Friday, February 29, 2008

Another Busy Week....

This week just flew by. I've been up late every night working on one project or another, and it's been a whirlwind of a week. Besides homeschooling the four kids, I managed to write two grammar tutorials, one on adjectives and one on conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections. I read chapters 13-19 of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters for the Wednesday night Lenten study with Alpine Anglican. I graded twenty five-paragraph essays for my writing classes that I taught today and also prepared the lessons taught, one class working with poetry and the other on timed essay exams. I tutored one student, and prepared materials for tutoring my other student next week. I also edited an article I wrote for our town's monthly newspaper from a blog entry I wrote here: the review of They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky. I also helped to finalize certain pages in our art council's Board of Director's Handbook and helped to edit and proofread our new flyer for our upcoming art contest for grades K-6. I proofread the church bulletin as well.

As I said earlier, all of this is on top of homeschooling, which often involves working with one or more children from 9 AM to at least 5 PM, perhaps longer. E has been needing my help a little more often with her world literature (she's reading The Song of Roland right now, after just finishing Julius Caesar) and The Aeneid), and I work with her after the boys are done with their work. Quite often we're finishing up as Keith makes dinner.

I've also been constant with my Lenten Rule. I occasionally fall a day or two behind the Bible Book Club readings, but I always catch up. There's a lot of devotions to follow, but I'm really getting a lot out of them. Being in the Word so much is helping to keep me sane this week.

At least this weekend is fairly easy. Tomorrow (Friday) I have the Friday Chapel Service with Father Acker of Alpine Anglican, then a stop by my doctor's office to pick up a prescription, then off to my chiropractor. B and I usually head over to Starbuck's to do his schooling together as he doesn't get as much time with me as the other kids during the week. Then we head back to Keith's office after a quick stop at Trader Joe's where we meet with E and T's wonderful math tutor Johanna, whom I've known since college. We eat lunch at the office, and then run an errand or two before heading back up the mountain. However, I may stay in town for the rest of the day as I have a wedding to attend in the evening (yes, another friend getting married on February 29!), so I may just head back to Starbuck's with my journal and some work to do on my book before the wedding. I'll probably get home around 11 PM.

On Saturday I have nothing planned except laundry and a trip to the pet store in Alpine where Dashwood is signed up for a photo session. We get a free 8X10 of him, so that should be fun. And the rest of the day I'm planning on reading and writing and relaxing.

Sunday is my birthday, and we're going to church at Lake Murray in the morning, and Kitty and Diana are taking me out to lunch after church. I'm meeting Carmen at her church in Rancho Bernardo around 3 PM for a vespers concert -- such a treat! Then I'll drive home for one of Keith's wonderful birthday dinners. It should be a fun day.

So that's what my week has been and will be like. At least next week should be much calmer. Okay, maybe just a little bit calmer. Just kidding.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Serving Our Country

Keith's sister Karen sent us this recent photo of her son, our nephew Steven, who is serving in Baghdad. Up until his assignment in Iraq, Steven was stationed on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and he requested a transfer to Afghanistan or Iraq. Steven is a delightful young man, so intelligent and eager to serve. He is really into the study of foreign relations, and enjoys learning different languages and cultures. He studied for a while at San Diego State, then followed his brother's footsteps into the military.

Steven is our third family member to serve in Iraq since the war began; my niece's husband and my elder nephew have both served; the former returned for a second tour and then back twice more as a private contractor.

With our family's involvement in the war, I'm afraid that I have very little patience with war protestors or people getting down on the war who have never had family members involved. We also have several young people from our church who have been and are presently serving in Iraq as well. The American press seems to only be concerned with the body count and not with the excellent work our young men and women are doing for the people of Iraq. The Iraqi people are thankful for the presence of Americans, and leaving these good people in the midst of a nasty civil war by pulling out suddenly as Obama apparently suggests would be a horrible thing to do to the Iraqi people. They've had many years under a cruel dictator who didn't think twice before killing thousands, even millions of innocent people within his borders, and I think we ought to help mitigate their suffering in any way possible, including helping their government stabilize so that the Iraqi people can rule themselves in freedom and strength. And my family and many other families send their young people to do just that. The American people need to let them do their jobs as they willingly go into danger in order to serve our country.

And now I will step off my soapbox and put it back into its corner....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Turns 80

The 80th Academy Awards was such a treat for us, especially as we've been on family trips for the last five years and missed all but snippets of the telecast. What fun it was to watch the red carpet interviews (notice that I didn't mention listening to the interviews as the most inane questions possible were asked of the Oscar nominees and presenters). I loved the plethora of red gowns, especially those worn by Heidi Klum, Katherine Heigl and Anne Hathaway. Judging the merits (or demerits) and relative taste of each gown and tux -- not to mention hair, accessories, and jewelry -- is my favorite part of the magic of the Oscars. Fashion, baby! It's all about fashion!

But I did enjoy the show itself, Jon Stewart included. He was far less annoying than the majority of past hosts, although Billy Crystal riding in on the horse and then "setting" its alarm remotely was definitely the best entrance by a host in my memory. And besides the presentation of awards, a few moments stood out to shine. John Travolta waltzing to the podium and Helen Mirren "knighting" Daniel Day Lewis were hilarious, and along with the wonderful retrospectives on past Academy Award shows, they made this 80th anniversary quite memorable.

