Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last Poem of April

Today is the final day of April, and thus the last day of National Poetry Month. In addition, today is also "Poem in Your Pocket Day", and I celebrated it by reading a poem by my esteemed friend Kathryn Belsey, Kitty to those of us who love her, to both of my co-op writing classes at Class Day. I won't share the poem here because I do not have her permission, but the title is "The Beautiful Gate," and Acts 3:2 is printed at the top of the page. Sharing poetry with my students -- with anyone really -- is one of my favorite things to do, so I tackled the "Poetry in Your Pocket Day" challenge with great enthusiasm.

But with the end of National Poetry Month comes the end of the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) and thus the end of my own challenge to post 30 new orginal poems on this blog. As of two days ago, I had published 29 poems, and here is my 30th and last. It's still quite rough, like all of the poems I've written and posted this month.

the last poem

an adventure
it has been,
composing daily,
turning my soul
upside down
and impatiently
shaking --
words and letters
onto the table.
i shift them
into place --
this one before,
this at the close,
trying to create
from my chaotic ideas.

at times success has come --
blushingly taking a bow
at the curtain call.
at times it has been elusive,
fluttering high above me,
just beyond reach --
teasing and tantalizing.

an adventure
it has been,
composing daily --
success and failure,
but mostly something in between --
tinged with pride and
considered "success"
simply in completion.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More April Poetry

National Poetry Month has been a blast. I haven't always posted a poem a day, but I've been posting more than one poem on other days, so I'm practically even. I got a bit busy over the last few days, so I have a few to make up. My goal was to write thirty rough drafts of poems in April, and I think I'll make it. Some of the poems are crap (simply no other words to describe 'em); others have a little something in them that works, a phrase or line that may provide a foundation for another poem at a later date. A few contain real promise of becoming good, with some inspired revision. And I knew it when I started -- that a lot of what I would be writing would be crap. But I have been delighted by a few poems that show an inkling of becoming something worthwhile, and if I hadn't been brave enough to write (and publish) crap, the good stuff wouldn't have come along, either. So overall, I'm quite pleased overall with the project. :)

I'm teaching some poetry forms to my little bi-weekly writing class that includes our two middle kids T and J, plus a lovely little neighborly writer, and also to one of the high school students I tutor who finished his MLA research essay and now has some time to be creative and have fun with language now that the big deadlines are over for the year. Yesterday I sat down with this latter student and his mom, and we played around with cinquains, diamante, haiku, tanka, acrostics, and free verse. If you aren't familiar with these forms, you can find definitions and examples of all sorts of poetic forms at this wonderful site: Shadow Poetry. Cinquain and diamante forms are more schoolish exercises -- not really serious poetry but definitely a good way to learn to plug words into a set format.

So here are a few of the poems I wrote with them:


excited in his doggie way,
playing, darting through the house
yet adorable while cuddling with me --


fragrant, delicious
chopping, braising, sauteeing
delectable, satisfying, satisfying, sparkling
scrubbing, buffing, mopping
shiny, lemony

Haiku: At Home

sun streaming on floor,
blurs of motion, flashing shapes --
kids and dog at play.

Tanka: On Writing Poetry

words rush from my pen --
mind stops, blocked, then whirls on.
ideas spinning,
simile and metaphor
tango with angry faces.

all poems here (c) 2009 Susanne Barrett
There. Now I am caught up through tomorrow, with only one poem left to write!

I am enjoying this foray into poetry much more than I thought I would, although I must admit that I will be quite glad when rhyming Tweets and Facebook updates are done, especially since I am much more of a free-verse writer than a rhyming, set-form-and-meter kind of poet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One Thing: Shakespeare Class

On Monday I'll be starting to facilitate the One Thing: Shakespeare class on Brave Writer. Last year we studied a lot of biography of Will along with history of the Elizabethan theatre before looking at sonnets and scenes from Much Ado About Nothing. It was a rockin' four weeks last May, but we celebrated Shakespeare Month with style.

This new class is going to focus on a single play: Twelfth Night. We're going to actually read the play together and discuss ways to make it really fun! I've found some cool resources and am looking forward to a great class. I really enjoy walking through a play by the Bard scene by scene and even line by line, uncovering his comic genius and incredible word play. It's gonna be sooooo cool!

If you're interested in checking out the class, the link is right here: One Thing: Shakespeare. Brave Writer also has some other great classes available to finish off your homeschooling year just right: Spring Class Schedule. The other One Thing classes are taught for a month throughout the year on topics such as nature journaling, copywork and dictation, grammar, poetry, and other fun subjects. The idea: focus our home school language arts on One Thing each month, and as May is Shakespeare month at Brave Writer, enjoying the Bard we shall.

I love working for Brave Writer. Where else would I get paid for chatting about Shakespeare online? :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poetry and Surprised by Joy

I have spent this brisk and windy Saturday with my nose buried in a large four-book volume of C.S. Lewis alternating with writing May's Boomerang for Brave Writer on Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown. The latter is fully drafted, but I'm only 75% through Surprised by Joy (read 50% of the book today) with our Logos discussion tomorrow afternoon. I still have time in the spa to read, although underlining and writing in the margins is quite difficult while holding the heavy tome above water level.

Still, here is a quick haiku I scribbled for today to fulfill my poem a day during April (which was not easy to compose with the very loud movie The Dark Knight playing in the same room):

On Reading Lewis

Eyes blurred, I'm reading
Lewis. So late, his thoughts swirl,
nestling into mine.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Feast Day of Saint Mark, Evangelist

Although today, April 25, is the official feast day of Saint Mark, writer of the shortest of the Synoptic Gospels, we celebrated his day yesterday at the Friday Healing service with Father Acker at Victoria House, the weekday location of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. We started the celebration by praying the Collect for the feast day of Saint Mark, Evangelist:

O Almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark; Give us grace that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Scripture readings for this day of remembrance of Mark were interesting: for the Epistle reading, Ephesians 4:7-16, and for the Gospel, St. John 15:1-11.

After the Nicene Creed, Father Acker gave a short homily on Saint Mark, mostly for B's sake. He told us that Mark's Gospel was his favorite because Mark focused in on the heart of the Gospel; because Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, Mark didn't mess around with extra details but got straight to the point. Father Acker also told us that Mark was probably present at Gethsemane since he told many details that were not in other Gospels, like the young man running away without his cloak, which some scholars think may have been Mark himself. Father Acker also related that Mark was probably 13 or 14 years old when Jesus was living, and that he most likely was among the group of disciples following Jesus in His earthly travels. Tradition tells us that Mark was the nephew of Barnabas, which also explains the rift between Paul and Barnabas concerning Mark, a rift that was healed between Mark and Paul, at least.

Here also is the Saint of the Day e-mail I received this morning, marking the Feast Day of Saint Mark, Evangelist:
Saint of the Day from
Most of what we know about Mark comes directly from the New Testament. He is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12. (When Peter escaped from prison, he went to the home of Mark's mother.)

Paul and Barnabas took him along on the first missionary journey, but for some reason Mark returned alone to Jerusalem. It is evident, from Paul's refusal to let Mark accompany him on the second journey despite Barnabas's insistence, that Mark had displeased Paul. Later, Paul asks Mark to visit him in prison so we may assume the trouble did not last long.

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus' rejection by humanity while being God's triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark's Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a "scandal": a crucified Messiah.

Evidently a friend of Mark (Peter called him "my son"), Peter is only one of the Gospel sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots) and the Church at Antioch (largely Gentile).

