great Vigil on Holy Saturday evening and were each handed a slim white unlit candle. It was mostly dark at 7:30 PM, and we huddled outside the doors around a raised fireplace as Father kindled the fire with flint and steel in order to light the Paschal Candle. The liturgy for the Great Vigil is perhaps the oldest liturgy in the Anglican tradition, dating back possibly to the second century; as stated in the handout Father Acker gave us, it is also perhaps the most theologically important service of the Church Year. In it the new fire of God is struck, banishing darkness, and showing forth the victory won on Good Friday. The Vigil marks the time in the evening, while the people await the announcement of the Resurrection: "Alleluia! Christ is risen!" He is risen, indeed, and the Paschal Candle burns as the sign of the risen Christ.

Father prayed: "Beloved in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death into life, the Church invites her faithful, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and in prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which, by hearing His Word and celebrating His Sacraments, we share in His victory over death."

The Paschal Candle is inscribed with the Cross, the Alpha and Omega, and the Year; Father drew a stylus over these red markings on the candle as he said: "Christ yesterday and today, The Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega, His are the times, and the ages. To Him be glory and dominion, through all the ages of eternity. Amen."

Then he placed five small nails into the red cross on the side of the candle which represent the five wounds of Christ; as he did so, Father said: "By His holy wounds, most glorious, may He guard us, and preserve us, who is Christ the Lord. Amen."

Then the Paschal Candle was lit with a taper from the New Fire, and Father prayed, "May the light of Christ, gloriously rising, dispel all darkness of heart and mind. Amen."

Then we proceeded slowly into the darkened house, pausing three times to light a few of the candles carried by each participant as Father proclaimed in plainsong (rather like chanting), "The Light of Christ!" and we replied in plainsong, "Thanks be to God!" Once we reached the seating area, we sat down as Father set the Paschal Candle in front of him, censed it (swung incense around it), and then he sang the "Exsultet Jam Angelica," an ancient hymn of praise and joy. After that, he also sang a long portion about the Jews being freed from Egypt, praising God for His protection and might. We all sat there, following along in our handouts in one hand and the burning tapers in the other -- the room was lit with candlelight only. It was so beautiful and so eerie to be hearing words hundreds and hundreds of years old while sitting there in the light of the candles.

Then several of us took turns reading Scriptures relating to the prophecies of salvation history: I read Exodus 14:24-31 and 15:1 (Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea); Dru read Ezekiel 37:1-14 (valley of Dry Bones), and Hap read Exodus 12:1-11 (The Lord's Passover). In between these readings were prayers and silent kneeling in adoration and thanksgiving. After the final reading, Father prayed:

Almighty, everlasting God, sole hope of the world, who by the heralding of thy prophets hast shown forth the mysteries of this present time; mercifully increase the devotion of thy people, since none of the faithful can grow in any virtue without thy inspiration. Through thy Son Jesus Christ out Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen.

After this prayer we opened our 1928 Books of Common Prayer and renewed our Baptismal Covenants in which we renounced "the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh," and professed our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, our acceptance and desire to follow Him, our belief in the Articles of the Christian Faith as contained in the Apostle's Creed, our willingness, with God's help, to obediently keep God's holy will and commandments and to walk in them all the days of our lives.

Then we prayed together the first Evensong (Evening Office of Prayer) of Easter.

It was a beautiful, solemn, yet quietly joyful service. God's Word flowed through us, His light penetrated us, dispelling darkness and evil and illuminating light and truth. We celebrated Easter with the familiar greeting:

"He is risen!"
"The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!"

And then we enjoyed the breaking of Lent with much chocolate! Alice made TWO chocolate cakes, plus she made hot cocoa for J and B -- so we really enjoyed the closing of Lent! The joy of the Resurrection began to creep into my heart as the service closed, feeling all the more powerful for the experiences of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The Triduum is SUCH an important service, spread out over three evenings (and two churches, in our case) for the joy of Resurrection is intensified through the grief, sorrow, and suffering of Thursday and Friday. Walking in Jesus' footsteps through these services plus the Stations of the Cross (both at Lake Murray and at Queen of Angels) makes me love Him all the more and helps me to realize in the tiniest of ways, how much He suffered to die to MY sins (and everyone's sins) and rise again, triumphant over death and Satan.


He Is Risen!

The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Late tomorrow or early Monday I'll post photos and relate the beauty of the ancient Easter Vigil service with Alpine Anglican and the joy of the Resurrection as celebrated with Lake Murray. But for now, I will leave you with the Scriptures for the Octave of Easter from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, Not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (I Corinthians 5:7).

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:9).

Christ is risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (I Corinthians 15:20).

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

A Joyous Eastertide to you -- He is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Good Friday. It's a day I try to live extremely consciously. Although for health reasons I cannot fast completely, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday I "fast" as a former pastor with similar blood sugar issues advised me: I eat oatmeal only until dinner. As oatmeal is not a favorite meal of mine, I take little enjoyment in eating this way, but it does keep my blood sugar level.

