Sunday, August 31, 2008

So Many Saints, So Little Time

(St. Augustine and St. Monica)

This week has been a week of great Saints of the Church -- Saint Augustine, and his mother, Saint Monica, who prayed for him so fervently during his years of dissipation. We celebrated Monica on the 27th and Augustine on the 28th. On Friday the 29th was the remembrance of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. And today is the celebration of two more early Christians we learn about in the Gospels: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

The Comment to the Saint of the Day e-mail from states about Saint Monica:

Today, with Internet searches, e-mail shopping and instant credit, we have little patience for things that take time. Likewise, we want instant answers to our prayers. Monica is a model of patience. Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant but wayward son, Augustine.

The following day's post on St. Augustine, son of St. Monica, reads:

A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother, the instructions of Ambrose and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love.

And then followed the post on the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist:

John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (John 1:35-37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.

Today we read in the Saint of the Day e-mails of two men whom we read about in the Gospels, Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus:

Joseph was a respected, wealthy civic leader who had become a disciple of Jesus. Following the death of Jesus, Joseph obtained Jesus' body from Pilate, wrapped it in fine linen and buried it. For these reasons Joseph is considered the patron saint of funeral directors and pallbearers. More important is the courage Joseph showed in asking Pilate for Jesus' body. Jesus was a condemned criminal who had been publicly executed. According to some legends, Joseph was punished and imprisoned for such a bold act.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and, like Joseph, an important first-century Jew. We know from John's Gospel that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night—secretly—to better understand his teachings about the kingdom. Later, Nicodemus spoke up for Jesus at the time of his arrest and assisted in Jesus' burial. We know little else about Nicodemus

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

IT is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God. WHO, in the multitude of thy saints, hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us, and together with them may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God of, hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High. Amen.

All of these Saints' lives point to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God and the Saviour of the World. And our lives, however seemingly insignificant, should do the same, with the aid and strength of the Holy Spirit working in our lives each day.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Week of Homeschooling

We started our 11th year of homeschoooling with an amazing blessing: RAIN! An inch and a half. I threw open the windows and breathed in the pungent scent of a mountain thunderstorm, feeling the benediction of the moment filling me.

On Mondays, the older two children, E and T, go to work with Keith all day as they meet with Johanna, my college pal, former neighbor, former Catholic-school teacher, and now the kids' higher mathematics tutor. So on Mondays I have only the younger two kids at home, so I think we'll have an art time or something else fun with just J and B.

I have writing students coming over on Monday, Tuesday, and every other Thursday afternoons, plus I need to find a slot for our piano teacher's daughter so we can discuss her British Lit each week. I've dropped all other activities that interfere with school time except for my chiropractic appointments that directly follow Friday Morning Prayer and Communion services in Victoria Chapel, with Father Acker of Alpine Anglican. I take B with me on most Fridays because after the chiro appt., we do his schoolwork at Starbucks. It gives us a little extra uninterrupted time together each week as his schoolwork doesn't require as much time as the other boys' academic subjects do. Occasionally T has orthodontic appts. on Tuesdays at noon with Dr. Barber near SDSU, so that's a hunk out of our day as well.

But overall, I really like our less-hurried schedule. I need time to discuss E's American Lit with her, and probably her American History as well although she tends to do really well on history without any input from moi. She'll be in my Advanced Writing course at Class Day which occurs every other Thursday -- an entire day of classes "down the hill" in which I'm teaching Intermediate (college prep) and Advanced (honors) high school expository writing. E will be taking Advanced Writing, chess, and cooking; T volleyball/basketball, chess, and cooking, J science, PE, and cooking, and B art, PE, and math games. It's really our only activity we all do, so we're really invested in it.

T and J will start their third year of piano this fall, and J is also taking guitar lessons with Father Acker of Alpine Anglican, through the church's ministry of "Free Teen Guitar Classes" (FTGC). E has started a six-week evening acting class with the PV Players, also free, and taught by a former theatre professor from UC Santa Barbara who just retired to our little town. Tryouts for the Christmas play will be held in mid-October, and she's hoping to get a part; if she does, then she'll be rehearsing two evenings a week. The local community church is just starting an AWANA program on Wednesday night, and although I've had issues with the AWANA program in the past, we may enroll our two youngest; we're still deciding. T could also be a helper as well.

So those are the extent of our extra-curricular activities besides church every Sunday in which the middle boys (J and T) volunteer to help with the younger kids after their classes. E may start coming to my class because she really likes Nathan's teaching (our associate pastor who will be leading the 1st service adult Sunday School class); I like his teaching, too, although I'm going to really miss William leading the class as he did until this past spring when we finished Matthew after spending more than three years going through it as a class, discussing aspects of almost every verse.

Someone invariably asks "What curricula are you using?" and it's never an easy question to answer because we are rather eclectic in our use of academic materials. We use Sonlight for the boys' main subjects: history, literature, readers, read-aloud literature, poetry, and Bible, plus J's and B's A Reason for Handwriting; this year we're using Sonlight 7 which covers world history from the Reformation through modern times. We use ABeka for B and J's math (levels 3 and 6, respectively), and for E's American history. From Rainbow Resource, we purchased T's Easy Grammar Plus and the boys' typing program, and I already had B's Daily Grams 3 and J's Daily Grams 6 on hand from previous years. We're back to Spelling Power for all three boys. T and E are using Saxon for algebra, and E is studying chemistry with Spectrum (I really hope it's worth the $300 we paid for it!). I've created an American Literature program for her myself, and so far it's working out well. The boys are studying astronomy, and B is learning earth science. J and T are also taking a writing class with two other students that I'm teaching, the old Beginning Writing Class I used to teach at Class Day.

So on we proceed on the daily adventure of home education, with one week down and thirty-five weeks to go....

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Brilliant Pick: Sarah Palin

I had been looking forward with a little excitement to John McCain's pick for running mate. I had heard rumors of a female governor from a few states and had my fingers crossed for just such a brilliant choice. But as I watched McCain's press conference today, the morning after Obama's "big" speech (superb timing, IMHO), I found myself choking up as I listened to first McCain and then Palin herself. The kids noticed as we gathered around the TV together. So why was I in tears?

Tears of relief. Tears of joy. Sarah Palin is an "everywoman" in nearly every way: mother of five, including a baby son born in April with Downs Syndrome (I found out about the Downs later in the morning and it only endeared her to me the more), former PTA mom, hockey mom, mayor of a small town, running a rough race against both the Democratic and Republican establishments, her father a teacher and her mother a school secretary, her husband a Union member, her son being deployed to Iraq next month, a strong advocate of alternative energy and the environment, a woman of compassion and care -- in every way she's the Democrat's worst nightmare. Her track record of reaching across the aisle in appointments to her administration and her intelligence, wit, and warm demeanor, exuding confidence, all attracted me to her immediately. And she's only a year older than I am.
After watching her speech on TV this morning, I had to drive into the city to run errands, and for the first time in months, I tuned into talk radio to gobble up every details about Sarah Palin that I could. Rush gushed. Roger Hedgecock crowed. It was wonderful to hear the positive vibes coming across the radio waves. For the first time, we feel like sending money to the RNC which we usually do in each election but which Keith and I haven't felt at all like doing -- it just seemed like a waste of money with no real Conservative candidate to rally behind. No longer -- what a relief!

