Friday, July 31, 2009

The Last Day(s) of Brave Writer at the Movies

(Image from

So today is my last day of the four-week-long Brave Writer at the Movies class. It's been a crazy-busy month with over twice the number of posts as usual in an average four-week "One Thing" Brave Writer class.

We started the class with a discussion of the classic Topper (1937), followed by the story of Rudyard Kipling's son, My Boy Jack (2007). 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off returned us to the realm of comedy, and we finished the class this week with the sci-fi thriller I, Robot.

I put up polls today asking about how well they liked I, Robot as well as asking about their favorite film of the class. I, Robot had received four A's and one B at last count, and I, Robot and Ferris Bueller's Day Off are tied for favorite film. I'm sure the votes will change as usually students post through the weekend and sometimes even into the next week after a class officially "closes."

It's been a very interesting class, mostly because I've never had so many students enrolled whom I know IRL (in real life). In addition to my favorite Brave Writer and home-tutoring student, the daughter of my very good friend from grad school joined the class plus three students from Heritage Christian School's co-op Class Days, including one student who was in my Intermediate Writing Class last year. So it was lovely having students I already know in the movie discussion class this summer.

Some of the students are simply outstanding. One 15-year-old young man and a 14-year-old girl are incredible writers, analyzing the films with keen minds and open hearts. I really appreciated their insights and perceptive comments. A few students needed a bit of nudging to write more than a mere sentence or two in response to my multi-faceted questions, but overall it was a delightful class, even though it swallowed up a far larger amount of my summer than I had planned for.

In fact, I think I have seldom worked longer or harder in any Brave Writer class as I have in this one, despite the fact that we had low enrollment as far as number of families. They certainly kept me on my toes! Tonight we topped 850 class posts (almost half by me) in four weeks -- most classes in the Forum Folder have 300-400 posts; only one has over 500. So it has been an extremely busy four weeks of questioning, discussing, encouraging, cajoling, applauding, and writing, writing, writing. My chiropractor can tell the difference this month in how tight my neck has been each Friday after typing so much on the computer each week.

We discussed some quite intriguing topics in Brave Writer at the Movies: whether ghosts exist in our Topper discussion (and one student told us a real-life ghost story that happened to him during our class), whether patriotism can be taken too far in My Boy Jack, the portrayal of adults and the theme of stopping our busy lives to truly enjoy what we have plus father/son relationships in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the result of over-dependence on technology and the possibility of robotics by 2035 in I, Robot. We also discussed the more traditional analytical topics of setting, characters, and themes in each film.

In the fall I'll be teaching an MLA Research Essay class for Brave Writer. In addition to the six-week online class in September and October (and possibly a One Thing: Poetry class in November), I'll be teaching my usual Intermediate Writing high school course at Heritage Christian's Class Day in addition to a new class for me, the 4th-6th grade Poetry/Research Class -- which I still need to write up although I have a scheduled syllabus roughed out. And all that is besides teaching our four young people at home, the last year we'll have all four homeschooling together as Elizabeth will be a high school senior. Yes, we'll have two high school students this school year.

So, needless to state, I haven't had much of a peaceful summer. Aaah, well.....

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Favorite Faithful Bloggers

"Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrim's way." -- Psalm 84:4, The Divine Hours, Prayers for Summertime

As this summer comes to a close for us (we have just over two weeks left before our home school picks back up), I realized that I have read very few books over the past two months. I have been writing more than usual, and I have been reading over and lightly editing my own novel as well as a friend's, but the vast majority of my reading time is spent online.

I spend some time on Twitter and Facebook each day, but not nearly as much as I spend reading blogs. Through Google Reader (one of the best time-saving devices available online), I follow over 100 blogs, glossing over some and reading others with thoughtful prayerfulness (or prayerful thoughtfulness). Some blogs I follow for their advice on writing and publishing. Others blogs belong to friends with whom I want to stay in touch. Some blogs are written by fellow homeschoolers.

But the blogs I follow the most avidly are those of fellow Christians of all sorts: Evangelicals, Catholics, Anglicans, and Orthodox. I follow a rather eclectic collection of bloggers, and from these wise believers I am learning how to live a life more fully devoted to God. These bloggers from around the world write transparently about their foibles and faults while they glorify God for their successes. They inspire me to continue growing in the faith, to pray more faithfully, to study God's Word more thoroughly, to continue in the spiritual disciplines as a way to connect with Our Saviour more fully. We're sojourners, traveling the same path to holiness, attempting to ignore deceitful "shortcuts," inspiring each other to keep placing one foot in front of the other even when we're so spiritually drained that taking another step seems impossible. Sometimes we slog each other's burdens upon our own backs or prod each other toward the goal that is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. At times we get bogged down in the mud, caught in quicksand, and we find ourselves surprised when eager hands of fellow travelers reach out, grasping our flailing limbs, lifting us to solid ground once more. The Pilgrim Pathway has been traveled for twenty centuries, and those who have marked the path before us continually inspire us "to love and good deeds," as do our fellow Christians as we encourage and exhort, lift up in prayer and extend a helping hand. Our map, of course, is God's Holy Word, and we must keep it always before us as we travel the Pilgrim Pathway for a lifetime.

So I greatly value my fellow travelers in the blogosphere, thanking them for pointing me in the right direction when the path seems to fork in front of me, for being transparent regarding their own wrong turns, for continuing to travel when the path seems to blur beneath their feet. These writers inspire me and encourage me to "keep on keepin' on," no matter the obstacles in my path, no matter the seeming endlessness of the journey. These, then, are my Favorite Faithful Bloggers:

The Internet Monk -- Michael Spencer isn't afraid to tackle any subject in Christendom. His balance and forthrightness and his gracious writing style challenge my thinking and beliefs quite often. He's among one of the most popular Christian bloggers ever. He makes me think about topics in a way that blends the head and the heart.

A Holy Experience -- I'm rather new to following this blog. Ann Voskamp is Canadian and writes about life on a farm with six children and the Holy Experiences she encounters on a daily basis. Her "corner of the web" is written for "the God-hungry and true Beauty seekers." Her writing and photography are simply breathtaking -- she writes in a poetic prose that sparkles with the Holy Spirit. A simply beautiful, holy experience, and currently my absolutely favorite blogger.

Conversion Diary -- A former atheist and now a devout Catholic, Jennifer Fulwiler is a mother of five and an incredibly funny and transparent communicator of the Gospel. She lays her life out for all to see: the beautiful, the ugly, the sinful, the transcendent. Jennifer is well-worth following, and she has taught me a great deal about being a faithful wife, mother, and Christian writer. And her scorpion and Yaya stories are unparalleled.

John H. Armstrong -- Founder of Act 3 Ministries, John Armstrong is a former pastor and church planter as well as an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College Graduate School. John writes about many subjects; I admit to skipping over his sports posts. But his writings on theology and what he calls The New Ecumenism are educational as well as inspiring. I value most his views on ecumenism and his willingness to open dialogue among Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant believers.

Journey of a Soul -- Deborah writes about her journey of faith as a Catholic wife and mother. Lately she has been blogging about Spiritual Directors, people evangelicals might call Disciplers. However, Catholic Spiritual Directors are usually specially trained by the Church and often meet once a month with those whom they direct. Deborah's writings are very true-to-life and inspirational.

