Friday, October 31, 2008

The Computer Blues

My laptop has become infected by some kind of virus that apparently got uploaded through FaceBook. Keith is working on my laptop, trying to clear the program off it but computers aren't his area of expertise. But he's working at at -- I'm so glad he can figure out all this stuff -- it's certainly way beyond me. So I'm using his PC for answering e-mails and working at BraveWriter where I'm filling in for Becky whose husband was severely injured in a motorcycle accident last week. Keith has asked me to stay off Facebook for the time being so his computer doesn't become infected as well.

And I can't post photos of the Art Docent meeting for MECAC, or for the Alpine Arts Festival where both E and J performed. The photos are on my computer so I can't post them from Keith's. They'll have to wait until my computer is cleaned up. But E and J both did terrific jobs -- I can't wait to brag about them. :)

So I'll be back on FaceBook when my computer is cleaned out and the virus is removed. My laptop has not been loading its virus software so that's why it got in. I apologize to anyone who has received hinky messages through my FaceBook account; I obviously didn't send them on purpose. I'm getting e-mail messages that people are writing on my wall, but I really can't access my FB page to see what's going on. Sorry! I'll be back on FB when I can.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Jesus Prayer for Christian Unity

Since I became a Christian at the age of 8, I've been drawn to St. John's gospel, and especially the 17th chapter in which Christ prays at length. His "high priestly prayer" (as the ESV calls it) encompasses prayer for Himself, for His disciples, and for future believers, and it's the latter that has always seemed so beautifully personal to me throughout my faith walk:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. (John 17:20-21).

John H. Armstrong of Act 3 Ministries, discusses these verses and the often mistaken interpretation regarding them by many Protestant churches. To read this article and the comments, or to comment yourself, simply
click here.

Perhaps it's my rather eclectic background as a Christian, being involved in many denominations (Presbyterian, Mormon, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, and Evangelical Free) and attending both Nazarene and Catholic universities, but I've just never been satisfied with the very ideas of denominations. It seems like the vast majority of denominations thinks that they are "right" in not only the essentials of the faith but also the little niggly details, and they often look down their noses at other denominations and sadly shake their collective heads over how "mistaken" others are in this theology or that doctrine. This reaction saddens me more than I can express.

Perhaps naively, I like to view the entirety of Christianity as one big family -- and I'm including Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox also. Why? Because Jesus' redemptive work on the Cross brought us the hope of eternal life if we believe in Him, love Him, and desire to serve Him and His people everywhere. Yes, there are doctrinal differences, but for me the differences all seem to fade into the background when compared to Jesus Christ and His love for His Bride, the Church. He gave His life for us all. So how do we respond to this "amazing grace"?

Do we condone thousands of denominations? Do we seclude ourselves from each other, judging each other according to man-made distinctions that we struggle to "support" from the Scriptures? Do we question others' faith? Their salvation? Do we shrink from working together to spread the Gospel? Are we territorial? Do we disallow or remove each other from universities and home school associations? Do we choose to live in fear rather than in love?

And do we think that Jesus is truly pleased with us?

I'm not calling for a complete reunification of the entire Christian Church (although I think it would be rather cool in theory). What I am suggesting is that we work together. Pray together. Refrain from judging each other. And, most of all, love each other truly as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Several years ago my kids and I were on a field trip to the San Diego Mission which is still an active Catholic church (pretty cool, huh?). Amidst the mission brochures and information was a stack of flyers promoting a Pro-Life walk involving four Catholic parishes ... and Journey Community Church. Yes, an evangelical "mega-church" was joining in with the Catholics to make a stand on an issue that transcends denominational boundaries. That's what I'm talking about.

Lake Murray serves each month at God's Extended Hand, a homeless ministry in downtown San Diego. We serve meals, sermons, readings from God's Word, and the joyful singing of praise songs and hymns. People's hearts as well as stomachs are filled in this place. And so many denominations pitch in to help. In fact, the mission was started by Anglicans, I do believe. A couple of years ago, I drove Father Acker, his wife Alice, and their neighbor Martha down to God's Extended Hand so they could serve and see what the mission is like. Father brought his guitar and sang carols with the worship team while Alice and Martha helped in the kitchen. That's what I'm talking about.

What I am NOT talking about is how Cathy Duffy, one of the homeschool pioneers in California, was removed from her ministry when she converted to Catholicism. This week I was chatting with the mother of one of my former students who was expelled from Patrick Henry College, the Home School Legal Defense Association's college in Virginia, because he would not sign a statement of faith stating that there are only 66 books in the Bible. (He later converted to Catholicism.) That's what I am NOT talking about.

What I AM talking about is how Sister Betsy and I, a Catholic nun and a Presbyterian research assistant, would join hands, bow heads, and pray at the beginning of each day. What I AM talking about is having churches work together to solve the problems of hunger, homelessness, abortion, euthanasia. Or at least PRAYING TOGETHER regarding these issues. We need, to use a saying often heard in evangelical circles, to "major on the majors," and to "not sweat the small stuff." Jesus is the major thing. Everything else is small in comparison to His greatness, His love. This is the only "litmus" test: Jesus is the Son of God, and I love Him.

Every Christian, whether Catholic or Pentecostal, has an Enemy who is on the prowl. Remember the old adage: there is safety in numbers. Think of what power the Church could have if we put aside the wars of the past and banded together against the Enemy rather than judging each other and tearing each other down? Think of what could be accomplished against the powers of evil and darkness!

We need to get over our fears and be willing to love and serve, hand in hand, with the entire Bride. Right now She's schizophrenic, being pulled in so many different directions, but She could be well and strong if only we decide to obey. And love. And pray that Christ's prayer in John 17 will indeed be answered.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Day at the Office

This afternoon, exhausted after teaching two writing classes and the kids attending four classes (including homeroom which we call Opening), we drove around, trying to locate the nearest McCain/Palin office. We broke down and called for more precise directions and finally found the office. The four kids went to work assembling "Yes on 8" (traditional marriage) signs; I was talked into making calls, something I wasn't necessarily planning to do, but which I did, although calling at 2 PM is not a good time to get people at home.

Lori, the woman who taught me how to call, told me that calling was fun, and it was. She got a hold of a guy who wanted to nuke the White House, so that was a bit of an unusual call. I went through three pages of phone numbers. It also fun that out of the people in the office, one of the volunteers was the mom of one of my former writing students from yeeeeeeaaaaarrrrrs back. So we had fun chatting while she put together signs and trained the kids in how to do it as well.

There's been a bit of a scandal here in San Diego with the "Yes on 8" and McCain/Palin signs. People have been defacing and stealing them in huge numbers. In fact, the kids were helping to assemble signs for a group of people in Hemet (Riverside County, the next county north) who were willing to drive almost two hours for 1000 signs. I'm hearing news reports while we watch Survivor and CSI that they have made arrests in the "Yes on 8" sign "scandal."

So we'll go back next Thursday after Class Day and the boys will help with signs or whatever, and E and I will make calls. We picked up a sign for our fence -- a few people drive and walk by (probably more squirrels than people, but that's okay) and some bumperstickers. With McCain and Palin pulling up in the polls, we hope to have some good news on November 4/5.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Global, Eternal Prayer

In Sunday School a couple of days ago, Nathan, our associate pastor, continued his series of discussions on prayer. We've talked about prayer to the Father, prayer in the name of Jesus, prayer to the Holy Spirit, boldness and persistence in prayer, and, this particular Sunday, global and eternal intercessory prayer. Nathan made the point that often our prayers end up being mostly intercessory, and those prayers focus on the answer to one particular situation, rather than prayer for that person's overall spiritual maturity and well-being. We focus in on the job needed, or the healing asked for, and not on the eternal focus we should be honing in on.

I've found Nathan's point to be all to true in my own prayer life. I felt as though my relationship with God was all about my grocery list of prayer requests for healing, for finances, for salvation for certain people, for blessings for them, but that list was the extent of my prayers. No wonder my prayer life felt as dry as shoe leather. And was probably downright boring to the God Who loved me anyway.

I tried the A.C.T.S. prayer model which helped a little with my prayer time. "A" stands for Adoration -- time spent praising the Lord. "C" is for Confession -- bringing my sins before God and asking forgiveness. "T" stands for Thanksgiving -- thanking God for His many blessings. And, lastly (where it belongs), "S" is for Supplication -- asking God to fulfill the needs of other people as I interceded for them. I still felt as though I was repeating the same words almost every day, and that these words simply did not measure up to the love, devotion, and gratefulness I felt in my heart toward my Lord and Saviour. I kept praying, but I felt increasingly frustrated.

Then some wonderful Christians I met online suggested a little prayer book to me, John Baillie's classic Diary of Private Prayer. This little book contains morning and evenings prayers for thirty-one days, each day of the month. Each prayer is only a page long, and several are Scripture only while the rest use snippets of Scripture along with prayers based on Scripture. The morning prayers often thank the Lord for the new day and focus on becoming more Christlike while the evening prayers quite regularly confessed sins (in general, of course) committed that day. Because the prayers were written in the first half of the 20th century and were based on Scripture, they possessed a more universal quality, a more eternal focus, and the poet in me revelled in the beautiful language in which the prayers were expressed. I found a copy of the book at a local evangelical bookstore and have given away copies to several special people in my life over the years. After I had praised God with language that glorified Him, I felt more able to pray for others.

Then I happened upon the Book of Common Prayer, the prayer book of the Anglican Church. The copy I had purchased for the illuminated illustrations was the 1662 British version which I used for several years before discovering the 1979 US version, and then my favorite, the 1928. I discovered ancient prayers and passages of Scripture to pray, and suddenly prayer felt like a true conversation between me and God, rather than just a one-sided conversation with me checking off my little list of prayers. I found myself praying the "Te Deum Laudamus" and the "Venite" (verses from Psalm 95 and 96), as well as prayers of confession and thanksgiving that felt to me as though they were appropriate in addressing our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet were familiar enough to address My Father as well. The beauty of the prayers combined with their global and eternal focus brought me into God's presence the way few prayer times ever had before. I also found the Psalter especially helpful as I could pray through the entire book of Psalms each month with the 150 Psalms divided into thirty morning and evening selections to be prayed.

This morning I will post the concluding lines of the "Te Deum" which I pray every morning; most of the lines come from the Psalms:

O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage
Govern them, and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name ever, world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy be upon us as we trust in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded.

Some Christians look down on prayer books, saying that they're "vain repetition" and that we should be praying from the heart. However, I find that although these prayers are indeed repetitious, they are anything but vain. I pour my heart into these prayers, and have been doing so for nearly ten years, and I still don't have any trouble in making them MY prayers. And the nice thing about the Book of Common Prayer is that there are places for spontaneous intercession built right into the prayers. In the latter portion of both Morning and Evening Prayers are prayers for our President and authority figures, our pastors and religious leaders, and those "who are in any ways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, and estate" after which spontaneous prayers of intercession can be prayed.

The focus of these prayer books is giving honor, glory, and praise to the Lord, magnifying His Name and thanking Him for his "goodness and kindness to us and to all men." Intercessions have their place, but the focus of our prayers should be on Christ, not us. And that's the most important area of prayer to address: our relationship with the God of the universe who allows us to approach His throne with boldness because He first loved us.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saint Luke the Evangelist

Today, October 18, is the feast day of Saint Luke, Evangelist. Yesterday we celebrated St. Luke's Day in our Friday healing service at Alpine Anglican's Victoria Chapel. We read the special Scriptures set aside for this day; the Epistle was 2 Timothy 4, starting at verse 5, and the Gospel reading was the tenth chapter of St. Luke, starting at the first verse. We also prayed the special Collect (collective prayer) for this day:

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of Thy Son; Manifest in Thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

After we affirmed our faith with the Nicene Creed, Father Acker gave a mini-sermon, aimed mostly at Benjamin's level, about Saint Luke and his value as the writer of both a Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles where we first meet him in the Scriptures. And in Acts we can see how Luke was a valuable companion to Saint Paul in Paul's evangelistic journeys. Then we celebrated Communion, with Benjamin doing acolyte duties:

We can read more about St. Luke in the Saint of the Day articles from

Luke wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him "our beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). His Gospel was probably written between A.D. 70 and 85.

Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion. "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke wrote as a Gentile for Gentile Christians. This Gospel reveals Luke's expertise in classic Greek style as well as his knowledge of Jewish sources.

The character of Luke may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles: (1) The Gospel of Mercy: Luke emphasizes Jesus' compassion and patience with the sinners and the suffering. He has a broadminded openness to all, showing concern for Samaritans, lepers, publicans, soldiers, public sinners, unlettered shepherds, the poor. Luke alone records the stories of the sinful woman, the lost sheep and coin, the prodigal son, the good thief. (2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation: Jesus died for all. He is the son of Adam, not just of David, and Gentiles are his friends too. (3) The Gospel of the Poor: "Little people" are prominent—Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, Simeon and the elderly widow, Anna. He is also concerned with what we now call "evangelical poverty." (4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation: He stresses the need for total dedication to Christ. (5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit: He shows Jesus at prayer before every important step of his ministry. The Spirit is bringing the Church to its final perfection. (6) The Gospel of Joy: Luke succeeds in portraying the joy of salvation that permeated the primitive Church.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila is one of only two female Doctors of the Church (along with Catherine of Sienna). Today, October 15, is her feast day. A woman of faith and Godly wisdom, she lived in a time of upheaval and change in the Church, yet she brought renewal and reformation in a peaceful manner.'s Saint of the Day e-mail this morning read:

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. Her life began with the culmination of the Protestant Reformation, and ended shortly after the Council of Trent.

The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.

As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man's world of her time. She was "her own woman," entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.

Teresa was a woman "for God," a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her own conversion was no overnight affair; it was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for God.

Teresa was a woman "for others." Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.

In 1970 the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.

Today we live in a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.

Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: "Lord, either to suffer or to die." Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: "Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."

I sent a couple of friends a Saint-of-the-Day greeting with a great quotation by Teresa that I really liked:
"The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it."

Another quotation of hers that I really like, and one that I'm trying hard to apply to myself:
"Be gentle to all and stern with yourself."

So today we celebrate the memory of a woman of God who walked a fine line between the active and the contemplative, the philosophical and the spiritual, the practical and the mystical. She's an intriguing woman who interested me because of her attitude regarding her illness and suffering undergone by the saints.

The Catholic view of suffering has been of great solace for me as I have undergone over six years of chronic pain and fatigue. Catholics see suffering as being a gift from God, presented to those saints who will shine for Him through their trials. It's considered a privilege to suffer for Christ's sake and to allow Him to work through their frailties. The evangelical outlook on suffering is not extremely helpful for those who are undergoing the suffering as the ones undergoing trials are often accused of "having unconfessed sin in their lives," "not praying enough," or "not having enough faith." I've heard these accusations against me, some from people in my church and others from evangelicals I've come to know online.

So St. Teresa's views of suffering as a blessing and a privilege have encouraged me and helped to give me the strength to "keep on truckin'" even when my body seems to be grinding to a halt. And that's the main reason I would like to celebrate and remember St. Teresa of Avila.

Who Will Win on Project Runway?

Tonight is the all-important, earth-shattering finale of the fifth season of Project Runway, the last season that it will run on Bravo. The next season will premiere on Lifetime, which definitely seems like a step down to me, but that's just my artistic snobbery showing through.

So, at least we are assured of a woman winner, the second one behind Chloe of season two. Jarrell had to go last week -- man, what was he thinking? I think he has his concept of "opulent" confused with the rest of the world's concept of "garish." So it will be Korto, Kenley, or Leanne winning tonight.

Korto's clothing has been interesting. I've liked a lot of her clothing, and she can have a "wow" factor, but I think she's probably the weakest of the three finalists. Every once in a while (for instance, last week) she misses the mark by a GARGANTUAN amount. The glimpses of her collection have not wow'ed me, and I was underwhelmed by both her wedding and bridesmaid dresses last week. Ugh. She's better get it together, big time.

Kenley's retro-thing is totally cool, but her attitude is horrid. She refuses to listen to anything that Tim Gunn suggests (and he really knows his stuff, Tim does) and lives in her own little world where she's the best and just can't understand when the judges don't "get" her (in other words, she did a poor job in a challenge). Her wedding and bridesmaid gowns were fabulous, daring, beautiful, and, yes, retro 1940s-50's. If she just didn't have such a rotten attitude, I would b cheering her on. Love her clothes. Hate her attitude.

Leanne is the one we're cheering on tonight. She started off a bit bumpy on the first challenge, but she took to heart what Tim and the judges said and applied their critiques beautifully to her editorial process. Her clothes have been pretty much spot-on ever since. Her wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses were gorgeous, and I like her architectural aspects, her attention to details, her meticulous editing, and her intriguing inspiration of the waves and the way she's worked the color and architectural into her clothing. Her attitude has been solid, and she has made friends with everyone except Kenley (with whom no one got on well, at least until she apologized over her shoulder as she walked out of the room when they came together in the hotel room after creating their collections). I'm not sure that her color palette is too limited for a full collection -- all aqua and off-white -- but we'll see.

I'm really okay with any of the three winning -- it's not like it's been the last two years when my least favorites, Jeffrey and Christian, won. I had been rooting strongly for Laura in season 3 and Jillian in season 4 all along and was extremely disappointed when their beautiful clothing did not win -- and the ugly stuff did. But I don't think I will be disappointed tonight.

Tonight is ladies' night at Project Runway, and I'm thrilled for that fact alone. And as Project Runway bids a fond farewell to Bravo, we wave goodbye as well, hoping that the show will remain unchanged as it switches networks.

PS Today E and I voted for the best scene in Project Runway history at We reviewed the twenty-some options and decided to vote on Santino's mockery of Tim Gunn -- "Where's Andre?" Yes, even over Jeffrey making what's-her-name's mother cry.

A Few of My Favorite Things....

In light of the dismaying news regarding the economy, the wrangling of electioneering in the days before November 4, and the sorry state of our family checkbook, I decided today after morning prayer as I wrote in my journal to "simply remember my favorite things, and then I won't feeeeeeel soooooo baaaaad." (Imagine Julie Andrew's lovely voice and curtains wrapped about her pert blonde head in The Sound of Music.)

So here is a list of my favorite things which took two full pages of my journal to list (in no particular order, of course):

English country cottages and gardens
Candles burning in darkened rooms
Jonathan playing our piano

The sound of the breeze blowing through the tree tops
Tea cups and tea pots
Old clocks

1928 Book of Common Prayer
Original manuscripts written by famous authors
Old dusty, musty books
British tea

Art museums
Old stained glass windows
Sheets fresh from the clothesline
The scents of lavender and rosemary crushed between my fingers
Dip pens (with wooden handles and fine metal nibs)
Sepia ink
Religious icons, esp Russian and Byzantine
Handwriting notes/letters with a dip pen
Kneeling in prayer
Old churches
Fire in a fireplace/wood stove
England/the UK
Fountain pens
A capella singing
Receiving handwritten notes/letters
Responsive readings of Scripture, esp Psalms
Wine used in Communion rather than grape juice
Handsewn quilts
Front porches
Dachshunds' soulful eyes
Going barefoot
Boston Cream Pie
Sign of the Cross
Spinning wheels
Old buttons
Oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, etc.
Snickerdoodles fresh from the oven

....I'm sure I can keep going, but I'll stop for now.

And yes, I DO feel better. Much better.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Church or Yours?

Today as I was reading John Armstrong's thoughts about how he came to a more catholic (i.e., universal) understanding of the Christian faith, I found myself remembering some of the wonderful testimonies of some evangelicals, some quite prominent, who have discovered the beauty and depth of more liturgical modes of worship in the Anglican, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic traditions.

One who has probably influenced my thinking the most is Thomas Howard, the brother of evangelical icon Elisabeth Elliott. His amazing book Evangelical Is Not Enough is totally respective of evangelical practice and worship, but also sees its limitations. He writes about converting to the Anglican Church in the above title, and in Becoming Catholic and Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome he reveals his reasons for continuing his journey into the Roman Catholic Church. Some excerpts from his books can be found by clicking

Another prominent evangelical who converted to Catholicism is Scott Hahn. Once a professor at Wheaton, Hahn is now the author of many books on Roman Catholic theology including Mary, the Eucharist, etc. Hahn now teaches at the most conservative and evangelical Catholic university in Steubenville, Ohio. His conversion story in his own words can be read
here. Patrick Madrid of Catholic Answers, a Catholic apologetics site based here in San Diego, has published several volumes of conversion stories (usually of Protestant pastors)called Surprised by Truth. More stories can be found at the Coming Home Network which has sections for both pastors and laypeople who are curious about or considering either converting or reconverting to Catholicism.

I've also read Peter Gilquist's Becoming Orthodox which traces his and several other Campus Crusade for Christ leaders journey to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It's a very amazing story, one that somehow beckons me. Another evangelical even more well known than Gilquist who converted to Orthodoxy is Frankie Schaeffer, son of L'Abri founders Frank and Edith Schaeffer. An article on conversions to Orthodoxy that mentions both men can be found

A little book that has also taught me a great deal is Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail which tells of many evangelicals who are seeking a deeper, more traditional and liturgical tradition of worship. The Anglican Church dates back to 37 AD when many believe that Joseph of Arimathea brought the gospel to the British Isles. A review of the book can be read
right here.

Yes, I admit to having a weakness for conversion stories, even stories of conversions to more liturgical traditions of worship within Christianity. I find these stories very interesting, even intriguing. And I thought that you might as well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A New Favourite Willa Cather Novel

I chose this novel for this year's Logos reading and discussion group at Lake Murray after sitting down together and taking in the group's ideas. We talked about doing a book by Cather, and I had always wanted to read Death Comes for the Archbishop; in fact, I've checked it out at least twice but never got to it.

I first became interested in Cather after reading several novels by her friend and lifelong correspondent, Sarah Orne Jewett, a "local color" writer much like Cather but writing about New England (specifically Maine) rather than the plains like Cather. I've read a couple of Cather novels -- O Pioneers! and My Antonia, but never really took to her novels. I've also read a collection of her short stories which I enjoyed quite a bit more. But I certainly have a new favourite work in Death Comes.

In a nutshell, it's the tale, based on the lives of real priests, of true dedication to God in the life of a very young French archbishop, Father Latour ("tower" in French) who is assigned the diocese of New Mexico during the 1800's. Following God's direction and set on returning the diocese to orthodox practice while still retaining a heart of compassion and love, we watch the archbishop start as a young man and follow him until his death. Accompanied by his best friend Father Vaillant ("valiant" in French), also from his hometown in France, who is passionate about spreading the Gospel among both the Native Americans and the Mexican Americans that make up their spread out diocese, Father Latour accomplishes much good in God's Name.

What amazed me was the travel the Archbishop had to endure not only to cover his diocese but also to travel back to Rome at least twice during his tenure of Archbishop of the territory of New Mexico which belonged to Mexico at the time. The train only came as far west as St. Louis, so the Archbishop has to travel 1500 miles on the back of a donkey before catching the train to the east coast, and then a ship across the Atlantic to Italy, thence to Rome. Each visit took nearly a year to complete. Both priests traveled extensively within the diocese -- we learn of all the different people they met and helped among their flock.

It's a beautiful novel about a beautiful life lived humanly and lovingly, yet absolutely and totally devoted to God. The novel is not much like Cather's other books, but is more delicately drawn, more carefully written. It's a spare book, rather like the New Mexican landscape Cather writes about. Death Comes for the Archbishop is definitely my new favourite work written by Willa Cather.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Surprise for Tyler

One of the great joys of teaching high school students at Heritage Christian School's Class Days is seeing students excel once they leave my classes. In addition to the students who report back to me how well they do in their freshman composition courses at San Diego State, Point Loma, Biola, San Diego Christian, UCSD, etc., several students have earned a "5" (the highest possible score) on their Advanced Placement writing exams. One student received a 790/800 on the writing portion of the SAT and was also listed among the "Who's Who Among America's High School Students" (an honor that I also earned in high school) and nominated me to "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" in 2005. And she's involved in the teaching of writing in her current job as well.

September found yet another writing student receiving honors. Last year I thoroughly enjoyed having Tyler in my Intermediate Writing class, especially as his mother drove him all the way to La Mesa from their usual Class Day in Clairmont in order to take my class. Tyler turned out to be one of the best writers I have ever taught. My one regret is that I should have moved him and one other student into my Advanced (Honors) Writing class.

Tyler's work was always extremely detailed and the result of much careful revision. While I became frustrated with several students who turned in rough drafts as their final product, Tyler e-mailed me often with revision questions as he prepared his final draft every two weeks. His research paper, completed according to the Modern Language Association format, truly showed his tremendous work ethic as well as his gift of writing: instead of turning in a five-to-seven page paper with a minimum of five sources as required, Tyler submitted a thirteen-page paper with thirty-three sources. And his topic wasn't a walk in the park, either: while other students turned in papers on "smart" houses, the Olympics, and toilet paper (I'm not making up the latter, believe me!), Tyler researched the possibility of molecular life on other planets besides Earth. His paper read like an article in Scientific American. Beautifully written, his paper provided an excellent example of clarity of expression while writing on an extremely technical subject. Even un-scientific I understood it. Miracle, that. :)

Did I mention the fact that Tyler is completely deaf? His mother accompanied him to my class and signed my lectures to him; I also provided him with a print-out of my lecture notes so he coud follow along easier. We occasionally had to work through some non-standard writing that was a result of his inability to hear the English language, but overall, he did exceedingly well in my class. I graded him hard, as I do with all of my students, which he seemed to appreciate.

Needless to say, I was quite willing to write Tyler letters of recommendation as he needed them, one of which was for a generous Nordstrom's scholarship. In early September, I received an e-mail from Tyler's mom, Sherry, stating that Tyler had won one of five $10,000 scholarships from Nordstrom's given in the San Diego area. Would I be willing to attend their Class Day in Clairmont to help surprise Tyler with the good news?

The Nordstrom people were incredibly nice and thoroughly enjoyed surprising Tyler in front of the student body of the Class Day. He smiled a self-deprecating smile and shook his head in disbelief as the Nordstrom people filmed his reaction. Present were his parents, his interpreter, his long-time speech therapist, and his favorite teacher (me). The woman from Nordstrom's above (I don't recall her name), thought it funny but was also slightly offended that the sign for "Nordstrom's" in American Sign Language is pushing one's nose into the air from underneath with a forefinger, like a snob. I thought it was hilarious.

The Nordstrom people had two video cameras going to film Tyler's reaction and also took photos of Tyler with his family (his mom Sherry with him in above photo). After filming Tyler in his classes, they filmed interviews with his speech therapist and with me as his "favorite teacher." I've never been "miked" and interviewed on film before, but as I gushed about what an extraordinary student Tyler is (all completely true, but probably embarrassing for Tyler), it went quite smoothly, so much so that the producer asked if I did this kind of thing often. :)

In addition to the $10,000 scholarship ($2500/year over four years), Nordstrom's also presented Tyler with one of those big fancy cookies. Isn't it beautiful? After the event, I wrote a recommendation for Tyler as he applies to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), his university of choice.

So congratulations, Tyler, on being a student of true excellence and a writer of integrity and discipline. In other words, your English teacher thinks, "You rock!"

Monday, October 6, 2008

St. Francis of Assisi

October 4 is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most beloved of saints for so many reasons. The Franciscan order was developed to follow his example of living in poverty like that of the Apostles of Christ. From the Saint of the Day from

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a mite of self-importance.

Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman.

He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up every material thing he had, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious "nut," begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, bringing sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking.

But genuineness will tell. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (see Luke 9:1-3). Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity.

He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.

During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44) he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. On his deathbed, he sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He loved nature because it was another manifestation of the beauty of God. His poverty had a sister, humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.

"We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world" (St. Francis).

And as I prayed from my copy of The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (the three-book series a gift from Dru which I find so helpful in my private devotions), I discovered several prayers mentioning St. Francis, the one in the Midday Office (Noon Prayer) being my favorite:

O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from the inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Francis, may serve You with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fire Danger: Possible Power Outages in the Future

Nearly a year after the second devastating fire in San Diego County in the past half decade, our local utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (for whom my dad worked for over thirty years), has decided to turn off power in the case of high Santa Ana winds.

That sounds like a good idea, especially after last year's fires were the direct result of downed power lines, but 35 mph winds are extremely common around here. We've had winds at 60 mph several times per year, and the winds usually last for two to three days at a time. I can't imagine being without power (and losing all our food in the fridges) several times each year. Yes, some other circumstances must also be present -- humidity below 20%, etc., but these winds are SO common that I believe that this decision that allows the utility to help cover their rather large behind will be of a great detriment to us mountain-dwellers. To see the entire story,
please click here.

SAN DIEGO – San Diego Gas & Electric Co. announced Thursday that it will shut off power lines in backcountry areas of San Diego County that are considered high-risk areas for wildfires during extreme weather conditions.

The proposal was outlined in a letter that the utility plans to send Friday to about 45,000 customers living in the highest fire-risk areas. The letter also outlines other steps the utility, which has 1.4 million customers, has taken to reduce the potential for wildfires.

A report released by Cal Fire in July said that arcing SDG&E lines ignited the Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon fires, three of the most devastating wildfires that raced across the county last October.

The letter said that five conditions would have to be met before power is turned off, and the utility anticipates that would happen “as infrequently as one time or less per year.” An estimated 1,000 to 10,000 customers would likely be affected at one time, and outages generally would be 12 to 72 hours, although that could be as short as several hours, the letter said.

I simply can't imagine being without power during a time of fire danger. In the back country, being without power also means being without water, as the wells won't pump without electricity. For a lot of people without corded phones, they also won't have phone service. In addition, we'll be without Internet service. So without the Internet, TV, and phones, our only method of alert will be through battery-operated radios, which in our valley rarely get reception. We do have one corded phone that we bring downstairs from our bedroom in emergencies, but still, I can only hope and pray that SDG&E will indeed alert us before taking us off the grid and that they will do so only under the most serious of fire conditions, not just 35 mph winds that happen so commonly.

Of course, the San Diego Union also released a report stating that there are three real fire DANGER areas in the county, and we live smack in the middle of one since our area hasn't burned since the Laguna Fire of October 1970. We just had a lovely rainfall this weekend that we hope will take care of any fire danger for this season, but October is always a time of uneasiness amongst us mountain-dwellers as we come up to the first anniversary of the Witch Fire and the fifth anniversary of the Cedar Fire, the latter of which caused us to be evacuated for four days just before Halloween. We won't truly breathe easy until the November rains at last descend upon our little town which is surrounded by national forest on all four sides.

Field Trip to San Diego Maritime Museum

(The Bark Star of India, San Diego Harbor)

Last Monday I drove all fifty miles into downtown San Diego and the Harbor to take the boys on a field trip with our town's home school park day. I found parking just across street from the five ships that make up the Maritime Museum and we quickly crossed Harbor Drive and met up with the Spragues and another family we didn't know but who had a few kids in tow (Frida and Morgan) whom we do know. Two older male docents divided us into two groups of seven each, and we started off with the other mom (Laura, I think), her son, and Frida, Sheri's daughter to tour the Medea first, a luxury pleasure steam yacht built in 1904. We admired the velvet curtains and well-appointed cabins as well as the beautiful woodwork before climbing aboard the Berkeley (built in 1898), a ferry that took up to 1700 passengers between Oakland and San Francisco until after the Bay Bridge was built and was taken out of service in 1958.

(Docent Bob answers one of T's many questions)

The Berkeley now serves as the main Maritime Museum area with many exhibits and the perfunctory gift shop. We also toured one of the pilothouses -- the Berkeley has two, so that it never had to turn around in the bay; the captain and crew just switched to the other pilothouse and the steam engines were shifted the opposite direction, and off they went. The main floor contained beautifully restored tiled and wooden floors and shining wood passenger benches with opalescent glass clerestory windows above, giving a kind of chapel-like feel. Half of the benches have been removed to create a dance floor where the Berkeley often hosts wedding receptions. We were taken below deck to see how the steam engines worked, and another docent took over at that point and explained how the steam engines worked and even ran them for a short time for us.

(Russian sub)

From the Berkeley, we were taken to tour a 1970's era Russian submarine, but I decided to take a break and not try to crawl through a sub. So I waiting next to a beautiful ship and watched the bay waters ripple beneath me on the dock and also snapped a few good shots of the Star of India from atop the sub. Nearly 300 feet long, the sub was quite a sight to be seen from the outside at least, and the boys thoroughly enjoyed the tour and clambering around in the sub's close quarters.

(The Surprise, a replica of the frigate HMS Rose)

We next toured the Surprise, a replica of an 18th century frigate the HMS Rose. Although the original was built in 1757 in England, the replica was built in Nova Scotia in 1970. The original Rose played a part in the British invasion of New York during the Revolutionary War. In 2001 it was purchased by 20th Century Fox to be used in their film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The Maritime Museum purchased the ship in 2004 and rechristened it the Surprise. We very much enjoyed touring the deck, especially the ship's wheel and bell, and looking up into the extensive rigging. Below deck were cannon and hammocks for the sailors as well as the captain's quarters forward. She is a beautiful ship and has an air of age about her, even though she is younger than I.

(The Star of India, from atop the Russian sub)

But the crowning glory of the Maritime Museum is the Star of India, the oldest active sailing vessel in the world. I remember sailing alongside the Star on her first voyage in over 40 years when she was restored in time for the Bicentennial on July 4, 1976. (The misery of seasickness of the rough day with so many sailboats in the bay and ocean is what I remember most vividly.) She was built in 1863 in Ramsay on the Isle of Man, from which my great-great-great grandfather left for America. It's quite possible that some of our family (the Quayles) worked in the Ramsay shipyards and perhaps on the Star herself. Her restoration took place from 1959-1976 after arriving in San Diego in 1927. Her original name was the Eurterpe, for the Greek muse of music (renamed the Star of India in 1906), and she made over 20 trips around the world as an emigrant and trade ship between Britain and New Zealand after serving as a cargo ship between Britain and India. The Star of India is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as of 2001 as the oldest active sailing ship in the world.

(Sails of the Star from her deck)

I stepped onto the Star with a feeling of homecoming. In all the forty-some years I have lived in San Diego, and in the several times I have watched the Star sail, and in the many, many times I have driven or walked past her moored on Harbor Drive, I had never boarded her until our field trip this week. We caressed her captain's wheel, toured the first-class cabin and later the cabins for sailors and (below deck) the lower-class passengers as well as the expansive cargo hold. We peered up into the sails and rigging and examined the hefty anchor that was displayed on the deck. Below deck, the kids found some fun activities. T and J worked at the rigging station which had a mast and yardarm at about 18" above the wooden floor with rigging and 3-foot-long sails attached that allowed them the challenge of trying to climb across and stand on the rigging while lowering or raising sails. The younger kids found a small play boat on the other side of the immense cargo hold where they could spin the captain's wheel, climb into the bird's nest, pull on ropes here and there, and generally have a blast.

(T on "rigging" below deck of the Star)

After a two-hour guided tour by our wonderful docent, Bob, who patiently answered all the boys' questions and gave us an excellent tour and chance to do several activities hands-on, we were tired (or at least I was). We quickly explored the gift shop, snapped a few more photos of the ships from the sidewalk, and then made our way fifty miles homeward, much richer in the history of San Diego and the world for our field trip to the San Diego Maritime Museum.

(T, J, and B on cannon along Harbor Drive sidewalk)

Stained Glass Unveiling

If you would like to read the post I wrote (complete with photos!) on the unveiling of Keith's stained glass window at Dr. and Mrs. Adema's home on Saturday evening, September 27, please click here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ecumenism at Work

Over the past few months, I have become a fan of the writings of Fr. Bosco Peters, an evangelically- and ecumenically-minded Anglican priest serving God in New Zealand. Our contact began when he commented on my blog and I in turn read and commented on his. Today as I was perusing all of my friends' status reports on Facebook, his report linked to a blog article about the Anglican/Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches praying the same prayer (based on the original Latin) this Sunday. Read the whole blog post here.

When I checked my 1928 Book of Common Prayer, I did not find the same prayer as Fr. Peters mentions in his blog. But I really do like the Episcopal version of the prayer which I am copying here:

Almighty and everlasting God,you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

For me, confession of our sins is paramount in my Christian walk, and it is an aspect of Christianity not often stressed in the evangelical tradition. Confessing our sins together as a Christian community unites our hearts, helps us to build a spirit of humility, and also helps us to grow more like Christ Jesus our Lord. Public confession is one of the many aspects that attract me to the Anglo-Catholic tradition. At Lake Murray we have started to have a time of private confession before weekly Communion, and Pastor Stephen has been inviting us to pray sitting OR kneeling (definitely my preference, despite the pain and the trouble I have getting down and back up into the chair again). I'm grateful for this time to be on my knees in confession before our Lord before Communion.

So I rejoice in this happy circumstance in which Anglicans/Episcopalians and Roman Catholics pray the same prayer of confession. Just as confession brings our human heart together, thus restoring relationships, confession to God restores our relationship with our Lord. And doing so as a congregation can only bring unity, just as the prayers of confession by both Anglicans/Episcopalians and Catholics brings unity among Christians around the world in the physical and spiritual realms.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The "Little Flower" -- Saint Therese of Lisieux

When I was in the midst of great physical pain a few years ago, I read a little book by an obscure young Frenchwoman who wrote her story in obedience only, not of her own choice. The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux had quite an impact on my faith and on the way I perceived my physical suffering.

St. Therese died at age 24 and suffered quite terribly from pain during her long illnesses. She was asked, then ordered, to write her story, and this little book has never been out of print since its publications over 110 years ago. Therese's simply joy in living despite physical suffering, her humility of manner, her devout faith and exemplary prayer life all inspired me to look on my own pain as less of a burden and as more of a gift -- perhaps not a gift to me but a gift to someone. I clung to her example as she pointed me to Christ, the only One Who brings peace in pain, tranquility of mind and spirit in suffering, and trust despite failure of body and dreams.

The following is from the Saint-of-the-Day e-mail from

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." These are the words of Theresa of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun called the "Little Flower," who lived a cloistered life of obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. [In French-speaking areas, she is known as Thérèse of Lisieux.] And her preference for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24.

Life in a Carmelite convent is indeed uneventful and consists mainly of prayer and hard domestic work. But Thérèse possessed that holy insight that redeems the time, however dull that time may be. She saw in quiet suffering redemptive suffering, suffering that was indeed her apostolate. Thérèse said she came to the Carmel convent "to save souls and pray for priests." And shortly before she died, she wrote: "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth."

[On October 19, 1997, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, the third woman to be so recognized in light of her holiness and the influence of her teaching on spirituality in the Church.]

Thérèse has much to teach our age of the image, the appearance, the "sell." We have become a dangerously self-conscious people, painfully aware of the need to be fulfilled, yet knowing we are not. Thérèse, like so many saints, sought to serve others, to do something outside herself, to forget herself in quiet acts of love. She is one of the great examples of the gospel paradox that we gain our life by losing it, and that the seed that falls to the ground must die in order to live (see John 12).

Preoccupation with self separates modern men and women from God, from their fellow human beings and ultimately from themselves. We must relearn to forget ourselves, to contemplate a God who draws us out of ourselves and to serve others as the ultimate expression of selfhood. These are the insights of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and they are more valid today than ever.

All her life St. Thérèse suffered from illness. As a young girl she underwent a three-month malady characterized by violent crises, extended delirium and prolonged fainting spells. Afterwards she was ever frail and yet she worked hard in the laundry and refectory of the convent. Psychologically, she endured prolonged periods of darkness when the light of faith seemed all but extinguished. The last year of her life she slowly wasted away from tuberculosis. And yet shortly before her death on September 30 she murmured, "I would not suffer less."

Truly she was a valiant woman who did not whimper about her illnesses and anxieties. Here was a person who saw the power of love, that divine alchemy which can change everything, including weakness and illness, into service and redemptive power for others. Is it any wonder that she is patroness of the missions? Who else but those who embrace suffering with their love really convert the world?

Amen and amen!


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