So this morning I made oatmeal for myself and for J, my oatmeal fan. I spent some time in prayer before the kids and I drove down the hill, listening to John Michael Talbot in the car rather than our usual Harry Potter tapes. We drove down to Lake Murray to walk the Stations of the Cross in the sanctuary, a devotion we set up during Holy Week. We use a Biblical Stations approved by Pope John Paul II in the mid-90's that traces the events of Jesus's last hours from Gethsemane to the tomb. So across the back wall of the sanctuary and down one side toward the front of the church where the Stations end at the cross (the one pictured above), a prayer area is set aside for meditation. Several of the Stations had fallen off the walls, so the kids and I used masking tape to put them back up, and I lit the candles along the back wall and on top of the piano in front of the cross. The kids went through the Stations much more quickly than I did, of course. I walked slowly through the sanctuary, lit only by the stained glass windows and eight candles, reading and meditating on the Scriptures and gazing at the artwork, imagining Christ in each event. At times I felt myself near tears as I pondered each Station:

After the Lake Murray Stations, we drove back up to Alpine to Queen of Angels Catholic Church to attend the annual Ecumenical Stations in which five to six local churches take part. Father Acker and his guitar students played and lead the singing of "Were You There?" after each Scripture lesson is read in turns by the participating pastors/priests. We started off with this prayer:

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

The verses of the hymn "Were You There?" were sung to match the Scripture verses as we walked from one Station to the next in the hot noon sun with about 150 people all together. So after one of the pastors read Luke 22:39-44, we sang, "Were you there when they couldn't watch one hour?" It was nice to walk the Stations with so many other fellow believers, but I think I prefer solitary, meditative Stations.

At home the kids and I sat down at 3 PM, the time of day of Jesus' death, to pray through the Anglican Good Friday lessons. I spent more time in Bible reading for the Bible Book Club for the rest of the afternoon. Then after an early dinner the kids and I headed back down the hill to the Good Friday services at Lake Murray. I took a few photos before the service started, especially of the "rugged cross" laid across the steps to the stage at the front of the sanctuary:

We sang some lovely hymns, like "Hallelujah, What a Savior!" and "The Old Rugged Cross," and "Nothing But the Blood" before we read part of John 18 responsively. After the sermon given by Pastor Bob which focused on John 18:30 when Jesus said, "It is finished," Pastor Stephen laid out what we were to do with the cross: we were to write down our besetting sins, stamp them with "paid in full by the blood of Christ," and then nail them to the cross. Hearing the hammer blows over and over as everyone lined up to nail their sins to the cross was so hard to hear but moving. I also bent to kiss the cross after I nailed my sins as I missed the Anglican Veneration of the Cross -- I may gotten some splinters in my lip gloss as the cross really was RUGGED.

We got home around 9:30 tonight, so we had a rather long Good Friday. But with so much focus on the sorrow and grief of the day, Resurrection Sunday will be all the more joyful, right?

Tomorrow night we have the Holy Saturday Vigil -- I'm really looking forward to the first Evensong of Easter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

Tonight I attended the Maundy Thursday service at Victoria House with eight other members of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. "Maundy" means "Commandment," which recalls the commandment Jesus gave to His disciples at the Last Supper: Love One Another.

I didn't realize that Evening Prayer preceded the service or I would have arrived ten minutes earlier because I love the morning and evening offices of prayer; I pray them alone most days and always jump at the chance to do it in a group. I came in just as Greg was reading the second lesson: John 17, one of my favorite chapters as Jesus prays not only for His disciples but also for us believers centuries later. We finished the Evening Prayers (would have been called Evensong if we sung it) and then started into the Communion Service as usual.

The difference between this Communion Service and all others is that tonight we were celebrating the Institution of the Lord's Supper, the fact that Jesus held a final Passover meal with His disciples and during that meal, He declared Himself the Messiah by breaking the afilkomen (the bread of slavery) and declaring it to be His body and then after supper He drank from the cup of Elijah that was reserved for the coming Messiah and declared it His blood of the covenant.

But after the meal, Christ did something extraordinary. Here's the story as related in the Gospel reading for the Maundy Thursday service: the 13th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, starting in the first verse:

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them until the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said unto him, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." Peter saith unto him, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Simon Peter saith unto him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Jesus saith unto him, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, "Ye are not all clean." So after he has washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me 'Master' and 'Lord': and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."

So Father Acker wrapped an apron-like towel around his waist (after he jokingly said he wasn't going to remove his garments like Christ, thankyouverymuch) and asked us each to remove one shoe. Filling a china basin with water, he knelt in front of each of us in turn, pouring water from a china pitcher over our feet, washing them with his hands, then drying them with a fresh hand towel for each of us. After he dried each foot, he kissed the foot, looked up into the eyes of each person, and said, "Thank you for your service to our Lord."

I always find this part of the service strangely moving. I feel rather exposed with my foot being washed in front of everyone and by our priest!??! I have come to totally understand Peter's response (So-Cal style) of "No way, Jesus! You're not washing MY feet!" (And despite some of my male Catholic friends' reminders that having a clean foot with a fresh pedicure entirely misses the point, I at least made sure that my toenails had been polished within the last week, as was also the case with all of the women who were discussing this matter....)

Of course, in Biblical times, everyone wore sandals in Palestine, and people's feet became very dusty from the dirt roads and were also most likely encrusted with animal dung from the roads as well. So washing guests' feet was a job given to the lowest servant in a household. Therefore, Jesus washing the disciples' feet demonstrated His love and service to them as no verbal example could have. And He also stated, "You should do as I have done." So Christ gave His disciples a last lesson, an active parable of the servant-Master, especially as the disciples had just been arguing over which of them would sit on the left and right of Jesus in His Kingdom. So this footwashing was also a reprimand in a way, showing the disciples (and us as well) that those who wish to lead must do so by serving others in all humility.