At last I am excited about this election. Thus far in this election, my assumed vote for McCain has been more against Obama than being "for" the Republicans, but all of that ambivalence disappeared today with McCain's brilliant choice of a woman of strong Conservative values, pro-life, yet not afraid to shake up the "good ol' boys" networks of politics-as-usual. I admire her courage and pride, her confidence and outspokenness. She's a wonderful role model for us Christian "feminists" who are still pro-life and pro-family but want to see a woman in high office with the same ideals as many of us wives and mothers.

Anyway, I am beyond THRILLED today with McCain's surprise announcement of a female running mate of such high calibre, and I simply "heart" Sarah Palin!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My 500th Post: School Stuffola and Writing with Confidence

(photo taken by T this morning as I typed this entry)
This post marks the 500th time I've written on this blog in the past (almost) two years. I have to say that blogging has become a true joy in my life, and I'm so grateful for this encouraging venue to develop my thoughts, express my heart, and share what God is teaching me about living a life devoted to Christ.

This morning I came to this blog to write about the joy of setting up my homeschool "classroom," if one can call our living room a "classroom." Last night I sat on the floor, doing my favorite homeschool-prep job: using library spine-binders to tape the colored tabs onto this year's Sonlight books. Each year of Sonlight books has a different color, so if a few of the thousand or so Sonlight titles we own become misplaced, I automatically know whether it belongs in SL 4 or SL 7 and can shelve it accordingly. Having the books color-coded also makes lending them out to family and friends much easier, both for me as lender so I can locate the proper books and for the borrower as she can keep track of them better if they get mixed into her books (which they inevitably will). Using the clear library-quality "band-aids" to affix the colored dots to each book works far better than Scotch tape.
Today I'll be organizing the school supplies I bought yesterday at Staples; I'll be purchasing some binders and a few other items at Costco tomorrow but I have most of what I need. I'll clean out the boys' bins (in those plastic 3-drawer organizers) and put their new books and journals into each bin; E arranged her school things yesterday. I still have two boxes arriving from ABeka on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, so B & J won't have their math books until then. However, I still have the teacher's editions, so we'll just review the first lesson or two orally, and E will have to play a little catch-up with her American history which I can't plan at all until it arrives. I'll give her something to read regarding American history as a warm-up for Monday and Tuesday. I also purchased most of the books she needs for her American literature course that I'm creating myself because I simply didn't like any of the programs I looked at. Her chemistry program may not arrive for a month, so I'll have her double-up on history until it comes, then she can devote herself to chemistry until she's caught up. The Spectrum Chemistry program really excited her at the homeschool convention; she can't wait to work with all the chemicals.

But back to this blog. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is that it makes me write something almost every day, and consistent composing is important for any would-be writer. Blogging also gives me the illusion of publishing my writing -- something that every writer dreams of accomplishing. With blogging, I also have a venue to write about different aspects of my book, trying out ideas and topics to see if I have anything fresh to say about saints or liturgy or Communion. And, lastly, blogging helps me in learning to write with CONFIDENCE.

I found myself thinking a great deal about the word "confidence" while driving "up the hill" the other day. I don't remember where I read it, although I'm fairly certain that the writer was Catholic (Thomas Keating? Thomas Merton?), but the word "confidence" can be broken down into its two halves of Latin origin: "CON" means "with," and "FIDE" means "faith." So writing with "confidence" denotes writing "with faith." Of course, the next question is: "with faith in whom or what?" For me as a Christian writer, the obvious and very true answer is that I write with faith in Christ my Saviour. But many, if not most, writers (definitely including myself) have issues with self-confidence. Is my writing "good enough"? Will anyone want to read what I put on paper? Am I simply deluding myself, wasting valuable time on a craft for which I have no real talent? Many writers have problems writing with self-confidence -- confidence in God's gifting of talents, confidence that, as one of my friends tells me, "God doesn't make junk," confidence in my ability to form words and ideas on the page that may help and teach as well as inform and amuse -- confidence in oneself is entirely necessary in a writer. So I as a writer need "confidence," need to write "with faith" in God and "with faith" in myself as a child of God who has been given this talent, this drive, this passion, to commit words to the page for others to read.

Writing on this blog 500 times has increased my confidence as a writer immeasurably. And that thanks is due to God, and also to you who read what I write. You have helped me develop as a writer far more than you know. Thank you, and God bless you as you exercise your own talents with CONFIDENCE.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Summer Readin', Having a Blast"

With apologies to the Grease soundtrack for the title of this post, but summer reading is indeed a joy. I allow myself to read just for enjoyment during the summer, with little pressure to read academic or edifying books. There's just nothing as relaxing as settling into a beach chair, toes dug into the warm sand, and opening a novel of suspense and/or mystery.

I'm engrossed in Anne Perry's latest Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novel (see above) which takes place in the hallowed halls of Buckingham Palace. I have read every book in the series except for the one immediately preceding this newest release which will be the next book to order from the library. These novels are set in Victorian England and involve Thomas Pitt, a discreet police officer, and his wife Charlotte, who is of noble stock, or was until she married a policeman. Their spunky maid, Gracie, also figures into many of the books, this one included. Charlotte and Gracie are clever women, helping Thomas behind the scenes in solving many murders during the reign of Jack the Ripper. Perry's attention to detail, beautiful writing style, deep character development, and surprise endings make the Thomas Pitt books one of my favorite mystery series.

Before picking up Perry's latest, I enjoyed the latest novel by Mary Higgins Clark, whose books I have read since high school, starting with her first, Where Are the Children? and proceeding to A Cry in the Night which I was so engrossed in during my senior year of high school that I hid it in my lap, disguised under my Algebra II book, so I could finish the last few chapters. After staying up until 3 AM reading, I had to find out how it ended, and I still think it's her most masterful book, a tale of psychological suspense that thrills and chills at the same time. Over the years, her books have become somewhat predictable, and I've been able to figure out the culprit fairly easily. Her latest book, Where Are You Now? is quite good, but definitely isn't her best. With the exception of her nonfiction books and short story collections, I've kept up with MHC throughout the years, trusting her books to allow me an escape for a day or two.

This summer I also read The Life of Pi for Logos, our monthly literary gathering at church. It was an intriguing book, but definitely not a favorite. If you'd like to read my response to it, just click here. Logos is also discussion Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well which I am planning to read on Saturday for Sunday's meeting at which we'll watch a film version and discuss the play. We had hoped to get Old Globe tickets to go see it on stage, but they no longer sell their $19 tickets and the least expensive we could get would cost $36 per seat -- way out of our price range. I also read and somewhat enjoyed The Celtic Riddle by Lyn Anderson. The only thing really going for it was its Irish setting, but otherwise it wasn't terribly interesting or suspenseful. I slogged through it but won't be reading any more by Lyn Anderson if I can help it.