Then the reception of the awards was also noteworthy. The Coen brothers definitely "scooped," winning for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. I loved seeing Tilda Swindon win, and her acceptance speech rocked -- although her gown rather scared me. (She's a rather awkward woman, isn't she?) We know her better as the White Witch in Narnia. I'm thrilled that Ratatouille won for Animated Picture, and I also couldn't be more thrilled for Diablo Cody(what a name!) -- a woman like that can make even writers seem cool. Anyway, here's the complete list of Oscar winners, thanks to MSNBC:

Best picture “No Country for Old Men”
Best actress Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”
Best actor Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”
Best supporting actress Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”
Best supporting actor Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”
Best director Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”
Best foreign film “The Counterfeiters,” Austria
Adapted screenplay Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, “No Country for Old Men”
Original screenplay Diablo Cody, “Juno”
Animated feature film “Ratatouille”
Art direction “Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Cinematography “There Will Be Blood”
Sound mixing “The Bourne Ultimatum”
Sound editing “The Bourne Ultimatum”
Original score “Atonement,” Dario Marianelli
Original song “Falling Slowly” from “Once”
Costume “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Documentary feature “Taxi to the Dark Side”
Documentary short “Freeheld”
Film editing “The Bourne Ultimatum”
Makeup “La Vie en Rose”
Animated short film “Peter & the Wolf”
Live action short film “Le Mozart des Pickpockets"
Visual effects “The Golden Compass

Overall, the 80th Academy Awards was a lovely tribute to the art of film making, one well-deserved as movies do give us the power to be someplace else without leaving our seats. We love the movies, and perhaps Robert Boyle, who won the Honorary Oscar, who has worked in production design in the industry for seven decades and with great like "Hitch" (Alfred Hitchcock, of course) and many others, said it best:

"Since I’ve been around here for almost a century, I’ve noted a lot of conflicts, but there was one bright image in this whole life of ours, and that was the arts, and particularly the art of the moviemakers, of the moving image that we all love.”

Amen! I loved his speech, long though it was, and his passion for the art of film making.

Third Week of Lent

As I have expressed before in this blog, Lent is one of my favorite seasons. (Above is my Lenten Rule that I have pinned on the wall right in front of my desk.) Thus far, I am learning a great deal through both my Lenten study of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters and also through all of the Scripture I am reading with the Bible Book Club (see link under Blogs of Interest) and daily Scripture readings from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer Lectionary. God is inspiring me to be more constant in prayer and more dedicated to His Word. And He is chipping away at my weak points: my self-sufficient spirit and my pride in intellect. And the fasting is going well also as I am learning to pray rather than eat what is unhealthy for me.

I pray that the changes God is effecting in me will not fade after Lent but will instead become ingrained habits that will bring Him glory. It certainly isn't ME at work here; all I am doing is cooperating with His Spirit at work in me. That's the sheer beauty of Lent and why I value it so deeply in my Christian pilgrimage.

The Collect (prayer to be prayed collectively not only by a congregation but by all Anglicans using the 1928 BCP across the world):

We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence [sic] against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle reading is from the fifth chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Church at Ephesus, and the Gospel reading is from the eleventh chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, starting at the fourteenth verse. Following are a few verses from these readings for our encouragement and inspiration:

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given ourselves for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

"... [B]lessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."

I wish you all a blessed and holy Lent as we dedicate ourselves wholly and completely to the Lord in preparation for the Resurrection.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Whatever Happened to True Ecumenism?

John Armstrong has done it again. This man's writing so often expresses the deep beliefs of my heart far better than I can. His latest blog post (dated February 22)discusses "True Ecumenism," and he first defines the movement historically, and concludes with Scriptural support regarding the Church being unified from the prayer of Christ Himself in John 17.

Armstrong declares himself to be a "catholic" Christian -- a term I also use to describe myself as well. Here's a short excerpt from his blog:

...I refer to myself as a “catholic” Christian; i.e., a Christian who believes in the whole Church throughout the whole earth. Ecumenism recognizes this reality and seeks to express it in practical and godly ways.

Here's another excellent excerpt:

What we should be doing right now is praying and practicing John 17:20-24. We should be making every effort to promote unity among all Christians and thus learning how we can grow in love one for another. I think we have no choice in this matter if we are to remain faithful to Christ himself. This is the heart and soul of my ecumenism. If this is offensive to some then I will gladly bear the offense believing that what I pursue, albeit imperfectly and too timidly, is the unity of the Church in the faith once for all given to those who are in Christ Jesus.

Amen!! His blog entry is thought-provoking and truth-telling; I encourage all Christians to read it; you'll find the entire text here.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Return of Victoria

Years and years ago, my wonderful former college roommate and godmother of my children, Vera, gave me a magazine subscription for my birthday: Victoria Magazine. Aaah, I can't tell you how amazing this little monthly gem was! Within its pages was everything I was interested in: literary articles, gardening (the English way!), home decor, antiques, gourmet food (with recipes!), travel to gracious places -- all in one magazine.

And the photographs! I could gaze at them by the hour and imagine myself walking on a deserted beach, hosting a garden party, entertaining in an English cottage, and serving gourmet meals (rather than the standard mac 'n' cheese). When I was a young mother, home with little ones and sometimes feeling stifled by potty-training and baby cereal, Victoria helped me to remember that life can be beautiful and gracious, serene and peaceful.

Victoria affirmed all that was beautiful in life, all that life had to offer. And with my love of things antique (my readers well know that I could happily live with soft candle and oil lamp light rather than the glare of electric and fluorescent bulbs and quill pens dipped into ink wells rather than sordid ball-points), I felt as if I simply melted into the photographs, living a life of beauty and graciousness.

Even though my ISFJ need for closure dictated that I must read every word of the magazine in order to set it aside for the new issue, I still found myself daydreaming about the travel, the letter writing, the glorious gardens that I vicarously lived through the words and photographs of Victoria. And I couldn't throw away a single issue but storedt each issue carefully in our attic.

Then, horrors! Victoria was gone. Out of business. The loss of my one and only magazine (besides Reader's Digest) was dreadful news that took me almost a year to fully believe. Vera and I, along with many devoted Victoria readers, mourned the loss of the magazine that was more than glossy pages and fine print; Victoria was a lifestyle, an escape to graciousness when the reality of life was just too much to take. And it was gone.

For years I plodded along without Victoria, missing it terribly. My magazine basket now held homeschooling catalogs rather than the beautifully-photographed covers of Victoria. I tried other magazines but to no avail -- nothing measured up to Victoria, and really, in order to find all the topics Victoria covered, I would have to purchase at least half-a-dozen periodicals, and who has the time and money to do that? Not me.

So you may well imagine my surprise and joy when a Victoria magazine arrived in the mail this past November! "'Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'/ [S]he chortled in [her] joy" ("Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll). Victoria was back, even better than before, if such a thing were possible. Aaah! JOY!