Liturgy New Zealand -- Reverend Bosco Peters, an Anglican priest in New Zealand, hosts an incredible resource for those who are Anglican or who are interested in the Church of England. His following the Liturgical Year, his information on the Spiritual Disciplines, and his evangelical zeal all make his blog and website well worth following. I can't recommend his blog and website highly enough, whether one is Anglican or not.

Finally, I wish to recommend a couple of blogs by online friends of mine:

The Well -- Carol Weaver, a homeschooling mother and wife to her "Mr. Knightley," is a missionary to Asia and writes about living a life dedicated to Christ-likeness and to loving His people. Her blog posts discuss her daily life, classical readings, and also the deep well from which springs the Living Water of Christ Jesus.

Sentient Marrow -- Dalissa Reeder writes about home education and spiritual matters on her blog. An artist, Dalissa looks at life and faith from a distinctly original view, and her writing is infused with dry wit and Christian insights. A real gem.

So here are some of my Favorite Faithful Bloggers, those Christians whether Catholic, Anglican, or Evangelical who nudge me along the Pilgrim Pathway through their insights and examples, through their transparency and successes, and through speaking the Truths of our Christian Faith with inspiring and memorable words. I thank these bloggers for their willingness to shed their exterior masks and allow their readers glimpses into their imperfect inner lives. I'm unspeakably grateful for their taking my hand and encouraging me along the Pilgrim Pathway, whether they know me or not (usually not).

Feel free to list a few of your Favorite Faithful Bloggers in the comments below. I'm always looking for new blogs to add to my burgeoning Google Reader list.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Third Annual "A Taste of Art" Summer Youth Program

Benjamin (age nine) created this tribute to Pollock at the Third Annual "A Taste of Art" Summer Youth Program sponsored by The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC), a group founded by poet Judith Deem Dupree four years ago. She asked for my help, seeing that I am the organized, detailed left-brained type and she is the creative, big-picture, vision-oriented right brain artist. Our joke is that between us we have one brain. :)

This summer was our third foray into children's "art camps." The first year we had classes every Tuesday over the month of July, running in both Lake Morena (near Campo) and Pine Valley. Last year we stuck to Pine Valley only and did it all in a single week, Monday-Thursday. And this summer we did the same. We averaged between 25-30 kids each day this summer, a slight increase over the last two summer programs. The kids pay a nominal price of $5 per class to cover materials, and we've come out even or a bit ahead the first two years; I didn't run this year's program so I don't know if we broke even this summer, although I assume we did. We also provided "scholarships" for families who couldn't afford the fees.

Myrna Mora and Mary Aragon organized this summer's classes, with Marshall Chapman taking care of the boat building and races. The younger kids (ages 6-11) worked on different projects each day: boats, painting abstract designs on gessoed Masonite boards, making abstract mobiles, carving and painting plaster casts, and finally making Pollock-inspired dribbled canvases like Benjamin's above. The best of the projects were shown in the MECAC booth at Pine Valley Days. Benjamin had two pieces on display: the above Pollock canvas and an abstract painting on Masonite.

Keith loved Benjamin's Pollock painting so much that he stretched and nailed it to a wooden mount and plans to frame it. It's hanging above his desk in our kitchen at present and looks wonderful. Abstract art isn't really our thing, but we see much talent in Benjamin's piece and especially the colors he used: deep forest green, ochre, a rusty red, black, greyish tan. It's a wonderful piece, especially by a nine-year-old.

Our older three kids worked on the same project all week: a mosaic mural of our town on canvases, designed by Dianne Holly. Each young person between the ages of 12 and 17 painted their own individual canvas according to a pre-determined color scheme given them on a small card, and when all the canvases are put together, we have a mural of the main street of Pine Valley that will be presented as a gift to the Pine Valley Improvement Club (PVIC) to be hung permanently in the Pine Valley Community Clubhouse.

If you would like to see photos from this summer's program, please click on this link: MECAC "A Taste of Art" 2009. Although I'm more on the periphery of MECAC this past year as a result of my busy schedule, I am still involved in some of the projects, and I am especially proud of "A Taste of Art." It was one of our first artistic outreaches into the community, a community in which art is taught in the schools only because of the efforts of the Art Docent Program (in which I volunteered when Jonathan was at Pine Valley Elementary), funded by the PTA and not the schools as our district is the most under-funded in the state of California.

The kids up here are literally art-starved, so providing "A Taste of Art" may be a child's first introduction to holding a quality paint brush, painting on a genuine art canvas, etc. Our goal: provide a "taste" of different artistic genres in order to excite kids about art and provide a creative outlet for them as most creative opportunities have been denied these backcountry children. That's why I'm so proud of this program and of MECAC in general ... and of our Benjamin whose artistic talent is rapidly developing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pine Valley Day

The Pine Valley Parade started at nine in the morning in humid heat -- sitting in the shade was a necessity. My parents and brother came down from the cabin on Mount Laguna and staked a claim just outside the park in the shade, just where the parade started. As always, the Pine Valley Days Parade commenced with the color guard followed by the Mountain Empire High School cheerleaders bearing the Parade sign. Much clapping and cheering accompanied the start of the parade, and thus the beginning of a long day of celebrating our beautiful small town.

Our three boys enjoyed being on the troop transport for Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. Advertising the Free Teen Guitar Class ministry, Father Acker and Jonathan played their guitars while Timothy, Benjamin, and others tossed candy to the children along the parade route.

I love a small town parade in which the Grand Marshall is none other than the 90+ year old head of the Friends of the Library, Gramma Stickel. Beloved by the children of our town, Gramma Stickel plans fundraisers and outreaches for the local library. She is such a sweetie!

The Miss Alpine Float was colorful and fun -- probably the most creative and beautiful float of the parade.

My favorite part of the parade each year (besides seeing the kids in the parade) is the bagpipers. I absolutely adore the music of bagpipes, and this group is quite large and really, really good. It's definitely a highlight for me each year.

And the parade would not be complete without the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. I have a childhood fondness for Der Wienerschnitzel: twice in my middle school years my brother, sister, and I were on the Wienerschnitzel float in the Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon -- the second largest parade west of the Mississippi (after the Rose Parade). So seeing the Wienermobile each year in our own town's little parade brings back some fun memories.

After the parade which lasted for the greater part of an hour, everyone converged on the county park where the craft booths, snowcone stand, grilled hot dogs, climbing walls, horse shoe tournaments, and kiddie rides were. It was hot, hot, hot for the first half of the day until some high clouds provided relief from the burning sun. At the Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) booth we had a bake sale with fresh limeade that brought in over $60 for children's art programs. Elizabeth sold a few pieces of jewelry and also helped with a free bracelet-making craft. Timothy was a great salesman, carting our baked goods to sellers who couldn't leave their booths. We didn't sell any T-shirts or stained glass, however, but we did get some people interested in what we do for the community -- which is the main reason we set up the booth each year.