It was a beautiful service tonight, and I want to spend some time this evening "watching and praying" as Jesus did on the night in which He was betrayed. Although "the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," I plan to stay up somewhat late tonight in prayer, preparing myself for the fasting and sorrow of Good Friday, the patient waiting of Holy Saturday, and the joy of Resurrection Sunday.

Holy Week Services

As I have written before, Holy Week is my favorite time of the church year. I feel so much closer to Christ as I walk in His footsteps through this week, experiencing just a little of what He did two thousand years ago.

Last night I attended an Instructional Seder meal with the Anglicans. My friends from our town, Luke and Sheri, came with me, and we enjoyed going through the Hebrew Haggadah as Father Acker showed us the parallels between Passover and the Last Supper. Filling up that wine glass four times was a bit dizzying, even though I didn't fill it more than a fourth each time. We also enjoyed a lovely meal together in fellowship as Ben and Holly provided the lamb (not a favorite of mine, I must say) and everyone else brought something delicious to the potluck meal. Hearing how Jesus broke the middle piece of matzoh that symbolized freedom from slavery when He said, "This is my body, broken for you" reinforced how Jesus frees us from the slavery of sin by His sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection. And learning that Jesus lifted the cup of Elijah, only to be drunk by the coming Messiah, when He said, "This is the cup of the New Covenant" demonstrated His Kingship and that He indeed was the Messiah to the disciples and now to us sent shovers up my spine. The symbolism is so amazing, so staggering. It was a beautiful meal and a beautiful time of fellowship with believers as well as an amazing realization of Christ as Messiah to the Jews and to the world.

Tonight I'll attend the Maundy Thursday service at Victoria House, I hope with my friend Teri. In the service tonight we'll celebrate the Institution of Holy Communion and will also have a footwashing. This service almost always brings me to tears as it demonstrates the extent of Christ's humility and love to each of us.

On Good Friday I'll take the kids to Lake Murray's Stations of the Cross -- 14 Biblical Stations with Scriptures and Old Masters' artwork from the Gethsemane to the Tomb. There's also a fifteenth Station on the Resurrection done in white, and an area for prayer has ben set up at the end, with candles lit in front of the "rugged cross" in the sanctuary. Then at noon we'll attend the ecumenical Stations of the Cross with five churches in Alpine, including the Anglicans. The crosses are outside, and as we walk to each one, different pastors will read Scripture aloud and Father Acker will lead us in praise choruses as we walk to the next Station. It's a lovely and deeply touching devotion. Then we'll go back to Lake Murray at 7 PM for their Good Friday service. I hate to miss the Anglican service as we usually read the account of the crucifixion from St. John's Gospel, each of us taking parts and all of us shouting with the crowd: "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" It's powerful and convicting. But I'm sure that Lake Murray's service will also be amazing.

Then on the evening before Easter, we'll attend the Holy Saturday Vigil with the Anglicans at Victoria House in which we'll light the Paschal candle, and then proceed into the house with each of us holding a candle. It's a solemn and beautiful service, ending with the first Evensong of Easter and an Easter feast -- Lent is officially broken and He is Risen!

We'll celebrate the Resurrection at Lake Murray. In Bill's Sunday School class, we've been studying St. Matthew's Gospel for over three years, and guess where we are as of Sunday? At the Resurrection! Then I hope that we'll have a beautifully joyful service second hour. (If we don't sing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" I will be quite unhappy!)

We're having Easter dinner with my side of the family up at the cabin; we'll have an Easter egg hunt with the kids and a lovely dinner. My brother and his kids are coming up, so the cousins will be together again.

So a blessed Holy Week to you all. May the sacrifical death and glorious Resurrection of Christ our Lord be more real to you this week than ever before. (That's my prayer for myself as well as for all of you.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It's been a rough Holy Week thus far. I suppose that we're getting a tiny taste of Christ's sufferings this week as one piece of sad news seems to come after another; I sincerely hope that no more is coming because I feel quite burdened as is.

We received the news that our friends' daughter, age 10, who has undergone nearly three years of treatment for leukemia, has now had a recurrence. She has spent over a week in Children's Hospital and a bone marrow transplant seems to be the next plan. We're praying that her younger sister will be a 12-point match as a donor. We've been rejoicing as C. was nearing the end of her long treatment that started at age 7, and now she's back at the beginning again. Please pray for C. and for her dear family -- they are such wonderful people and it grieves me so much that they're having so suffer further.

We had been hoping that Keith would be able to work with C's dad as I have been working with C's mom, but we received word this morning that Keith and Jeff did not win the contract they were hoping for. So Keith's future job is up-in-the-air again, a very minor thing compared to the news of C's illness, but still a disappointment.

My sister-in-law has been in the hospital since Saturday with a viral infection of her gall bladder, and although home lately, may have to have her gall bladder removed if the infection does not begin to clear. She's been in a lot of pain that the pain meds don't seem to be helping much. We've also had news of a missionary whom our church supports who has been diagnosed with kidney cancer and had the kidney removed; his wife has been ill for the past six months with a form of hepatitus that has been resistant to treatment.

Then we've had smaller disappointments, like the cancellation of E's much-anticipated trip (supposed to leave today) to see her cousins in Phoenix over Easter and for whom she made lovely birthday gifts that she was planning to give them in person. My niece's and our neighbor's pets have died this week (a hamster and a rat, respectively) -- small things, but when compiled with the other sad news of this week, added to the general dejection of our household.

And I need to go finish writing the Bible study on joy that I'm preparing for Lake Murray's women's retreat in a few weeks. Perhaps writing about joy when I feel far less than joyful will give it the depth it needs.