Like one other Gospel writer, Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some scholars feel that the evangelist is speaking of himself when describing the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane: "Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked" (Mark 14:51-52).

Others hold Mark to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint; the large basilica there is believed to contain his remains.

A winged lion is Mark's symbol. The lion derives from Mark's description of John the Baptist as a "voice of one crying out in the desert" (Mark 1:3), which artists compared to a roaring lion. The wings come from the application of Ezekiel's vision of four winged creatures (Ezekiel, chapter one) to the evangelists.

Mark fulfilled in his life what every Christian is called to do: proclaim to all people the Good News that is the source of salvation. In particular, Mark's way was by writing. Others may proclaim the Good News by music, drama, poetry or by teaching children around a family table.

There is very little in Mark that is not in the other Gospels—only four passages. One is: “...This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

So today we remember a Gospel writer, an Evangelist, who walked with Jesus as a teenager, who definitely made mistakes along the way (one mistake that led to a major disagreement in the early Church between Paul and Barnabas), and who transcribed God's Word to us. As Mark was faithful in evanglizing the world, may we also be faithful in spreading the Good News within our own sphere of influence.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The 24th Poem of National Poetry Month

Well, after drafting 23 poems thus far this month, I certainly cannot complain about not having enough raw material to work with for quite a while. I have a date with the local writers' workshop on the second Tuesday in May to bring along a revision of my Rossetti poem, and I certainly have a goodly number to work on besides that one.

NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) thus far has been a real success, at least in enabling me to produce a lot of raw work to consider and revise. I'm very excited about the possibilities I've unearthed over the past few months.

So here I am at 10 PM, wondering what to write tonight. I really enjoyed the acrostic poem I wrote the other day, and I've assigned my little junior high writing class (T, J, and a neighboring girl) the assignment of writing at least one each of the following poetic forms over the next two weeks: haiku, tanka, cinquain, diamante, acrostic, and free verse. I've written haiku, tanka, and free verse this month, but only one acrostic. (Cinquains and diamante are more "kid" forms taught in elementary, so I'll write some with them, but they're not really the serious poetry I am hoping to accomplish this month.) So an acrostic it is!


Pen in hand, seeking
Obsolete phrases and words ~
Eeking meaning from nothing.
Truth sharpens, fades, focuses again ~
Reality and imagination merge, dance,
Yielding their essence to me.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy 445th, William Shakespeare!

Today marks the 445th birthday of William Shakespeare, playwright and poet extraordinaire. We're actually not positive that Shakespeare was born on April 23 -- historically we know that he was baptized on April 26, 1564, and at that time, most babies were baptized three days after their birth. We do know for certain that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, apparently on his 52nd birthday.

It's difficult to choose a favorite play; in fact, I have to do it by category. My favorite tragedy is Othello; my favorite history is Henry V; my favorite comedy Measure for Measure, which I think I have to say is my favorite play overall. In fact, the latter play was the most recent Old Globe production I've seen, and I had never before seen a production, either live or on film, of Measure for Measure.

This morning as we started our school day here at home, right after our morning prayers, I read aloud several of Shakespeare's sonnets, including Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 116, the two most famous, as well as a couple more. And after lunch I read aloud a kids' book on Shakespeare and his works called The Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema, illustrated by Diane Stanley. We also discussed Shakespeare and I read a few of his other poems in our little writing class with T, J, and Olivia.

On May 4 I will be starting my second Shakespeare Class at Brave Writer called One Thing: Shakespeare. Over a four-week period, we'll be reading an entire play together, the brilliant comedy Twelfth Night. I am preparing for getting the class going, and, as always, I am really excited to be teaching another wonderful Brave Writer course. Yay, Shakespeare!!!

I also wrote a very rough ode tonight to Shakespeare in honor of his 445th birthday. It needs a lot of work, but here's my 23rd poem of the month:

An Ode to William Shakespeare, On the 445th Anniversary of His Birth

Dear William ~
such the Bard you are!
Great, expansive love
expressed in perfect
blank verse.
Tales told of heroes and kings,
of ladies fair and brave
and of fools truthful and wise.

Tragedies, histories, comedies
have all flowed from your pen ~
remarkable women and
driven yet romantic men.
Love and hate,
jealousy and plotting,
you have drawn them all
with depth,
with wit,
and with empathy ~
characters whom we still
admire and debate
four hundred years later.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More April Poetry

My poetry notebook is a rather mottled compendium of my own writings and the thoughts, poetry, and information of other writers. In it I have my notes from Kitty's MFA residency abstracts, info on different poetry forms, a first person account of the events of Good Friday, various fragments of poems, etc. And much evidence of many erasures.

Today is the 22nd day of April, and I just counted the number of poems I've posted on this blog so far this month: 16. So I'm a few days behind -- six, to be exact, in my quest to post a poem a day. Obviously these are first drafts -- rough, unformed ideas most of the time. But they're the beginnings of poems that I hope will turn into more than they are now. We'll see. But at least I am now caught up.

So here are a few poems I drafted tonight -- obviously very rough and first-drafty.

A Mother's Haiku

Um, scratching my head,
confused, bemused, bewildered
at kids' rapid growth.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

A Tanka: The Gift of Music

Piano softly
played, Mozart wafting through the
house, bringing peace, grace
to a sometimes anxious home ~
children learning to play well.

(c) Susanne Barrett

A Tanka on Faith

Faith is hard, difficult ~
able to move mountains yet
flighty, elusive,
ephemeral. But it still lives,
ever-present and quite real.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

An Acrostic

Foolish in the world's eyes,
Asking the difficult questions ~
In His Presence kneeling,
Truth-seeking always ~
Hoping for strength in my weakness,
Feeling Him with me, beside me ~
Unlearning the old ways while
Loving far beyond myself.

(c) Susanne Barrett

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." -- Hebrews 11:1

I must unthink, unzip
my usual reactions,
the knee-jerks
of mind and heart.
I pull the old self off
over my head,
slipping into the new "me,"
silky and fresh,
fitting perfectly.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Faith Stuff

Why is it so wrenching,
so difficult to write about God?
Is faith ephemeral?
Beyond a friendly smile or nod

from strangers in the street,
through my fingers it drips, slips ~
a delusion, shimmering like the sea
at night as the tide rises and dips.

My heart twists, wrung out
with regretful tears, salty and wet
as Truth buried, then unearthed ~
not a deposit, but a debt.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Monday, April 20, 2009

Intriguing Reading Lately....

My reading has been rather eclectic lately. I didn't manage to finish Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis during Lent. I found it somewhat repetitious and a little annoying -- not sure why. Kempis seemed rather legalistic in his application to the Scriptures, and legalism tends to raise my hackles rather fiercely. I've put it aside to read at a later date after getting close to halfway through it.

However, I've been savouring every word of C.S. Lewis' autobiographical Surprised by Joy which I have to finish for Sunday's Logos meeting after church. I'm really enjoying this slow walk (it seems slow to me, anyway, in comparison to other books I'll be discussing further down in this post) through Lewis' childhood and schooling (where I currently am, about 25% through) and his thoughts and flights of imagination are fascinating. A real treat of a book, but definitely one that must be digested, not ripped through.

Speaking of ripping through a book, it's been eons since I read an entire book within 24 hours, but I did so this weekend. On Thursday I spotted Mary Higgins Clark's newest mystery Just Take My Heart at Target and made a mental note to locate it at the library. I discovered a crisp new copy on our library's New Releases shelf on Friday afternoon and snatched it up; I was the first reader of this particular copy. I started it late Friday evening in the spa, and by Saturday evening, I had finished it. For a little while, her books seemed rather formulaic and I could figure them out quite early, but her last three or four books broke with her earlier formula and are quite different. I enjoyed this one greatly, and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat all the way to the final chapter. A great read.

So now I'm back to the book I had started just before discovering Mary Higgins Clark's newest offering -- I picked up a battered copy of the Da Vinci Code for a dime at the library a while back, and I thought I'd reread it. The Church history is so off it's laughable, but it is a good read and one that kept me on the edge of my seat. I started reading a few scenes in the middle for fun, but then decided to read it all the way through again, and I'm enjoying it even more so this time. With a sequel coming out in mid-September and a film version of Brown's earlier Angels and Demons coming soon to theatres, perhaps it is a good time to revisit Da Vinci Code.

I'm still very, very slowly plugging away at The Family Cloister; it's a great book but it always seems to wander to the bottom of my book stack. There's a lot to think about and apply with this wonderful book that applies the Rule of Benedict to modern family life. I heartily recommend it and just wish I had more time to devote to it.

So that's what I'm reading lately. What about you? I'm always on the lookout for book recommendations.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

First Sunday after Easter

Throughout Eastertide, the Anglican Churches using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer substitute The Venite (Psalm 95:1-7; Psalm 96:9,13) with a series of three Scriptures prayed one after the other, followed by the Gloria Patri. These form a "Call to Worship" at the beginning of Morning Prayer which I love to pray as they truly celebrate Christ's Resurrection with great joy:

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, Not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8)

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:9-11)

Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

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

The Collect for the First Sunday after Easter:

Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve Thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In case you're interested, the 1928 BCP Epistle reading for this day is 1 St. John 5:4-12 and the Gospel reading is St. John 20:19-23. A full recap of each Sunday's service at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity as written by the Beadle can be seen at this site: The Beadle's Blog. And if you aren't familiar with who a Beadle is, you may find the definition here: Beadle.

A Joyous First Sunday after Easter to you all! Remember, Eastertide lasts all the way until Pentecost, so we have much time to celebrate the Resurrection -- not that we should ever stop celebrating the pivotal fact of our faith, but now's the time to really, really make a big deal over Christ's Resurrection from the dead.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An Easter Poem

(Fra Angelico, Crucifixion)

Okay, so I've missed posting a few poems this week -- will have posted a few doubles and will post a few more so I can finish the month with 30 rough drafts.

Here's one I wrote on Easter Monday. I'm not sure I like it, but I'll post it anyway. If there are a couple of lines you like or a couple you don't, let me know. I really appreciate feedback as long as the intention is to help improve my writing, not just to tear down, kwim?

Easter 2009

Lent closes
as a book shut
for another year.
Opened with ashes,
the Lenten season concludes with
an empty tomb.

Lent closes --
the penitence,
the somber forty days of
fasting and prayer
replaced by joy,

Under the dark coldness of vigil,
I unheft my hideous burdens
into the lavish dawn
of Resurrection morn --
twirling childishly
as the first rays
cup my upturned face.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

The Value of Lectio Divina

I first ran across the term Lectio Divina about eight years ago, and I really dove headfirst into the idea as I was preparing for Lake Murray Community Church's women's retreat which I had been asked to facilitate. Lectio Divina is Latin for "divine reading" and simply refers to a meditative reading of and praying of the Holy Scriptures. It's been a while since I've written about Lectio, and it came to me today once again how very integral Lectio is to my relationship with Christ.

I think that I first ran across the term in Kathleen Norris' incredible book, Cloister Walk which describes becoming an oblate in a Benedictine monastery while retaining her place in her hometown Presbyterian Church. Norris described her foundation in Lectio Divina in such poetic terms -- the great draw for me in Norris' writing is her grounding as a poet as well as her experiences in Catholic and Protestant worship. As I read Norris' description of Lectio, I immediately recognized the method as very similar to the one I had been taught years ago at Lake Murray by Edie Riffe, our women's ministry leader at the time. Edie taught us to read through Scripture slowly and prayerfully until we "heard" the Spirit "speaking" to us, and then write down or pray over that issue. But the goal of Edie's teaching and Lectio Divina is really the same: praying God's Word and listening to Him speaking to us.

So the practice of Lectio Divina came quite easily to me after Edie's teaching. Once I discovered Lectio, I found I could really NOT handle the Bible in any other way: I could not read or study the Holy Scriptures merely inductively; I need to pray the Scriptures -- or at least read the Scriptures prayerfully. I find that Lectio works best with the Psalms, especially as I read them according to the 1928 Book Of Common Prayer Psalter which lays out all 150 Psalms to be read, morning and evening, each month.

So, if you are intrigued by the idea of Lectio Divina, allow me to refer you to some great online resources that will get you started and keep you going in praying God's Word:

The Lectio Divina page at Rev. Bosco Peter's Liturgy New Zealand website is truly remarkable. He gives great directions for making Lectio an integral part of our worship.

The Navigators, an evangelical parachurch organization focusing on evangelism and growing in Christ, has a rich history in the practice of Lectio. I used many of their resources when writing up my retreat talk, and we also had a wonderful speaker from the Navigators at our retreat last month, Debbie Yorgey with whom I discussed Lectio. You can read more about Lectio from their point of view right here: Navigators: Lectio Divina. You can find additional articles on Lectio by plugging the term into their site's search feature.

Also in my sidebar under "Websites of Interest" is a link to the page I've used greatly in my own practice of Lectio Divina. It's a simple, single-page explanation of how to practice this ancient mode of worship, written by a Catholic priest: Lectio Divina

Obviously, you may plug Lectio Divina into any search engine and come up with bazillions of pages.

A method used by both Catholics and evangelical Protestants, the ancient practice of Lectio Divina has revolutionized the way I read and pray the Scriptures. I find myself delving more and more deeply into God's Word and into my relationship with the Author of the Holy Scriptures as His child. Lectio Divina is definitely a win-win situation in my book.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Only 90 Days....

It's been *such* a loooooong wait for Half Blood Prince. The sixth installment of the ever-popular Harry Potter film was delayed from its original release date of November of 2008 to July 17, 2009. Finally we're down to double-digits on the countdown -- three months from today we'll finally be able to see Half Blood Prince.

A new preview of Half Bloof Prince was released today and can be found on the Mugglenet site if you're interested. It looks well-worth waiting for, and at least the wait for the two parts of Deathly Hallows will not be affected. Filming right now, Part 1 is due for release in November 2010 and Part 2 in July 2011.

It's soooooooo hard to wait for the next installment of the Harry Potter movies, but we really don't have a choice, do we? They've been really great representations of the book series which readers of this blog know that I absolutely adore. It's hard to wait. Really hard to wait. But at least we know how it all ends, so waiting for the films is much, much less trying than waiting for the books to be published.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Working on Writing

Earlier this month I wrote a poem based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting La Pia de Tolomei -- you can read my rough draft here.

On Tuesday I attended the Writers' Workshop meeting at our local library. I was thrilled that all together we had eight writers who came, and several of us read aloud our writings and received some helpful feedback. I presented two pieces -- my essay on Writerly Courage that I wrote for Kathy at The 10 Minute Writer and the poem on the Rossetti painting.

The great value of writing groups is in helping one another become better writers. I received a lot of great ideas for expanding and improving the poem, especially after doing a bit of research about Rossetti's painting. You see, La Pia de Tolomei depicts a character from Dante's Divine Comedy, Purgatorio to be precise, who was locked in a castle by her husband while he married a countess. Rossetti used the wife of his fellow Pre-Raphaelite, William Morris, Jane, as his model for the painting. Rossetti was having an affair with Jane Morris at the time, and art critics have surmised that perhaps Rossetti's painting is an indictment against the Morris' marriage that trapped Jane in a loveless marriage.

Now that I know more about Rossetti and his painting, I can fill some details into my poem. The other writers advised me to work more with the middle section of the poem, expanding on La Pia de Tolomei's feelings of being trapped, of being supplanted by another woman, a woman with money and a title. So I'll work on the poem and bring it back next month with changes -- more about her feelings than just a description of the painting and a hint at her feelings as I have the poem written at this point.

I've been very busy the last couple of days with grading essays for my two writing classes at our co-op Class Days, so I'll catch up a few poems to make up for missing a couple of days of composing poems....

Easter Lasts 50 Days

Rev. Bosco Peters at the website Liturgy in New Zealand has been encouraging Christians of all persuasions to consider celebrating Easter not as a single day, nor as an octave (week long celebration, lasting for eight days), nor even up to Ascension Day (forty days) but to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection through Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.

On his web site, Rev. Bosco writes:

Renewal of worship has rediscovered the value and significance of the Easter Season. Easter is not just "Easter Day"; it is the fifty days from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost. During this season, Sundays might be better named "of Easter" rather than "after Easter" ("The Third Sunday after Easter," for example, is better termed "The Fourth Sunday of Easter").

Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost do not form three seasons. The Easter season celebrates the three dimensions of the resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. Ascension material is appropriately used as Ascension Day approaches. Pentecost material is appropriate from Ascension Day to the Day of Pentecost. Easter threads, of course, remain suitable up to and including the Day of Pentecost.

These fifty days, a seventh of the year, form our great "Sunday" of the year. "Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!" forms the greeting in every service during Eastertide. Similarly "Alleluia! Alleluia!" is added to the Dismissal and the people's response. (These are equivalent to the "Alleluia" added at the beginning and end of the Daily Services.) These help to give these celebrations a distinctive festal feel.

The Paschal Candle is lit at every service up to and including the Day of Pentecost. "Glory to God in the highest" may be used daily from Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost. Alternatively, some communities use it daily for the first week of Easter.

Daily, or on certain days, people might gather in church in the evening, to light the Paschal Candle and sing the (at least sixteen centuries old) "Hail gladdening Light" (Phos Hilaron] page 175) or another hymn. Thanksgiving for light may follow, incense may be used (Ps 141:2), and parts of Night Prayer, Evening Worship, or the Daily Services may be used. Such a Service of Light, appropriately simplified, can form a very attractive focus for family prayer or prayer in a house group.

A Vigil service on the eve of the Day of Pentecost could focus around such a Service of Light. The Day of Pentecost concludes the Easter Season. Pentecost is when we celebrate the sweeping of the Spirit of God over the darkness and over the face of the waters.

The Jewish Pentecost was a single feast day celebrating harvest and commemorating the covenant. In the early church, however, the Christian Pentecost was not merely the "fiftieth day," but the word "Pentecost" often referred to the whole period of fifty days which began on Easter Day. This stress is being recovered. Now once more Eastertide is the "Season of Pentecost." The Day of Pentecost concludes the Pentecost season, rather than beginning it.

Just as Sunday is the first and the eighth day, so the "great Sunday" of the fifty days of Eastertide/Pentecost begins with the day of the resurrection and continues through eight Sundays, an octave of Sundays, a "week of weeks." It has been suggested that the English expression "Whitsunday" derives from the French huit (eight), Pentecost being le huitième dimanche, the eighth Sunday of Easter.

In the Fourth Gospel, the risen Christ imparts the gift of the Spirit on the evening of Easter Day (John 20:19-23). The Spirit is the gift of the risen Christ. And so in the Easter Season, this "Pentecost Season," we listen to the farewell discourses, with their promise of the coming Advocate, as words to us from the risen Christ.

So let's consider celebrating Easter not as a single day but as fifty days. Isn't the Resurrection of our Lord important enough to celebrate for the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost? It certainly seems so to me.

You can go to Rev. Bosco's site and download the "Easter Is 50 Days" badge for your own blog, site, or Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Writing

Continuing posting a poem a day in celebration of National Poetry Month -- rough drafts, mind you:

On Writing Poetry

painting with letters, syllables, words ~
unveiling Truth
through image and metaphor
arranged just *so*.

to rhyme or not to rhyme ~
this is the question
every writer must answer
before pinning ideas, wriggling,
to the page ~
before spinning thoughts
inward then outward,
waiting for words to illumine
mind and soul.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poetry for Easter Monday

I'm still in haiku mode here ~ so here are a few more. Yes, still rough drafts as I wrote both of these today in rather a hurry:

beads gripped tight in prayer ~
earnest supplications rise
to our holy Lord.

stringing words, phrases,
upturning revelation ~
soul of a writer.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He Is Risen Indeed ... Alleluia!

(Fra Angelico - The Resurrection)
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today -- lyrics by Charles Wesley

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Resurrection Day Poem

A rough draft of the occurrences of that first Easter sunrise....

the glorious dawn

the sun was just peering between the hills,
spreading oranges and pinks through the clouds
as the women passed through the silent streets,
in the gloaming --
arms filled with cotton cloths
with which to wrap the body.

their eyes widened with surprise
when they saw the large stone rolled away
from the tomb's entrance.
tentatively they entered the garden tomb,
unsure what to expect.

then on their faces they fell
before a heavenly being,
glowing and glimmering
with immortal light.

"be not afraid," he said.
"He is not here. He is risen!
go, tell His followers the Good News!"

and away the women rushed,
believing the unbelievable,
eager to share the miracle.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Vigil Poem

I wrote this quickly tonight after attending the Holy Saturday Vigil at Victoria House with the Anglicans. It's one of my favorite services of the year, starting in the darkness with a flint-lit fire from which the candles, including the Paschal Candle, are lit, and then we enter the building, lighting a few candles at a time and read the liturgy by the light of the slim waxen candles we hold in our hands. This poem is a first draft, very rough, but I hope that it partially conveys the feeling of the Vigil service to you.

Saturday Vigil

a dim light struck in the pressing darkness,
the snap of metal on flint ~
dry branches capturing the spark.

a slim candle is lit from the small fire,
flickering alone in the deep universe.
then that flame lights the paschal candle ~
the thicker white candle in which five small nails
have been thrust along the raised red cross:
"the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end."

from the flint-lit fire is lifted
the fragrant incense,
carefully placed in the brass censer,
chains rattling and rasping
as the pieces are pulled together
and the candlelight is reflected in its brass surface
as the censer swings
back and forth
back and forth ~
cleansing and purifying.

we wait, as the disciples waited,
in fear and trembling in the darkness,
for the dawning light of the resurrection.
"weeping is for the night,
but joy comes in the morning."

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Ecumenical Stations of the Cross

At noon on Good Friday, the Alpine Christian Ministerial Association hosts a Biblical Way of the Cross. Pastors and members of five or six Alpine churches (over 100 people total) gather at Queen of Angels Catholic Church on Victoria Drive and together walk the fourteen Stations along the west side of the church property. At each Station along the Way, numbered simply with black Roman numerals on the six-foot tall white crosses, one of the pastors reads a passage of Scripture and, as we walked to the next cross, we sang a verse of "Were You There" related to the passage. Father Acker and three of his Free Teen Guitar Class students, including J, accompanied the singing. It was a meditative walk, pondering Christ's suffering and death on the cross for our sins, thereby opening a path to eternal life never before available.

As the leaflet that was given to each of us read: Christians throughout the ages have been drawn to the Holy Land to walk the path from Jesus' prayer in the Garden on the night He was betrayed to His burial in the tomb. The traditional stopping places were known as "stations" by Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem.

While most Christians don't have an opportunity to walk that path in Jerusalem, the events recorded in Holy Scripture have been used by Christians throughout the world to be reminded of Jesus' way of redemption won for us through His death upon the Cross.

Today we join together in hearing these words of Holy Scripture read by our community clergy and we sing together "Were You There."

We started with a prayer on this cloudy, overcast Good Friday:

Fr. Acker: Christ Himself bore our sins in His Body on the tree.
People: That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
Fr. Acker: Let us pray.
People: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that He might draw the whole world to Himself. Grant that we, who glory in this death for our salvation, may also glory in His call to take up our cross and follow Him; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Acker: Wait for the Lord; His Day is near.
People: Wait for the Lord; be strong; take heart.

Then we listened to the Scripture passages as read by the pastors, and then sang the related verse of "Were You There" as we slowly walked the 20 feet or so to the next Station. Here are the Stations and the verses from the hymn:

Station I: Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives: Luke 22:39-45
"Were you there when they couldn't watch one hour?"

Station II: Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus: Matthew 26:47-56
"Were you there when a kiss betrayed the Lord?"

Station III: Jesus Before the Council: Mark 14:60-65
"Were you there when they asked, 'Are you the Christ?'"

Station IV: My Kingdom Is Not of This World: John 18:33-37
"Were you there when Pilate called Him king?"

Station V: Pilate Delivers Jesus to be Crucified: Mark 15:6-15
"Were you there when the crowd cried 'Crucify!'?"

Station VI: Jesus Delivered to Be Crucified: John 19:2-6
"Were you there when He wore the crown of thorns?"

Station VII: Jesus Bears the Cross: John 19:14-17
"Were you there when He laid His own life down?"

Station VIII: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross: Mark 15:20-21
"Were you there when Simon bore the cross?"

Station IX: Jesus Speaks to the Women: Luke 23:27-31
"Were you there when the women wept and wailed?"

Station X: The Crucifixion: Luke 23:32-38
"Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Station XI: The Criminals Speak to Jesus: Luke 23: 39-43
"Were you there when He promised Paradise?"

Station XII: Jesus Speaks to Mary and John: John 19:25-27
"Were you there when Mary lost her son?"

Station XIII: The Death of Jesus: John 19:28-34
"Were you there when the Lord said, 'It is done.'?"

Station XIV: Jesus Is Buried: John 19:38-42
"Were you there when they laid Him in the Tomb?"

After the last guitar strum, we all turned and silently left the fourteen white crosses, bathed in weak sunshine through the clouds. The birds twittered in the flowering trees above our heads, and it would have been a beautiful day promising spring. But we knew better.

Today was the day to ponder Christ's willingness to undergo the most extreme physical suffering imaginable, plus the most extreme spiritual pain as He shouldered the sin of every single person -- past, present, and future. Today was a somber day, a day to ponder the effect of Jesus' willing sacrifice for us. Saturday is a day of Vigil, a day of preparation. Imagine how His disciples felt that Saturday: the triumphal entry of a few days ago, of seeing the Messiah enter Jerusalem to accolades and "Hosanna" is crushed by the Cross. No conquering Messiah is here to drive out their Roman oppressors. They are beyond depressed, crushed by the Romans who once again robbed them of hope. What was Jesus thinking? He had the power to save Himself, and He didn't do it. The disciples are bemused, sorrow-laden, and fearful. Would the Romans come after them as well? The promises of Christ to rise again the third day is forgotten in the sorrow of the Cross. They are in hiding, waiting for something to happen....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Liturgy

The Nineteenth Chapter of the Gospel of John, English Standard Version
19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic [1] Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. [2] He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion
So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. [3] But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus' Side Is Pierced
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

Jesus Is Buried
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus [4] by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds [5] in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Good Friday Haiku

A Haiku for Good Friday

On a splintered cross,
blood-stained harbinger of hope~
here Christ conquered death.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Value of Liturgy

Along with half the Christian blogosphere, I avidly read the InternetMonk, a.k.a. Michale Spencer. Yesterday's post by his "Liturgical Gangstas" on the value of liturgy echoes what I have discovered in my own journey toward liturgy. One of them mentioned the fact that in liturgy, we are joining with worship in heaven -- which is one real value I see in liturgy.

Here's the article -- it's a really wonderful view of the value of liturgy from pastors who practice it on a daily basis, geared toward a more evangelical who may not: The Value of Liturgy.

For me, I find the value of liturgy simply in what liturgy is made from: God's Word. Liturgy really is nothing else but God's Word arranged in such a way that the pastor and God's people are working together in praying His Word. I love participating in liturgy because it's not passive worship; I am involved. I take part in liturgical worship. It's the major value I find in liturgy: taking part in God's Word with our church family together. It's a very cool thing. Very cool.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Poem for Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday has always been one of my favorite Holy Days. On this day, we recall Jesus' last full day on earth. In St. John's Gospel, the events of Maundy Thursday is spread over six chapters, Chapters 13 through 18, over a quarter of the entire Gospel.

Jesus starts the Last Supper by washing the feet of His disciples, probably something that they had not experienced since childhood as most of the disciples were not wealthy enough to employ servants to do this lowest job in the household. Jesus strips to the waist, wraps a towel around himself, and washes the feet of every disciple in the Upper Room. It's an act of service, an act of love, an intimate act of great meaning to the disciples as Jesus spoke:
"Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:12-17)
Not only did Jesus institute the washing of feet (which we will do tonight at the Maundy Thursday service at Victoria House), but He also instituted the Last Supper which He celebrated as part of the Passover with His disciples. He picked up the afilkomen, the Bread of Affliction, and instead of saying, "This is the Bread of Affliction," said instead, "This is My Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). And Jesus also took the Cup of Elijah that was set at every Passover table, never touched until Elijah's return to herald the coming of the Messiah. It was this special cup of the Messiah that Christ raised before speaking, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood" (Luke 22:20). The symbolism would not have been lost on the disciples: Jesus was declaring Himself the Messiah by using the cup of Elijah at the close of the Passover meal.

The word "Maundy" means "commandment," and Jesus told His disciples at this final meal together, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

So in light of Maundy Thursday, I offer this original poem. It's still a little rough in places, but it does convey a little of the love I have for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Maundy Thursday

Tipped to my lip,
I open my mouth, allow the wine,
Swallow, and attempt to grip
His holiness, not mine --

My eyes on the icon fix,
Set glowing upon the wall --
My hardened conscience pricks,
Knowing I do not love at all.

Yet He loves -- He Who died
On that cross, bleeding.
Meanwhile, my sin I hide,
His Word barely heeding.

What can I do? cries my heart.
How can I deserve His Gift?
Yet His grace doth impart
Love, joy, and mercy so swift.

My hands, my heart, heavenward I raise --
With tears streaming down my face,
Upon His loving visage now I gaze,
Accepting fully His blessed grace.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Poems for April 7th and 8th: Haiku

Today I joined TwiHaiku -- Tweeting haikus. A wonderful combination of Twitter and poetry -- it's quite fun! Here's the link, on the chance you're interested: TwiHaiku.

If you're not familiar with the haiku form, here's a link that will explain it: haiku.

I thought I'd "make up" for skipping Sunday, so I'm posting two haiku, one that's already on TwiHaiku and one that's not (yet).

Gripping cup of tea,
Wincing at cacophony --
Peace escapes again.

Sketch book splayed open,
Pencil dances on the page --
Beauty emerges.

Holy Week

(Image from

Holy Week, my favorite week of the entire year, is upon us. Starting with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter, it's like a sandwich of joy on either side and much pain and suffering as the "meat." Without Christ's suffering and death, the "sandwich" -- the joy -- would be empty and meaningless.

Palm Sunday was celebrated a little at Lake Murray, unfortunately without palms. But Seth read a Gospel account of the Triumphal Entry. The real celebration for me was attending the Lenten Concert at the San Diego Mission (see post below) in which beautiful music was performed and baskets of palms were at the doors. I brought two home to make into a cross and place behind one of my icons, waiting for next Ash Wednesday to be burned and used for ashing crosses on our foreheads.

But the best celebrations of Holy Week start tonight. Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity is hosting a Seder meal with about 20 people attending to read through the Haggadah and observe the amazing connections between Passover and Easter. This will be the fourth Seder meal I've participated in, the first being at Lake Murray a few years ago, and the rest with the Anglicans. It's an incredible time of recognizing symbolism throughout the Passover story that relates to Christ as Messiah. I have always left Seder meals marvelling at God's wonderful plans for His people, foretold in the first Passover as Moses and the Israelites fled Pharoah and completed in Christ. I just have to watch the wine -- with the glasses being refilled four times, I'll have to ask for small pourings. We'll also share a potluck meal, with turkey in addition to lamb, which is not a favorite of mine. I'm very much looking forward to the Seder meal tonight.

The Triduum, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, finish the Lenten Season. If you would like to read more about the Triduum, check out this link: Triduum. Maundy Thursday comes first. "Maundy" means "commandment" and refers to Christ's command to His disciples that they (and we) "love one another as Christ has loved us." At Victoria House, the parsonage, we celebrate the institution of the Lord's Supper as well as the footwashing Jesus did for His disciples. The footwashing almost always brings me to tears as Father Acker washes everyone's feet (one foot). The humility and intimacy of the act reminds me how much Jesus did for His disciples and for all of us, modeling the role of servant-leader for us. I always feel like echoing Peter's refusal to Christ when Father Acker approaches me with the basin, pitcher, and towel: "No, you may not demean youself and wash my feet!" It's a touching, a moving act that never ceases to amaze me.

On Good Friday we meet with five or six other churches at the Catholic Church in Alpine, Queen of Angels, for the ecumenical Stations of the Cross. Along Queen of Angels' western fence line are fourteen wooden crosses set among trees. At each Station, a pastor from one of the participating churches (Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Community, etc.) reads the Scripture for the Station, and while we walk to the next Station, we sing a verse of "Were You There" that relates to that Station. Father Acker and his guitar students (this year including J) provide accompaniment on acoustic guitars. Usually over a hundred people participate, praying through the Stations, listening to the Scriptures, reliving Christ's journey to the Cross. It's a beautiful and sobering service, one that brings us to the Tomb in preparation for the joy of the Resurrection.

On Good Friday evening we'll meet again at Victoria House for the Good Friday liturgy. Communion is served with bread and wine reserved from Maundy Thursday, the one day of the year that a full Communion Service is not practiced. We also pray before a crucifix, remembering Jesus' agonizing death that conquered sin and Satan once for all. The most amazing (and convicting) portion of the service involves reading the Gospel account of Jesus' passion and crucifixion aloud. Several readers do most of the reading, taking the parts of Jesus, Pilate, the Gospeller (narrator), etc. The rest of us take the part of the crowd, and when we cry out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and "We have no king but Caesar!" it reminds me so strongly that the sin of each of us put Christ on that cross, suffering and dying for us. And calling as the crowd did,"His blood be upon our heads and upon the heads of our children" (Matt. 27:25) sends shivers up my spine and makes me weep with sorrow and contrition. It's an emotional reading of Scripture that takes us right back to Jerusalem and Golgotha, right to the very foot of the Cross.

On Holy Saturday we meet at Victoria House later, after dark, and light the Paschal candle which is fitted with five small nails, one for each wound of Christ. The candle is lit and carefully brought into the darkened parsonage, each of us bearing a candle that is lit along our path. We read the Scriptures and pray the prayers by the light of these candles, affirming our baptismal vows and enjoying the first Evensong of Easter. We finish with a celebration as Easter has come and Lent is officially over. Sherry, cake, and other wonderful treats are provided as the Fast is over and the celebration of the Resurrection that lasts 50 days until Pentecost arrives.

We'll be celebrating Easter at Lake Murray, although my desire would be to attend both services at Blessed Trinity (an outdoor service in the park at 8:30) and Lake Murray (with an Easter brunch between services). I miss Easter with First Presbyterian downtown where we sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah with church bells ringing out joyfully to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. It's the most joyful day of the entire Christian Year, and I think such a day demands some real celebration! In the past, Lake Murray has focused on evangelizing guests who come to church only once or twice a year, but Easter should primarily be a celebration for believers, for Christ's Bride, the Church. Bells should be ringing. Everyone should be singing "Christ the Lord Has Risen Today!" and other joyful songs about the Resurrection.

I love reading about how the Orthodox celebrate the Triduum -- they actually stay awake all night Holy Saturday as a church, reading Scripture and worshipping to a very, very long liturgy, all the way until daybreak. Then Lent ends, and the celebrating begins! The Orthodox fast from many foods during Pascha (Easter): dairy, eggs, sweets, meat, wine, olive oil, etc., so breaking the fast together with Pascha Eggs and a huge meal is how they celebrate after their Resurrection service at daybreak. You can read more about the Orthodox celebrations of Lent and Pascha at Frederica Mathewes-Green's web site and at this site: Pascha.

So I wish you a blessed and deeply meaningful Holy Week and a joyful celebration of the Resurrection of Christ our Lord and Saviour. If you're local and would like to attend any of the Anglican services with me, just drop me an e-mail. We'd love to have you come.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poem for Sixth Day of April

As April is National Poetry Month, I've been trying to publish a poem a day during the month. I'm taking Sundays off because they're my non-computer days, but otherwise, I've kept up. Not all of them are good and tonight's offering is *very* rough and needs a lot of work to get into real publication shape. But it's a work in progress, just like all of the poems published here each day. Poems need much more time than a mere day, and as we were gone most of the day at the San Diego Zoo and shopping for E's 17th birthday party on Thursday (a Mamma Mia! themed slumber party with seven friends), this poem was written in about 15 minutes. And it shows....

The Life of a Poet

Wiping sweat from my visage,
I turn back to the written page,
Laboring over metaphors for an age.
Divine inspiration seems to have flown
Far away, so on I drone,
Overworking images and slaughtering meter,
Avoiding rhyme so as to not sound neater.

My muse has left,
Has flown the coop --
All I have remaining of deft
Phrasings is an alphabet soup
Of letters and words, as a group
Dancing and whirling,
Spinning and swirling
In my beleagured brain.

So I sigh, bearing the disgrace,
And swiping the hair out of my face,
I try to compose yet again.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Monday, April 6, 2009

Science Fair in Balboa Park

The boys and I took off from Pine Valley shortly before 2 PM to check out the Science Fair in Balboa Park. (To see the official website, click here: Science Fair.) Usually, a trip to the park takes 45 minutes or so, but once we rounded the interchange from I-8 to 163 South, we were in the weeds. Bumper-to-bumper, edging forward two feet at a time, all the way up the hill from Mission Valley Ugh! After slowly making our way past the University exit, I gunned the van up onto the Washington offramp and onto University near Tenth. Where we found more bumper-to-bumper, all the way up University and all the way down Park Blvd to the San Diego Zoo parking lot, where we slid beautifully into a space right in front. It took us longer to get to the park from 163 than it did the 45 miles from Pine Valley to 163. But once we found our primo parking spot, we unloaded my electric scooter (much more fashionable and useful than my wheelchair), and buzzed on over from the zoo lot to Balboa Park. We entered the Science Fair just beside the Natural History Museum and immediately ran into (fortunately not literally, which could definitely happen with my snazzy scooter) two homeschooling families from church.

We found the area extremely crowded, and even edging the scooter forward provided a challenge. But very soon we found ourselves by the Botanical Garden where we located T's passion: robotics! Yes, SPAWAR had several robots on hand, including one that be-bopped around on its own, avoiding all the wandering feet but somehow managed to run right into my stationary scooter just as I was snapping a cool photo of the boys. But the icing on the robotic cake was the robot that could pick up IEDs, used in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than human bomb experts. Not only was this robot cooler than cool, but the boys were able to control it. The objective: pick up a soft oblong thing (rather like a glasses case) with the robotic arm. All three boys had their chance and the smiles on their faces were priceless. T, age 14, is now convinced more than ever than engineering will be his "thing."

His engineering mind was confirmed at the next booth, one that was supporting African American engineers. The goal: build a "boat" from a square of aluminum foil and then float it in a tub of water. Then comes the hard part: load it up with weighted paperclips. T got his pretty darn close to completely full, and B (age 9) did a bang-up job as well. In fact, on the guy's encouragement, they went back and designed a second boat each, now keeping in mind water displacement, etc. J also built a boat or two, but he was around the corner and I really couldn't get the scooter at the right angle for photos. The boys spent over an hour between the robotics and the foil boats booths, definitely the highlight of the fair for our boys.

As the afternoon progressed, the crowds thinned, and we were more able to get around and take peeks at booths for LegoLand, the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Herpetologists (sp?), Bug Art, Mad Science, Pro-Natura's Microlife Discovery Center, San Diego County Water Authority, and San Diego Mensa where the boys were stumped over how to make four equilateral triangles with only six toothpicks. We also stood in line at the SDG&E booth to get their free lo-flo shower heads and cool green shopping bags (fewer wasted plastic and paper bags!). As six o'clock rolled around, we decided to make a break for home. The Science Expo was a wonderful way to spend a gorgeous spring day, and a very educational one to boot.

For close-up photos of the robots and the park, check out my photo blog: Susanne365

Lenten Music at the Mission

(Photo courtesy of
Yesterday afternoon I rode to the San Diego Mission with Linda, Guy, and Carter, and we met Bill and Joan there. The San Diego Mission is the first church in California, started in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, the first of the long string of California Missions Fr. Serra and others opened up and down the state. Well before 3:00 we entered the wide wooden doors and walked up the unevenly-tiled aisle, choosing pews on the Gospel side. The mission church is very active with daily Mass morning and evening on weekdays and Saturdays and seven Sunday Masses, but only at the noon Mass does the choir sing. With the Lake Murray choir in transition, God worked His mysterious ways to open a door for Kitty to sing with the Mission choir during Lent.

The breeze from the open back doors was refreshing, and the church, shaped like a cross with side doors opening onto the aisle crossing perpendicular to the main aisle, is simple yet breathtaking. With white adobe walls soaring at least two stories high above our heads, the wooden beams were painted with designs that had a slight Native American flair. The wooden pews were far from roomy, seating five people comfortably on each side of the aisle; six were a bit of a crowd.

The program, "Music of the Lenten Season," was sung by the combined choirs of the Mission San Diego de Alcala and St. Michael's Parish, Poway (I was hoping to perhaps see you there, Carmen!). The choir entered in robes -- blue for the Mission choir and deep crimson for St. Michael's. Rather than sitting in the back choir loft, the choirs gathered in the front of the church along with an organ, piano, two violinists and a flutist. The music was gorgeous -- Mendelssohn, Mozart, Handel ("Worthy Is the Lamb" from the Messiah)as well as some gorgeous hymns such as "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing" and "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." The concert lasted about ninety minutes but seemed to fly by so much faster.

As the music whirled about me, my eyes and heart took their fill of the beautiful surroundings which all point to Jesus: the paintings of the Stations of the Cross lining the white adobe walls; kneelers before me, ready to be pulled out for prayer; the slight scent of incense from earlier Masses; candles lit and flickering in the breeze from the open doors; the palms I held in my hand, a remembrance of Jesus entering Jerusalem; the crucifix of Jesus on the cross, suffering for my sin and the sins of those I love along with the transgressions of every single human -- past, present, and future. I pondered these things, praying and worshiping as the music surrounded me, entered me. The Holy Spirit was at work.

So I very much enjoyed our afternoon of Lenten Music, a perfect way to start this Holy Week in which we have the opportunity to walk in Jesus' footsteps through His last week as a human on this earth. I'm very much looking forward in great anticipation the Holy Week activities with Blessed Trinity of Alpine: Wednesday's Seder meal, and then the Triduum services: Maundy Thursday's Communion and Footwashing, Good Friday's Ecumenical Stations of the Cross and Good Friday evening service, and Holy Saturday Vigil. As much as I would love to join them for Easter morning as well before going down to Lake Murray, we're going to only worship with Lake Murray on Easter morning. I also plan to be deep in the Word and prayer this week, fully praying the Morning and Evening Offices of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as well as Morning, Midday, Vespers, and Compline in The Divine Hours.

Have you any plans for Holy Week? I'd love to read about them -- feel free to post here.

Wishing you all a blessed and deeply meaningful Holy Week as we walk in the final earthly footsteps of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Sunday's Poem: Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

The crowds part before Him,
faces joyful
as they strew His path
with precious cloaks,
sacrificed for Him,
now trampled into the dank mud.
They pull fronds from nearby palms,
laying them in the streets or
swishing them through the fetid air
with jubilation.
"Hosanna!" they shout --
"Blessed is He who cometh
in the Name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!"

Seated atop
the donkey's colt,
He cannot share in the crowd's joy.
His eyes focus a few days into the future
when these cheering voices will howl,
faces contorted with hatred,
"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

His eyes well with tears,
and as one spills down His face,
He whispers,
"Forgive them, Father,
for they know not what they do."

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Gear

This past week the InternetMonk, Michael Spencer, has been posting photos of his "gear" -- worship aids he uses even as a Southern Baptist to point him to Jesus. Here's a link to one of his three posts on GEAR. I haven't had a chance to wade through the dozens of comments his posts usually generate, but I immediately knew that I, too, wanted to post my own "gear."

So above in the back is an Old Master painting (forgotten who now and didn't write it down and tried to locate it -- too blear-eyed tonight to keep looking) that I hang on the wall behind my prayer table at the side of my bed. Also on the wall are two icons, one of Christ descending to hell, grasping Adam and Eve by the hand and bringing them to heaven after His death yet before His resurrection. My favorite part is the crushed gates of hell beneath Christ's feet along with the remains of death (bones), showing that Christ has triumphed over sin and death forever! The other icon is called The Tree of Life and shows Christ and his Apostles in a large tree. I also have a special candle given to my by Sheri that I use during prayer, and two crosses, one pewter that I bought at USD just before I spoke at Lake Murray's retreat a few years ago, and the gold one that J gave me for Christmas.

The beads are not a rosary but Anglican prayer beads that I use to pray Scripture and also pray for people: the first set of seven beads are for my immediate family and our parents; the second seven for extended family, the third seven for friends, and the fourth seven for those who need healing. The beads somehow help me to focus my prayers and not lose track. I love the symbolism of the beads: four groups of seven beads as seven is the perfect number and four represent the number of Gospels in the New Testament. The seven larger beads also represent the perfect number seven. All together there are 33 beads, one for each year of Christ's life on earth. I also have a small stack of books: Baillie's Diary of Private Prayer, The Daily Book of Common Prayer, and the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. I didn't photograph my ESV Bible or my Divine Hours books, but those are also used on a daily basis as well.

So these things constitute MY GEAR. I love using them as worship aids because they make me feel closer to Christ and remind me of how I should pray to Him in reverence and love. They also remind me to pray when I see them. I find them extremely helpful, and I'd love to hear about any "gear" you may use in worship as well.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Poem 4: Art Prompt

When I got my new laptop, I was ready for a new wallpaper after seven years of Fra Angelico's Resurrection, Somehow, I found myself drawn to Rosetti's work after seeing a PreRaphaelite exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art a couple of years ago. She intrigues me, and I just love having her as my wallpaper.

So when a poetry prompt suggested composing a poem on a work of art, I knew exactly where to turn. So here it is -- a rough draft, of course.

On Rosetti's La Pia de Tolomei

Folds of gossamer satin capture light,
her velvet scarf carelessly thrown aside.
Brown waves cascade down her back,
gray-green eyes focused far beyond sight.
Her hands clasped in her lap,
she twists a golden ring
around, around her finger.

Her prayer book open at her side,
rosary laid aside, letters spread beneath --
lately at prayer yet now
absorbed in troubled thoughts
in her leafy haven,
so brief a reprieve from her private prison.
Ravens circling above nearby roofs
cast darkening shadows,
unmasking clouded thoughts
as she twists her marriage band
around, around her finger.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poem: An Unusual Ode

(National Poetry Month Official Poster, from T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")

I wrote three poems today -- two of them are very serious and require more thought and work than I can give them in only a day, and one I'm saving for Good Friday next week. One of them actually rhymes and everything. (I usually write in free verse, so rhyming is quite a departure for me.) So, still needing an idea for a poem to post today, I scoured the website, finally locating some prompts. One suggestion for writing poems was on composing unusual odes. I looked up "ode" at and found this definition from a cultural dictionary:

ODE: A kind of poem devoted to the praise of a person, animal, or thing. An ode is usually written in an elevated style and often expresses deep feeling. An example is “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” by John Keats
The prompt mentioned odes to cockroaches, traffic, etc. Unusual odes, to be sure. I thought I would write an ode to Southern California Traffic, but it quickly transitioned to an ode to SMOG. Smog (smoke + fog) isn't quite as much of a problem in San Diego as it has been in Los Angeles to the north, but when the wind comes from the north, we get far more than our usual share that blankets our coasts and mountains. One great advantage to living in the mountains is that we live pretty much above the icky brownish-gray stuff. So here is a hurried rough draft of an ode to ... smog (ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek).

An Ode to Southern California Smog

O, Smog --
Spewing from tailpipes
Before, beside, behind me --
Birthed from sedans, vans
(both full-sized and mini),
Pick-ups, 18-wheelers, Hummers,
And even the occasional

You ring the mountains,
Tarnishing their sharp shapes
With somber grays and browns --
Only unmasking pure beauty
With the next rainfall.

(c) 2009 Susanne Barrett
So, can you compose an unusual ode? If you do, please put the link in the comments section -- I'd love to read it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

ER Finale

(Photo courtesy NBC)
As I type this, I'm watching the two-hour final episode of ER. Keith and I have watched this show from the very first episode back in September 1994 when we had only one child, and I was pregnant with the baby we lost two months later in November. So I feel great attachment to ER and always have. I stopped watching for a few months around Season 9, but then ER picked back up with some intriguing story lines, and so did we. I found my eyes welling with tears as the ER opening credits started with the familiar old names ... a beginning that hasn't been used in at least five years. Kleenexes at the ready. Okay, I'm set.

I had thought that Rachel Green would show back up as a med student in the final episode, and I was right: I recognized her immediately, and as I type this, she is introducing herself to Frank as Mark Green's daughter. I'm getting such a feeling of deja vu as E and I have been watching Season 1 reruns on TNT, so we're used to seeing younger versions of Carter, Benton, Lewis, Green, Morgenstern, Hathaway, and Ross. I am looking forward to seeing older versions of them tonight, too -- well, except for Green whom we saw earlier this season in a flashback. We've already had glimpses of Weaver and Lewis already by halfway through this last episode, and we'll be seeing Corday who flew out with Rachel Green for her interview as a med student.

It's sad watching ER go ... just think of all of the great guest stars! Alan Alda, Forest Whittaker, Sally Field, Ernest Borgnine just tonight, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Clooney, and the list goes on and on. Incredible actors. We watched the one-hour retrospective earlier with interviews with the actors over the years -- which was very cool. The show has been simply incredible ... and it's a very simple premise: working in the ER is HARD. Way hard. But it's the innovations that make ER so incredible -- the cameras, the long shots, the live show, the guest stars.

I sit here, with long breaks between typing, just absorbing the enormity of this final show ... and of all that has happened in the last fifteen years since I watched the first episode with such excitement. Back then I had only a daughter and was excitedly expecting our second child ... the child who didn't become part of our family in this life. Three more boys have joined us since then, and I watched ER through each and every pregnancy, through late-night nursings and up late with sick kids. Elizabeth was a toddler in 1994, and now she's watching this final episode with me, minus my nostalgia.

It's been an amazing show -- the stuff of life ... and death. It's realism and romance and suffering and grief and joy. The characters are flawed yet heroic, real people who cry and laugh, who transform at times and sometimes don't. Sam and Gates finally get back together, holding hands after the death of a patient who had known her husband for 72 years which finally softened Sam's hard heart toward Tony. Kim returned from Paris to see Carter at the opening of the Joshua Carter Center, named for their son who died in utero, and the death of Joshua remains an insurmountable obstacle to their relationship. Elizabeth Corday, Peter Benton, Kerry Weaver, Susan Lewis, Rachel Green, and Carter go out for drinks after the Opening, and the look on Carter's face at one point was priceless ... nostalgia and joy and pain. Life. Then Carter takes Rachel back to the ER and teaches her how to place an IV. Aaah, poetic justice as Carter, the original student fifteen years before, teaches Mark Green's daughter her first procedure.

The ER theme music starts playing as a huge trauma comes in -- an industrial fire with multiple casualties. Everyone is flying here and there, triaging patients, treating those most severely burned and injured. Although he doesn't actually work at County at this point, Carter pulls on gown and gloves and, as he runs alongside a patient's gurney into the ER, he calls behind him, "You comin, Dr. Green?" Rachel's face lights up and she races into the ER after him, ready to help.

And ER is over. Just like that.


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