The day was made extra-special when our dear friends Carmen and Jeff and their daughters drove up from North County to enjoy the festivities. Carmen and I attended grad school together at USD, and Keith and Jeff have always been great friends, too. (I think the guys talked more than we women did!) Elizabeth sat down with their girls to make jewelry while we adults chatted. It was just a perfect note to a very fun but busy and hot day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's All About the Weather

(Photo of our home with typical afternoon thunderheads)

Summer days in the mountains of Southern California are hot, hot, hot. Sometimes downright miserable, in fact. Clouds build up over the mountains each afternoon, huge thunderheads piling upon themselves, bringing humidity each afternoon which combines with the 100+ degree heat. Summertime in the mountains definitely ranks as my least favorite season. I quite agree with Jane Austen's quote about excessive heat:

"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance."
In fact, I posted this Austen quote as my "Quotation of the Week" in the sidebar today after my friend Misty posted it on Facebook. I think it so perfectly expresses the sensation of perspiration rolling down one's face and one's back, the torpor that accompanies each attempt at physical movement, the way the humidity ruins a perfect hairstyle.

I was a dripping mess of perspiration at Pine Valley Day on Saturday -- I'll post photos and a write-up today or tomorrow. I'm still in recovery mode after such a long and exhausting weekend.

And then there's the whole fire season thing, but that a whole 'nother issue that comes with the heat and the Santa Ana winds.

I can only hope for cool to reign in, say, November....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting Ready for Pine Valley Day(s)

(Father Acker in the Pine Valley Parade last year, taken by me)

Each year own small town, population 1200, holds our annual festival on the last weekend in July. When we first moved to our town almost eight years ago, the festival started on Friday evening and lasted through Sunday afternoon and included kiddie rides, a barn dance, a deep pit barbecue, two days of rodeo competition, a craft fair, and a parade Saturday morning.

Three years ago the owner of the large meadow immediately outside our property refused to allow the use of his land for the rodeo portion of the celebration. So without the two-day rodeo, Pine Valley Days has been reduced to Pine Valley DAY -- Saturday only. Starting with the parade at 9:00 AM, the crowds drift into the park to check out the climbing walls, the craft booths, the food offerings, and the kiddie rides. The day ends with the evening pit barbecue and "barn" dance to the music of a local band.

Jonathan will be playing guitar with Father Acker and the Free Teen Guitar Class in the parade, and Timothy and Benjamin will be tossing candy with Alpine Anglican's web site and church schedule stickers. This will be our kids third or fourth year in the parade, but J's first time playing guitar. My brother and parents are staying at the cabin further up the mountain and will be down in time to watch the parade. Small town parades are so much fun!

Even though we had swarms of huge horse flies to deal with for a week afterward, I enjoyed having the meadow outside our fence swell with motorhomes, horse trailers, fifth wheels, and the small herd of cattle used for roping. Now the meadow remains the home of squirrels and rabbits and perhaps the occasional coyote all 365 days of the year. Without the rodeo, no one mows the weeds down, and the mustard plants grow four feet high rather than being mowed and tramped to nothing each summer with little growth each fall which is quite reassuring when fire season rolls around in early autumn.

This year will be our third Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) arts booth, the second year in the park. We'll be selling baked goods and limeade for donations, plus MECAC T-shirts and canvas bags. Elizabeth will be selling her jewelry and will be in charge of the kids' jewelry craft. We'll be showcasing the best of this past week's Taste of Art Kids' Art Program as well as selling some of our members' photography, cards, two of Keith's stained glass windows, etc. We'll also be chatting about upcoming MECAC opportunities for which we need some volunteer help from the community.

So if you're a San Diegan, drive on up the mountain and check out Pine Valley Day tomorrow. It will be a ton of fun, and we'd love to see you! I'll post more about it after I recover....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance: Melissa and Ade

(Image from -- Melissa and Ade)

Tonight was the 99th episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance. In celebration and in anticipation of tomorrow night's 100th episode, Ellen Degeneres joined the three judges: Nigel Lithgoe, Mary Murphy, and Mia Michaels. But the celebration wasn't the highlight of the evening.

No, tonight the stars were Tyce, Melissa, and Ade. Tyce Diorio choreographed an incredible piece about brea-st cancer, danced by ballet dancer Melissa, wearing a headscarf often work by cancer patients, and contemporary dancer Ade. It was touching and real and emotional and beautifully, powerfully, delicately, passionately danced. It quite literally took my breath away and I was in tears by the close of the piece. So were both dancers. So was the choreographer. So were all four judges -- all four choked up while giving their feedback to the dancers. It was an amazing, incredible dance, one not to be forgotten.

I highly, highly recommend watching the show Thursday night at 9:00 PM on Fox. (Not sure if it's going to be on earlier because of the 100th episode, so check Fox at 8:00 PM to be sure.) I hope, hope that they will again show the amazing piece choreographed by Tyce and danced brilliantly, fearlessly, and compassionately by Melissa and Ade. It was the most memorable dance I have ever seen on SYTYCD, and I've been watching since Season 1.

Words really cannot express the poignancy of this dance.

Trust me. Don't miss it.

Mary of Magdala

(Image of Mary Magdalene by Fra Angelico, public domain)

Over the past twenty centuries of Church History, Mary Magdalene has often been confused with an unnamed Biblical woman. The Saint of the Day e-mail from sets the record straight on this day, the Feast of Mary Magdalene:

Except for the mother of Jesus, few women are more honored in the Bible than Mary Magdalene. Yet she could well be the patron of the slandered, since there has been a persistent legend in the Church that she is the unnamed sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50.

Most Scripture scholars today point out that there is no scriptural basis for confusing the two women. Mary Magdalene, that is, “of Magdala,” was the one from whom Christ cast out “seven demons” (Luke 8:2)—an indication, at the worst, of extreme demonic possession or, possibly, severe illness.

Father W.J. Harrington, O.P., writing in the New Catholic Commentary, says that “seven demons” “does not mean that Mary had lived an immoral life—a conclusion reached only by means of a mistaken identification with the anonymous woman of Luke 7:36.” Father Edward Mally, S.J., writing in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that she “is not...the same as the sinner of Luke 7:37, despite the later Western romantic tradition about her.”

Mary Magdalene was one of the many “who were assisting them [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their means.” She was one of those who stood by the cross of Jesus with his mother. And, of all the “official” witnesses that might have been chosen for the first awareness of the Resurrection, she was the one to whom that privilege was given.
Mary Magdalene has been a victim of mistaken identity for almost 20 centuries. Yet she would no doubt insist that it makes no difference. We are all sinners in need of the saving power of God, whether our sins have been lurid or not. More importantly, we are all, with her, “unofficial” witnesses of the Resurrection.
From Rev. Bosco Peters of Liturgy New Zealand we read of the possible evangelistic outreach of Mary of Magdala after the Ascension:

The Eastern tradition tells us that after the Ascension she journeyed to Rome where she was admitted to the court of Tiberius Caesar because of her high social standing. After describing how poorly Pilate had administered justice at Jesus’ trial, she told Caesar that Jesus had risen from the dead. To help explain His resurrection she picked up an egg from the dinner table. Caesar responded that a human being could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand turn red. The egg turned red immediately.
Mary of Magdala has always fascinated me. Honored by the Lord as the first to see the resurrected Christ, as one who worshiped Him "in spirit and in truth" as no other disciple did, as a woman of means and intelligence who surrendered all she had in order to follow Him, Mary is central to the Gospel. The scene at the tomb has always struck me with its simplicity and power -- from the English Standard Version, John 20:

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she
stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Although I have read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code twice now, I do not agree in the least with his premise that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus. In his novel Brown asserts that Da Vinci's The Last Supper portrays Mary at Jesus' side; however, examination in the light of art history demonstrates that the figure in dispute is not Mary at all but rather "the disciple Jesus loved," i.e., Saint John, often portrayed in art with long, brownish-red hair and beardless.

Dan Brown is correct in stating that Mary has been wrongly interpreted in Church History as a prostitute, yet he goes far too far in asserting that Mary was the wife of Christ, that He fathered her child, and that a line of Jesus' descendants exist to this day. Yes, Brown claims that his book is fiction, yet on a page before the story begins he asserts the "truth" of several aspects of his book. In doing so, I believe he oversteps the boundary of fiction, causing the firestorm of controversy that has enveloped his writing since.

But despite Dan Brown's books, we can celebrate the Scriptural Mary of Magdala's example of a strong woman who devotedly loved our Lord with all she had -- with her all her mind, heart, soul, strength, worldly goods, and entire life.

And thus we should do the same.

Monday, July 20, 2009

40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing ... and of the Lunar Eucharist

(image from

Forty years ago today a couple of incredible events occurred. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module on the surface of the moon and took the first human steps across the lunar landscape. Millions of eyes were glued to TV sets, watching the fuzzy images of two astronauts walking with those graceful, bounce-like steps on the silvery, pock-marked moon. I was only three years old at the time so I don't remember watching it in real time, though according to my parents apparently I did so. Those steps on the moon were among the most memorable events of the 20th century, a feat that will not be topped by NASA until we land men on Mars.

But I was amazed by a seemingly small detail regarding this historical anniversary of which I was totally unaware until I read Rev. Bosco Peters' Liturgy New Zealand blog on Friday. The incredible thing about this incredible event was that the first food and drink consumed on the moon were the Communion elements, consumed by Buzz Aldrin. I quote from Rev. Bosco's blog entry entitled First Communion on the Moon:

"On Sunday July 20, 1969 the first people landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were in the lunar lander which touched down at 3:17 Eastern Standard Time.

Buzz Aldrin had with him the Reserved Sacrament. He radioed: “Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, whoever or wherever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.”

Later he wrote: “In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.’ I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute Deke Slayton had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly…Eagle’s metal body creaked. I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.

NASA kept this secret for two decades. The memoirs of Buzz Aldrin and the Tom Hanks’s Emmy- winning HBO mini-series, From the Earth to the Moon (1998), made people aware of this act of Christian worship 235,000 miles from Earth."
Below this image from Rev. Bosco's blog of the card Aldrin carried with him with Scriptures for his private Communion service in his own handwriting, Rev. Bosco notes: "The image shows the original card with the words 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.' (John 15:5) and 'When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him?' (Psalm 8:3-4). This card sold in an auction two years ago for nearly $US 180,000."

In the above post, Rev. Bosco was unsure which denomination Buzz Aldrin belonged to. In the comments section were claims from just about every denomination under the sun, all of which were finally quelled when Adrin's pastor at the time, Rev. Mark Cooper from Webster Presbyterian in Texas added his comments; Bosco quoted his remarks his follow-up blog post today commemmorating the First Communion on the Moon:

I have the honor of serving as senior pastor of Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, TX. At the time of the lunar landing Aldrin was an elder in our church. A communion kit was prepared for him by the church’s pastor at the time, the Rev. Dean Woodruff. Since Presbyterians do not celebrate private communion, the communion on the moon was structured as part of a service with the congregation back at the church. Aldrin returned the chalice he used to earth. Webster Presbyterian continues to possess the chalice, which is now kept in a safety deposit box. Each year the congregation commemorates the lunar communion on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the landing.

While we have to confess some pride in his being a Presbyterian (at least at the time - I don’t know anything about his affiliation now, if any) communion is certainly not solely a Presbyterian ritual. The Presbyterian communion table is open to all Christians. We call it “communion” because in it we commune with God and with all our brothers and sisters in faith, in all times and places and of all names. Aldrin did not take communion on the moon as a Presbyterian so much as he did as a Christian. We Presbyterian, even we Webster-type Presbyterians, do not own lunar communion. The communion on the moon belongs to us all. It can, and should, serve as a powerful symbol of God’s presence everywhere, and of our unity as one family of faith.”
This morning as I clicked on a few news stories on my AOL home page, including the death of Frank McCourt whose memoir Teacher Man I truly enjoyed, I spied a story entitled "Eleven Things You May Not Know About Apollo 11." And the 5th fact of eleven states: "'The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the Communion elements,' Aldrin revealed years later. The pastor of Webster Presbyterian Church near Houston gave him a kit that included a wafer, vial of wine and small chalice. Aldrin administered Communion to himself shortly after landing. The church still uses this replica of the cup that went to the moon." Pictured is this cup, also from Liturgy New Zealand:
Rev. Bosco also posted this "Common," a prayer intended for '“those who have died in the course of space exploration - among them a significant number of Episcopalians. In addition, it provides a way of praying for future space explorers and for the thousands of people whose work make the space program possible.” The collect for this “Common” reads:

Creator of the universe,
your dominion extends through the immensity of space: guide and guard those who seek to fathom its mysteries. Save us from arrogance lest we forget that our achievements are grounded in you,
and, by the grace of your Holy Spirit,
protect our travels beyond the reaches of earth,
that we may glory ever more in the wonder of your creation: through Jesus Christ, your Word, by whom all things came to be, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.'

So today we celebrate both a milestone in human history and in church history, the latter a little-known detail buried for two decades and still not terribly well-known now. But it's an amazing detail that Christians around the world may rejoice in, remembering this day not only as possibly humankind's greatest achievement but also that this achievement was celebrated in the Eucharist, a simple yet prfound means of thanksgiving to the God who created the vast universe in which we glorify Him.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Novel Writing

Last November I joined National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and successfully entered over 50,000 words of a novel into my computer. It took discipline, especially as I started late (as in after the election) and had severe computer problems that absorbed much of my time and energy. But success in NaNoWriMo terms is getting to that magic 50,000 word count, no matter whether those 50,000 words are complete rubbish -- or (one hopes) not.

The perfectionist, left-brained, Type A personality that I am is not one to let go and just freewrite -- especially freewrite a novel of all things. The Organized Person that I am usually maps out every miniscule step in extensive lists and outlines. But I did not allow myself to bog down in planning this time. At all. I spent approximately 30 minutes jotting down a few items about my main character: her teaching schedule, where she lived, where she was born, where she went to church, where her office was on campus. In my head I quickly put her on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University where I myself taught, moved her into our old house in Golden Hill but shifted its location to near downtown La Mesa, and compiled her personality from about five people I knew.

She is the "me" I imagine myself to be if I never married, if I were a spinster in my mid-50's. She is also made up of the late Dr. JoAnne Dempsey, my Milton professor who died at age 44 during Thanksgiving Break my last year in grad school. Also she possesses quite a few quirks of Dr. Maxine Walker from PLNU in her sense of humor, in her scholarly bent, and in a couple of other areas. Attending a church quite like mine, my main character will be experiencing via fiction what I had planned to write in a non-fiction format: the effect of a liturgical church on a lifelong evangelical. The issues she has to face are ones I have dealt with, or am or will be confronting.

The ideas for the novel came to my head quickly and completely, the very way the Holy Spirit often works. Later when I attended PLNU's Writers' Symposium by the Sea, I discovered that Brain McLaren did the same type of shift from nonfiction to fiction when he wrote A New Kind of Christian -- not that my little book will have anything like the impact his has! So with my one scribbled page of notes, I sat down at the computer throughout the month of November last year, entering those roughly 2,000 words per day with very little self-editing -- a major accomplishment for my editor-like mind. And I succeeded: 50,000+ words before November 30.

And I haven't so much as glanced at the novel since besides reading a few of the first pages to my writing group. It's far from finished -- I'm not sure exactly where it is going and how it will end. Vague ideas lurk in the corners of my mind, and I'll pull them forward and see what may work or what may not. I read a little of the novel last weekend and as I let myself back into Rebecca Philips' world, I still liked what I saw. So my plan is to reread what I've written -- 86 pages thus far -- and then I hope to pick up where I left off and continue the tale. Perhaps I'll simply consider it rubbish and leave well enough alone. Perhaps I'll leave it for now and pick it back up for next November's NaNoWriMo. Or maybe I'll work on it this summer -- my plan and hope ever since setting down my (figurative) pen in November at the close of NaNoWriMo. Hmmmm. We shall see.

"Stand Up Comedy" -- U2

(Photo of the backside of No Line on the Horizon CD, Susanne Barrett)

I'm still finding fresh nuances as I listen to U2's 2009 album No Line on the Horizon. Several of the songs have a hymn-feel to them, and "Magnificent" is based on "The Magnificat," Mary's song of praise in St. Luke's Gospel.

But quite often U2 mixes love, humor, and truth into a rockin' song, and that's precisely what they've done with "Stand Up Comedy." And I love the line: "Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady." Isn't that what we Christians so often try to do? Defend God? Defend the faith? Does He really need us defending Him, the King of kings and Lord of lords? I think we muddy His love and His Gospel when we try to fight God's battles for Him, especially if He hasn't asked us to do so. And the self-deprecating line "Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas" makes me smile every time -- Bono is obviously referring to himself, a short rock star/wanna-be dictator. Cracks me up.

Truly, this song rocks. Once it's in one's head, it isn't leaving; it stays for days. It in order to receive the full impact, the song really needs to be heard, but because it hasn't been released yet as a single, it simply isn't available (despite all my desperate research). So, here are the lyrics at least:

"Stand Up Comedy"

Love love love love love...
Love love love love love...

I got to stand up and take a step
You and I have been asleep for hours
I got to stand up
The wire is stretched in between our two towers
Stand up in this dizzy world
Where a lovesick eye can steal the view
I'm gonna fall down if I can't stand up
For your love

Love love love love love...

Stand up, this is comedy
The DNA lottery may have left you smart
But can you stand up to beauty, dictator of the heart
I can stand up for hope, faith, love
But while I'm getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady

Out from under your beds
C'mon ye people
Stand up for your love

Love love love love love...

I gotta stand up to ego but my ego's not really the enemy
It's like a small child crossing an eight lane highway
On a voyage of discovery

Stand up to rock stars, Napolean is in high heels
Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas

Out from under your beds
C'mon ye people
Stand up for your love

Love love love love love...

God is love
And love is evolution's very best day

Soul rockin' people moving on
Soul rockin' people on and on
C'mon ye people
We're made of stars
C'mon ye people
Stand up then sit down for your love

Love love love love love...
Love love love love love...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Writing Workshop and Hating the Heat

The heat has been absolutely miserable this week. The thermometer has been reading over 100 degrees each day, and survival is only possible with a fan blowing directly in one's face. It's a vengeful heat, the kind that saps one's energy by ten in the morning, and one that does not appreciably cool down overnight as our usual summer heat does. It's just nasty.

On Tuesday night, I met with our monthly writing group. Only four of us turned up which is normal in summertime due to vacations, evening activities, etc. I brought along a rough draft of a poem I wrote during NaPoWriMo and also read a few pages of my very rough novel while Maureen shared more of her novel (incredible stuff!) and Teresa shared a poem or two. The poem I shared was appropriate considering the heat, so I will repost it here with suggested changes from the group. Although I wrote it in May, it was composed with days like today seared into my memory:

The Dreaded Season

Summer treads heavily,
breathing hot threats
down the back of my neck.
Wiping sweat from my face,
I groan as searing droplets
slowly roll down my throat,
my chest, my arms.

In crowded places,
the earthy stench
of perspiring bodies
burns my nostrils.
I draw my sweat-stiffened hair
into a crooked ponytail,
sealing it flatly
against my skull and
blessedly off my neck.

Driving mirages of freeway,
my thighs glue themselves
to the vinyl seat of the car.
Windows rolled down,
hot gusts wildly toss my hair.

In July and August
thunderheads sprawl
over the mountains
pregnant with frustrated tears,
hissing as they strike
the steaming asphalt.
The temperature drops
twenty degrees in ten minutes.
I drag in cleansing gulps
of tangy-cool air,

Too soon the sun returns,
blazing between purple-gray clouds --
blinding, parching, scorching.
Burning at the stake, I heave
prayers for the sun to slip below the horizon,
prayers for the crisp breezes of autumn
to rescue me.

Copyright 2009 Susanne Barrett
Aaaah, how I would love to be rescued by autumn -- RIGHT NOW. Sigh....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

(image from

I wrote this on the Brave Writer forums for the Brave Writer at the Movies class I'm facilitating this month. This week we're discussing My Boy Jack with Daniel Radcliffe, so we obviously have a great comparison to make between his performances.

Anyway, here's my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince plus a few other comments I didn't write in the Brave Writer discussion.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT! I am giving away major plot elements, so if you haven't read the book and desire to be surprised when you see the movie, read no further!

Overall, I thought that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was brilliant. It was an excellent adaptation of the book which I've read at least eight times.

I didn't care for a few elements (or the lack thereof): the attack on the Burrow was really stupid -- it seemed just an opportunity to blow stuff up. It really made no sense whatsoever except to underscore the unspoken feelings between Harry and Ginny. And to introduce Fenrir Greyback.

I missed the battle within Hogwarts between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters after Dumbledore's death. I understand why they omitted it: the additional action takes attention away from Dumbledore's death and also introduces characters and scenes (Bill and his mauling by Greyback, Neville's injuries, the Carrows, etc., plus the hospital wing scene with the Weasleys and Fleur). So I understand why the screenwriters decided to simplify Dumbledore's death. But I still missed it -- it was a major battle with repercussions reaching well into the final book.

I also missed the opening scene between Dumbledore and the Dursleys when Dumbledore really takes them to task for their abusive treatment of Harry over the years. It's a scene with both humor and pathos and would have been a great improvement over the train scene which made little sense. But the Unbreakable Vow scene with Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Snape was brilliant. And the havoc played on the Muggle world was very well done -- a violent opening to the 6th film. Convincing and dramatic.