Time to buckle down in prayer and watch LOADS of Jane Austen films (in that order), I think, to at least give us some lightness in the midst of our rather sad Holy Week. I know that our disappointments have been nothing compared to the sufferings of Christ, but I still need to allow the events of this week to increase my prayer and allow me to enter into His pain at least a little.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saint Patrick's Day

The feast day of the patron saint of Ireland usually denigrates into partying, downing green beer while consuming corned-beef sandwiches. It seems as though all of America claims Irish heritage this day, wearing bizarre green leprechaun hats and sporting shamrocks on T-shirts, pins, and even tattoos.

But the true story of Saint Patrick has nothing to do with green beer and leprechauns. First of all, we must remember that the word "saint" is derived from the Latin word for "holy." The saints are known for us as men and women of outstanding holiness, who surrendered their lives to God in loving fidelity to His will.

Patrick was born in northern England or southern Scotland in the early fifth century, and at age 16 he and many of his wealthy father's servants were kidnapped by Irish pirates. Patrick was forced into slavery and worked for several years as a shepherd. During the long nights of watching the sheep, Patrick began to turn to the Christian faith of his parents; he wrote, "And there the Lord opened my perception of my heart's unbelief so that I remembered my sins even though late, and turned with all my heart to the Lord my God." Several years later, he was able to escape to France and entered the priesthood, becoming a bishop by age 43. He received a vision from God, telling him to take the gospel to pagan Ireland which was ruled by various kings and druid "priests." Patrick went and with his gentleness and quiet faith, he was able to share the Gospel with several kings in the north and west, and they supported him against the druids, who were angry at their loss of power as Christianity began to spread. Patrick was able to organize Ireland into diocese, train many priests among the earnest young men of Ireland, and build several monasteries which provided education to the Irish poor.

Patrick reportedly used a shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity: three persons in one God just like the shamrock having three sections in one leaf. He stands out in history as one who recognized and accepted God's call, left family and friends, and took the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Ireland, who had originally kidnapped and enslaved him. With great faithfulness he shared Scripture and the teachings of the Christian faith, converting chieftains and their clans, winning the pagan population to Christ, baptizing new believers, planting churches, and training leaders for those churches. When Patrick died, the church was firmly established in Ireland. St. Patrick, if he were able to speak today, would challenge Christians to reclaim this holy day.

Here is the famous Prayer of Saint Patrick, one that many of us should pray, at least once a year on the annual feast day of this most Irish of missionaries:

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

A blessed Saint Patrick's Day to you, and may we all follow the example of Christ and Saint Patrick in sharing the Good News with those closest to us, and discipling new believers to a deeper and more profound love for and obedience in Christ our Lord.

(Sources for this post: Saint-a-Day daily e-mails from, Florentine Lives of the Saints: Saint Patrick, with Prayers and Devotions, and Celebrating the Christian Year by Martha Zimmerman.)

Palm Sunday

Well, despite the disappointment of no palms in church at Lake Murray as well as no reading of the Scriptures regarding the Triumphal Entry, I still enjoyed Palm Sunday greatly as the opening of my favorite time of the liturgical year: Holy Week. During this week I try to focus on Jesus' final teachings to His disciples, on His humility in washing the disciples' feet, on His institution of the Lord's Supper during Passover, on His agony in Gethsemane, on His trial before the authorities, on His suffering as He was beaten and scourged almost to the point of death, on the brutal mockery He endured for our sakes, upon the sorrow and passion of His crucifixion, and finally on the joy of His miraculous Resurrection. The fulfilling of Old Testament Scripture always strikes me so fully during this week -- so many details foretold hundreds of years ahead of the last week of Jesus' life.

In the 21st chapter of the Gospel accoding to Saint Matthew, we read:

"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"

"The disciples ... brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'"
(vv. 5-9).

In liturgical churches, the palms used in Palm Sunday's services are bent and folded into crosses and then saved by being put behind icons or framed pictures of Jesus until just before the next Ash Wednesday when they are burned and the ashes used to anoint the foreheads of those attending the Ash Wednesday services the next year. I love how the palms come full circle: the Holy Week from one year coming into the beginning of the next year's Lent. As Benedict states in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, "There's a double meaning in that."

I missed any sense of liturgy in the Palm Sunday service at Lake Murray yesterday; our worship pastor mentioned briefly that it was Palm Sunday, but we didn't sing the praise song "Hosanna in the Highest." No palms. Just the "rugged cross" in the sanctuary draped with a purple cloth and a crown of thorns -- much better than nothing, I admit. We usually have palms along the front of the auditorium and at least some songs that mention "Hosanna" at least. And some day I'd love to have someone stand up to read one of the descriptions of the Triumphal Entry from the gospels. Oh well -- perhaps next year.

My week will be very busy with Holy Week services: setting up the Biblical Stations of the Cross on Tuesday at Lake Murray for prayer Wednesday-Friday, an instructional Seder with the Anglicans on Wednesday, Maundy Thursday services at Victoria House again with the Anglicans, an ecumenical Stations of the Cross at noon in Alpine on Good Friday plus a Good Friday evening service at Lake Murray, and a Vigil service at Victoria House on Saturday evening before Resurrection Sunday services at Lake Murray. On Sunday we'll be studying the crucifixion and Resurrection in Matthew in William's Sunday School class plus a hopefully joyful and exuberant celebration of the Resurrection during second service.