However, much of the summer was spent reading take-offs of Jane Austen's works. Shannon Hall's Austenland was an interesting look into a fictitious modern-day reenactment resort in which women assumed the clothing and manners of a Regency lady and immersed themselves for three weeks in the world of Jane Austen, with male actors hired to play Regency men who danced with and courted the female resort guests who paid handsomely for this trip back in time. In this novel, we follow a thoroughly modern young woman in her early thirties and unmarried who is given a trip to this resort as a bequest in her aunt's will to help rid her of an obsession with Mr. Darcy. Her experiences with the type of women who paid for such elaborate make-believe and with the men who played the roles of Regency gentlemen are interesting, to say the least, especially if one is familiar with Jane Austen's works and especially the 1995 A&E production of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, to whom this novel is dedicated. The novel has a similar bite of satire as Austen's own works, but with a modern sensibility.

Early in the summer I discovered a mystery series based on the characters in Austen's novels written by Carrie Bebris. As I thumbed through the library sale cart always near the front door of our local library branch, I unearthed, among the dilapidated romances and worn sci-fi novels, a title that caught my eye: North by Northanger (2006). When I flipped the book over to read the synopsis on the back cover, I was surprised to find that Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy had somehow become keen solvers of mysteries. I paid my dime for the book, which was in nearly pristine condition (I judged that it had been read only once), and gobbled it up over the next few days. The mystery was indeed interesting, and the way the author drew in other Austen characters made it even more so. The writing is a bit uneven, awkward and transparent at times, but good enough to make the book work. I soon ordered the previous two books in the series from the library: Pride and Prescience (the first in the series, 2004) and Suspense and Sensibility (2005). The books were amusing and somewhat interesting, so I think it was a dime well spent in purchasing the first book. The author has taken some time off as the fourth book in the series will be published later this year.

So summer reading, that penchant for escapist thrillers and suspenseful novels, draws to a close as our school year approacheth on Monday. Yet, what could be better than curling up with a wonderful novel in front of a roaring fire with a cup of tea and my favorite velour blanket? Winter reading definitely comes in a close second to summer reading; don't you agree? And winter, with its cold and stormy days, provides just the right atmosphere for a good mystery. Right?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Besides having a breed of rescue dog named after him, most evangelicals know little about St. Bernard. He was indeed a rescuer ... of men's souls for Christ Jesus. So today we can learn a little about this twelfth-century saint who became a foot soldier of God in more ways than one, who brought unity where strife reigned, who brought healing when schism threatened the Church, and who devoted himself body, mind, and soul to the study of and obedience to the Word of God.
From the online Catholic Encyclopedia:

Bernard, the third of a family of seven children, six of whom were sons, was educated with particular care, because, while yet unborn, a devout man had foretold his great destiny. At the age of nine years, Bernard was sent to a much renowned school at Chatillon-sur-Seine, kept by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. He had a great taste for literature and devoted himself for some time to poetry. His success in his studies won the admiration of his masters, and his growth in virtue was no less marked. Bernard's great desire was to excel in literature in order to take up the study of Sacred Scripture, which later on became, as it were, his own tongue.... During his youth, he did not escape trying temptations, but his virtue triumphed over them, in many instances in a heroic manner, and from this time he thought of retiring from the world and living a life of solitude and prayer.

And from the Saint of the Day e-mails from
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)
Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”— that the line no longer has any punch. But the “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these — and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know....

The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster....

Bernard’s life in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction....

I really appreciate the closing lines of the comment about St. Bernard: "His efforts ... would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction." Just as St. John's Gospel states, "Apart from Me [Christ], you can do nothing," so we all need to realize that despite our busy, hectic modern lives in which we seem to do so much, none of it is worth a farthing unless we have Christ in us, uniting His Spirit and direction to our efforts. Following Bernard as he followed Christ, may our own "many hours of prayer and contemplation" bring us "strength and heavenly direction" in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Gymnastics

I am obviously NOT an expert on gymnastics, but I have to agree with the American Olympic commentators in stating that the judging in these Beijing Olympics is definitely "off," to say the least. (I'm not even deigning to mention the underage Chinese gymnasts, right?) The bizarre tie-break on the uneven parallel bars that somehow placed Nastia Liukin in second place with a silver medal when the other gymnast, with the same start value, made definite mistakes seemed hugely unfair. Also the low scores given to Nastia on the vault in the first round of the All-Around when no errors could be detected by the American experts seemed vastly unfair, although Nastia's great comeback throughout the four apparatus overshadowed that particular controversy.

Yet in both the men and women's gymnastic competitions, over and over the American commentators remarked on high scores given to America's competitors and the low scores given on identically-difficult routines by the American men and women. The women's vault competition in which Nastia was pushed out of the medals by a Chinese gymnast who had fallen in one of her vaults. In general, the quality of judging was not consistent in the least, partly because so many of the judges represented countries who has never produced a single Olympic medal. It's been a solid gymnastics experience for the USA, simply because the Americans did quite well. The men's team medal was a triumph without the Hamm brothers, and the women's silver team medal seemed a bit of an anticlimax, due partly to the seeming bias in scoring the Americans. But at least the American women took more gymnastic medals than the Chinese women did, which seems quite appropriate to me. Part of the issue with gymnastics, of course, is its inherent subjectivity in judging. It's rather like grading essays, and I'm sure that some bias comes through.

I've become a bleary-eyed zombie as a result of these Olympics which play basically all night long on five TV stations, only three of which we get with our cable service. I could watch Walsh and May all day long and anticipate their gold medal round tomorrow with great anticipation. Michael Phelps has been simply unbelievable in his record-breaking eight gold medals. The track and field is far less interesting to me, but seeing an American woman win the discus throw was quite cool. Although I admit to wishing to strangle the American coach who railed on the female pole-vaulter who clinched a silver medal and her personal best height against the reigning world champion who broke her own World Record after fewer than four years of jumping. Putting a microphone on that jerk of a so-called coach was a very BIG mistake.

Back to gymnastics, I applaud Jonathan Horton for scraping a silver medal on the men's high bar; his daring and sheer cheek paid off hugely as many men attempted routines similar to his, but he pulled it off beautifully. The Olympics are of a little more importance to us San Diegans as so many athletes train here in our Olympic Training Center.

The drama of the Olympics is what makes us stay up far too late, watching each event with a hawk eye, tense in our desire for the USA to triumph. But I am heading to the spa just after of midnight tonight, ready to make a feeble attempt to get to bed at a semi-decent hour as we're driving into San Diego tomorrow for school pictures. Although we're not purchasing photos, we want to be in the yearbook and also have photos for our school ID cards. Even I need to have a photo taken for my ID card as well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Prayer for Unity in the Church

Unity in the Church of Christ Jesus, His Bride, is of great importance to me, and has been heavy on my heart for the past several years. I read Jesus' prayer in the 17th chapter of St. John's Gospel and my heart echoes every Word our Lord prayed:

John 17 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer
1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

6 "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, p. 37:
For the Church
O gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church; that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

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

I ask that if God has placed it also on your heart to pray for unity in Christ's Church, please join me in praying these prayers. May Christ's own prayers be realized, and may His people truly be one so that the world may see the love of Jesus shine beautifully through His children.

Friday, August 15, 2008

School Books on the Way....

Last night I finally ordered our school text books for our school year which starts on August 25. We've been waiting for a big check to come in from Keith's work, but the client was on vacation all this week and we simply couldn't wait any longer to order, so we had to buy on credit, something I hate to do but it was entirely necessary.

I purchased books from four vendors: Sonlight (where I've had a standing order of 34 books since mid-July for T's math tests, the boys' history, reading, and literature books, and our overall school schedule), ABeka (B and J's math workbooks and E's American History), Spectrum (E's chemistry), and Rainbow Resource (T's grammar books, vocabulary for all four kids, boys' spelling workbooks, B's phonics workbooks). Ordering them a mere ten days before school starts is more than a bit risky, but we had been hoping for money to come in for weeks now and we just had to take the plunge. One can't home school without books, after all.

Currently I am writing E's American Lit program, using mostly books I already have. I need a few novels that I'll check for at my favorite used bookstore, Maxwell's House of Books in downtown La Mesa before I look at or Barnes and Noble. We don't need them right away as I've written up a short story unit covering the first couple of weeks. I've chosen ten short stories in American Lit. for the story unit, and ten American poets to cover for the poetry unit in the second semester, coinciding with the poetry unit we'll be studying in my Advanced Writing class that she'll be taking. And we'll be studying the work of ten American novelists/playwrights in three-week increments, doubling up on Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams and two Steinbeck novellas as well, a week-and-a-half for each short work. I only have to schedule the reading assignments for the novels; the story and poetry units are already assigned and located either in books we already own or printed from online sources and placed in a special notebook. So another few hours should finish up this class for E.

The other class I have to plan in detail is the boys' science course in which they have chosen to study astronomy. I have one "spine," Signs and Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy, the book we'll use most of the year that I purchased at the home school expo in May. I also have several other books on hand, among them The Nature Company's Guide to Skywatching, and a fairly good telescope that we bought a few years ago from the Roths, good friends from Lake Murray. In fact, we may need to consult with Bob, our local expert at church, as the year progresses. The boys are very much looking forward to the study of astronomy this year.

After I get the American Lit and Astronomy classes planned, I'll need to plan our days, making up schedules and lists, getting old notebooks cleaned out and filled with new materials, clearing aside old books to made room for new, getting the new SL books stickered and ready to place on our "current" bookshelf, etc. I have just over one week left to get it all together before our first day of school, a tall order indeed. I'll be working my tail off this weekend and next week for sure.

Sigh. Where did the summer go?????? Sigh again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WE ARE BUMMED! BUMMED! BUMMED! Sixth Harry Potter Film Is Delayed!

Being the Harry Potter fans that we are, we've been counting the days until the release of the sixth installment of the popular and magical films, due out around Thanksgiving (November 21, to be exact). I tried to put a Half-Blood Prince countdown application on my blog sidebar, but it was too wide and didn't work. We rejoiced when the number of days until the release slipped below a hundred earlier this week.

Then today E. found out the depressing news on
Mugglenet: Harry Potter and the half-Blood Prince will not be released until JULY 17, 2009! The decision was made mostly for financial reasons -- summer blockbusters make more money for the studios who have been hard hit by the writers' strike. The vaguely silver lining in the story is that the release of the two-part final films of Deathly Hallows will not be affected; filming starts in February as previously planned.

Still, when we have been SOOOOOOO excited about seeing the film -- the
Mugglenet countdown for the HBP release was at 98 days, 9 hours and 40-some minutes when we heard the news of the delay. We much prefer non-summer Harry Potter releases so we can see them as matinees on the very day of release when all the other kids are in school -- definitely one of the perks of home education. We've lost that wonderful little benefit as well with a July 2009 release, besides the fact that we will have to wait an additional 240 DAYS! I'm sure that the countdown will be taken down at Mugglenet, unless they want to start up where we are now. 338 days from today to the release of Half-Blood Prince! Utter disappointment.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gardening as a Way to Write

Gardening is a joyful work for me, one that somehow helps me to write as well. Growing a flower garden isn't easy in an arid region like ours -- one in which I spend 30 to 45 minutes each day with a watering can or hose in my hand just to keep the plants alive in hundred-degree heat all summer. After I spent my usual 45 minutes watering today, I went out with my camera and snapped a few photos of some highlights in my rapidly-fading garden.

Yet I take much joy in the beauty of the flowers, like the above bunch of old-fashioned double roses, with a little friendly bee included. While I water, pull weeds, cultivate the less-than-ideal stony soil, prune dead blooms, and tie up drooping hollyhocks, I find myself mulling over phrases, word choices, organizational ideas -- basically writing in my mind as I garden.

(above, flowering sage)
My excellent writer friend, Kitty, and I have discussed the need for writers to have a creative activity in our lives that allow us to write afterward. For Kitty, it's music, singing especially. And for me it's gardening. Thrusting my hands into the soil brings out something elemental in me, something in which I feel united to God's Creation, as though I can give voice -- or in my case, written expression -- to natural beauty. In gardening, I receive the blessing of being able to create alongside God in bringing together elements of His Creation into beauty and grace. To work with growing things -- established roses, hollyhocks that reseed themselves, evergreen rosemary, sage, and thyme -- feeds my writer's mind, filling it with words and phrases that never come to me at any other time of my day.

(above, hollyhock)
And in gardening, the solitude of the work also feeds my creative side. As an introvert, I need time alone to think deeply, to pray, to create. I adore my family, love my friends, delight in discussion, yet I desperately need to be alone where I can at last listen to God's quiet voice, at last open my mind to creativity, at last can think, consider, ponder, wonder. Solitude is indeed one of the greatest gifts given by gardening, one that refuels my creative side and enables me to be able to write. And the simple beauty of flowers, herbs, trees, and brilliant blue skies above me are of course the most profound gift of the art of gardening. Solitude and beauty make the perspiration running into my eyes, the blisters, and the sore muscles of gardening very much worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 Olympics

Watching the 2008 Olympics each evening is simply breathtaking. Tonight American Michael Phelps made Olympic history with an eleventh Gold medal. As I type, I'm watching the Americans smash the World Record in the 800-Free Relay, the first relay team to ever come in under seven minutes, breaking the record by a full five seconds at 6.58.56. Michael Phelps is now the most decorated American swimmer as well, breaking Jenny Thompson's record as well. We're watching not only Olympic history but world history as well.