But with finances as tight as they have been lately, a subscription was not in the budget. But today Vera e-mailed me, asking if I would like a subscription for my upcoming birthday -- JOY! I accepted eagerly and look forward to receiving Victoria again -- a little oasis of grace and peace in this busy and harried world.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Lent?

John Armstrong's weekly Act 3 articles are always thought-provoking, and this week's is no exception. Below I have posted a small portion of his article; you may read the entire thing at Act 3 Ministries. In the long version, he addresses whether Lent is a Biblical practice, the historical background of Lent, and the idea of asceticism. It's a great read, but if you only have time to read a smidge, then read what I've posted below, which is the concluding section of the article. Enjoy!

Lent This Year

Brennan Manning writes: "You see, the older I get, the more I ask myself, 'How is my life unfolding in terms of my primary goal of living with God forever?'" This is what has been dominant in my Lenten reflections this year. My regret is that it took me so long to see this picture of how my life was unfolding before God. It didn't need to be this way, I am now convinced. I don't blame my evangelicalism for this, but I do not think it helped me at this point either.

Lent, this year, is forcing me to take this question to heart on a day-to-day basis. If my goal is to be more like Christ, thus to see him and be satisfied with him, and him be satisfied with me, then this is the question to be asking right now.

What does Lent have to do with this question you ask? Well, it takes me out of my routines and raises all the right questions on an annual basis. There is an admonition that goes this way: "A Lent missed is a year lost from the spiritual life." I do not fully believe that, but I understand why it is stated that way now that I understand Lent better.

Emilie Griffin, in her new Lenten book, Small Surrenders (Paraclete Press: Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008) states this better than I can when she writes:

Lent has been marked out by the church as a time to ask oneself the big questions: What am I doing with my time? What am I doing with my life? How well am I expressing the imprint of Christ upon my heart? How deep is my charity? How deep is my love? How devoted is my service? How is my life unfolding in terms of my primary goal of living with God forever" (22)?

Griffin's title captures it for me. As an evangelical I was taught that there was really one great surrender, the one when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Then there was a "second surrender" when I came into a deeper life of total commitment, or something like that. But "small surrenders" were not part of my framework. I think what I missed was huge now. "Lent," says Griffin, "is a time of benchmarks."

I find Lent to be a very evangelical experience. It reminds me that what I am, what I am becoming, is what allows me to become a "little Christ" and thus to become an expression of his life to others. Am I full of hope? Do I rejoice in suffering? Do I care about the needs in the lives of those around me?

Lent is coming to the question, intentionally and annually: "How am I doing?" An accurate answer will often elude us since sin blinds us even to ourselves. This is where spiritual friendship, godly counsel and the season of Lent all come to our aid. Authentic friendship and a non-showy pursuit of spiritual formation and personal transformation is what it is all about. Ideally, we all ask these questions throughout the entire year. Lent is, however, a wonderful reminder that we can use this forty day journey to intensify the question, thus we can pursue more directly more "small surrenders."

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Patron Saint of Christian Artists

(This last one has been my one and only wallpaper on my laptop -- I still love looking at it five years later -- it's such a wonderful depiction of "The Resurrection," only mine is much brighter).

I opened my usual Saint of the Day e-mail this morning, wondering who this Blessed John guy was, only to discover a tribute to my favorite artist, Fra Angelico. Below you will find the entry from, and I hope that you enjoy these works of my favorite artist. (You knew that my favorite artist would HAVE to be medieval, right????) Some of these are not very saturated colors because the frescoes are fading rapidly after nearly 600 years, but they are still stunning to this closet medievalist.

February 18, 2008

Blessed John of Fiesole

(c. 1400-1455)

The patron of Christian artists was born around 1400 in a village overlooking Florence. He took up painting as a young boy and studied under the watchful eye of a local painting master. He joined the Dominicans at about age 20, taking the name Fra Giovanni. He eventually came to be known as Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities or maybe the devotional tone of his works.

He continued to study painting and perfect his own techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, vivid colors and generous, lifelike figures. Michelangelo once said of Fra Angelico: “One has to believe that this good monk has visited paradise and been allowed to choose his models there.” Whatever his subject matter, Fra Angelico sought to generate feelings of religious devotion in response to his paintings. Among his most famous works are the Annunciation and Descent from the Cross as well as frescoes in the monastery of San Marco in Florence.

He also served in leadership positions within the Dominican Order. At one point Pope Eugenius approached him about serving as archbishop of Florence. Fra Angelico declined, preferring a simpler life. He died in 1455.
I hope that you have enjoyed this Lenten inspiration painted by a holy monk who gives us a slight taste of heavenly glory as he used his brush to meditate upon the life, death, and resurrection of Christ our Lord. Whether it be via the brush or the pen, the camera or textiles, music or dance, or however God has gifted each of us, may we each bring glory to God through our artistic expression as Fra Angelico has shown us. I wish a blessed and holy Lent to each and every one of you, in the Name of our Saviour.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Second Sunday in Lent

On this Second Sunday in Lent, I thought I'd share a little from my daily devotions with you. I'm also thrilled that an unspoken prayer of mine was answered so beautifully today at church. Lake Murray recently switched their pew Bibles from old New King James Version (NKJV) to the English Standard Version (ESV) as the latter is more accurate as well as more easily readable. Since the change, I've been wanting to read our daily Scripture in our homeschool from an ESV Bible, but I didn't have one. (Our old NIV is falling to pieces, and I prefer the accuracy of the ESV.) Anyway, today at church ESV Bibles were being given away for free! I took two, one for our school table and one for E whose NKJV is falling apart as well. Prayer answered and money saved! Thanks be to God!

Here is today's Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Psalms for the Seventeenth Morning in the 1928 BCP Psalter include Psalm 86-88; Psalm 86 especially caught my interest on this Second Sunday in Lent. Here follow a few passages from Psalm 86:

Be merciful unto me, O Lord; for I will call daily upon thee. Comfort the soul of thine servant; for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, O Lord, art good and gracious, and of great mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, Lord, unto my prayer, and ponder the voice of my humble desires. In the time of my trouble I will call upon thee, for thou hearest me. (verses 3-7)

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth: O knit my heart unto thee, that I may fear [respect] thy Name. I will thank thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; and will praise thy Name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me; and thou hast delivered me from the nethermost hell. (verses 10-13)

But thou, O Lord God, art full of compassion and mercy; long-suffering, plenteous in goodness and truth. O turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant... because thou, Lord, hast holpen [helped] me, and comforted me. (verses 15-17)

I wish you a Blessed Lord's Day and a Holy Lent!