I sincerely hope that we'll at least be singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" at Lake Murray or I'll froth at the mouth. (Okay, not really, but I will be horribly disappointed!) After church we'll be driving up to my parents' cabin on Mount Laguna to celebrate Easter and T's 13th birthday with family.

A blessed Holy Week to you and yours, dear readers. May we all experience the sorrow of Christ's sacrifical death for us and the joy of His glorious Resurrection that saved all people, past, present, and future.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

We're Home ... and a Surprise!

At oh-dark-thirty on Thursday morning, the kids and I got up, ate a quick breakfast, packed the van, and got on the road to Orange County to meet my parents and my brother and his kids in Buena Park. As I drove, the kids and I listened to Jim Dale's excellent reading of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. By 9:45 we were pulling into the Holiday Inn Parking lot ten minutes after my parents and ten minutes before my brother. As our rooms were not ready, we locked the vehicles and hopped on a shuttle to Knott's Berry Farm, loading my wheelchair as we boarded. Once inside the park, we made a beeline for the log ride, a longtime favorite ride with a good-sized drop at the end with a splash to boot. The kids also rode their favorite coaster, The Silver Bullet, and we enjoyed the Wild West Stunt Show photographed below:

We ate hamburgers in the Ghost Town area, and strolled through the rest of the park, allowing kids to board ride after ride, coaster after coaster. Okay, I did do the bumper cars with the kids as well as the Calico Mine Ride. We were wearing down by our 4:40 shuttle pick up time and went back to the hotel where we unloaded the cars and found our rooms, all beside each other with sliding doors opening onto little patios fenced in with black rod iron gates. We took the kids swimming in the very warm pool while Mom and I kicked back in the jacuzzi. After dinner in the hotel restaurant -- which was very good! -- we headed to bed with T sleeping with my brother and his kids, E sleeping with my parents in their room, and the two younger boys with me in our room.

On our second day we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant and headed back to Knott's for a second day of coasters, shopping, and rides. We enjoyed lunch at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant and also went through several of the shops in the Ghost Town and other spots. By the 3:40 shuttle pick-up, we were exhausted and gladly went back to the hotel where I took a two-hour nap while my brother took the kids swimming again. After a light dinner in the hotel restaurant, we all crashed, absolutely drained.

After breakfast in the hotel restaurant Saturday morning, we packed up, checked out, and drove over to the replica of Independence Hall directly across the street from the Knott's entrance. We enjoyed the chicken and gardens as we approached the replica (shown below):

We explored the Liberty Bell replica inside the Hall as well as the replica of the room in which the Declaration of Independence was signed. The gift shop contained amazing items for sale, including replicas of the Declaration, the Constitution, Colonial and Confederate monies, etc., as well as historical displays in the corners.

After getting back to our cars, we followed my parents to the Discovery Science Center about ten miles south on I-5 in Santa Ana to spend the rest of the day. We had considered going to Universal Studios, but the cost of $50 per person was prohibitive, and we had always wanted to check out this "big black cube" hanging over the freeway that we passed on our trips to Disneyland and Knott's each year. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the experience (less than $100 for all ten of us for admission), blowing huge bubbles, climbing rock walls, making smoke rings and smoke tornados, playing a laser harp, creating their own animation films, climbing on dinosaur fossil replicas, testing their reflexes, playing on computers, building sand dams, etc. Below you can see Cousin M and T climbing sideways along the wall without touching the ground:

Mom and Dad left after lunch, and my brother Tom and I left with the kids about an hour and a half later. I took a short detour to drive past the gorgeous Mission at San Juan Capistrano even though I didn't have time to stop (or a place to park). My mom grew up in San Juan and has talked so much about the town and the mission and the swallows that come back each year on the same day that the place holds a special attraction to me. I know my dad's home town of San Clemente much better as my grandparents lived there while I was growing up and I often went there for summer visits or holidays. But I know little about San Juan and would like to explore it far more. Some day....

We drove into our town in a shower of light hail and pulled into the driveway ay 6:15 PM, absolutely worn out. I crumpled onto the sofa after unpacking a little and watched the NCIS marathon. Around 8:30 I looked out and saw ... snow! Yes, snow in mid-March in Southern California. Here are a few photos I took this morning just before church:

So we had a lovely trip. It's always tiring but always fun to watch the kids have so much fun. Keith stayed home as he sprained his back recently and wouldn't have been able to ride any of the coasters and would have been uncomfortable walking around so much. Tom's wife also didn't come except for a quick stop over on Friday night as she was quite ill with some kind of abdominal infection; she left Saturday morning to check herself into the ER. My sister and her family couldn't make it out to CA from Montana where they moved a couple of years ago, so we were a small group of ten rather than the usual horde of 16. But it was still a great time, a wonderful birthday present to the entire family from my parents.

If you'd like to see more photos of our Orange County Trip and of our surprise snow, you can click here to go to my 365 photo blog. (You may need to scroll down a little to find them; as there are multiple entries I'm sending you to the general 365 blog instead of to a specific page, plus they are in backwards chronological order.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Short Vay-Kay

The kids and I are heading up north at oh-dark-thirty tomorrow morning ... well, 7 AM anyway, for a short vacation. We'll be joining my parents and my brother and his family up at Knotts for a couple days and a third day of doing something else that we haven't completely decided on yet ... perhaps the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

Anyway, Keith is gonna "hold down the fort" and take care of the animals... or the dog at least (I think the rat and the fish will only need occasional food). He will work on the stained glass window and work on a couple of smaller jobs as well. Since he sprained his back a week or so ago roller coasters are definitely a no-no, so he wouldn't have been able to have much fun, anyway. And he will totally enjoy a silent house -- for a few days, anyway.