Last night E and I stayed up far too late, watching the American Men's Gymnastic Team battle through the loss of the Hamm brothers, their best gymnasts, to take a Bronze and were in serious contention for the Silver for much of the night. I'm now watching Women's Gymnastics, where the American and Chinese teams are battling for First Place. Over the past few days we've also watched the wonderful Beach Volleyball games with the dominating American Women's team and the courageous American Men as well. The kids have been watching water polo and other sports during the day, and we watched Synchronized Diving also, with the American men coming in fifth and the American women coming in eighth, but I believe that this Olympics is the first time the Americans even made it to the finals in Synchronized Diving.

Anyway, it's so amazing watching these games, especially Michael Phelps, smashing so many World Records and making Olympic History. WOW!!!!!

As far as the whole China thing, I still have HUGE problems with their human rights record, and understand those who think that we shouldn't be here at all. Yet when I watch our American athletes compete on the world stage, the Olympic stage, all that seems to fall into the background for these 16 days. It's still there, but this is time to let the world come together, even if some accuse China of flubbing the American National Anthem at Michael Phelp's Gold Medal Award ceremony early on (an accusation I can totally believe). But it's the Olympics, and as I type, the Women Gymnastics finals come down to the floor exerise, with the USA a mere point behind China....

GO USA! USA!! USA!!! USA!!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Window ... Week 25

Keith is nearing the end of cutting stained glass pieces. All is done except for two-and-a-half roses. All of the copper foil tape you see around the edges of individual pieces in the middle of the window must be very carefully soldered on this side (the back side) before Keith will EXTREMELY CAREFULLY and with help turn the entire four-foot by five-foot window over so he can solder the front side. He also needs to have a metal frame made for the window; he's still debating whether he'll do it himself or will pay a professional to make it. After painting on the patina which will turn all of the solder black and giving the entire window a good cleaning, we hope to have the window hanging in our front window by mid-September for a week or something so we can enjoy it for a little while before installing it in Dr. Adema and Marcia's home. I can't wait to see the light shone through it!

Keith has spent 25 weeks on this project, and by the end he will have accumulated several hundred hours and have worked for over half a year, evenings and weekends. It's simply gorgeous, even lying down on the table where we can only appreciate the reflected colors.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Joys of Facebook....

It's been an intriguing few weeks since I joined Facebook, thanks to Linda's encouragement. I've found many friends (89 at present), mostly friends from church which is very helpful as living 40 miles from church means that I can't be involved with my friends during the week. Facebook allows me to keep up with who is doing what and with whom; it makes me feel much more connected with our beloved church family of 15 years while saving on gas money and long distance phone bills.

Facebook is also helpful in allowing me to keep in touch with some of my former students from Heritage Christian. I'm "friends" with several students from this past year as well as some students from several years ago. I'm also "friends" with many of my church friends' young people, some of whom have been or will be students in the co-op writing courses I teach at Heritage.

I've also been able to look up old friends from high school and college as well as some of my friends right here in our small town. Our lives seem to become so busy that we don't have time to communicate meaningfully with one another, even in the slower lifestyle one finds and cherishes in small towns. For instance, I never knew that my friend Norm read the classics, but he mentioned in a status report that he was going to read Milton. Now we have a whole other range of conversation topics available when we meet face-to-face at the grocery store or post office.

Besides having friends on Facebook, there is also the great advantage of the FB applications and groups. I've found groups who discuss medieval literature, Shakespeare, Chaucer, gardening, U2, being English teachers, plus fan sites for television shows like House MD and for writers like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller. There's even a group for native San Diegans! Many of these groups are also wonderful for networking: one woman contacted me about writing, and she's here in San Diego. Another found me by searching for homeschooling moms in the San Diego area as she's new to Southern California and needed help finding a home school group for her family. I even found a group for Sonlighters, those who use the same home school curricula that we have for the past decade.

Plus friends can learn more about YOU as well: we list our favorite music, TV shows, movies, quotes, plus our education and work histories. These are not available to the public at large, just to the friends whom you approve to see your page. After trying out Facebook for a week or so, I felt it was secure enough for E. to have her own page so she also can communicate with friends from church and with several of her friends who have moved away from our area.

I enjoy being able to bless my friends as well, with wishes for a Happy Birthday (a birthday list is automatically provided for your friends) and other messages I can write on their "walls" and they can also write on mine. There are also options for private messages and IM as well right on Facebook.

I'm especially enjoying the Jane Austen and Christian Writers and Poets groups, as well as just writing on my friends' walls and seeing what they're up to via the status updates one can write at any time and is read by your friends. I can let everyone know that we got rain Thursday afternoon, or that I'm tired Friday night or that I'm driving into the city this afternoon or that I'm reading a new library book. I also like the Shelfari application which allows you to list some of your books on a virtual bookshelf; friends can also click on the books you've read and read your opinions and/or book reviews.

Thus Facebook has become a great source of fun and frolic this summer. I even changed Carol's Magnetic Words this afternoon, just to leave her a cute little poetic message on her page. So if you aren't on Facebook, I would seriously encourage you to get with the times. It's fun -- and a great way to meet up with old friends and communicate better with existing ones. And the price is certainly right: it's FREE.

Friday, August 8, 2008

California Supreme Court Hands Down Homeschooling Decision Today


Home schoolers in California and their supporters are celebrating a legal decision in which the court handing down the ruling actually reversed itself.

Earlier today (Friday) the California Court of Appeal ruled that the state's education code allows parents to home school their children. That decision means parents do not have to obtain state credentials in order to home school. The court acknowledged that a state prohibition on home schooling would intrude on parents' constitutional right to direct their children's education, and that that any limit on that right would be presumed unconstitutional. Gary McCaleb, senior counsel with the
Alliance Defense Fund, is pleased that the court decided parents have a constitutional right to make educational choices for their children. "Thousands of California families have educated their children through home schooling," he states. "[This decision] protects the rights of families and protects an avenue of education that has proven to benefit children time and time again."

In early March a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal determined that parents in the Golden State had
no legal right to home school -- a ruling that one Christian attorney said would leave thousands of students subject to criminal sanctions unless reversed.

Mike Farris, chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), says today's ruling was unexpected. "We're very thrilled, not just a little bit, [and] we're surprised as well," he remarks. "To get a court to do a 180-degree reversal is a remarkable thing and we view it as a blessing from God. We're really thankful for it, and there's hundreds of thousands of home-school kids in California who are now able to breathe a sigh of relief."

Farris says groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, HSLDA, and Focus on the Family teamed up and were armed with new information that compelled the court to uphold parents' constitutional right to educate their children at home.

We rejoice and give thanks and glory to God for a complete reversal by the same court who first declared home education "unconstitutional" unless the teaching parent held a valid California teaching credential. Today's victory will allow us to begin our 11th year of home schooling in a little more than two weeks in the confidence that we are doing so legally. We celebrate this decision of the California Supreme Court, along with the thousands of other California home schooling families. Woo-hoo!