My Lenten Rule

Father Acker sent out a guideline for writing our own Lenten Rule of Life, rather like the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict, but directed to this Lenten season. I know that we're rather far into Lent at this point, but I thought I'd post his ideas, just in case you might want to "tweak" your Lenten discipline or even start something if you haven't started practicing Lent yet:

Lenten Rule of Life
Lent is a time to regain that love for Jesus Christ which we had when we first believed. On Ash Wednesday, we set out to renew our love of our Lord in rededication to live in Christ. Our journey is to come to our heavenly home. At times the trip seems long or we get distracted or lose the passion of our earlier love of God. During Lent we rekindle that love of God in our daily living. Pre-Lent is the time to plan for keeping a Holy Lent by writing a Lenten Rule of Life.

A rule of life is the structure that we give to our daily living in Christ. Writing out the ways in which we bring Christ to the foreground of our lives, helps us to see how in Him we “live, move, and have our being.” So often we let our daily living in our Savior be a mental note, a “memo to self”—Remember to pray more often; Visit Bob/Sue who’s been ill; Read a bible chapter each day. Our rule of life gives us balance and a measurable standard for living in Christ. Tests given in school are not the achievement of knowledge and understanding, but they are the means by which we measure our progress toward greater knowledge. We need to mark our progress in Christ Jesus.

A rule of life should include prayer, study, works of mercy, and fellowship in Christ. First and foremost is our principle act of worship—Holy Communion. It is our obligation to be with the Body of Christ to “do this in remembrance” of our Lord each Sunday, the day of His Resurrection. Make each Sunday Eucharist part of your Lenten commitment to live more closely with Christ as Lord, Savior, and King. If you are at each Sunday Eucharist, you may find your life with Christ strengthen in coming an extra time during the week to “do this in remembrance.” Weekday communion has a different quality of personal devotion and presence with our Lord.

Prayer is to be part of our daily walk with God, to talk with Him about those things going on in your life and to listen to God speaking to us. Daily prayer should be part of our Rule of Life. Daily Morning and Evening Prayer may not be part of our lives, but we can start in that direction. Find a time when you can consistently take ten minutes every day. For you it may be the time while the coffee is brewing or before getting dressed, while waiting for the Nightly News. Writing it down makes it measurable. If the time isn’t working change it to one that does work.

Reading of God’s Word is essential if we are to hear what God desire for us. In the calendar for Lent, the weekdays have a bible reading listed for each day. This is from the regular cycle of lessons for the Daily Office. You can start with this single lesson. When you have the one lesson a regular part of your life you can add the others.

The daily devotion some find helpful. It is like a short little sermon for the day. It should help us to understand scripture and our daily living.

During Lent we are reminded of our personal need to pray for forgiveness. Penitence or Confession is a necessary part of our prayer life. We need to specifically ask for God’s forgiveness. Jesus’ dying on the Cross was for our sins. We need to ask for them to be forgiven. Christian living is personal. We need to ask our Lord to forgive us. We begin with Ash Wednesday as a public sign of our need to repent, but it needs to be carried into our daily life. It is part of the Daily Office. It is part of weekday Mass. And we have the Sacrament of Confession given to us because we really do need the grace and assurance of God’s forgiveness in our lives.

Acts of Mercy are doing things for others in the Name of Christ. Feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and assisting those in need. When we do it to the least of these, we do it unto Christ. It may require asking whom you might visit. If you can’t get out very easily, it may be praying for those in need from our Intercession list.

Fasting and abstinence is what most people remember about Lent, the giving up of something. Fasting (not eating) or abstinence (doing without something) has been to remind us of what Christ Jesus has done for us. When we fast on Ash Wednesday until our simple evening meal or on Good Friday when we fast until 3 PM when we remember our Lord’s death upon the Cross, it is to bring to mind what a sacrifice God has made for us. During Lent we abstain from eating meat on Wednesdays in addition to our normal Friday abstinence. There are many who abstain from meat all forty days of Lent. It the past the abstinence from meat was to not eat flesh meat (beef, pork, chicken or lamb). Fish was excepted, as it was “a poor man’s meal.” Perhaps eating lobster or crab legs may not be much of an abstinence in devotion to our Lord.

Start by writing it down. Make it specific. You can change it. But be specific. Be realistic. This is a life change we’re looking for, not a miracle. The miracle has already been given us in our Lord.

So here's my Lenten Rule, based on the above ideas:
Prayer and Scripture: MORNING: I will pray the Morning Office from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP),(focusing on adoration and intercession), including the Lectionary Readings and the Psalter Readings for each morning. (The Psalter is at the back of the BCP and divides the 150 Psalms into readings for the seventh morning, the twenty-third evening, etc., for thirty days' worth of morning and evening readings of the Psalms.) I will also pray each morning's prayer from The Diary of Private Prayer along with the day's reading from My Utmost for His Highest and One Year Book of Hymns which I work into the Morning Office.
NOON: Bible Book Club readings (reading through the Bible in three years (see Blogs of Interest in sidebar) and prayer; I'd like to learn the Scriptural Anglican Rosary -- all Scriptures.
EVENING: Evening Office in 1928 BCP (focusing on confession and thanksgiving), including Psalter readings, which means that I will read the entire Book of Psalms 1.5 times during Lent. I will also pray the evening prayers in The Diary of Private Prayer and read the day's selection in The Contemplative Reader.

Worship and Study: Will attend weekly Eucharist services at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity(Friday mornings) and weekly worship services at Lake Murray Community Church (Sundays). I will also attend Lake Murray Bible studies: One Anothers (Sundays) studying St. Matthew's Gospel and Lady Bereans (Tuesdays) studying St. Peter's Epistles. I also am planning to attend the Anglican Lenten study of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (Wednesdays). In addition, I will attend Ash Wednesday Liturgy at Alpine Anglican as well as the Stations of the Cross at least once, and sacramental confession once during Lent.