The Horcrux cave scene was great, but it was never explained that the creatures in the lake were Inferi. The fire conjured by Dumbledore was incredible when Harry was drowning in the lake, being dragged under by the Inferi which were naked, Gollum-like creatures.

Dumbledore's death and the aftermath were touching -- I was actually sobbing. And I was glad that they kept in Dumbledore's argument with Snape, something Harry overheard rather than Hagrid. Harry wasn't immobilized during Draco's confrontation with Dumbledore; Dumbledore told him to go underneath, and Harry could see what was happening from underneath the telescope workings in the Astronomy tower. Harry was taking aim at Draco with his wand when Snape approached him and signaled to be silent and do nothing, and Harry acquiesced. Then Snape killed Dumbledore. The Death Eaters, especially Bellatrix, stomped through the Great Hall on the House tables, breaking the large stained glass windows in triumph. Draco looked so upset after Dumbledore's death -- afraid of Voldemort perhaps because Draco had not done it himself but also shocked that Dumbledore really was dead.

But the best part of the film was the love triangle among Ron, Hermione, and Lavender -- so funny. And touching. Lavender was kooky and perfect, and the scene over Ron's bed after his poisoning was priceless, especially when witnessed by Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore which made it all the more funny. And the love potion scene was really well done: Rupert Grint's uplifted face was simply perfect -- very well-acted and so funny.

I wish more time had been spent on developing the Ginny/Harry relationship; they really never seemed to nail down the boyfriend/girlfriend level at the end of the movie, thus he never broke up with her at Dumbledore's funeral, another omitted scene that they should have included -- at least Harry sees Dumbledore's portrait in his office.

Jim Broadbent was a perfect Slughorn. The rest of the main cast was brilliant, as always except that I've never cared for the portrayal of Tonks. Somehow in this installment she's Lupin's girlfriend with no explanation whatsoever which bugged me, along with her unattractive brown mullet. I wish Tonks was portrayed much more like Alice in Twilight -- it would have worked MUCH better.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price was one of the best adaptations of the HP books, now my second-favorite behind my perennial favorite, Sorcerer's Stone; I love how the magical world is introduced so perfectly. So despite my perfectionist, book-loving critique here, I still consider Half-Blood Prince to be simply brilliant.

Go see it if you haven't already. It's well-worth it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Counting the Hours Until Half Blood Prince

(Photo from

Elizabeth had provided our family with a real treat: online tickets to the first matinee of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on Wednesday at AMC Mission Valley at 11:15 A.M. We are so thrilled to see this sixth installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise; we have read all the books and listened to them on tape and CD countless times as well as owning all the movies -- again, countless times.

Elizabeth and I were so upset when the original release date of Half Blood Prince was moved from last November (2008) to July 17, 2009. Later it was moved up two days to July 15. Although we had toyed with the idea of seeing a midnight showing, living so far from town does not make doing so very easy. So a matinee will do nicely ... and it's less expensive, too. Keith is taking the morning off work to see it with us, and our friends the Arnolds and perhaps Keith's sister Karen are meeting us there. It's been such a long, long wait.

As she follows filming details on Mugglenet and other Potter fan sites, Elizabeth keeps me updated on the filming of the last two films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 and 2, slated for release in November 2010 and May 2011. The final Potter book simply contains far too much material for one film, so they are filming them together right now. Now that wait will seem downright impossible!

This week the kids and I have gathered together on hot afternoons and evenings in front of the TV and fans to rewatch each film in the series in preparation for Half Blood Prince. Even as I type this post, we're watching Order of the Phoenix; I love Kingsley saying, " can't deny Dumbledore's got style." Well, Richard Harris as Dumbledore definitely had more style than Michael Gambon, but that's not to be helped....

So at 11:15 tomorrow morning we'll be impatiently wading through previews, waiting for Half Blood Prince, the second longest of the Potter films at two hours, thirty-three minutes, to begin. (The longest film is Chamber of Secrets.) I am just as excited as the kids, if not more so. The characters and their stories in these books and films have captured my imagination so thoroughly that I am eagerly awaiting each movie with the kids (as well as the new Twilight saga film New Moon coming this November).

We also have a thread on Half Blood Prince at Brave Writer at the Movies where we're also discussing the HBP, even if it's just a bit off-topic. So I'll let you know what I think about this sixth installment of the Harry Potter films after we see the movie tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On Writing and the Quotation of the Week

As little as I enjoy reading about writing, I enjoy very much to write about writing. I confess that the vast majority of the time writing about writing is a facade I hide behind, trembling, when I need to be courageously writing about what I should be writing about (like right now when Dru has all three boys for the afternoon and I should be pegging away at a book proposal and starting the first draft). But writing about writing is easier ... so much easier.

Somehow composing right into the computer is difficult for me. I grew up writing without the benefit of a computer until my junior year in college (1987) when Keith and I purchased a Tandy PC with a dot-matrix printer so that I could more easily write the many papers I had due as an English major who took electives in history and philosophy. But even with the Tandy, I still could not compose directly into it; instead, I found myself gazing into the monitor's black Cyclopsian eye as it stared back at me, my reflection distorted in its huge pupil. The clicking clacking of the keyboard as my fingers hit the keys distracted me; I couldn't find a rhythm that didn't lead me into singing song lyrics in my head rather than composing words.

I found the writing process' stress lifting as I took out a pad of unlined white paper, usually the back sides of my dad's stapled reading articles from work, and a very sharp pencil (sometimes two), and let the words flow unhindered by the Cyclops and the clacking. Writing with a pencil allowed me the freedom to be creative as miswordings and misphrasings were so easily erased. And I will confess: I was incredibly vain about my penmanship. And still am.

So this weekend when I needed to write an interview with the owner of a new nursery in our mountain area, I took out a spiral notebook and my beloved fountain pen and the words were flowing from my brain before the nib touched the paper. I composed the article as ideas came, knowing that I would edit as I typed the article into my laptop the next day. And yesterday I sat in my parents' apartment near the beach and typed in the article, editing as I typed: moving this sentence to the next paragraph, combining these two paragraphs, omitting the last six sentences in favor of a fresh ending. This is the way I usually write.

Yet when I tackled NaNoWriMo last November, I gave no thought to trying to write on paper first; there simply wasn't time when 50,000 words had to be committed to my laptop in thirty days. So I composed without much editing, grateful for the laptop's cheery colors on the screen and the quieter keyboard despite my bizarre typing style that developed over years of untrained word processing. The words flowed much better than I thought they would, and I was fairly pleased with the overall effect ... and with the success of composing 50,000 words of a novel -- roughly 84 pages -- in less than a month.

So I have another couple of large writing assignments before me: transferring my Class Day lecture notes into a high school writing manual this month, at least the MLA research paper portion. And it is a project that I will do without my smooth-flowing fountain pen, without pride in my handwriting, without the relative quiet that I have always loved about the writing process where the only noise is the faint scratching of brass nib across paper.