So the kids and I'll get back after dinner on Saturday night, and I'll have to get the Stations of the Cross ready to hang at Lake Murray after second service Palm Sunday. (I'm praying that we'll have real palms in church on Sunday!) And then my favorite week of the entire year starts ... Holy Week!

See ya all on the flip side!


(My prayer corner during Passiontide)

Passiontide is an observance that I hadn't practiced until this year. The Catholic Encylopedia states that the season of Passiontide encompasses the last two weeks of Lent, from Passion Sunday, the fifth Sunday in Lent, to the end of Good Friday or Holy Saturday Vigil. The second week of Passiontide is referred to as Holy Week, which we are more familiar with than Passiontide itself. During this time, all crosses, crucifixes, and images of Christ and His Saints are covered with an unornamented cloth of deep purple or black. I used black because I had no deep purple cloth at hand as I covered the crosses on my porch (one I covered with green as I ran out of black), the crosses just inside our front door (including the one Kitty just gave me for my birthday), my freestanding cross above my desk that I bring down with my stained glass candle for morning devotions, and my two icons plus my copy of an Old Master painting with Christ on the Cross in my upstairs prayer corner. (Perhaps I'll find some purple cloth to make neater coverings for next year....)

The Catholic Encyclopedia continues, "The crosses are veiled because Christ during this time no longer walked openly among the people, but hid himself. Hence in the papal chapel the veiling formerly took place at the words of the Gospel: 'Jesus autem abscondebat se.' Another reason is added by Durandus, namely that Christ's divinity was hidden when he arrived at the time of His suffering and death. The images of the saints also are covered because it would seem improper for the servants to appear when the Master himself is hidden."

In addition to the veiling of crosses and images, the Gloria Patri is omitted from the liturgy, and fasting is intensified. The focus of prayer is on the suffering of Christ: upon the humiliation He, the King of Kings, endured on our behalf. The lessons (Scripture readings) focus on His sufferings as well. Passiontide reminds us of the humanity of Christ and the extreme physical pain as well as spiritual pain He endured as the past, present, and future sins of the entire world were upon Him. This is the "cup" He prayed to the Lord about, asking if it could "pass by," but He concluded His prayer, "Not my will but Yours be done."

May that prayer resonate within all of us during Passiontide as we prepare our hearts for the sorrows and joys of Holy Week: Not my will but Yours be done.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tonight at the Writers' Workshop

Tonight only four of us met at the monthly Writers' Workshop at the town library, but we still had a productive meeting. Our fearless leader, Dave, an English teacher at the local high school, had given us one of his short stories last time to read and comment upon -- a fact I had completely forgotten about until 6 PM tonight, with Judith picking me up at 6:15. I managed to not only read his story but also had time to pencil in a few comments which I added to as Dave read his story aloud to the group. We gave him some feedback on the narrator as well as some help with diction level, opening paragraphs, and flashbacks. It was an excellent story that needed just a tweak here and there about which we were able to advise him. Dave is quite talented; I'm really looking forward to reading more of his novel he's working on as well.

Jess, also an English teacher now retired, shared part of a short story with us tonight as well (and left us hanging, waiting for the next installation), and we'll be workshopping a story of his next week that he distributed before we left. Judith shared an excerpt from her novel -- a beautiful and touching scene of rain after a devastating drought. It grabbed all of us, and I am eagerly anticipating reading more of her work as I've never heard her fiction before, just her poetry which I teach to my writing students. And finally I shared a short poem that I worked on only this afternoon.

After talking with Kitty, my extremely-talented poet friend who's working on her MFA, I've been wanting to try utilizing form in my poetry rather than writing free verse exclusively. A few weeks ago, the boys had an assignment in their language arts curricula that included the study of some Japanese poetic forms that went along with their study of samurai warriors. The form they learned was called a tanka, a five-lined poem with the syllabic scheme of 5-7-5-7-7 (that many syllables for each line of the poem) that usually deals with nature. As I've been rather taken with daffodil season lately, I thought, in the tradition of Wordsworth, that I would write a tanka on daffodils.

I started out with a rough five lines in the correct syllabic structure, but I was only pleased with the first two lines. Then I thought about expanding the idea into a free verse poem just as an idea-generation exercise, rather like freewriting. After doing so, I was able to take an idea or two from the longer poem and work them back into the tanka, tightening the rhetoric and the imagery. I'm not sure I'm done with it, so I'll let it sit for a week or so and then come back to it. Here's what I came up with:

In the breeze they dance
Sun-hued, bobbing heads brightly
To unheard music.
So briefly we rejoice in
The pure grace of daffodils.

For next month's Writers' Workshop we're going to bring in short works of poetry or prose about our town. We'll "workshop" them together to improve them, and then we'll submit them to our town's monthly newspaper, The Valley Views (in which I published my first feature story in this month's issue on the They Poured Fire upon Us from the Sky authors' talk and booksigning). I may work more on the poem above as daffodils are our town's unofficial flower, or I may polish up my blog entry on the McCain Valley rock hounding trip. Or I may work on something else. We'll have to see what the Muses decide to whisper in my ear... (or what I can improve from my blog entries here).

Update on Homeschooling in California

I received this rather reassuring e-mail today from HSLDA. We had carefully researched our State Superintendent of Public Instruction before voting for him, and we were very happy to find a candidate that was pro-homeschooling, especially after the previous Superintendent tried time and time again to promote very anti-homeschooling legislation. According to today's update, our vote for Jack O'Connell waas a wise one, and better yet, he was elected. His decision is welcome news for the time being until further action can be taken with the state supreme court.

March 11, 2008

An update to HSLDA Members and Friends on the California Court of
Appeal Decision on Homeschooling:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell comes to the defense of homeschool families. "The California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to homeschool in this state," he said.

After the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles ruled on February 28 that parents had to be credentialed teachers to educate their own children the statement from O'Connell is encouraging news for the homeschool community.

"O'Connell has it right," said Michael Farris, Chairman of HSLDA. "But the court decision must still be overturned before homeschool freedom can be restored in California."

The Court of Appeal ruling shocked the homeschool community because in one sweeping decision it effectively outlawed homeschooling.

"We hope the statement from O'Connell puts the brakes on any enforcement action," said Farris.

HSLDA will be pursuing several legal options, including seeking review by the California Supreme Court and petitioning the same court to depublish the opinion in order to return California to being a state where a family can legally homeschool in California without fear.

"We have just started the legal battle to restore homeschool freedom in California," said Farris.

Monday, March 10, 2008

One Thing: Shakespeare

Hey Shakespeare fans! I just wanted to do a little ever-so-humble self-promotion and tell you about one of my upcoming endeavors. In May I'll be teaching a "One Thing Workshop" for the wonderful home school writing site -- and our topic will be THE BARD!

Here's Julie's spiel for the class:

We have such a treat for you! Susanne Barrett (best known as our Slingshot poetry guru around here) is back to teach our first One Thing Shakespeare. May is Shakespeare month in Brave Writer so we felt that offering a special workshop designed to make Shakespeare fresh and accessible would be a great addition to our workshop list. As with all of our One Thing workshops, you enroll as a family. Susanne will feature a bit of background about Shakespeare, will teach you how to read and enjoy one of Shakespeare's sonnets, and will walk you through how to read a play and watch it in a movie format to get the maximum benefit from Shakespeare. We'll enjoy "Much Ado About Nothing" together.

If you are intimidated by the bard, aren't sure you "get" Shakespeare or just want a fresh take on how to enjoy the delights of Shakespearean language, this is a wonderful month-long treat.

Wow, I'm blushing! (Really.) But all modesty (hem!) aside, I am really looking forward to having some serious fun with Shakespeare in May. My writing students at Class Day will be eyebrows-deep in their research papers which means no grading for me until said papers are completed in early June, and I will be finished with the grammar tutorials I'm writing for Carmen's composition class at Cuyamaca College. So, with all my time-comsuming stuffola completed or on hold, I will have a nice block of time to devote to teaching dear old Will.

I'm currently reading Shakespeare of London by Marchette Chute, and I'm such a Shakespearean sonnet fan that I can teach them in my sleep; I may even do one of the humorous ones. And doing Much Ado will be a blast with all of the hilarious speeches to pull apart and examine plus the wonderful Kenneth Branagh film to laugh over and discuss. It's gonna totally wonderful, and I'm really looking forward to it.

If you're interested in taking the class, you can register on the site right HERE. See ya there, Bard fans! "Will" do! (Geddit?)

Very Rare Eugene Peterson Interview

As I was browsing through blog entries of The Internet Monk, I came across a You-Tube video of the wonderful talk at Point Loma Nazarene University with Eugene Peterson -- the guy who translated "The Message." His talk was so memorable to this little ol' lit and theology groupie that I sat in the second row, utterly entranced, laughing and challenged at the same time.

Until I figure out how to post You-Tube stuff directly on my page (I know, I know, if I can get the kids to leave me alone long enough, I'll have the time to figure it out soon,okay? Technology is a fair-weather friend to me.), here's the link to The Internet Monk's site with the You-Tube interview. It's rather long, but as public appearances by Peterson are about as rare as incense in evanglical worship, you may want to check it out. In fact, you WILL want to check it out. It's too good to pass up -- cross my heart and hope ta die. Enjoy!!!!

"The Ancient Faith for the Church's Future"

As he noted in the comments section of my previous post, Christopher Armstrong wrote a recent article in Christianity Today, "The Future Lies in the Past," on the resurgence of the infamous "T-word" in evangelical circles: Tradition. He reviews his experiences at the 2007 Wheaton Theological Conference which centered on the theme of "Ancient Faith for the Church's Future." Aaaaah, a topic near and dear to my heart!

Armstrong quotes Drew University theologian and Christianity Today senior editor Thomas Oden: "The sons and daughters of modernity are rediscovering the neglected beauty of classical Christian teaching. It is a moment of joy, of beholding anew what had been nearly forgotten, of hugging a lost child."

I highly encourage you to read his article in its entirety, click here. It's well worth your time, especially if you are as intrigued with ancient worship as I am, and even if you're not. It appears that "smells and bells" are here to stay in the evangelical tradition, and such resurgence of tradition in worship can only bring us closer to our Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, another of my "near and dear" issues.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Evangelicals Are Seeking the Ancient Paths

I don't often post entire articles on my blog, but this one is too good to only post portions. It explains why I feel so drawn to liturgy, to obsrving the church calendar, and why I have such an affinity for ancient modes, silent retreats, and monasteries. The ancient, well-worn paths of the past two thousand years draw me closer to God, much closer than I ever thought possible....

Feeling Renewed By Ancient Traditions
Evangelicals Putting New Twist on Lent, Confession and Communion
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 8, 2008; B09

Evangelicals Observing Lent?