Self-Denial and Service: I will do oatmeal fasts (as I cannot fast completely for health reasons) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Throughout Lent (not including Sundays which are not part of Lent) I will fast from all refined sugar and gluten foods, and I also will exercise three times a week in order to build my health for service to God. I also will visit Fern, my chiropractor's wife, and perhaps take care of her on days when Dr. Burns must go into work.

Therefore, with the help of Christ my Saviour, I hope to keep this Lenten Rule for His glory and pleasure, and for my growth in discipline as well as knowledge and love of my Lord. Signed this fifth day of February .... Susanne.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Little Adventure...

Well, we finally got home just before 5 PM tonight. Where were we? That's our little adventure.

Yesterday morning we woke up to a rainy day for St. Valentine's Day, and it was also Class Day. So the kids and I were out the door just before 9 AM, driving down the hill in the rain, looking forward to the sunshine promised by noon by several online and radio weather gurus. Keith left the house shortly after we did to go to work. As is family tradition, we were planning to take the kids to my parents' place so that Keith and I could go out for a Valentine's dinner and movie. My brother brings his kids also (and so did my sister when she and her family lived in the area), so the cousins get a fun evening together with a special Valentine's dinner and dessert, plus the chance to make Valentines, too. My mom especially enjoys having all her grandkids around her on Valentine's Day as it's also the anniversary of her father's passing.

Well, since we weren't planning to be home until around 10 PM that night, we put Dash, our mini shorthair dachshund, outside in his kennel in our yard, making sure that he had a nice warm comforter to snuggle under in his little doggie house so he'd be warm and dry enough despite the rain. With the promise of weather clearing by noon, we thought he'd be fine.

The letup in the rain never happened, though. Instead, the temperature dropped steadily all day, with serious downpours and hail throughout the morning and afternoon. After Class Day, I drove the kids to a couple of errands and then down to my parents' home in Pacific Beach, then drove back to Keith's office in El Cajon where we left my car before driving over to the mall to see National Treasure 2. As we were standing in line to buy our tickets, my dad called and said that he heard that Interstate 8, the major east-west corridor in San Diego that is also our route up the mountain to get home, had some problems. We didn't think much about it, and not only watched the movie but also went out to dinner at our favorite Mandarin restaurant in Mission Valley, about halfway to my parents' place from Keith's work.

After dinner we heard that it had been snowing up in the mountains all afternoon. Rather than our usual plan of driving down to get the kids together then dropping back to get my car and then following each other home, we decided to drive back to El Cajon, drop me off at my car so I could go get the kids at the beach while Keith drove up the mountain to take care of little Dash who was probably very cold by now.

By the time I had driven from El Cajon back down to Pacific Beach, Keith called me: he was stuck on the freeway just east of Alpine (halfway up the mountain), and traffic was at a crawl. And there was snow along the side of the road, a rare occurence in Alpine at the 1500 foot level. I stayed put with the kids while my dad and I tried to get an online report on traffic conditions. Keith called back ten minutes later to say that he and hundreds of cars were shuffled off the interstate and back through Alpine; Interstate 8 was closed, and the highway patrol had no idea when it would be reopened.

Obviously, we were very worried about the dog, so while my mom got makeshift beds ready for the kids and me, and I tried to call neighbors to at least put the dog into the house as the temperatures were dropping well below freezing, Keith decided that he would pull onto a dirt strip near the interstate and wait for a while in case they reopened the freeway. I spent the next half hour frantically trying to call neighbors to put our very cold Dash inside. I couldn't get Sheri either at home or on her cell (found out today that she had turned around yesterday afternoon and driven back down to her sister's house in the city because the roads were too dangerous), and Judith was too far away and couldn't get out of her driveway in her Camry. Teri's van had become stuck while driving home from the Bible Camp and she didn't have a way to get to our home unless she hiked through the blizzard in the dark. I didn't have the number for either of our next door neighbors in my phone. I was finally able to reach Jeannette who lives two streets down AND has a four-wheel drive vehicle, so she and her husband drove over at 9:30 PM, coaxed Dash out of his doggie house in his kennel area, let him go pee, and then put him in the house which was heated to 55, a great deal better than the 16 degree overnight low. Finally after waiting on the side of the frontage road for a couple of hours, Keith gave up on the freeway reopening and drove back down to the beach where we all slept at my parents' place: the boys on sofas, Keith on the living room floor on an air mattress, B on the floor in the spare bedroom where E and I were sleeping on the trundle day bed. From my dad's laptop I e-mailed Father Acker to tell him that we wouldn't be attending the Friday morning service in Alpine, our usual routine.

We woke up this morning with Interstate 8 still closed. Keith took the van into work while my mom fed the kids and I showered, and we all got back into yesterday's clothes, just grateful that Mom had extra toothbrushes for us to use. Jeannette called my cell and offered to go back over to our house this morning, let Dash out to pee again, and feed him. The interstate was still closed by the time the kids and I made it to the chiropractor's office for my usual neck treatment, so we headed over to Keith's office. We had to cancel Johanna, E and T's math tutor, as all the kids' math books were at home. So I took the kids shopping (Sears had a great kids' clothes sale!) and we went to go see ... National Treasure 2. After the movie, I checked my cell and saw that Sheri had called while we were in the movie; she had been able to drive up the mountain to our town by 12:30 PM. Keith started home a bit before we did, and we finally were home just before 5 PM. Keith had taken a fairly desperate dachshund out to pee just before we drove into the driveway, and after we stopped my car and opened the door, a small red streak jumped into the backseat with the kids, jumping around and licking us all with joy. His people were home!!!!