I only wish that home education were legal in other countries as it has now been declared so in California courts today. Earlier this week I read of a German homeschooling family whose five children were forcibly removed from parental custody because the family has educated the children at home. The children have been subjected to psychological testing (which showed them as being perfectly normal) and are now being put into Germany's equivalent of foster care, even though the parents have declared that they will place their children into public schools at their earliest convenience.
You may read the entire story here. It's so sad that families are being broken up because the German government doesn't approve of homeschooling. Other countries in the EU are placing pressure on Germany for this latest attack on home education, and we can only pray that the political pressure, as well as God's guidance, will allow home schooling families to remain intact within Germany, from which hundreds of home schooling families have fled over the past few years. So please continue to pray for home schooling freedoms to remain just that: free.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tonight's Finale: So You Think You Can Dance

Yes, E and I have watched another season of Fox's very popular "So You Think You Can Dance," and although it's not quite as wonderful as our reigning favorite "Dancing with the Stars," it was a thoroughly enjoyable season. Ballroom remains our favorite style of dance, but I have to say that I enjoyed seeing the contemporary, Broadway, and even a few hip-hop numbers this season. A few performances are completely memorable: Mark and Chelsie's hip-hop routine of a husband and wife's conflict over his work-aholism, Katee and Twitch's routine of a couple fighting with the door in between them, Katee and Joshua's "Bollywood" number, and Katee and Will's passe deux (or however it's spelled -- it's like ballet).

Obviously, Katee's work this season has been spectacular, and she's our favorite on the final four who performed last night. I would be okay with Joshua or Twitch also winning, but Courtney, although a remarkable dancer, just isn't quite up to the level of the other three. We wished Chelsie had stayed rather than Courtney, and we also miss Will greatly. Katee and Will have been dubbed the most technically-perfect dancers by the "jidges" (as Cat calls the judges), but Katee's talent goes far beyond perfect technique: she puts her ALL into every routine, and I don't think she danced a single bad routine the entire season. In fact, I don't recall her ever receiving a critical comment from the judges, but I may be a bit forgetful. I think she's been the most consistent dancer, the most emotional dancer (although Chelsie has been close), and the most joyous dancer. Every movement Katee makes emotes.

But to our utter disappointment, we weren't able to watch the final dances last night. Cable reception in the mountains can be a bit spotty, and our Fox station went completely black just as the show started. And it was restored just after Cat gave out the final phone numbers at the end of the two-hour show. E and I were ****intensely**** disappointed. And how could we vote for Katee? If we called each line, the response is "Thanks for voting for dancer #1," etc. But we were thrilled to see Julie's status update on Facebook encouraging everyone to vote for "#3 Katee," and E dialed in 30 times just before the two-hour deadline was up. We were very sorry to miss seeing the show (which Fox does not have available online), but at least we were able to cast votes in Katee's direction.

So we have our fingers crossed that the Fox station will remain clear tonight so we can watch the finale in which all of the Top 20 dancers return, including Kherington, our early favourite. And we are hoping and hoping that Katee will win top honours tonight on "So You Think You Can Dance" -- we certainly think she can!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Transfiguration of Christ

(Raphael's "Transfiguration," copied from Wikipedia)

The church celebrates the Transfiguration of Christ on August 6. The above painting was studied as part of our One Anothers Sunday School class a couple of years ago as we discussed the Gospel of Matthew over a three-year period. What is so amazing about this painting is that it relates two Gospel stories that may indeed have taken place simultaneously: Christ being transfigured, His Glory shining, with Moses on one side and Elijah on the other, and the three disciples, Peter, John, and James prostrate and quivering in fear at their feet.

Then below this scene we see the attempts by the other disciples to heal a demon-possessed boy (Matthew 17:14-21), the story that immediately follows the Transfiguration in Matthew's Gospel. They aren't getting anywhere with this poor boy, and the Scriptures state (starting in v. 14): "And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him [Jesus] and, kneeling before him, said, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.'"

Jesus' reply has always baffled me somewhat. He rebukes the "faithless and twisted generation," asking "... how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?" Then Christ "rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly." The Gospel continues: "Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, 'Why could we not cast it out?' He said to them, 'Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'"

I guess I can understand Jesus' frustration. Just a little while before casting out the demon that his disciples were unable to, He tasted His glory again on the Mount: "And he was transformed before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him" (Matt. 17: 2-3). Then the first thing He has to face after speaking with Moses and Elijah, after His glory shone through His human body for the only time of His 33 years of physical life on the earth, after hearing the voice of His beloved Father praising Him: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Matt. 17:5), after He had revealed to them that John the Baptist was the "Elijah that had already come" (17:12), was the lack of faith of His other nine disciples who were unable to heal a young boy from demonic possession. No wonder He was a bit miffed -- His utter frustration with the slow-to-get-it disciples finally got to Him. Jesus' reaction here makes me feel a bit better when my own frustration takes over at times.

But the Transfiguration is of the utmost importance today. Christ's glory, His true identity as the Son of the Living God, His magnificence, His purity, were revealed to His closest followers who "fell on their faces and were terrified" (17:6) as Raphael portrays so convincingly in the above painting. Peter, James, and John, all of whom would have the most important parts to play in the Apostolic Age of the Church, were specially chosen by Jesus to be witnesses of His transfiguration. Years later, St. Peter wrote in his second epistle, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty .... for we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:16, 18b).

From the Catholic Encyclopedia Online:
The Transfiguration of Christ is the culminating point of His public life, as His Baptism is its starting point, and His Ascension its end. Moreover, this glorious event has been related in detail by St. Matthew (17:1-6), St. Mark (9:1-8), and St. Luke (9:28-36), while St. Peter (2 Peter 1:16-18) and St. John (1:14), two of the privileged witnesses, make allusion to it.

About a week after His sojourn in C├Žsarea Philippi, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them to a high mountain apart, where He was transfigured before their ravished eyes. St. Matthew and St. Mark express this phenomenon by the word "metemorphothe," which the Vulgate renders "transfiguratus est." The Synoptics explain the true meaning of the word by adding "his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow," according to the Vulgate, or "as light," according to the Greek text.

This dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. False Judaism had rejected the Messiah, and now true Judaism, represented by Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, recognized and adored Him, while for the second time God the Father proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son. By this glorious manifestation the Divine Master, who had just foretold His Passion to the Apostles (Matthew 16:21), and who spoke with Moses and Elijah of the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem, strengthened the faith of his three friends and prepared them for the terrible struggle of which they were to be witnesses in Gethsemani, by giving them a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to which we attain by suffering.

Already in Apostolic times the mount of the Transfiguration had become the "holy mount" (2 Peter 1:18). It seems to have been known by the faithful of the country, and tradition identified it with Mount Tabor. Origen said (A.D. 231-54) "Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured." In the next century St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Jerome likewise declare it categorically.

I like best the Transfiguration prayer in The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime which is based on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
O God, who on holy Tabor revealed to the chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured white and glistening: Mercifully grant that I and all your church, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in His beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I conclude with Psalm 106:48: "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting; and let all the people say, 'Amen!' Alleluia!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Writer Recommended: Sarah Orne Jewett

One of my favorite writers is not well-known at all. I first ran across her writing in Victoria Magazine when the final page included an excerpt from her most known work, The Country of the Pointed Firs. Only a month later, the same novel was assigned in an American writers course in graduate school. And I fell for Jewett's small town in Maine, for her characters, and for her writing. Jewett is definitely comparable to another "local color" American woman writer of the same time period: Willa Cather. In fact, these contemporaries were correspondents, writing to each other for years.

After classes ended, I read more of Sarah Orne Jewett's works: the quite autobiographical A Country Doctor, the more intense Deephaven, as well as the collection of shorter works Dunnet Landing Stories and selected stories and sketches, all of which are included, with Country of the Pointed Firs in the beautiful Library of America series. This edition is available in libraries and I strongly recommend ALL of them. If you must choose just one work of Jewett's to read, stick with Pointed Firs which can also be found in paperback.

Here's a lovely descriptive passage quoted from The Country of the Pointed Firs:

Later, there was only one fault to find with this choice of a summer lodging-place, and that was the complete lack of seclusion. At first the tiny house of Mrs. Almira Todd, which stood with its end to the street, appeared to be retired and sheltered enough from the busy world, behind its bushy bit of a green garden, in which all the blooming things, two or three gay hollyhocks and some London-pride, were pushed back against the gray-shingled wall. it was a queer little garden and puzzling to a stranger, the few flowers being put at a disadvantage by so much greenery; but the discovery was soon made that Mrs. Todd was an ardent lover of herbs, both wild and tame, and the sea-breezes blew into the low end-window of the house laden not only with sweet-brier and sweet-mary, but balm and sage and borage and mint, wormwood and southernwood. If Mrs. Todd had occasion to step into the far corner of her herb plot, she trod heavily upon thyme, and made its fragrant presence known with all the rest. Being a very large person, her full skirts brushed and bent almost every slender stalk that her feet missed. You could always tell when she was stepping about there, even when you were half-awake in the morning, and learned to know, in the course of a few weeks' experience, in exactly which corner of the garden she might be. (Chapter II, Mrs. Todd)

One of the more attractive aspects of graduate school for me was to be exposed to the works of women that I hadn't read before, and Sarah Orne Jewett certainly became a favorite writer of mine through the process. A few others came up, including studying the works of French writer Collette (an entire seminar devoted to her works alone), the afore-mentioned Willa Cather, Charlotte Perkins Gilman with whom I was already familiar, Kate Chopin, and the newly-discovered works of Louisa May Alcott. Discovering the works of women, especially of women who write about more "womanly" topics, was a true benefit of further study in literature. That's as far as I go with literary feminism, however....

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Scarlet Pimpernel

"They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell? That damned illusive Pimpernel!"

Those lines take me back to high school, not always a memorable venue for me, but there we are. In my senior year, our Honors English class sat back, popcorn bowls in our laps, to watch a made-for-TV movie based on Baroness Orkzy's Scarlet Pimpernel books. Relaxing a bit after taking our Advanced Placement exam earlier in the week, we were fairly sure that the film would be yet another literary bore. But for the last few weeks of classes before graduation, several of the young men were seen strutting around campus, quoting the above lines, toying with an invisible pince-nez, and exclaiming "Sink me!" in their best British accents.

We had just seen the 1982 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Anthony Andrews (whom I saw recently in a Rosemary & Thyme episode, as wonderful as ever), Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen. It was beautifully, wonderfully done, so much so that reading the books afterward was rather a disappointment. We recorded it from our TV, somehow cutting off the last quoting of the above lines as Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney escape the clutches of Chauvelin and the French Revolutionaries on Percy's sailing ship. I finally ordered a copy on DVD this week; I simply can't live without it any longer.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, for those unfamiliar with the books or the films (or the Broadway production, but I'll get to that later), is an English "aristo" (aristocrat) who, during the darkest, bloodiest days of the French Revolution, daringly rescued French "aristos" from "Madame La Guillotine." His identity unknown, he left notes behind with his symbol, a small red flower (scarlet pimpernel), declaring himself to be behind a rescue. We find out early enough that Sir Percy Blakeney, a foppish member of the English aristocracy, can quickly drop his mask of stupidity and silliness and can be a master plotter against Robespierre and his minions, especially one Chauvelin, who had once been Marguerite's lover. Sir Percy meets Marguerite, a stage actress, and immediately falls in love with her. But on their wedding day, he finds that her name was on paperwork sending an entire family to their deaths at the guillotine, and he decides that he cannot trust her with his secret identity. He does not know that Chauvelin signed her name in revenge (in the 1982 version) OR in the newer film, that this family had murdered her parents while she and her brother were children. The walls between Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney build as neither can trust their hearts to the other, and the wall grows far thicker when Chauvelin, a deputy of Robespierre, comes to England in search of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. Chauvelin jails Marguerite's brother in France, so he can blackmail her into helping him discover the identity of the Pimpernel, and, afraid to ask Sir Percy for help, she is forced to do the Frenchman's bidding, unknowingly compromising her husband in the process. It's an exciting story set against a time of horror and bloodshed, yet is not without joy and romance.

While we wait for our copy of the 1982 film to arrive, E and I watched a library copy of a 1999 BBC version which was much closer to the original books but lacked the disguises and romance of the 1982 version. Elizabeth McGovern played a decent Marguerite, and Richard E. Grant was an acceptable Sir Percy, but they just didn't sparkle like Seymour and Andrews did. There was no tension between Grant and McGovern because the story started in medias res after the Blakeneys' marriage has gone awry, so we never see their love, Marguerite's unknowing betrayal, Sir Percy's many escapades, etc. We have to try to piece the story together and somehow believe that these two "aristos" truly loved each other in the past. Their relationship doesn't shine at all until they meet in the French prison near the end of the film and all is finally revealed. But this version was almost dull when compared to the earlier Andrews/Seymour version.

The Scarlet Pimpernel also played on Broadway in the late 1990's, how successfully, I don't know. The above image is from the Broadway production. I also have in my Netflix queue a 1934 version with Leslie Howard (Ashley in Gone with the Wind) in the title role, so we'll see how well he does. But I think that the 1982 TV version will always be MY Scarlet Pimpernel, sink me!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ordinary Time: The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

(Image and text below from

Ordinary Time
The term "Ordinary Time" may be misleading. In the context of the liturgical year the term "ordinary" does not mean "usual or average." Ordinary here means "not seasonal." Ordinary Time is that part of the Liturgical Year that lies outside the seasons of Lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas. In Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ not in one specific aspect but in all its aspects. The readings during the liturgies of Ordinary Time help to instruct us on how to live out our Christian faith in our daily lives.

For Ordinary Time, readings for the Liturgy of the Word have been chosen for thirty-four Sundays and the weeks following them. However, some years have only thirty-three weeks of Ordinary Time. Further, since the Christmas Season ends on a Sunday with the Baptism of the Lord, and the Easter Season ends with Pentecost Sunday, two weeks in Ordinary Time do not have a corresponding Sunday. In addition, some Sundays of Ordinary Time are superceded by a solemnity that coincides with a Sunday, e.g., The Most Holy Trinity or Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

Ordinary Time in the Church's year occurs in two sections. The first part begins on the Monday following the Christmas season, which ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday following January 6. It lasts through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Ordinary Time resumes after the Easter Season, on the Monday after Pentecost, and continues until evening prayer on the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent.

The Sunday that follows the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The remaining Sundays are numbered consecutively up to the Sunday preceding the beginning of Lent.

When the readings for Ordinary Time resume after Pentecost Sunday, the selection depends on the length of the season that year. When there are thirty-four Sundays in Ordinary Time, the week to be used is the one that immediately follows the last week used before Lent. When Ordinary Time has thirty-three Sundays, the week that would consecutively follow after Pentecost is omitted. This is to assure that the texts assigned to the last two weeks of Ordinary Time about the coming of God's Kingdom are proclaimed.

Themes in Prayer and Scripture
During the Liturgical Year, the scripture readings for seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas have prominent themes. During Ordinary Time the readings are not chosen according to a theme. Rather, they present in a continuous fashion. the life and work of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Gospels of either Matthew, Mark, or Luke. John's Gospel is read principally during the liturgical seasons.

The Gospel Readings
During the Christmas season, the gospels recount the birth and early life of Jesus. On the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, the gospel begins to speak about the ministry of Jesus though the text about the wedding feast at Cana and two other passages from the Gospel of John. Then, with the Third Sunday, the life and preaching of Jesus unfold in each of the Gospels.

The Old Testament Readings
The readings from the Old Testament were chosen to correspond to the Gospel passages and to bring out the unity between the Old and the New Testaments. The selections were made so that many of the principal pages of the Old Testament would be read on Sundays. The readings are arranged in a logical order, but according to what the gospel reading requires.

The Readings from the Apostles
During Ordinary Time, the Letters of Paul and James are read in a sequential manner. (The Letters of Peter and John are read during the Easter and Christmas seasons.) Because of the length of the First letter to the Corinthians and the diverse issues it addresses, the selections from it are read at the beginning of Ordinary Time over the three years of the lectionary cycle. The Letter to the Hebrews is divided into two parts. The first part is read in year B and the second in Year C.

The feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time and of the liturgical year.

The Liturgical Color
The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, a sign of hope and growth.

A Symbol for Ordinary Time
The Chi Rho is a Christian symbol that dates from the early Church. It is comprised of the first two letters of the Greek word for Messiah, Christos—the letter Chi looks like the letter "X", and the letter Rho looks like the letter "P." This abbreviation became a symbol representing Jesus Christ.

The Collect for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, nearly halfway through Ordinary Time from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

O God, who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May God bless your week as we seek to live a life that brings joy and glory to our Lord and Saviour, through His mercy and grace.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Finally! Some Writing Accomplished!

I think I've discovered the secret to writing, at least for me: I have to leave my home. I was discussing this fact with Dr. Burns while he was adjusting me yesterday. I mentioned how I never seem to get any writing done at home, and he agreed, saying that on the weekends he always wanted to relax at home, but for his wife, home was a place with a mile-long "To Do List" that didn't allow much relaxation.

All summer I've been trying to write. But each day I've had my little (and not so little) "To Do List" to finish before I allow myself to settle down to write, and somehow the writing time never happened. I get up in the morning and dress in exercise clothes, eat breakfast while checking e-mail, have Morning Prayers and Devotions which takes at least 45 minutes, water the garden (another 45 minutes), exercise on the stationary bike, shower and dress for real, put on laundry, do a little gardening, and once I add in a trip to the library or guitar or swim lessons, somehow the day is mostly gone. I've only written in this blog or in my journal but not on my writing project. It's been frustrating.

The only times I've really accomplished something on my writing project is at J's guitar lessons. Father Acker sets up a little cardtable for me, and B sits next to me, drawing on a spare piece of paper from my yellow legal pad. And I pull out my manuscript and edit a little or write a little. It's only thirty minutes a week, but I do get a little bit done. I also managed to write several handwritten pages during Pine Valley Day in our arts council booth. So what's the common denominator in writing for me? I have to leave the house in order to write.

Yesterday after getting my neck popped back into alignment, I drove to my favorite Starbucks, the one on La Mesa Blvd. just west of the trolley tracks. My friend from church, Posie, works there, and although the Starbucks is situated in a strip mall, it's one of the cosiest Starbucks I've ever been in. Overstuffed chairs on deep red area rugs make up one side of the seating area, while small tables are scattered over the dark wood floors on the other. A long padded bench reaches across the side wall with tables and chairs pulled up to it, and under the bench are power plugs for my dying laptop. Two small square tables were already pulled together against the middle of the padded bench, and there I set up my writing station: laptop in the middle, manuscript folder, reference books, and iced tea on my right, and my lunch, a yogurt parfait with fresh peaches, raspberries, and granola on my left, along with my ESV Bible. On the opposite deep red wall is painted phrases in a deep cream color that encourage relaxation and creativity.

In those three hours, I got quite a bit accomplished. My five-page chapter exploded into eleven pages, some of which I pasted from an existing document I wrote over a year ago; I liked the writing well enough but the structure of the piece bugged me. Certain paragraphs of this earlier writing worked perfectly in my new chapter, so I lifted them into the right places. Yes, it's still rough and needs some expanding in quite a few spots to make it truly "sing," but I walked out of Starbucks feeling exhausted but also tingling with the thrill of accomplishing some writing, perhaps even some GOOD writing, at long last this summer.

I am simply going to have to get out of the house for an hour or so each day, either to the library or to PV Java, because if I stay home, I'll start dusting or cleaning out my closet or some other such thing in order to avoid writing. Now, I'm sure that most people think that writers must LOVE writing, right? I dread it. I mean, not blogging or journal writing (that kind of writing is fun and therapeutic), but writing my book. The responsibility hangs over my shoulders like dead weight. I dread writing until I get a few good sentences onto the page, and then I'm in my element and an hour or two slips away before I realize it, until my aching neck alerts me that I need to get up, stretch, even walk around a bit before settling in to write again. Writing is HARD WORK -- it's both physically and emotionally draining. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride: "Anyone saying different is selling something." (Or something like that.) It's far too easy to find something else to do around the house rather than sitting down before my laptop and letting myself bleed all over the page. So I'll try to take an hour or so a few times a week and get more of my heart pinned down, writhing, to the page.

My apologies if I make writing sound so difficult. But I'm simply being realistic. Writing is difficult. It is WORK. Every true writer experiences a love/hate relationship with the pen or typewriter or PC. It's just the way it is.


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