So, as I have spent my writing time today writing about writing, here is my new Quotation of the Week, one I picked up while reading Anne Lamott's excellent book on writing, Bird by Bird:

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
-- Kurt Vonnegut
That truly is how writing feels much of the time. I identify with my writing students at Class Day each year when I tell them what they already know: writing is hard work. Even for people who write well, the act of putting words to paper or onto a computer screen is a love/hate kind of a thing. If anyone tells me that they "love" to write, I raise an eyebrow in disbelief. It's the ones like me who "have to write" whom I know will make something of themselves. It's half-torture, half-ecstasy. And that's what writing is truly all about.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Brave Writer at the Movies, Week Two

Last week was very busy as I facilitated my first online movie discussion class at Brave Writer. The kids, ages 11-17, really seemed to enjoy our light-hearted first film, Topper with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, 1937. I hope that I've encouraged them in exploring the world of classic films, even if merely screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby and Arsenic and Old Lace. As we closed our discussion of Topper with lists of classic films rather like it, plus well-known films featuring actors and actresses from Topper. And although Topper is indeed a "screwball comedy," it also speaks a great deal of truth about love, marriage, how to live one's life with joie d' vivre rather than as a slave to what society may or may not think.

In the last week we discussed such topics as Colorization vs. Black and White, Character Actors, Love and Marriage, Belief in Ghosts, the Value of Good Deeds, the Old Cinema Experience and Drive-In Movies, Favorite Characters, and Teaching with Film. We focused in especially on the character of Clara Topper (Billie Burke) as well as a comparison between the characters of Topper (Roland B. Young) and George Kerby (Cary Grant). We certainly read some perceptive ideas, some astute comments, some wonderful comparisons by the students, so I'm quite happy with the quality of the replies, even if I often need to post follow-up questions to most of the students to encourage more in-depth analysis in their writing.

Really, film discussions like these at Brave Writer serve as an excellent precursor to literary analysis later in high school or even in college. The same elements of film analysis must be considered as it is in literary analysis: plot, sequence, characters, themes, conflict(s), quality of writing, social commentary, etc. So talking about elements of movies with teens is a wonderful way to prepare them for doing similar analysis on literature in a year or two.

And, teens + movies = tons o' discussions! Yay!

So this week we embark on a very different film, ITV's production of My Boy Jack with David Haig, Daniel Radcliffe, and Kim Cattral, 2007. (ITV is a British television channel.) This sad story of Rudyard Kipling's family during the early days of the Great War, also known as World War I, asks many questions about family and country. Jack, the Kiplings' youngest child (their eldest died at age 7 in America), is just as gung-ho on joining up as is his father whose political speeches calling for volunteers are quite effective.

But Jack's eyes are severely myopic; the British Navy and Army turn him down, but Rudyard pulls some strings to get Jack into the Irish Guard where he is, at 17, training men far older than himself, gaining their loyalty along the way for his skill and fairness. He struggles a bit with the challenges of his bad eyesight, but he manages to work everything out, at least until Jack and his men "go over the top" and Jack is proclaimed "Missing, Believed Injured." Based on the true story of the Kipling family, it is named for the poem Kipling wrote in 1915 which is repeated at the very close of the film:

"My Boy Jack"

"Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Rudyard Kipling, 1915
So we will have much to discuss this week: background of World War I, patriotism, father and son relations, artist and society, family dynamics, biographic works, etc. I'm looking forward to the discussions as the students are learning so much more about discussing movies, looking for motivations in characters, themes, settings, etc. It's going to be a very busy but a very good week, I think.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yearning for Lectio

This week has been crazy-busy, with my online class gobbling my precious time -- yet it pays the bills, so I will be grateful for many talkative teens discussing films as I attempt to keep up with their dizzying pace. My cousin and her daughter from Kansas City have been staying with my parents, so it's been go-go-go for us as well: beach and impromptu dinner on the deck Sunday, all day at the San Diego Zoo on Thursday, most of today up the mountain at my parents' miniscule cabin and a quick stop by our larger mountain abode, and then tomorrow at the beach again after church at Lake Murray and a family barbecue on the deck once again as Nikki and Kirsten leave Tuesday, so it's the "last chance" meeting for the family.

I'm craving silence right now -- the kind that I can luxuriate in, like fresh cotton sheets, crisp with summer breezes. I need to put my watch in my pocket and soak up His Presence like a dry sponge does, first slowly then thirstily, the empty holes quickly filling with cool water.

So, as I'm up far too late as it is, I will turn toward soaking in my spa with a good book and then to bed after posting a Lectio Divina site for my readers. Also from Bosco Peter's wonderful Liturgy New Zealand web site, I point out his wonderful little guide to Lectio Divina, to Divine Reading: Liturgy: Lectio Divina.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be gone for at least twelve hours and 120 miles tomorrow. I spent this afternoon watching and preparing for our next film for Brave Writer at the Movies, so I should be able to come home, post my well-researched thread on My Boy Jack, and collapse gratefully into bed, wishing for clean, crisp sheets but ecstatic to be prone at long last.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Saint Benedict

(Benedict writing his Rule, from Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Saint Benedict is one of my favorite saints, especially because of his Rule of Life that I've read which is also the basis for one of the best books on Christian family I've read, The Family Cloister: Benedictine Wisdom for the Home by David Robinson, a Presbyterian pastor in Oregon and the cousin of my dear poet friend Kathryn (Kitty).

Benedict's Rule is simple and practical; if you are interested in reading it, you may access it here: The Rule of St. Benedict.

Fr. Bosco Peters of the popular website Liturgy New Zealand is a traditional Anglican priest who wrote about Benedict today and his relationship with Anglicanism. I hope he won't mind my posting some of his words here from his latest post:

Today [July 11] is the feast of St Benedict (480-547) famous for his Rule for a Christian community of monks. The Rule is followed by “Benedictines”, Cistercians, and many others. It is followed by many in adaptation in ordinary daily life beyond cloister walls.

Benedict describes a “middle way”, via media, bringing together positive ends - not either/or, but both/and. Community and solitude. Prayer and work. And so forth. He has a stress on the daily office, and on reading the scriptures in such a way as to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through them (lectio divina).

Anglicanism/Episcopalianism is a denomination that can be seen as strongly “Benedictine” - probably because England had such a strong Benedictine presence. It regularly is seen as a via media - not a half-way-between, but a both/and denomination (a platypus which some struggle to understand - just as many did not believe the platypus when discovered was a real animal). Every Book of Common Prayer and its many contemporary revisions give significance to the daily office - a tradition not just understood as being the preserve of clergy, monks, and nuns, but of the whole people of God. Anglican church buildings regularly are laid out in Benedictine fashion, with choir stalls as in a monastery. [Compare that, for example, to Roman Catholics whose buildings and spirituality are regularly Ignatian - Jesuits being (one of) the first order(s) to abandon praying the office in community - so Jesuit/contemporary Roman Catholic church buildings do not have choir stalls].

Pray today for all Benedictines, Cistercians, oblates, associates, and all who try to follow the Rule of St Benedict.

Almighty and everlasting God,
whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father:
Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict,
to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service;
let your ears be open to our prayers;
and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
I add my own "Amen" to this prayer for all of us to become more conformed to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who lead us by His Holy Spirit into all Life and Truth, both on this earth and in heaven forevermore. If you haven't studied Benedict's Rule of Life, I encourage you to do so, and if you are a parent to children still at home, I cannot recommend David Robinson's book enough. I wish I had read it when my own kids were younger.

I have written my own Rule of Life, not to be legalistic but to help me develop the practice of spiritual disciplines in my life for my benefit and for His glory. If you would like to read about my Rule of Life, click here: Susanne's Rule of Life.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Keith's Stained Glass Window Photo Is Published!

Keith entered a photograph of his big stained glass window he completed last fall for Dr. and Mrs. Donald Adema in a contest at Delphi Glass, one of the largest distributors of glass art supplies. He was thrilled to receive a $50 Delphi gift certificate as well as have his photo published on the cover of their summer catalog in the upper right corner. Here's the link if you would like to see a larger image of the catalog or browse through it: Delphi Summer Catalog.

Obviously they cropped the photo quite a bit, so here's the original photograph he submitted so you can see the entire Tiffany-inspired window which was roughly four feet by five feet and contained over 1500 pieces, many of which are two layers of glass. Keith also just completed a companion window for the Ademas' sliding bedroom door. The window is complete, but Keith still has to make the wooden door itself that will house the window. I'll post a link to the newest window; you may see it here: Second Adema Window.

I'll post a photo of the second window in its wooden door when Keith finishes it. It should be gorgeous, but nothing like Keith's first window for the Ademas. We're very proud of the window being published on the cover of one of the premiere stained glass supply catalogs and hope that it will also be featured in their large annual catalog as they asked Keith questions for a story which was not published in the
summer catalog. We shall see....

The "H" Word: Heresy

As many of my readers know, I've pretty much "come out of the closet" as an Evangelical Anglican. I have been attending a conservative, Biblical Anglican Church on a weekly basis for the past five years in addition to 16 years at Lake Murray Community Church (Evangelical Free denomination). So five years ago I first stepped into Christ the King Episcopal in Alpine, a medium-sized town halfway between our small mountain town and the San Diego suburbs. The priest, Rev. Keith Acker, had a Biblical understanding of individual salvation, of our process of sanctification in the Holy Spirit as we seek to follow Christ, of the inerrancy of the Scriptures and their primacy in our Christian theology and doctrine. My only concern about attending the church was the liberal bent of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in general, but San Diego's bishop was a conservative, and all was well.

The Episcopal Church (TEC) had definitely stamped themselves outside of my belief system when they elected Gene Robinson as Bishop and dragged the entire Episcopal Church into severe conflict. But TEC has often been on the front lines of controversy: birth control, abortion, female priests, etc., and now a practicing homosexual bishop. (I'm not trying to start an argument here; I'm just laying out the background of the controversy.) But Christ the King has always been the most conservative church in the very conservative San Diego Diocese, and the San Diego Bishop respected their conservative bent. Although TEC allowed female priests in 1976, the Bishop never brought a woman priest to the Alpine Congregation to celebrate Communion, according to their wishes. He allowed weekday services to use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer rather than the more modern (doctrinally as well as wording) 1979 Book of Common Prayer. All was well. For the moment.

Then the San Diego Diocese was presented with a new bishop. A new liberal bishop -- one who immediately brought a woman to celebrate Communion in Alpine, one who insisted on having full support of Gene Robinson as Bishop, one who did not allow the 1928 prayer book. Father Acker's congregation was the first of nine San Diego Anglican Churches to leave the San Diego Diocese of the Episcopal Church in December of 2005. You may read the story here: Realignment of San Diego Anglican Churches. He gave up the keys to the church without argument and led the majority of the Christ the King congregation into meeting at Alpine Elementary School rather than the beautiful little church building in which they had formerly worshipped. And thus Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity was born. Now a Reformed Episcopal Church, a denomination that started in 1876 when TEC made its first liberal, unBiblical moves, Father Acker continues to work with evangelical zeal at the local and national level in restoring Biblical values to Anglican parishes.

All of that history will allow my readers to sense my outrage at the statements of TEC's Presiding Bishop (also a woman) just this week at the General Convention. David Tierney of San Diego Anglicans alerted us to her statements via Twitter this morning, as reported by Robert Munday of Nashotah House, a conservative Anglican seminary in Wisconsin:

And then in a cold, calm, defiant and defining voice she [the Presiding Bishop] said, "The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy - that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention."

Now, to give the Presiding Bishop the benefit of the doubt, ... what she may have meant is: "It is wrong for us to concentrate solely on the individual aspects of salvation. As a Church we are called to life in community, and at this General Convention we are going to concentrate on what we do as a Church together. That is why we have chosen 'Ubuntu' as our theme."

...But that is not what the Presiding Bishop said. She used the "H" word--a rarity for a contemporary Episcopalian--and she appeared to aim the word squarely at those who believe in the necessity of an individual confession of Jesus Christ as Lord for salvation.

...So either the Presiding Bishop is being provocative, ... or else the biblical illiteracy that has long been the bane of Episcopalians has now become a requirement for continued membership.

And General Convention is only just beginning.

So apparently, according to The Episcopal Church, it is now heretical to have a personal, individual relationship with God through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I agree very much with Rev. Munday above regarding the "biblical illiteracy" of TEC which is very ironic because it was the Scriptures themselves that drew me to Anglican worship in the first place.

What I value most about liturgical worship is the emphasis upon the Scriptures, and not only reading them but praying them. When I attend Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist each Friday morning, we read aloud (really, pray aloud) several Psalms (the entire book of Psalms is printed in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, divided into morning and evening readings for thirty days so that the entire Psalter is read/prayed each month), plus an Old Testment and New Testament reading in Morning Prayer -- besides all of the Scripture we pray from the Prayer Book itself which is 85% Scripture. And in the Communion service, we read/pray first an Epistle selection, then a Gospel selection, which are provided in the prayer book for each week of the year, and those readings are again in addition to the Scripture we read and pray as part of the service. So within an hour, we are reading/praying five Scripture selections, plus the services themselves which are mostly Scripture.

And after each Scripture reading, we either pray the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, who was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen) or the priest states, "The Word of the Lord" and the congregation replies, "Thanks be to God!" So we thank and glorify God for His Word each time we read and pray it. Before the priest reads the Gospel selection each week, the congregation says, "Glory be to Thee, O Lord" and after the reading, we say, "Praise be to Thee, O Christ." So God's Word truly is central to Anglican worship, even if the TEC ignores it.

God's Word is personal, personal on an individual level as well as a corporate level. It seems as though TEC is only interested in a social gospel, not the kind that changes us from the inside out, conforming us into His image, teaching us how to love Him, love others, and become personally involved in their lives for His glory. He calls us as His children to a relationship with Him, one that the Anglican Church, or at least the conservative branch of it, has preached since its inception in 37 AD. But TEC seems quite eager to abandon personal relationship -- calling it "heresy" and "idolatry" while the Scriptures are quite clear that God loves us individually and personally -- after all, "the hairs of our heads are numbered" -- which seems pretty darn personal and individual to me!

Last week I attended the Diocese of the West Synod at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, and I truly enjoyed worshipping with them at Evensong. The speaker, Father Foos, spoke about reaching youth in a truly evangelical manner. If he weren't wearing a "dress" I would have felt as if I were at a Campus Crusade meeting. There is a definite evangelical branch to the Anglican Church, one that TEC would do well to emulate. It's just sad that they are preaching a social gospel and not just ignoring but villifying the personal relationship with Jesus that all of God's children, all the world, so desperately needs.

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


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