There's very little snow left around town; it's rather difficult to believe that less than 24 hours before we had blizzard conditions such that several hundred people were stranded on Interstate 8 and had to be rescued by firefighters and highway patrol and were put up in Red Cross shelters both at our town's fire station and at a casino fifteen minutes east of our town. Big rigs had jack-knifed and collided; cars had overturned in multiple accidents, and many, many cars were stuck in the snow on Interstate 8. The temperatures dropped so low that there were snow flurries in several parts of El Cajon (elevation 500 feet) for the first time in twenty years, and the temperature at the San Diego Zoo was 39 degrees at 5 PM, according to Keith's sister. Areas like Alpine, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Campo, Potrero, and others that rarely see snow did, and had the traffic accidents to prove it. One major highway in the North County is still closed as a major mudslide occurred as a result of the October fires. The highway leading up to my parents' cabin fifteen minutes further up the mountain from our town still has not been cleared, and they received a foot of snow there.

And the clincher to this adventure of snow in San Diego? Every single weather forecaster missed it. The sunny afternoon that was predicted ended up being one of the coldest storms in San Diego history with pouring rain, thunder and lightning, hail, and snow sticking at 1000-1500 feet. In fact, if Keith and I hadn't had plans to go out to dinner for Valentine's Day, I would have been driving back up the mountain at about 3 PM in my little '91 Corolla with balding tires and probably would have been stuck (or much worse!) with four kids in the car with me. Despite missing the blizard that prevented people from driving around even in our town, I'm very thankful that we were warm and safe at the beach.

And now we're home, nice and toasty with the heater running, in fresh clothing, and with a very happy dachshund curled up next to me on the sofa as I type. The Valentine's Day Blizzard of 2008 will definitely go down in the annals of San Diego weather history. And it's true: there's no place like home. And we owe Jeannette and her family several pounds of toffee for taking good care of our beloved Dashwood.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Time o' Day

You're the time of day right around sunrise, when the sky is still a pale bluish gray. The streets are empty, and the grass and leaves are a little bit sparkly with dew. You are the sound of a few chirpy birds outside the window. You are quiet, peaceful, and contemplative. If you move slowly, it's not because you're lazy – it's because you know there's no reason to rush. You move like a relaxed cat, pausing for deep stretches that make your muscles feel alive. You are long sips of tea or coffee (out of a mug that's held with both hands) that slowly warm your insides just as the sun is brightening the sky.

17% of the people who took this quiz got the same evaluation.

I got this from Putterings and Ponderings ... thanks, Sandie!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Busy Days...

I have quite the busy week, so if you don't hear much from me, you'll at least know why.

Today is my only day with nothing on beside our normal school schedule. After we finish school (around 4 PM), I need to grade some papers for my Advanced Writing Class -- need to get those done this afternoon. The essays were written in-class, which means I have to deal with deciphering messy handwriting. Joy. Tonight I need to write up at least one if not two grammar tutorials for my friend Carmen's community college class. I'll at least get the one on adverbs done tonight, and hopefully get a good start on the conjunction/interjection/preposition one.

Tuesday I have my Lady Bereans Bible study at Lake Murray, so that's a 70-mile round trip, taking the two younger boys with me. I prepared the lesson on 2 Peter 1:12-21 yesterday, so at least that's all done. Kim asked me to finish the discussion for her as she has to leace for a doctor's appointment halfway through the class. I also need to stop by Henry's and pick up some spelt spaghetti noodles for Thursday. I will be home with J and B by 1 PM, eat lunch, and then get the school ball rolling with all the subjects we do together like language arts, Latin, Bible, vocabulary, spelling, history, literature, poetry, etc. They spend the morning doing their own math and other individual tasks whether they're with me (the two youngers) or at home (the two olders). Tuesday night is our town's monthly Writer's Workshop, and we'll be workshopping a short story by Dave. He's a great fiction writer, so I'm really looking forward to the experience. Unfortunately, I've been too busy to write much more than blog entries (if that) lately; someday I will have time to write! Perhaps if I said "no" once in a while to all the good opportunities that come my way.... Yes, I know. I read myself that lecture all too often. You don't have to. :)

On Wednesday after our own school, I have two students to tutor for an hour each on writing (2-4 PM), then I want to attend the Lenten Study in Alpine with the Anglicans. I've always wanted to read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and I'd love to do so with Father Acker and the Anglican group, especially since we're doing it for Logos (our church's literary discussion group) in a month or two. I won't be home until about 8:30 PM, and I have Class Day to prepare for (and need to somehow, sometime grade the twelve essays for the Intermediate Class, too). And somehow also read the first five chapters of Screwtape before 6 PM....

Thursday -- Valentine's Day. It's also Class Day which means leaving the house with all four kids, their homework for their classes completed, their lunches (and mine) packed, all of us dressed according to the dress code, and with something for the dessert buffet that we're having at lunch to celebrate St. Valentine's Day. Oh, yes -- and the kids have to have their Valentines written up for their friends, too. After classes, I need to drop the kids off at my parents' home (at the beach, another 15+ miles from the 35 miles I'm already coming for Class Day) and then meet Keith somewhere for a romantic dinner. The kids and their cousins always spend V Day with my parents who make a wonderful spaghetti dinner (hence the need to pick up gluten-free noodles on Tuesday) and ice cream sundaes for dessert. The kids also make homemade Valentines for Keith and I after dinner. We'll get home at about 10 PM.

Friday morning is chapel with the Anglicans, so I have to leave the house with B (lunches packed) by 8:50 AM. After chapel, I have a chiropractic appointment, then head to Starbucks to do B's school with him, one-on-one. I'll also need to run to Trader Joe's. Then I'll pick up the other three kids from Keith's office after they meet with their math tutor and run any other errands we need to. We also have to go home and finish up a couple of hours of schoolwork. I'd also like to take E to see the U2 3D movie in Mira Mesa, which of course is at least a 100-mile round trip. I don't know if we'll have time, but I hope to.

And Saturday I get to rest. Finally. Laundry, housework, and perhaps time to read and write a bit. At least write in my journal if nowhere else.

