Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Parents' 45th Anniversary Party

(The celebratory couple)

On Saturday, June 27, my parents, Carl and Judy, celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary by inviting family and friends to their Pacific Beach home. From the rooftop of their two-story house, we can see the ocean, Point Loma, downtown San Diego, Mt. Soledad, and east to the mountains. They live half a block from the Pacific Ocean, between Mission Blvd. and the beach. We have come to love Law Street beach at the end of their street. We all had a wonderful time, with my mom's two local siblings there, her aunt and a cousin she hadn't met, her cousin Rick and his family, and my dad's sister-in-law, plus various friends and their favorite neighbor, too. My brother and his two children were there, along with Keith, myself, and our four kids. Three of Mom's four bridesmaids were present which was really fun, too.

(Elizabeth with her cousins Chelsea and Mary)

My brother sneaked into their home last weekend while Mom and Dad were still in Hawaii and enlarged one of their wedding photos onto a 16" by 20" posterboard for everyone who attended to sign (and Mom and Dad can frame it later and hang it). He also bought a photo album for their loose wedding pictures and we quickly slipped the photos into the new album that was passed around with their original wedding album.

(Aunt Nancy, Lorraine, Geoff, with my mom, Peg, and Rick in background)

I also got a good amount of the genealogical project done, printed, slipped into page protectors, and placed in a white binder. Everyone enjoyed thumbing through it and talking about family secrets and stories. It was a lot of fun to do, and I still have a lot to add! I haven't even started adding photographs and documents yet, and have only scratched the surface of our family's genealogy.

(Pam (Mom's maid-of-honor), Maury, Kay, my dad, and the back of Aunt Nancy's head)


It was a lovely evening as we gathered on the rooftop covered patio, enjoying drinks and appetizers before diving into the food catered by nearby Mexican restaurant Taco Surf: cheese enchiladas, carne and pollo asado, Mexican rice, and beans, and a large vanilla cake with white frosting and cheesecake filling.

(Sunset taken from the rooftop)

We all watched as the sun set into the Pacific, enjoying the cool, salty air of the nearby ocean and each others' company. We finally started packing up around 9:30 PM, saying our traditional noisy goodbyes in the alley behind their house. I think that Mom and Dad enjoyed their party, even though they certainly had a lot of work involved in getting ready after six weeks in Hawaii. Everyone had a wonderful time, and that's what counts.

Happy 45th Anniversary, Mom and Dad! June 27, 1964.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote of the Week

(Photo is public domain)


But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

-- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Saint Peter the Apostle

(Photo from encyclopedia.com, public domain)

Although the Catholic Church lumps the Feast Days of Saint Peter and Saint Paul together, the Anglican 1928 Book of Common Prayer only celebrates Saint Peter today.

From Saint of the Day, AmericanCatholic.org:

St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.

The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life, and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.

And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).

But the Gospels prove their own veracity by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.

He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b).

Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears.

Comment:
We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: "It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father's revelation. I, not you, build my Church."
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer cites two passages of Scripture to be read on St. Peter's Day: The Epistle reading is Acts 12:1-11 (Peter is rescued from prison after James' death) and the Gospel reading is St. Matthew 16:13-19 (Peter confessing Jesus as the Christ). The Collect (collective prayer) for this day reads:

O Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandest him earnestly to feed thy flock; Make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy Holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same, that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I've always liked Peter. He is passionate (sometimes too much so!), headstrong (again, often too much so), and uneducated, yet he gives one of the most amazing sermons in all of Scripture on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-39), immediately following which we learn "and there were added that day about three thousand souls" to the Church (2:41). Peter allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through him, using him as a conduit on the very first day the Church itself began -- the day that the Holy Spirit descended just as Jesus had promised the disciples. Through the Holy Spirit, Peter is transformed from a stubborn yet fearful follower of Christ to the Church's impassioned and steady leader who did not think it right for him to be crucified in the same way his Lord Christ had been, insisting instead on being crucified upside down in 64 AD.

Peter was ever-so human in the Gospels, yet He is utterly changed into who Christ had prepared him to be in Acts: "on this Rock I shall build My Church." Peter is "this rock," always pointing to the true Rock of Our Salvation, Jesus Christ our Lord, just as we should in everything we say and do.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2009-2010 Logos Reading List


So here is the 2009-2010 Logos Reading List:

JULY: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

AUGUST: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

SEPTEMBER: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

OCTOBER: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

NOVEMBER: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

DECEMBER: Off

JANUARY: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

FEBRUARY: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

MARCH: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

APRIL: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

MAY: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Piccoult

JUNE: Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

If you are a Lake Murrian, please join us on the last Sunday of the Month at 1:00 p.m. for lunch and scintillating literary and theological discussion!

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's the Little Things


Many years ago Keith's dad gave Elizabeth one of those cardboard folders with 50 spaces for the special states editions of quarters. Five quarters were released each year between 1999-2008, starting with the first state in the United States, Delaware, and ending with Hawaii, the final state to be added to the USA. Elizabeth was six when the program started and she has carefully collected quarters, mostly with Keith's help as he brought home quarters for her in his day's coins. We didn't go to banks to get them; we waited until each quarter landed in our loose change.

For the last year (since the program ended in 2008) Elizabeth has needed only two states: Alaska and Utah. Keith found an Alaska earlier this spring, and we were on the lookout for Utah. Then last Friday Keith came home and asked Elizabeth, "Which quarter were you missing?" before handing her the final missing quarter, Utah. In the above photo she is pressing the Utah quarter into its place, thus filling up the entire book.

$12.50 never looked so beautiful!

It's hackneyed but ever so true: the little things in life are so precious.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Next Logos Reading List

Two years ago, I approached Pastor Stephen at Lake Murray about starting a monthly literary discussion group to talk about various books, classics, recent novels, and Christian works. He approved, and Logos was born. God had impressed on my heart the desire to start such a group, but it took me awhile to "screw my courage to the sticking place" and approach Steve about it. He was very gracious, asking merely for a list of books we would be reading. So for two years we have met on the final Sunday of the month at various home for lunch and fruitful discussion. Some books were extremely popular and others not so much, but it's been a learning experience for all of us.

Our first year's list was one that Kitty and I put together with much prayer; we saw the Shakespeare together at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park:

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Measure for Measure by Shakespeare
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
We are now finishing up our second year of reading. This list was more of a group effort in which everyone suggested books, and then I checked to see which ones the library had enough copies of, and then prayed over which ones to list. We had hoped to attend the Shakespeare together as well, but the Globe raised their ticket prices out of the reach of most of us. This list is also in my sidebar, but I will reproduce it here:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
All's Well That Ends Well by Shakespeare
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Cry of the Peacock by Gina B. Nahai
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
So now it's time to make the list of books for our third year. I have quite a list of ideas that I will have to narrow down to the eleven we'll read and discuss this coming year. (We take December off because it's so busy). We're all quite busy now as well, so some had suggested meeting every other month; however, what we're going to try to do is alternate books with titles that have movie versions so that those who do not have time to read every month can watch the movie version and still join in the conversation. We'll see how it goes. Here are the ones I listed as we chatted last month (asterisks denote books with films):

Mila 18 or Exodus by Leon Uris
The Bean Trees or Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens *
Bell Canto by Patchett
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Avalon or another title by Stephen Lawhead
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery *
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer *
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen *
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee *
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Jean de Florette by Marcel Pagnol *
Scream Quietly by Elizabeth Carlson
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
And I have a few books I would like to add, especially:

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo *
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
Twelfth Night by Shakespeare *
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult *
So I shall see what the library has on hand and then pray over the books. Our desire in Logos (which we chose because it means both "word" and The Word Incarnate, whom we seek to glorify) is to seek what is good and right and pure and excellent and praiseworthy in literature (Phil. 4:8), discussing these works through a Christian lens yet being willing to stretch our intellects and spirits to become more conformed to Christ and more easily identify with the world who needs Him.