Fasting, and giving up chocolate and favorite pastimes like watching TV during the 40 days before Easter are practices many evangelical Protestants have long rejected as too Catholic and unbiblical.

But Lent -- a time of inner cleansing and reflection upon Jesus Christ's sufferings before his resurrection -- is one of many ancient church practices being embraced by an increasing number of evangelicals, sometimes with a modern twist. The National Community Church, which has three locations in the District and one in Arlington County, updated the Lenten fast by adding a Web component: a 40-day blog, where participants from as far away as Australia, Korea and Mexico discuss their spiritual cleansing.

This increasing connection with Christianity's classical traditions goes beyond Lent. Some evangelical churches offer confession and weekly communion. They distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and light Advent candles at Christmastime. Others have formed monastic communities, such as Casa Chirilagua in Alexandria, modeled on the monasteries that arose in Christianity's early years.

This represents a "major sea change in evangelical life," according to D.H. Williams, professor of patristics and historical theology at Baylor University. "Evangelicalism is coming to point where the early church has become the newest staple of its diet."

Experts say most who have taken on such practices have grown disillusioned with the contemporary, shopping-center feel of the megachurches embraced by baby boomers, with their casually dressed ministers and rock-band praise music.

Instead, evangelicals -- many of them young -- are adopting a trend that has come to be known as "worship renewal" or "ancient-future worship."

Those familiar with the trend say it is practiced mostly by small, avant-garde evangelical churches, though not always. Last summer, the national convention of the 2.5 million-member Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod, an evangelical wing of the Lutheran denomination, voted to revive private confession.

"I definitely sense a hunger for acknowledgment of life's mysteries and of the mystery and beauty of God," said John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, Mich., which recently hosted a "worship renewal" conference for 1,500 people. "There's a hunger for deeper engagement -- 'Don't just sell me a product at church, but really put me in touch with the mystery and beauty of God.' "

But there are plenty of critics who reject the practices as "mystical spirituality" that don't belong in evangelical Christianity. "It is the same style of meditation that is basically being performed by Eastern religion practitioners," said Deborah Dumbowski, who with her husband, Dave, started an Oregon publishing house, Web site and 25,000-name e-newsletter to oppose the incorporation of such elements into evangelical worship. "It's being presented as Christianity, and we're saying this isn't Christianity -- not according to what the Bible says. . . . We believe it really does deny the gospel message."

Defenders, however, refute that devotees of such practices are straying from bedrock evangelical beliefs. "They're still in love with their Bible. They're still in love with their God. They still see the Bible as their primary authority," said Chris Armstrong, associate professor of church history at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., who has studied the trend. "But their experience is one of churches that look too much like the rest of the world -- a little bit too much like malls or rock concerts."

Weekly communion -- where worshipers share bread and wine, or juice, in remembrance of Jesus Christ -- has long taken a back seat in evangelical churches, but is undergoing a revival.

At Common Table, a weekly lay-led church that gathers at a Vienna coffeehouse for an unconventional service that features skits, group discussion and Quaker-style silence, worshipers line up to take communion from bread purchased at a nearby grocery store and sip wine out of a pottery chalice or grape juice from plastic cups.

"In a church likes ours, it serves the role of being that anchor that continually ties us back to the larger Christian church and to Christian history," said Deanna Doan, a member since its founding in 2001.

First Baptist Church of the City of Washington D.C. follows the liturgical calendar observed by Catholic churches. It lights candles at Advent, and observes Epiphany Sunday and the remainder of the traditional cycle of liturgical celebrations. "We find that following the seasons of the Christian year adds a lot of richness to our experience of worship," said the Rev. James Somerville, the church's pastor, adding: "We wouldn't want the Catholics to get all the good stuff."

For the most part, though, young evangelicals aren't just reviving ancient traditions. They are stamping them with their own updated brand.

Confession -- a staple of Catholicism -- is appearing in different formats.Thousands of people, for example, have posted anonymous online confessions on church-run Web sites like, and Those posting have confided feelings of guilt over abortions or their homosexuality, while others have confessed to extramarital affairs, stealing, eating disorders, addictions -- even murder.

"We do believe there is value in confessing our sins to each other," said Bobby Gruenewald, pastor at, an Oklahoma-based megachurch that runs, which has received 7,500 confessions since it started in 2006. Ministers and volunteers pray over the confessions as they come in. "This process may be a more modern way of people discovering the value of that tradition."

At Seacoast Church, which draws 10,000 people in Charleston, N.C., each Sunday, worshipers write their sins on pieces of paper and pin them to a cross. Volunteers later remove the pieces of paper and pray over them. The practice, said Pastor Greg Surratt, "has ramped up the sense of God's presence and power in incredible ways."

A growing wave of "new monastics" have updated the role of traditional monks. They share apartments or houses, have outside jobs and wear street clothes instead of habits. But they still believe in collective living, caring for the poor, a humble submission to Jesus Christ, and a commitment to a disciplined, contemplative life.

The number of monastic communities has grown from about 15 to almost 100 in the last decade, according to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, an evangelical monk in North Carolina and author of "New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today's Church."

Casa Chirilagua is a nine-month-old monastic community in Alexandria formed by three women and is one of six such communities in the Washington area. Casa Chirilagua residents pray every morning, have pledged to remain celibate while single, and assist low-income immigrants in the community.

Says 26-year-old Casa Chirilagua member Dawnielle Miller: "It's communal, it's intentional and we focus on loving God and loving others."


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