So if I'm not around, at least you'll know why. Right?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Penetential Office for Ash Wednesday (Part II)

In honor of the beginning of Lent, I am posting the beginning of the Penetential Office for Ash Wednesday as found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Psalm 51 (English Standard Version)

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Then one of the several prayers we pray is:

Turn Thou us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned. Be favourable, O Lord, be favorable to Thy people, who turn to Thee in weeping, fasting, and praying. For Thou art a merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and of great pity. Thou sparest when we deserve punishment, and in Thy wrath thinkest upon mercy. Spare Thy people, good Lord, spare them. And let not Thine heritage be brought to confusion. Hear us, O Lord, for Thy mercy is great, and after the multitude of Thy mercies look upon us; through the merits and mediation of Thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

After the prayers, Father Acker came around with a small bowl of very fine black ashes. Some of the ashes were from the palms given our on Palm Sunday (and included some palms I had saved from Lake Murray's Palm Sunday observance) and some ashes were at least 50 years old, perhaps even close to 100 years old as they have been passed down from priest to priest, symbolizing the sinfulness of humankind as well as the forgiving grace of God throughout the ages. After mixing the ashes with holy water, he made a cross of ashes on his own forehead before coming around to each of us, making a cross in ashes upon our foreheads as he somberly intoned:

Remember o man, that thou art dust, and to dust shalt thou return.

After the Imposition of Ashes (the significance of which you can find a few posts down in the Ash Wednesday and Lent post, the one with the ashes on my forehead), we continued on with our usual celebration of the Eucharist. After the service was done, the boys were wiping off their ashes in the car immediately. I left mine on, smudged though it became throughout the day. I forgot to take a photo right away when I got home, so it is rather hard to see in the photo below.

Ash Wednesday makes me face my own sin and the effect my sin has on myself, God, and others in a way that no other day does. I am marked as Christ's own with ashes of repentance, showing myself publicly to be a sinner in need of Christ's sacrifice and redemption. My need for Christ was published on my forehead throughout the day -- not for my own pride but for my humilty. It's hard for me to own up to my sin, and Ash Wednesday does that very thing, publically and irrevocably.

The Litany for Ash Wednesday (Part I)

The Anglican Ash Wednesday service is beautiful. Peace and reverence, contrition and humility are the marks of this service. The boys and I attended the 9:30 a.m. service at Victoria House and joined four others for the morning service. Grouped around the Ackers' round oak dining room table, the mood was somber yet reverent. On the table were four votive candles burning, several small icons laying flat on the table, a large cross in the middle, and along one side was the paten and chalice on the stone "altar," covered with a purple cloth. Father Acker was also robed in purple, the color of Lent which symbolizes our penitence and Christ's royalty.

We started first with The Litany (or General Supplication) in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It starts thus (responses of the congregation are italicized):

O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth;
Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful;
Have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God;
Have mercy upon us.

Then comes a section which our response is: Good Lord, deliver us as we asked God to deliver us from our sins, from the assaults of the devil, from blindness of heart and pride, from hypocrisy, hatred, and malice, from the deceits of the world, from natural disasters, from false doctrine, heresy, and schism, and from hardness of heart, among many other evils and dangers.

We respond to the next portion of the Litany with We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord as we pray for: God's governance of His holy Church universal, to rule the heart of our President and other leaders of our country, to illumine the hearts of all church leadership, clergy, and deacons with "true knowledge and understanding of Thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth, and show it accordingly." We also respond with the words above as we pray for missionaries, for all of God's people, for all the nations, for our own hearts to love and fear God, for all Christians to hear and obey God's Word, to strengthen the weaker believers and to "beat down Satan under our feet." We continue to pray for travelers, for widows and orphans, for our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and for our own true repentance and for God "to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to Thy Holy Word."

Then we pray the Kyrie: Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us. And afte that, we pray the Lord's Prayer.

We finish with this prayer:
We humbly beseech Thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of Thy Name, turn us from all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant, that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in Thy mercy, and evermore serve Thee in holiness and pureness of living, to Thy honour and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Litany is only the first part of the Ash Wednesday service. I'll post more about the service over the next few days. It truly is wonderful!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

The following was composed by myself and Pastor Stephen Sammons of Lake Murray Community Church on Ash Wednesday and Lent: (I'll post more about my personal experience with Lent tomorrow.)

Irenaeus (125AD – 195AD), mentions the idea of spending some time fasting in preparation of Easter. This developed into the observance of Lent (Council of Nicea, 325AD). Lent is the forty days (not including Sundays as they are always days of celebrating the Resurrection) preceding Easter. The forty days of Lent are used to parallel the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying, before starting His earthly ministry. “Ash Wednesday” has been historically recognized as the day to initiate the period of fasting and repentance known as Lent. It's called "Ash Wednesday" because ashes were traditionally used to mark the foreheads or hands of those who attended church on that day.

In the Old Testament, ashes are a sign of humility and repentance of sin. (See 2 Sam. 13:19 and 15:2; Esther 4:1-3; Job 42:6, Jer. 6:26 ). Jesus mentions repenting in sackcloth and ashes in Matthew 11:21. A mark is a sign of ownership; in Ezekiel 9:4-6, a mark on the foreheads of the people provided protection to those who served God. Therefore, a mark of ashes was used to show repentance of our sins and complete ownership by God.

God calls us to do spiritual housecleaning everyday. Our spiritual life is a day by day (in fact, moment by moment) walk with our Heavenly Father. However, this day can serve as a good reminder of the need for us to take a spiritual inventory. Take this occasion to come quietly and reverently before the Lord, offering your life to Him to examine. Ask Him where He wants to work. Ask Him what He wants to change. Maybe there are some patterns of thinking and habits that you have fallen into that need reevaluated; maybe God is calling you to some new habits and a new manner of investing your precious time so it can reap eternal benefits.

Set aside some time and let the Lord work in your heart. Then, as the Lord leads, pray about not only what to do, but also, how the Lord would have you implement the ideas into your life. An added value is for each of us to share with one another what God is doing in our hearts. In this way, we can develop accountability and have partners in the journey who can hold us up in prayer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Lost Boys" of Sudan

Tonight the group of thirty-something people at the Pine Valley Library were in for a real treat. Benjamin Ajak, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" shared his story along with one of his co-authors, Judy Bernstein. Along with Benjamin's two cousins, they all authored the memoir They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan. After watching a "60 Minutes" segment on the "Lost Boys," Judy Bernstein spoke about the political situation in the Sudan, using a map of the country to illustrate where Benjamin's family had lived and his path of relocation over several years. She also related information about the regime in Khartoum and their greed for oil that, in turn, is purchased by China. The current situation in Darfur was also explained and discussed, along with what WE can do about it (like check out sites such as Then Benjamin, a tall young man wearing a pin-striped suit, came to the front of the room to tell his story.