I will post the final list when God gives it to me; I will need to have it by Sunday, our meeting for June at which we will be discussing Yancey's Soul Survivor which presents us with additional authors (like Chesterton) to read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Friendship and Community in Monastic Life


John Armstrong has posted a very intriguing series on a monastic community, St. John's, which I believe is in central Illinois. He explains how he became friends with several of the monks there, one in particular, and describes their live in the monastery, especially their prayer life (mostly in the third part). I found this series to be so interesting that I thought I would post links to each of his posts:

Friendship and Ecumenism in the Community at St. John's, Part 1
Friendship and Ecumenism in the Community at St. John's, Part 2
Friendship and Ecumenism in the Community at St. John's, Part 3
Friendship and Ecumenism in the Community at St. John's, Part 4

I love reading about Protestants like John Armstrong experiencing a taste of monastic life. I first ran across this kind of experience in Kathleen Norris' excellent book The Cloister Walk in which she describes her extended stays in a midwestern Benedictine monastery and eventually becoming an oblate. Wikipedia defines an oblate as:

An oblate in Christian monasticism (especially Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican) is a person who is specifically dedicated to God or to God's service. Currently, oblate has two meanings:

Oblates are laypersons or clerical members of a religious order, not professed monks or nuns, who have individually affiliated themselves in prayer with a House of their choice. These make a formal private promise (annually renewable or for life, depending on the house with which they are affiliated) to follow the rule of prayer in their private life as closely as their individual circumstances and prior commitments permit. Such oblates do not constitute a religious order as such.
The Cloister Walk is a beautifully-written book. Norris is a poet, so her writing has an otherworldly sense that permeates the chapters and melds extremely well with her subject matter. I first read the book shortly after reading Thomas Howard's Evangelical Is Not Enough and both works revealed a depth that was missing in my spiritual life, a depth that I have been exploring in the years since I first read these works. There is a peace in the monastic life, a devotion to prayer, especially to praying for the world, that is often missing in my evangelical experience.

Since reading The Cloister Walk, I have desired to spend several days, perhaps a week, in a monastery. I don't know if I will ever be able to realize that desire of focusing on God so completely for an extended time, but I still hope to do so. The Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside is perhaps the most likely place to visit; we'll see if it ever happens. It's difficult to have that kind of focus at home with four kids around 24/7 with their schedules, routines, needs, etc. But as the kids get older, I hope to be able to get away for an extended stay in a quiet place and completely focus on God. I've had wonderful weekend retreats with Lake Murray and a couple of day-long contemplative retreats at the Mission San Luis Rey, also in Oceanside. Those days were absolutely amazing, and I hope to spend an extended time with God sometime in the future.

And John Armstrong's posts make me hunger to spend time with God in a monastery more than ever.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Genealogy Progress

(Family photo at California Adventure, March 2009, L to R: my parents, my brother and his kids, and our four kids)


I have been spending hours since school ended entering my family research into the genealogy software, Roots Magic 4, that my parents purchased for me. Their 45th anniversary is this Saturday, and as our gift to them, I want to get as much research as possible on both sides of the family entered into the program and then printed and bound in a binder for the party. We'll have family members from both sides of the family attending the party on Saturday afternoon, so I want to be as complete as possible with the more recent family members as well as the generations in the past.

I have traced my paternal grandfather's family back to 1732 in Germany. My maternal grandmother's family is going to require a great amount of untangling as there are so many of them in one area that I'm not sure who is whom. Fortunately, two of her brothers are still living in Orange County (Dana Point, I think), and I hope to see them this summer and get their help in sorting out their branches of the family tree.

I'm working on my mother's side of the family this week. Over a year ago, I Googled my maternal grandfather's family as they were a rather well-known architectural firm here in San Diego in the 20's and 30's who designed several San Diego landmarks (Balboa Stadium, the old Police Station, the North Park Theater, etc.) and many family homes, schools, firehouses, etc., as well. And as I checked them out, I discovered an incredible resource: in 1984 a woman named Karna Webster wrote a Master's thesis at University of San Diego (where I received my own Master's degree and also taught there after graduating, so my library card is still active) on the Quayle family of architects, and she did painstaking research on my family who came to San Diego in 1900. I checked out the unpublished thesis from the library and photocopied a great deal of it; she had interviewed the descendants of the older brother (the senior partner of the firm), and my family is descended from the younger brother, the junior partner. Through her invaluable research, I have been able to trace William Quayle, their father who first started the architectural firm, to the Isle of Man where he was born on Christmas Day, 1835. Very cool stuff. I definitely need to find Karna Webster and thank her. I have also been able to research my maternal grandmother's family as well, tracing them also back to the mid-1800's.

So I'm entering all of this information into Roots Magic 4, the newest version that came out just a couple of months ago. I can also scan in and add photos and make pages for each person in our family tree. I have barely scratched the surface, but I am having so much fun; researching is definitely in my blood. My brother-in-law has apparently traced back my husband's side of the family to 1850, so when I can, I'll add in his research to the program as well.

This is my "big project" for the summer, and I'm enjoying every keystroke. :)

Tuesday night update: I "Googled" Karna Webster and found a possible e-mail, address, and phone number. I e-mailed the address, asking if she was the one who wrote the thesis on the Quayle architects, and tonight she responded that yes, she was, and sent me her phone number (which matched the one I found earlier). And guess what? She lives a mere 35 minutes away from me in La Mesa, the city in which our church is! I'll be calling her tomorrow to thank her and ask her a few questions about the veracity of some family stories about landmarks the Quayle Brothers Firm alledgedly designed. Yay!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quote of the Week


Oswald Chamber's wonderful devotional My Utmost for His Highest contains some of the best advice for Christians I have ever read. The most read Christian devotional besides the Bible itself, Chambers' book (published in 1927 in England and in 1935 in the US) consists of his preachings to students and soldiers. Often what he writes seems almost harsh, but the pilgrim pathway worn over the centuries by the saints is far from an easy road. At times it is incredibly difficult and seems downright impossible. And that's when the grace of God fills us with the ability to take the next step, even if we have to do so on our hands and knees, crawling forward toward the goal that is ours in Christ Jesus our Saviour.

In the devotionals for mid-February, dear old Oswald doesn not mince words. They are not the words we want to hear; they are the words we need to hear. Here are a few excerpts from the meditations for February 14 and 15 from My Utmost for His Highest:

At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God's hand until we learn to hear Him.... When you are there keep your mouth shut."

"...[D]arkness is the time to listen.... When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light."

"Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him?"


Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest,
February 14, 15
Every Christian who desires to mature in the faith needs a copy of Chamber's devotional. Whether we like ir or not, he shakes us out of our complacency and into seeking Christ in every word we speak, in every thought we consider, in every action we complete. I have never said this about any book but the Holy Scriptures, but I state it now. If you don't have it, get it. If you have it, read it. When you read it, chew on it and strive to obey it with the assistance of the Holy Spirit: it's that simple and that difficult.

In Celebration of Father's Day....


In celebration of Father's Day are two photos of Keith's latest stained glass window, and Keith is pictured to boot -- a wonderfully talented artist and an incredible father, too. Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More on Health and Faith

(photo from John Armstrong's blog)

Longtime readers of this blog know what a fan I am of John H. Armstrong and his Act 3 Ministries. I follow his blogs and receive his weekly newletters after a friend of mine (who has since left our evangelical church to return to his Catholic roots) recommended him.

Last night I read a blog post in which John discussed the medical establishment's rather slow response to medical treatment outside of hard "science" such as chiropractic, etc. You may read his blog post here: The New Medicine Meets the New Physics, Part II.

I spent quite a bit of time last evening drafting a comment, and his response to my comment almost moved me to tears. Here is someone who understands how difficult some of the medical and evangelical response to my illness has been. I'm posting both my comment and John's response below:

My Comment:

In my own experience as a chronically-ill person, I have found emotional and spiritual release in prayer, but not physical release. I currently see a doctor of chiropractic and an osteopath (full MD) who practice "blended" medicine. Both are Christians, and both work together on my case.

I have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue symdrome, and fibromyalgia. I was bedridden for months and wheelchair-bound for several years. I was diagnosed at age 36 and am now 43, the homeschooling mother of four children ages 9 to 17.

I have prayed to get well. I have been anointed by a group pf elders twice and by an Anglican priest on a weekly basis for five years. But somehow it is not God's plan for me to be healed, although through blended medicine I have improved to only using a cane most of the time. I rely on strong narcotic pain relievers (8 methadone pills daily, to be precise) in order to function at all.

My HMO's answer was that "it was all in my head" and sent me to a psychologist because "they have more drugs available." Only through a blended approach have I been able to get out of bed and function at about 50% of normal.

My osteopath refers to the medical establishment as "the dinosaurs" as they are unwilling to change their ways of thinking in order to improve patient care. Blended medicine seems to be the way to go, in my book anyway. We need both traditional and natural healing available for patients, no matter their diagnoses. It's all about balance.

I won't get into the "name it and claim it" evangelicals who have told me that I obviously have no faith since I have not been healed. As much as I would LOVE to live pain-free, God's sovereignty trumps all. If He uses my illness for His glory, "He also provides a way for me to stand up under it."

I also wrote about chronic illness this week on my blog if anyone is interested:

http://meditativemeanderings.blogspot.com/2009/06/spoon-theory.html

Blessings,
Susanne
2 Cor 4:16-18

Posted by: Susanne Barrett June 20, 2009 at 02:00 AM

John's Response:

Susanne's comments are courageous, Christ-centered and a wonderful reflection of my own experience. I have not had symptoms as severe as Susanne's but I have experienced the same trials and entered the same valley of struggle and darkness that she writes about. I have sought not to talk about all of this for a number of reasons but Susanne has demonstrated the Christ-centered way of writing about her own trials. Her confidence in God's sovereignty is mine too though she seems to be head and shoulders ahead of me in this area. Thank you for using what strength you have to minister to all who will read your words Susanne. May the God of all grace grant you strength and blessing.

As for the medical part of this comment I also agree with Susanne. Her names illnesses here are all resistant to traditional medical answers, generally speaking. Complimentary medicine is not the "cure all" that many think but it does offer more "tools" for wise doctors who want to see the whole playing field more broadly and truly help their patients with similar "untreatable" illnesses. When the medical profession says, "This is in your head and you need more pills" there is a significant problem. (One reason for this problem is the cost of medicine and the need to see many patients in an hour. The modern family physician often does not have the time to practice the healing arts in the way we knew when I was a child in the 1950s. This is an issue that should be at the heart of health reform but there is not enough concern to address it.)

From me, I simply cannot see why so many Christians are so unwilling to adopt the perspective that Susanne clearly holds. She, and I, are clearly not promoting New Age ideas. How anyone could read her comments and associate this with her comments would be beyond my ability to honestly understand.

Thus Susanne's comment plainly articulates MY essential point(s) in these two posts. I will follow these up with another post (next week), regarding my general perspective on complimentary medicine.


Posted by: John H. Armstrong June 20, 2009 at 09:15 AM
I am looking forward very much to John's follow-up post next week on this topic. I'll post it here as soon as I can because, although I write comparitively little about my health issues on this blog because there are far more intriguing issues to write about, I have several followers of this blog who also struggle with similar health issues, and I post with them in mind and with prayers for their peace and wellness spiritually and emotionally while they await physical healing.

Saturday Scripture Meditation

(photo by Susanne Barrett)

Each Saturday I will try to post a Scripture verse or prayer for meditation. I love praying through the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, something made quite easy with the Book of Common Prayer. The Psalter is laid out, divided into Morning and Evening Prayer for thirty days so that all 150 Psalms can be prayed through each month. I also find shorter verses for meditation in Phyllis Tickle's wonderful series The Divine Hours in three volumes: Prayers for Springtime, Prayers for Summertime, and Prayers for Fall/Wintertime, a gift from my Anglican friend Dru. I've used the series for over a year and find great peace in praying Scripture verses four times each day: Morning, Midday (noon), Vespers (evening), and Compline (bedtime).

As I was seated on our front porch this morning, reading and praying through the Summertime volume, a couple of verses stood out to me:

Oh God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength. -- Isaiah 26:3, 30:15

There seems to be few times of truly focusing our minds and hearts on God in "quietness and trust" in evangelical worship, at least in the worship services I attend. It seems to be a little more of a focus lately which I latch onto like a drowning woman would a life preserver. Yet it seems to me that our main focus in worship is singing and sermons. I see nothing wrong with those parts of the worship service, but I would like to have more time focused on reading God's Word (which lately we have been doing responsively, Pastor Stephen reading a verse, then the congregation reading a verse) and on silent prayer.

The few times we have silent prayer, the pastor often tells us what to pray about for so long that we have only 30 seconds of true silence; I'm just getting started when we have to stop. Only in "quietness and trust" can we hear the "still, small voice" of God speaking personally to us. Our time of personal prayer preceding Communion is not silent; the worship team is singing or the worship leader is at the piano, leading us in song, song that I try to block out as much as possible as I attempt to pray and meditate on Christ "in remembrance" of Him. Silence is a rather rare event in the evangelical worship I have experienced, something that is relegated to our private "Quiet Times" of personal prayer and Bible reading -- nothing is wrong with that, but corporate silent prayer would be wonderful.

Silence draws me to liturgical worship, Anglican worship in particular. The Friday morning Anglican services I attend have no music, and a very short homily, if any, one usually for the kids about the Epistle or Gospel reading for the day. The service consists of three parts: Scripture reading, prayer, and Communion. It's quiet in the single-pewed chapel, quiet enough to hear God's voice. As I pray the familiar corporate prayer of confession, the Holy Spirit often points out specific sins that I have done or good I have not done, and I confess these sins before Communion. We pray for the worldwide Christian Church, our political leaders (by name), our pastors, and for those who are "sick, injured, or disabled" by name as well as those who need "the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives." We worship via God's Word, praying the Scriptures aloud together, worshiping Him "in spirit and in truth." It's an awesome thing, and I always feel sense of let-down as we finish the service each week, wishing we could go on and on and on....

Is there "quiet and trust" in our lives? If not, we need to make room for these integral elements of worship. It is from this "quiet and trust" that we can draw "strength" according to the above verse from Isaiah. In "quiet and trust" we can hear God speaking to us. Isaiah also states that "In returning and rest we shall be saved." It is difficult, if not impossible, to rest in Christ, to keep our minds fixed on Him if we do not have time for quiet, for silence, in our lives. How can we hear Him in the chaos of our modern lives? His Word tells us, "Be still and know that I am God." I need to take more time for silence and quiet in my own life, and I hope that you will be able to do so as well -- it's the way to "perfect peace" as we fix our minds on Him.

Blessings and peace in Christ to you, my friends in the Lord.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Spoon Theory

If it wasn't for the cane I use to help with my balance, I doubt most people I meet, or even those with whom I am acquainted, would know that I am sick. Often I have been told, "You look wonderful! You don't look sick at all." There is an unspoken question asked in those seemingly innocuous words: Are you really sick? Although I am certain that they mean to compliment, those words stab a little bit, too. Even my close friends don't know how difficult it is for me to get out of bed, how taking a shower saps my energy for the whole morning, how climbing a flight of stairs can make my knees weak for hours afterward.

My favorite activities are severely limited. I love gardening, but I must limit my time, depending on the particular activity (weeding, planting, digging, etc.) to ten to twenty minutes a day unless I want to spend the next day or two sacked out on the sofa. I used to love walking and hiking with my husband (who has been incredibly patient and understanding through my illness), but now I can walk a few hundred yards and that's it. I used to bicycle all over North Park, and biking in the mountains was an activity I was looking forward to when we moved to Pine Valley, but I was sick and unable to use my bike before spring came around. Long shopping trips and days at Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Disneyland, etc., require me to use my wheelchair or the electric scooter Keith's aunt gave me when she could no longer use it. Right now even ten minutes on a stationary bike at 5-6 mph is too much for me; I'm trying to build up my endurance by starting at five minutes at 4-5 mph, plus walking to the post office and back (a tenth of a mile), and doing ten minutes of light gardening a day, all these activities spread out across morning, afternoon, and evening so I have time to recover in between.

One of the very best explanations of what I go through each day with whatever-it-is that I have, diagnosed by various doctors as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, is the Spoon Theory. I first read it years ago, and a church friend, Sandi, just reposted it for me on Facebook. You may read it here:

SPOON THEORY

I try not to dwell on what I can't do (I can't help it sometimes, and it is frustrating) and focus instead on what I can do. I can pray. I can read. I can write, although I need to monitor my time on the computer or I have additional neck, upper back, and shoulder pain that breaks through my dosage of pain meds (40 mg methadone morning and evening).

I can cuddle my kids but miss playing with them physically. Timothy, 14, mentioned last Friday as I put-putted around the Wild Animal Park on my scooter that he "misses the fun Mom" I used to be, playing badminton and volleyball with them, biking and skating, hiking and running. However, the younger two boys don't remember me when I was "normal." I'm not sure which is worse.

So what helps me through all of this? Around the same time as I had to place my kids in school for a year at the insistence of both of my doctors (that's another long story), God led me to a conservative Anglican Church for weekday healing services. The silence of the service without music, the peace of praying Scripture and ancient prayers, the celebration of the Church Year, the Communion of the Eucharist, and the laying on of hands as the priest prayed over me gave me the willpower and strength to persevere through the pain, exhaustion, and the emotional and financial turmoil resulting from my illness. I still attend these Friday morning services each week and still feel the Holy Spirit strengthening me as Father Acker prays:

"Susanne, I lay my hands upon you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain you with His presence, to drive away all sickness of body and spirit, and to give you that victory of life and peace which will enable you to serve Him both now and evermore. Amen."
During and after these services, I feel God's peace filling me, enabling me to soldier on despite what I am unable to do, able to focus on what I can do. And that, indeed, is the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Keith's Most Recent Window


After Keith finished his masterpiece of a stained glass window for Dr. Adema and Marcia (our doctor and his wife) in September (see photo here), the Ademas decided that they wanted a stained glass window inserted into a sliding door for their bedroom. Both windows will be visible from their hallway, so they needed to complement each other well. So this above photo is of the partially-finished second window in Keith's workshop.

Since I took this photo yesterday (or, rather, Keith took it for me with my camera as I didn't want to stand on the wobbly stool with my balance issues), he has placed lead caming along the entire perimeter which he is soldering on as I type. Then he will have to turn over the window and solder the backside. He will also be adding a black patina to all the silverish lead and soldered copper foiled lines and joints so that the window itself will stand out, not the structure.

This window is based on an ironwork door that Keith saw online, and he used the same glass for the grape leaves, the grapes, and for the wood-like vines. He had quite a bit of a delay due to the stained glass shop in San Diego being out of the vine glass until they could get more from Los Angeles, so Keith had to wait several weeks for them to restock the knobbly streaked brown glass because the wooden texture is perfect for the vines. The glue-chip semi-clear glass in the middle of the window and the slightly-waved clear glass along the perimeter match the glass in the Ademas' front door just perfectly.

I think that they will be quite pleased with this window when Keith finishes it shortly. We're also hoping that we can bring a few people over to their house and show off both windows, especially my parents as they were in Hawaii when Keith installed the first 1500+ piece window last September; they only saw it laid out on the table like this one is currently. I'll post more photos of this window when Keith is ready to install it so we can see the light coming through it. It will be gorgeous, just like all of his work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Evangelicals and Catholics Together

I ran across this incredible document just today when attempting to catch up on the blogs I peruse on Google Reader. I was nearly 450 blog posts behind and I'm afraid that I don't recall which blog I found this link, but it's an amazing document, even if it is fifteen years old.

Even the "Bible Answer Man," Hank Hanegraaff, apparently asserts that Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who ascribe to the Magisterium hold 85% of their doctrines in common. 85%! Despite the suspicion and fear that Evangelical Protestants and some Catholics have toward each other (or perhaps because of the suspicion and fear), this amazing document was born.

If you belong to either "camp" or are a Christian interested in the newer brand of ecumenism, this is a document you really should read. I feel like jumping up and down with sheer joy!

Evangelicals and Catholics Together

Yay!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the Week

I usually change my "Quote of the Week" in the sidebar of this blog each Monday. However, I don't know how many people actually notice the change, so I thought that on Mondays I would post the new quotation(s) in an actual blog post so that everyone could read it/them at least once. I like to switch my selections up a bit as I type them in from my Quotation Journal, so I try to alternate between Christian and literary quotations. Last week I quoted from Oswald Chambers' incredible book, My Utmost for His Highest, so this week I will return to some literary quotes I've picked up over the years. Enjoy!

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a
page."
~ Saint Augustine

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."
~ Jorge Luis Borge

"I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed-reading accident. I
hit a bookmark."
~ Steven Wright

Timothy's "Just So" Story

(My photo at San Diego Zoo, March 2009)


For our little writing class this year in our home (consisting of my older boys and the daughter of a nearby friend), I had Jonathan, Timothy, and Olivia finish their school year writing two "Just So Stories" based on the book of short stories of the same title by Kipling. The idea came from a long-time Brave Writer class "Just So Stories" in which families read several of the stories in Kipling's book and then compose their own "Just So" story, explaining how an animal got a certain unique characteristic. Some ideas might be how the lion got its roar, how the giraffe got its neck, how the tiger got his stripes (Kipling wrote about that one), why the penguin can't fly, how the camel got his hump(s), etc. I gave my little class free reign, and they chose some intriguing topics from their brainstorming sessions. Jonathan (age 11) wrote about how the pug got its flat, black face (taken partially from the Men in Black films and involving aliens) and how squirrels got rabies (a common problem around here but which involved a coffee shop heist resulting in too much caffeine - I may share that one here at a later date). Olivia (age 11) wrote about how the lion got its mane (by swallowing a guy who had spiked hair and used too much hair gel - priceless!) and how the toucan got his colorful beak, and Timothy (age 14) wrote about how the ape lost its tail (because he was a bully) and how the turtle got its shell. With his kind permission, I will share Timothy's latter story because I think it's really well-done. Enjoy!


How the Turtle Got Its Shell
by Timothy Barrett (8th grade)

Once a long time ago, turtles had no shell. The foxes, the hawks, and the pythons loved to eat turtle. They had turtle for almost every meal. They had purple soup, turtle dogs, turtle with taters, and even turtle bacon.

"What will we do?" asked the turtles to the High Turtle Council. "We will not survive!"

The High Turtle Council who were the oldest and wisest turtles of them all thought and thought and thought until finally one of them said, "We must go to war."

All the other turtles were scared. "They are so big and we can't protect ourselves."

The member of the Council who had spoken earlier said, "We can make foul-smelling liquid from the flowers and other plants in the area; we can also make shells like the snails have."

All the turtles cheered a very joyful and enthusiastic cheer, and they went to work making shells that they could hide in and that would protect them. At first the shells had to be changed to fit each turtle; then they fitted some shells with foul-smelling liquid that would make other animals sick. Finally after weeks of working, each turtle had a shell, and every single shell was different.

So they sent a message to the foxes, hawks, and pythons. It told them to stop eating turtles or they would regret it. The foxes, hawks, and pythons laughed and laughed and laughed. They said they would keep eating turtle, no matter what. This decision made the turtles angry, so one night when the foxes, hawks, and pythons were asleep, the turtles attacked. They shouted hideous war cries and leaped onto the foxes, hawks, and pythons. The foxes, hawks, and pythons were so surprised that they jumped right out of their skins! The turtles paraded back with all the skins of the foxes, hawks, and pythons.

"What were those things that stole all of our skins?" asked the foxes to the hawks. One of the hawks replied, "I think they were turtles!" The foxes, hawks, and pythons crept over to the turtles' village where they saw turtles stuffing mattresses with hawk feathers. They also saw python-skin boots, bags, belts, and even python-skin umbrellas. The turtles also had made fox-skin sheets, pillow slips, towels, and napkins.

One of the skinless foxes grabbed a turtle passing by, covering its mouth so it couldn't yell, and bit the turtle hard. An ominous cracking sound emanated from the fox's mouth. The fox dropped the turtle and yelled in pain. All the teeth in his mouth were broken, but instead of running away, the turtle stood there and admired its handiwork. Then the fox started making choking noises, and the air was filled with a malodorous scent. All the foxes, hawks, and pythons ran, flew, and slithered away as fast as they could, and that is how the turtle got its shell.

The End.
These stories are quite fun, and I really recommend the Brave Writer "Just So Stories" Class because the teacher (usually Rachel Boyer) helps each student to think and write creatively as she teaches developing ideas, rough drafting, revising, and editing in a way that is personalized to each student. It's a light-hearted and fun approach to writing, and composing "Just So Stories" was the perfect way for my little class to finish a year of hard work in writing different sorts of paragraphs and even a few five-paragraph essays.

So, here's to brave writing!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ordinary Time


I both like and don't like Ordinary Time. I miss the high liturgical days of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost, etc. After all the excitement and ever-changing liturgical colors of High Holy Days, Ordinary Time seems so, well, ordinary. It is counted in a way that is much more difficult to keep track of when compared to Advent or Epiphany or even Lent, each of which have a set number of weeks involved. But Ordinary Time is counted by the number of Sundays after Trinity Sunday (which was last Sunday); today is the First Sunday after Trinity. Next Sunday will be the Second Sunday after Trinity, and so on, until the 24th Sunday after Trinity (perhaps earlier, depending on the start of Advent). Ordinary Time takes up nearly half of the entire year with no major fasts or feasts, no Octave celebrations or special prayers. Sometimes it seems just a little dull.

Yet Ordinary Time presents us with an incredible opportunity. The liturgical color of Ordinary Time, green, reminds us of what we are to be focusing on during this half of the church year: growing in our faith, in our love for and knowledge of Christ our Lord, and in seeking to serve Him for His glory. Today's sermon from Romans 7 at Lake Murray spoke to us about walking through our little Christian routines without truly focusing on God, about trying to serve Him in our own power rather than in His Strength, about manufacturing our own ways of following God without loving Him with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength. But the Good News is that there is an answer to this problem: Jesus Christ is our solution because life is impossible to live well if we are walking in our own strength rather than walking in the Spirit.

Ordinary Time is the perfect opportunity to practice what Pastor Stephen taught us today about the futility of attempting to please God merely in our own strength. Although he used Lent as a negative example of walking in the Spirit (we need to discuss our very differing experiences of Lent!), he was quite right in stating that relying on our own little manufactured routines instead of truly living a faith-filled life led by the Spirit cripples our relationship with God, robs us of our joy, and doesn't allow us to glorify and serve Him in the way that pleases Him most.

But if we use this Ordinary Time as a tool, as a time to ask God to search our hearts for any walls we have erected in our minds, hearts, or souls that impede our complete surrender to Him, then we will grow in our faith and grow more dependent upon and more in love with our Saviour. This is the goal of Lent as well to those who refuse to follow the Church Year like a robot, but instead follow the Church Year in Christ's footsteps, endeavoring through His Strength to become more like Him in all we think, speak, and do. Yes, it's easier to be an automaton, to not think about what we do or why we do it, but it's not a satisfying life in the least. I want to follow Christ in every way, becoming more like Him through His Grace, and following the Church Year is one method that I have found extremely helpful for me as a person fairly new to high liturgy.

So Ordinary Time ideally is a time of growth in love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this long Ordinary Time stretching out before me through late November will indeed be a time of growth as I continually seek Him through prayer, His Word, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines which, like the Church Year, can become quite mechanical unless they are done wholeheartedly and unto the Lord with the object of seeking Him and finding Him as we seek Him with all our hearts. The spiritual life is about attitude much more than action: we can go through the motions of any spiritual discipline or any season of the Church Year, manufacturing our own rules and rites. But if we do so with the investment of our whole mind, heart, and soul, then we will please and glorify our Lord and, through the process, become more like Christ.

And a life lived for Christ's glory is anything but Ordinary.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Adventurous Summer Reading

A couple of online friends asked me about my reading of The Shack which I had listed in my sidebar for the last few weeks. I hadn't heard of it until this past spring when Father Acker asked me and his wife about leading a discussion group on the book. So after receiving his e-mail, I put myself on the library waiting list for the book ... several months ago. And in the perfectly horrid timing common to this year, The Shack arrived at the library precisely the same time as my MLA essays did ... which meant that I graded rather than read. And when I gathered my library books and videos to go back on Tuesday, I mistakenly included the long-awaited copy of The Shack that I had planned to read over the weekend, a mistake I did not realize until I returned home after the library closed. Great. So, no, I have not read The Shack yet but hope to when my name pops back up on the library list or when I can borrow a copy from someone. I've heard widely varying opinions on the book and hope to add my own sometime this summer.

So instead, I checked out a book rather far outside my comfort zone: The Host by Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight saga which has become as much an obsession with me as it is for my daughter. Sci fi is so not my genre, but I'm willing to try something new from an author I like. I may put it down in a day or two and return to my British mysteries, but it's worth an attempt. We'll see how it goes....

One of my former students has recommended Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, so I need to add this one to my list. And while the boys romped on the playground at the Wild Animal Park today, we talked books, and Tom recommended some books by Bill Bryson, especially his memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I'm going to check out his books as they look really intriguing and fun to boot.

And I definitely want to track down Stephen King's On Writing. I wouldn't really think about taking writing advice from a horror novelist, but one of the few books of his I read long ago was a collection of short stories called Skeleton Key, and I was quite impressed with the quality of his prose. I've read about this book on several writers' blogs, and several writing friends of mine have also highly, highly recommended it. I'm not one who enjoys reading writing "how to" books because I would much rather read excellent writing and learn from the Masters, but I am willing to take my chances on Stephen King.

I have a bunch of really wonderful Christian writings I have been waiting all year to dive into, and although they certainly do not qualify as "light summer reading," I am looking forward to reading them. Most are listed in the sidebar, but Kathleen Norris' Acedia and Me, Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again, Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ, Prayer by Richard Foster, The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, The Showings of Julian of Norwich, a rereading of Thomas Howard's Evangelical Is Not Enough, and Introduction to the Devout Life By Saint Francis de Sales are high on the list. And, by golly, I am going to finish the two books that I've been picking at in rare free moments, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and The Family Cloister by David Robinson, my dear friend Kitty's cousin. I hope I can get through a few of them this summer, writing in the morning and reading in the afternoons.

And generally catching up on the sleep of which I have been deprived since, um, around mid-August when we started this school year that finished today, Day #180.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, BCP!

Yes, today (or rather yesterday as I scribble this down after finishing with my Class Day grading well after midnight) is the 460th birthday of the very first Book of Common Prayer in 1549. Commissioned by King Henry VIII and compiled by Thomas Cranmer, the Book of Common Prayer has long been a staple of prayer not only for the 77 milion current members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion but also for the millions of Anglican believers in the nearly 500 years since it was first printed.

I first came across it in the downtown San Diego bookstore I worked. It was a lovely, clothbound volume illustrated with colorful illuminated manuscripts, and I bought it for the artwork rather than the content. For over ten years it sat on the top of my bookshelf with other nicely-bound books for mere decoration until a conversation popped in in my online community at the time about the BCP. Remembering that I owned one somewhere, I searched the house until I located the now-sunfaded cover and, for the first time, opened the book to actually read it. And within minutes, I was hooked.

Somehow the prayers within this book (it was a 1662 English version, complete with prayers for the reigning monarch and Parliament) entranced me. I was taken immediately by the Te Deum Laudamus, a daily prayer of praise, a prayer I still pray nearly every morning even ten years later. It never grows old, even though I have it memorized. Then I found other prayers, some straight Scripture like The Magnificat (Mary's song of praise in Luke), The Venite (verses from Psalm 95 and 96), and The Benedictus (Zechariah's song in Luke 1) and as others ancient prayers of the Church, like the prayer that closes Morning Prayer attributed to Saint John Chrysostom:


Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests; Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.
But the prayer that I kept coming back to again and again besides the Te Deum was the General Confession in the Order for Morning Prayer:


ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
The majesty of the words, being prayed to the Majestic Lord, just felt so appropriate, so right, to me. I felt, for the first time in over twenty years of being a follower of Christ, that I was truly, truly worshipping Him "in Spirit and in truth." Not that the BCP is the only way to worship God -- but it was the way that felt the most like worship to me. I felt, and still feel, that the Lord deserves beautiful worship, and beautiful music and words are the means by which I can worship my Lord fully, heart, mind, and soul.

At Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, we use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. A more recent vrsion is available, the 1977 BCP, but the language is much more beautiful in the 1928 and apparently the doctrines remain true as well. The 1928 includes the Psalter (all 150 Psalms, laid out to be read in a month, morning and evening), and the Collects, Epistle, and Gospel readings of Scripture for each Sunday of the Church Year. All of these Scriptures are in the 1540 Great Bible version commissioned by Henry VIII, predating the King James Version (or Authorized Version) of 1611, so the language is even more beautiful than the KJV, at least to me. And I use the Lectionary at the front of the BCP which lays out morning and evening Bible readings (Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel) for each day of the entire Church Year. Very helpful. If you are interested, there's an online version of the 1928 available here: 1928 BCP. Print versions can be found very inexpensively at half.com which is where I got my first 1928.

So I wish the Book of Common Prayer a very Happy 460th Birthday, wishing also that many more Christians would come to enjoy it as I have.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Final Week of Home Schooling ... Until August


Today is our final day of "book work" home schooling for this academic year as we have Class Day tomorrow and a field trip to the Wild Animal Park planned for Friday to celebrate Jonathan's 12th birthday and the last day of school. We will have roughly nine weeks off until we start again in mid-to-late August, early enough to allow us three weeks of Christmas vacation and two weeks at Easter. It's been a good year -- actually, one of our best, even if it has been crazy-busy with tutoring four other students, two Class Day writing courses with a total of 15 students turning in a 3-5 page paper at every class, teaching three courses online at Brave Writer (poetry, grammar, and Shakespeare, plus helping Julie with the junior high language arts subscription, The Boomerang), and doing proofreading for two churches and one missions organization. And all that is besides teaching our four kids who have done quite well this year, especially when one takes into account their standardized test scores.

Benjamin is completing third grade this year. One of my later readers, B has picked up the pace and is reading much closer to grade level. Timothy picked up reading at about the same time in his schooling, and he currently begs me to check out science books from the USD Library. Jonathan was my earliest reader, yet he is picking up books to read for pleasure at the same age as Timothy. It seems that whenever kids learn to read has little bearing on when they start reading for pleasure, at least in the boys of our family; the older two both picked up novels to read for pleasure at about 12 years of age, even though one started reading three years earlier than the other. Anyway, back to Benjamin.... He has done very well in math this year, rarely receiving less than a 96% on his math tests in the ABeka 3 Math book (which is advanced about a year above California math standards), and his penmanship is simply gorgeous: as neat and well-formed as many adults' handwriting. He loves doing handwriting and copywork. Benjamin also did well with grammar (Daily Grams 3), studying the subject for the first time this year, and he definitely enjoyed his Primarily Logic workbook. And he has been just as quick as the older kids in picking up our Greek and Latin root word vocabulary cards that we do as a family. We wrote a few essays this year with him dictating to me while I typed his words, good practice for later writing assignments. Benjamin also enjoyed his Genesis for Kids science book and listening to the older kids' world history and literature. At Class Day (our twice-monthly co-op with Heritage) he took PE, art, and social studies. Overall, he's had a very good year.

According to our PSP (private school program) with Heritage Christian School, Jonathan is graduating from elementary school this year as he finishes sixth grade, although our church added him to the junior high class when he completed fifth grade last year. Jonathan struggled a bit with math this year; the ABeka 6 Math has thrown all three of the older kids for a bit of a loop as it introduces so many new concepts so quickly, but after they complete the ABeka 7 Math, they have it all down and do well. His math scores on the Stanfords this year were very nicely above average despite his low-B grades on tests at home, so we're assuming that he'll pull it together as the other two did once he has Johanna tutoring him next year in math. He and Timothy worked together in several subjects this year: world history, literature (read aloud by me), readers, poetry (Barron's Painless Poetry) and Bible from Sonlight 7; an astronomy unit and most of ABeka's Observing God's World for science; and the Greek/Latin roots that we studied together along with Bible (Sonlight 7 Bible reading schedule, plus Little Book of the Saints and Jason Boyett's Pocket Guide to the Bible which needed a bit of quick editing as I read it aloud when remarks became too, um, adult in nature, plus Bible verse memorization). In Class Day, J took Grossology (a science class dealing with bodily functions and disgusting boy stuff of all kinds), PE, and Cooking. Jonathan also did penmanship (gotta get that boy to slow down and form his cursive more carefully!), Spelling Power, Daily Grams 6, and continued piano with Teri Carpentier-Antti here in Pine Valley as well as guitar with Father Acker's Free Teen Guitar Class in Alpine. Jonathan definitely has a gift for music and is our best all-around student.

Timothy is graduating from eighth grade this year and will be starting high school next fall. (Ack - how did that happen!) He passed me in height over the winter and just this week is officially taller than Keith, too. Timothy and Jonathan studied many of their core subjects together: Bible and Greek/Latin roots, World History Part II (1750 to present), science, poetry, literature (which relates to the same time period as our history studies), readers (also relates to same historical period), etc. Timothy also studies piano with Teri, and he also was tutored in pre-algebra (Saxon Algebra 1/2) with Johanna Vignol, my college friend and home school tutor extraordinaire. He also did Spelling Power (spelling is his one weakness every year on his Stanford tests) and over half of a huge grammar book, Easy Grammar Plus, which he will complete next year. At Class Day, he took two volleyball/basketball classes and a chess class; in fact, he's still undefeated going into the final tournament at Class Day tomorrow. Timothy is always either drawing or tinkering with robots and computer programs; he would like to study engineering or graphics in college, so I will keep those strong areas of his in mind as we plan his high school years. He's just got to decide on a foreign language to study; I doubt he wants to follow in his sister's footsteps and take two years of Latin. In the past we have studied elementary German and Latin, so I hope he will choose one of those as I know them the best, or Spanish of which I still remember a little. He and Jonathan also took my Beginning Writing Class that I have taught in the past at Class Day; Olivia, a neighbor girl J's age, joined us every other Thursday, and they wrote some very creative and interesting essays and also worked on the five-paragraph format. I'm very proud of my little writing class! Timothy wrote a very creative essay a couple of weeks ago, "How Turtles Got Their Shells," based on Kipling's Just So Stories, an idea I stole from a Brave Writer class. Perhaps I'll post it here later on; it was truly wonderful!

Elizabeth completed her junior year of high school and took her SAT test for college entrance this past Saturday. She's had a very busy year with taking my Advanced (Honors) Writing course at Class Day for which she wrote twelve 3-5 page essays and one 7-10 page MLA paper (due tomorrow), and she's done very well. This class is basically a college-level course, and I'm pleased with the quality of her work. She also is taking Cooking as an elective at Class Day. After learning how to make jewelry from her Arizona cousins last summer, Elizabeth has started her own little earring business, and she sells her creations at Class Day during lunch and at small craft fairs in our area. She's had to figure out the cost of beads, the time for labor, the best way to advertise, and must also keep track of profit and inventory; it's been a great practical lesson for her in business/economics. She's finishing Algebra II (Saxon) with Johanna and still has a few labs to do before completing Spectrum Chemistry. Elizabeth has enjoyed ABeka's American History this year; she's taking her final exam today. And she has studied American History from a list Johanna and I made up for her as we didn't care much for the home school curriculum options available; Elizabeth has completed units in the short story and poetry and has read American lit from Ben Franklin to Bless Me, Ultima. Elizabeth has also been involved in our art council's theatre group; last spring she played Lady Olivia in a home school production of Twelfth Night, and she had two parts in the original play A Journey Through Christmas in December. Our theatre group is directed by Dianne Holly who has worked at The Old Globe and has been on staff at SDSU and UCSB; it's delightful to have such a professional living right here in Pine Valley who is willing to work with the community. Elizabeth has been on the front lines of fundraising for the Pine Valley Players, organizing the young people in several events to help provide funds for the PV Players. Next fall she hopes to assist Judith Dupree with Pine Valley's monthly newspaper, The Valley Views as an intern, and she is currently volunteering at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center once weekly with housekeeping which may become a paid position in a couple of weeks. Elizabeth has narrowed her college search to three universities: Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego (which was helped along when Dean Nelson of the journalism department led a writing workshop in February here in Pine Valley), San Diego Christian College in El Cajon, and The Master's College near Magic Mountain, north of Los Angeles. We'll see where the Lord leads her.

All this is probably too much information, but it's nice to look back through this school year and evaluate what worked well (almost everything) and what didn't (very little, mostly just E's chemistry labs). Grades are due on June 25, but I hope to have them in much sooner so that I can rest and relax this summer and not think much about home schooling until the beginning of August when I need to start ordering curriculum. I'll definitely write about what we choose, too, and that will be another extremely lengthy blog post....

Happy Summer, everyone!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Joys of Genealogy


I have been interested in genealogical research for the past fifteen years or so, ever since my dad became interested in the subject and wanted me to trace our family line as so many of his family members, including several uncles in their late 80's and early 90's, are still quite sharp and can help us greatly. But the project has been sitting on the proverbial back burner until this past winter.

Our local library advertised a genealogy class in December, and although I had often seen such classes on the large marquee next to New Releases, for some reason I felt the pull more strongly this time and found myself showing up for the Tuesday evening class that met just an hour before our monthly writers' group. Ken, a member of the San Diego Genealogical Society, led a few of us through the basics of researching through Ancestry.com and several other sources. And immediately, I was hooked on genealogy research.

It made sense, really. Research has always been my passion. I love unearthing new material, copying it down, organizing it, and then rewriting it clearly and concisely. I could research forever and never actually settle down to write the main work ... as seen with my theological project on liturgy and the evangelical church which I started nearly five years ago and continue researching. And, obviously despite my complaining, I do love teaching the MLA research method, even if grading the papers takes forever. So genealogical research and I were destined to meet and fall in love.

Ken mentioned his favorite software program, Roots Magic (see illustration above from the Roots Magic site) was coming out with a new fourth version which my parents purchased for me last month. And I have really enjoyed plugging my research into it -- it's all so cool! I've only had access to the software for a month and have been rather overwhelmed with MLA student conferences and now with grading them, so I haven't had as much time to enter information as I would like. That's my plan for the summer ... lots of research, sourcing, and data entry. And from that data I'll be able to trace family trees, lineages, make a separate page for each family member, and even collate all the material into book form. Cool!

Ancestry.com is a great site, but it costs $15 each month to access its wonderful depths. However, the San Diego County Library system provides a free (limited) library version which must be accessed from their own computers; from this source I have gained the vast majority of information on occasional Saturday visits. But I also accessed the LDS genealogy site in the last month from home and was delighted to find a family tree already completed of my father's family which we always assumed was English. I found out, however, that the first Lower (pronounced Lauer), a Michael Lower, came to the colonies before the American Revolution from Germany. He was born in 1732 in Zweibrucken (wish I knew how to make umlauts work!) but married in Pennsylvania in 1750, so he obviously emigrated sometime between those dates. My dad was flabbergasted and amazed.

My parents will be celebrating their 45th anniversary later this month, and we'll have a good number of extended family members joining us for the party. At least one of them is interested in genealogy, so I hope to glean more information as well as share what I've found. And I also want to be able to demonstrate what I have discovered about our family to whomever may be interested. It's just such a great opportunity, but I have so much to pull together before the party on June 27!

I have barely scraped the surface of my genealogical research and of Roots Magic (can't wait to start scanning in photos and really adding in-depth material), but I think I know what I will be doing with a sizable chunk of my summer "free" time.

So tonight it's off to our genealogy class to learn even more about research methods and documentation! Be still, my heart....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trinity Sunday


The Sunday following Pentecost/Whitsunday is the celebration of the Holy Trinity. Trinity Sunday is a celebration of just one day, and the liturgical color is white, symbolizing the purity and sinlessness of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now that the Holy Spirit has arrived on the scene to complete the Trinity, Ordinary Time shall begin starting next week, stretching over twenty-some weeks to Advent in late November to early December. Nearly half of the Church Year consists of Ordinary Time for which the liturgical color is green, symbolizing the continual growth of our faith as we follow Christ and endeavor to become more like Jesus. During Ordinary Time, the weeks are counted as being "after Trinity": the First Sunday after Trinity, the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, etc.

But today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The website Church Year explains:
Trinity Sunday, officially "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity," is one of the few feasts of the Christian Year that celebrates a reality and doctrine rather than an event or person. On Trinity Sunday we remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, and lasts only one day, which is symbolic of the unity of the Trinity. The Eastern Churches have no tradition of Trinity Sunday, arguing that they celebrate the Trinity every Sunday. Westerners do as well, although they set aside a special feast day for the purpose.
The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
For the Epistle today, the 1928 BCP requires the reading of the fourth chapter of Revelation; you may read it here in the English Standard Version: Rev 4 ESV.

The Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday is written in the third chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the first verse through the fifteenth. You may read it here, again in the ESV: John 3:1-15.

Today is also the Feast of Title for two churches in the San Diego area, both of which have removed themselves from the liberal San Diego Episcopal Diocese and have put themselves under the authority of Biblical leadership: Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach (part of the city of San Diego) and Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in Alpine, thirty miles east of San Diego. I have been attending weekday healing services led by Father Keith Acker when he was Rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church and also after he and his church left the Diocese and reformed as Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity which recently became part of the Reformed Episcopal Church. So blessings to both churches on their Feast of Title!

So today we give special thanks to our Lord who is realized in three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although we praise God for the Trinity each and every day of the year, this day we celebrate it more than usual, remembering His gracious goodness, His lovingkindness, and His everfaithful mercy in, as Dr. Stephen Sammons, our pastor at Lake Murray often states, loving us as we are, yet loving us too much to allow us to remain that way. In the words of the Gloria Patri, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Growing Pains

(Portrait of our four kids with their four cousins last summer)


As this school year closes, I am so proud of our kids. They have worked so hard this year in their schoolwork and around the house. They are such a huge help in so many ways.

Benjamin is finishing third grade this year, and he's reading far better now than he was at the beginning of the year. He speeds through his math and has the most lovely penmanship. He has been doing a lot more around the house lately: taking out the trash, watering the garden, dusting the living room. He's my "baby" at nine-and-a-half and is growing soooo big. Benjamin makes the funniest and most expressive faces -- he has had the entire family laughing around the kitchen table at dinner many evenings.

According to our home school group, Jonathan "graduates" from elementary school as he leaves sixth grade behind. He's an instigator in our home, always mischievous and enjoying getting under everyone's skin. But he's an amazing help around the house as he cleans all three bathrooms, dusts, waters, and helps wash my car. Math has been his difficult subject as he juggles the concepts of fractions, decimals, proportions, percentages, algebra, and geometry. He'll catch on, but it's not too easy now. Music is Jonathan's gift as he plays both piano (coming up on three years now) and guitar with Father Acker's Free Teen Guitar Class; he's been playing guitar for almost a year now and has a performance in Alpine tomorrow, playing his red-hot electric guitar, a loaner from the guitar ministry. He's a great all-around student, doing well in all subjects.

Timothy is graduating from eighth grade, and next year he will be in high school. (My mind is still reeling at that thought!) He is doing well in school, successfully completing pre-algebra this year. But his passion is art and design, whether that be drawing amazing creatures or designing robotics. His current interest is rocks and minerals, and he has read all the books on the subject in our library and ordered some more titles from the library system today. He also plays piano, and he works very hard around the house and in the yard. Both he and Jonathan do the vast majority of the gardening work around here, J the mowing and T the weed-wacking. Timothy also vacuums the house for me as well as "cobweb patrol" and does any of the heavy work that I need him to do for me. He's a great help, and his love for all of God's creatures is incredible; he is always bringing in critters from outside like frogs, toads, and lizards -- and today he had fun with the four-foot gopher snake we found on our lawn when we got home.

Elizabeth is completing her junior year of high school and will be a senior next year. (NO WAY!) For the last few weeks, she has been working at the nearby Bible Camp on Fridays, vacuuming and cleaning dorm rooms before new groups come in. She's been working mostly as a volunteer for our friend Teri (the boys' piano teacher) and will interview for a "real" job in the next week or so. She also does the dishes every night and keeps the kitchen clean. Elizabeth is so thrilled to be done with science and math for the rest of her high school career, and tomorrow she takes the SAT for college entrance. She loves writing, literature, and history best in school as she considers possible college majors at local Christian liberal arts colleges. I can't believe that this next school year will be the last one with my girl!

Our kids are growing so fast and it's hard as a mother to balance being proud of our maturing kids and being a little sad at watching our babies grow up. I love being with them and I'm so glad that we have had the opportunity to educate them at home so that I hardly miss a minute.

I feel myself becoming nostalgic as our final year of having all four kids at home nears. It's been a great twelve years of homeschooling so far, and if we keep on homeschooling until Benjamin graduates from high school, I'll end up with a total of twenty years of home education. Whew. We'll see if that's what we end up doing; only the Lord truly knows.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ember Days in the Anglican Church


In the nearly five years that I have attended weekday services at the Anglican Church in Alpine (first at Christ the King and now at Blessed Trinity), I have discovered much to celebrate in the Church Year and in Biblical Saints' Days. But some of the lesser-known Holy Days are still a bit of a mystery to me, and Ember Days fits firmly in that category.

I "Googled" (how did that become a verb?) Ember Days this morning, and I read the Wikipedia and Catholic Encyclopedia explanations with a little puzzlement. I understood what Ember Days were, but their explanations were quite complex, too much so to post here. I finally found a web site that explained Ember Days (and Rogation Days, too, but that's another post), and I copy from it this explanation of Ember Days:

The "Four Times," or Ember Days

The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost). [Note: this week we observe the Summer Embertide, just after Pentecost.]

The English title for these days, "Ember," is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the "Four Times" or "Four Seasons."

The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass.

The Old Law prescribes a "fast of the fourth month, and a fast of the fifth, and a fast of the seventh, and a fast of tenth" (Zechariah 8:19). There was also a Jewish custom at the time of Jesus to fast every Tuesday and Thursday of the week.

The first Christians amended both of these customs, fasting instead on every Wednesday and Friday: Wednesday because it is the day that Christ was betrayed, and Friday because it is the day that He was slain. (And we now know that this biweekly fast is actually older than some books of the New Testament). Later, Christians from both East and West added their own commemorations of the seasons.

The Ember Days thus perfectly express and reflect the essence of Christianity. Christianity does not abolish the Law but fulfills it (Mt. 5:17) by following the spirit of the Law rather than its letter. Thus, not one iota of the Law is to be neglected (Mt. 5:18), but every part is to be embraced and continued, albeit on a spiritual, or figurative, level. And living in this spirit is nothing less than living out the New Covenant.
Quite often these "Four Times" are set aside for the ordination of clergy, and I recall Father Acker stating that it is a time to fast and pray for our clergy as well. I think that this application of Ember Days to fast and pray for our priests and pastors is of the utmost significance. Yes, the evangelical branch of Christianity has its informal "Pastor Appreciation Month" each October, but it's simply not the same as fasting and praying for our pastors and for future pastors and priests who are called to the vocation.

Physically I cannot fast completely because of my various health issues, but I will do an "oatmeal fast" (eating unsweetened oatmeal only) instead, an idea a former pastor suggested as he also has hypoglycemia. So tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, I will pray for these pastors for whom I pray on a daily basis:

Father Keith Acker, Rector of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity (Alpine, CA)
Bishop Richard Boyce, Diocese of the West, Reformed Episcopal Church
Dr. Stephen Sammons, Senior Pastor of Lake Murray Community Church (La Mesa, CA)
Nathan Hogan, Associate Pastor of Lake Murray Community Church
Bob Benthin, Pastor to Seniors of Lake Murray Community Church
Seth Clark, Youth and Worship Pastor of Lake Murray Community Church
Kirt Edwards, President of Freedom in Truth Ministries (trips to Turkey and T'stan)and former Pastor at Lake Murray
Chris Rader, Youth Pastor of Journey Community Church and former Associate Pastor at Lake Murray
Rollo Casiple, Senior Pastor of La Vina Community Church (Miami, FL) and former Youth and Worship Pastor at Lake Murray
Joe Murrell, Senior Pastor of Pine Valley Community Church (Pine Valley, CA)

So I encourage you, my dear readers, to use these Four Times, these Ember Days, to pray for the pastors in your life, those who guide your flock now and those who have in the past and continue to minister in other ways currently as well as those who may be called to the pastorate in the future. These church leaders need our prayers on a daily basis (I love that the Book of Common Prayer contains prayers for our pastors and leaders in government in both the Morning and the Evening Prayer Offices) and also a more concentrated time of prayer and fasting four times per year.

Will you join me?

PS: If you have specific pastors for whom you would like our family (and perhaps our readers) to pray for, please list them in the Comments section, and we will pray for them.

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