The three boys who eventually wrote the memoir were orphaned when their parents were murdered by the Islamist Northern Sudanese Government whose goal was to seize the southern rural villagers' oil-rich lands. The three boys, ages 9, 7, and 5, walked with thousands of other boys across the Sudan to Ethiopia where they lived somewhat safely in refugee camps for two years. Many boys starved to death on the long walk to Ethiopia as they were without water and were reduced to boiling grass to subsist upon, not to mention the wild animals, including lions, who stalked them. Then the civil war that tore apart Sudan spread to Ethiopia, and the boys were forced at gunpoint to cross a wide river back into the Sudan. Hundreds if not thousands of boys drowned and others were shot as they tried to cross, and still others were killed by the river crocodiles.

The boys were shuttled among several violent camps in southernmost Sudan and were jailed at one time for escaping. Benjamin told us that being jailed in the Sudan, even for children under ten years of age, meant beatings three times a day plus hard manual labor with very little food and water, if any. The boys escaped the jail and barely managed to reach the refugee camps in Kenya which were arranged by the U.N. Here the boys were given an education but still were forced to subsist on only half a cup of flour per boy per day. Children were beaten for no reason by the Kenyans who resented them and were often pushed out of line by the Kenyan soldiers after waiting in the food line for eight hours.

But at least the boys were too small to be drafted into the army in the Sudan, unlike some of their older family members. When asked if there was a certain age that qualified boys for the army, Benjamin told us that any boy who was taller than an AK-47 was "drafted" into the army. That was the only qualification.

Benjamin was finally chosen to be one of the lucky ones sent for relocation to the United States, and he was flying into New York on the morning of September 11, 2001. His plane was sent northward to Canada after the attacks, and Benjamin admits that, at that point, he wasn't too sure he would be safer in America. It took nearly a week after 9-11 before Benjamin arrived in San Diego, one of thirty cities in which the 4000 "Lost Boys" were relocated, where he joined his two cousins. His goal in coming to the United States: to get an education. Education is the most important thing to these now young men of Sudan; in fact, there is a saying among them: "Education is our mother and our father."

But in order to get an education, he had to get a job. He worked at Ralph's grocery store, then cleaned toilets at Barona Casino. He got a small part in the film Master and Commander, filmed in Rosarito Beach, in which he played a sailor. After his foray into moviemaking, he attended trucking school in Bakersfield and has now seen all 48 continental states. Now, at age 25, Benjamin is planning on more education: a Bachelor's degree in social work which he already participates in by speaking to many at-risk inner city youth to encourage them to get a good education. Currently he takes classes in conflict resolution as well.

One of the most outstanding qualities in Benjamin is his faith in God. He greeted us with a blessing as he started to speak, and he bade us goodbye with a blessing as well. He spoke about the power of prayer and how God was with him throughout his years of terrible ordeals. His face lights up when someone mentions faith to him, and he was a delightful and personable young man to talk with.

After the official talk and the question-and-answer period was over, both he and Judy Bernstein signed copies of They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky that Judy had brought along to sell to interested parties. In fact, every single paperback copy she brought was purchased by Pine Valley residents. Benjamin also cheerfully posed for photos for whomever asked. Groups of attendees gathered about, sipping coffee and enjoying homemade cookies while they discussed Benjamin's extraordinary story. Refreshments were provided by Friends of the Pine Valley Library and the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council.

Many thanks to Christina Moses and Sherry Markham of the Pine Valley Library for arranging for this extraordinary opportunity to read the book and to meet two of the four authors. If you see anyone walking around town with a certain gold-colored book under her arm, ask about the evening with Benjamin Ajak. It was an experience that few of us will forget. Ever.

Monday, February 4, 2008


We woke up to an unexpected snowfall this morning. As I was dressing upstairs, I heard the front door opening and closing much more than usual. I also heard the kids outside playing which was unusual before 8 AM; they didn't usually go outside to play in the winter until our 11 AM recess. I lifted the corner of our blinds and saw an inch of snow on the roof and all over the yard. I dressed quickly, grabbed my own snowboots, and was soon outside with them, camera in hand.

After a few snowballs and playing around with the dog outside (he's hard to capture on camera as he's always moving at a full run), the kids decided to hike over to the park with the dog on his leash. Dash loves the snow as much as they do, so I snapped a photo of the kids on the front porch of our home, getting ready to leave for the park.

It was soooo beautiful! After the kids left, it was so quiet -- just the wind blowing through the trees. I stood outside on the porch, admiring the peaceful white stuff. Then I went inside for Morning Prayer before the kids came back, glancing out my window to glimpse the whiteness again and again.

I thought about giving the kids a "snow day" since the public-schooled kids had one, but the snow was melting fast and I hated to lose a whole day. So I let them stay outside and play in the white stuff until 10:30, 90 minutes past our usual starting time. Everyone finished the assignments, so we got in a full day. And sure enough, the snow was disappearing fast and was practically gone by 3 PM.

It was beautiful while it lasted.

I have a couple more photos on my 365 blog if you'd like to see them.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Today is a Holy Day in the liturgical churches: The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. This day, February 2, marks 40 days since the birth of Christ, so according to Jewish Law, Mary is now "purified" from her birthing experience and may enter the Temple. This story is told in the second chapter of Luke's Gospel, starting at the 22nd verse (English Standard Version):

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant [4] depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

The Collect (prayer) for this Holy Day, from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Also keep in mind that Lent starts this Wednesday, February 6. I will post Father Acker's ideas for a Lenten Rule of Life tomorrow. He has some great ideas for a Holy Lent to bring us closer to our Lord and Saviour. It may sound somewhat strange, but I love Lent. It's a wonderful opportunity to do some spiritual Spring Cleaning, and I hope to increase my prayer and devotional life during the 40 days before the celebration of the Resurrection.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin