Saturday, January 30, 2010

Benedict XVI on Ecumenism

As long-time readers of this blog are all-too-aware, Ecumenism/Christian Unity is a topic near-and-dear to my heart. I'm not referring to the "old" ecumenism that compromised the essentials of the Christian faith, but to the "new ecumenism" as proported by leaders such as John H. Armstrong and his Act 3 Ministries and many others, both Protestant and Catholic, who focus on the commonalities within the different modes of Christian faith and worship. They desire to do what in evangelical circles is called "majoring on the majors." By focusing on our common Christian beliefs (as expressed in the Nicene Creed), not allowing our more minor doctrinal differences to divide us, we as Christians can work together in many areas: global and local poverty and homelessness, global and local literacy, protection of all stages of life, stewardship of the environment, and, most importantly, sharing the Gospel of God's love and peace with a pain-filled world. By joining together as fellow believers in Christ Jesus, we can more effectively battle the forces of evil in our world rather than allowing petty bickering to separate and thus overcome us.

This past week's focus on Christian Unity afforded me the opportunity to pray more passionately for the unity of God's children throughout the world. In addition to allowing us to battle more effectively against our common Enemy, Christian Unity also provides the world with a glimpse into the love of Christ Jesus as we treat one another with respect and love, loving one another as Christ commanded us.

So this week's message from Pope Benedict XVI resonated with me. I am reprinting the article in its entirety from American Catholic which reposted it from the Catholic News Service:

ROME (CNS)—Divided Christians can and must be united in meeting the modern challenges of secularization, threats to human life, environmental destruction, war and injustice, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"It is precisely the desire to proclaim Christ to others and bring the world his message of reconciliation that makes one experience the contradiction of Christian divisions," the pope said Jan. 25 as he closed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Leaders of Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant communities in Rome joined the pope for the annual prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, offering prayers and proclaiming the readings.

The Week of Prayer 2010 focused on the common Christian vocation to witness to Christ in the world.

When the modern ecumenical movement was launched, the pope said, it started with a conference of missionaries from different denominations who gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1910 to reflect on ways to promote Christian unity in order to preach the Gospel more effectively.

The obvious question, he said, was: "How, in fact, can unbelievers accept the proclamation of the Gospel if Christians, while all referring to the same Christ, are in disagreement among themselves?"

Unity is "a particularly important condition for greater credibility and effectiveness," the pope said.

Unfortunately, Christians still are divided on important issues of dogma, doctrine and church discipline, which must be overcome through prayer and theological dialogue, he said.

At the same time, the pope said, Christians already can proclaim together "the fatherhood of God, Christ's victory over sin and death through his cross and resurrection (and) trust in the transforming action of the Spirit."

"While we are on the path toward full communion, we are called to offer a common witness in the face of the increasingly complex challenges of our time, such as secularization and indifference, relativism and hedonism, delicate ethical themes regarding the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology and dialogue with other religious traditions," he said.

The pope told the Christian leaders that they also must work more closely on "safeguarding creation, the promotion of the common good and peace, the defense of the centrality of the human person (and) the commitment to defeating the miseries of our time, such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy and the unequal distribution of goods."

Pope Benedict said working for Christian unity is not a specialty to which a few individuals or a few churches are called, but rather it is part of fulfilling Christ's will for all those who follow him.

Unity is something for which all Christians must work and pray, he said.

So we join in praying Christ's prayer for the church to be "one" in John 17: 20-26 (English Standard Version):

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Crazy Busy with Brave Writer

For the next few days, my online time will be severely limited for a few reasons. Firstly, I have three huge Brave Writer deadlines looming this weekend. I need to write The Arrow and The Boomerang, both monthly language arts subscriptions. I ordered the books from the library on January 12 so I would have time to get an early start, but the books didn't arrive until Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. In addition, I start teaching the One Thing: Poetry online course on Monday for Brave Writer. Because I'm taking the class in a different direction than in past years, focusing this year on the writing of poetry, rather than appreciation/analysis of poems, I am having to write the vast majority of the posts from scratch.

March's One Thing: Grammar that I'll be teaching is already written as it's the brainchild of Brave Writer owner Julie Bogart, so it will be less work in composing the class at least. Taking a sort of backward approach, One Thing: Grammar involves playing with words then observing how they work and extrapolating hypotheses of possible grammar guideleines, it's also THE most creative and fun approach to grammar I've ever experienced.

So these three deadlines for The Arrow, The Boomerang, and One Thing: Poetry should keep me quite busy tonight and tomorrow. Besides Brave Writer stuffola, this weekend I need to write an article for our art council's upcoming writing and arts conference in May that will be published in multiple back country newspapers and perhaps throughout the county. The title of the conference is Beauty and the Beast: Arts in an Age of Adversity. It's gonna be great, and normally I would enjoy writing this article, but with the other deadlines hanging over my head, I'm going to have to rush a bit, something I dislike greatly when writing. The fun of writing is being so engrossed in the play of words that time dissolves, melting away until something mundane catches my attention and I am dumbfounded by the passage of time.

I also have usual weekend things to do: menu and grocery list, laundry, lesson planning for our four homeschooled students, paying bills, church, etc. Plus, on Sunday we have a real treat: our former youth & worship pastor, Rollo Casiple, who left sunny San Diego for sunny Miami where he pastors an inner-city EV Free church called La Vina Community Church, is going to be at Lake Murray for a visit. Rollo is one of my favorite people ever. When I first found myself being drawn into liturgy, I stopped by to talk it over with Rollo and found a kindred liturgical spirit. Rollo had seriously considered joining the Eastern Orthodox Church in the past; the reason he didn't was a feeling of irrelevancy to our current culture, and Rollo is all about reaching out to young people in our culture. He and his lovely wife Sarah (who grew up in a rather liturgical Lutheran church) will be here on Sunday, and after church Lake Murray is hosting a carne asada taco youth fundraiser that will allow us to hang out with Rollo and Sarah as well. I can't wait to see him and Sarah again and talk liturgy!

So this weekend will be a very busy one. I'm telling you this so you don't expect the composition of Italian sonnets or a long post about ecumenism or something along those lines. I'll post a few articles and such for the next few days for your perusal (never say I don't give ya anything!), but serious writing will have to be postponed until well into next week.

Oh, and I have Class Day grades for two classes plus my own four kiddos due a week from today, and much grading and computing to do to ready these final semester grades.

So we may have a rather thin week goin' on. I'll be back to play with words and ideas here as soon as I possibly can. Just a teensy warning....

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Regarding Faith....

Our home church, Lake Murray Community Church, supports missionary workers here in our area, in various places in the continental United States, and overseas. Several years ago, K left our congregation to serve God in Asia. We keep in contact with her regularly via e-mail. K is an intriguing woman, one who participated in our church's literary discussion group when she was in town and is an excellent writer. Last week she sent those who support her in prayer this letter; I asked her permission to share it here. It touched me, especially in light of the difficulties of several of my friends lately, and I hope that you find it helpful and/or enlightening too....

God does not lose hope. He is not uncertain of his plan working out in the world, or wondering if he can conquer the next obstacle. He is not worried that we might not do our part, and the whole thing will come crashing down.

He is not tired. He is not anxious. He is not overwhelmed.

He is not indifferent to our troubles, our insecurities, our worries.
But he is secure enough in who he is to swallow all of our problems
without them bringing him down.

It is in the moment that we see Jesus on the cross that we realize
God’s commitment to humanity. In becoming like us, he makes a new way
for us to be victorious in the midst of pain, despair, and death.
Because ultimately, he cannot be conquered. And since his Spirit
lives in us, and his promise is to work all things together for good
for his followers, we can believe that his plans for us will come to

Some of our wounds, some our questions, will never find answers this
side of heaven. But his challenge to us is to see the unfolding
history that we are participating in through eyes of faith. To
approach others in love. To hope.

We all borrow hope from one another from time to time. I think one of
my favorite things about being a part of the community of followers of
Jesus is that when I run out of hope, energy, or motivation, others
gather around me to lift me up with encouragement, love, and prayer.

But ultimately, that hope can’t be rooted in the Body, no matter how
amazing our communion is. Jesus, the Messiah, is the head of the
Body. His death and resurrection are what give us hope. His presence
is what keeps us going. Because he lives, we believe that redemption
is possible – that there is no situation so horrible, no sin so ugly,
no life so full of despair that he can’t turn it around.

As I look around at the situation of the U------ people – oppression,
prejudice, and misunderstandings from without, competition,
entitlement, and ethnic pride from within – it can be easy to get lost
in the layered impossibilities of their circumstances. How can I
believe in a God who is at work redeeming the world when I see so much
pain, violence, and evil going unchecked directly in front of me? It
is too much of a burden for me to carry; in fact it was a burden that
was never meant to be mine.

And yet, God has not lost hope for the U------ people, or for other
seemingly impossible-to-reach Muslim groups around the world. He is
not surprised by what he sees, and he is determined to bring his
reality into their broken world.

I’ve been slowly realizing, as I’ve come to him with my exhaustion and
brokenness, that I can’t rely only on my own vision, my own strength.
I need to borrow hope for the U------ people from him; to take a few
minutes to regroup and look at them from his perspective.

And so when Jesus calls us to come to him with our burdens and rest, I
can believe that this is exactly what I need. Even though the work
isn’t finished, even though there is still sin and suffering, even
though the Kingdom has not yet come on earth… God is handling it

Aaaaaah. I feel much better now. One of the regular readers of my blog cautioned me to be careful of taking on my friends' difficult issues, and rightly so. I tend to suffer along with my friends and it literally makes me ill, somehow increasing my chronic pain and lowering my immune response. So I'm ever-so-slowly learning to place the problems of others at the foot of the Cross. Now the real issue: leaving them there and not picking them back up....

Prayer for Difficulties and Challenges

Over the past week, my heart has been heavy, weighed down with the pain of loved ones. For the pain of those in Haiti, for those who lost beloved friends and family in the earthquake, like our friends L & S and their four children. And for my friend S---- about whom I wrote a poem yesterday. And a dear lady from our church "went home" to the Lord this morning. Yes, a heavy, heavy heart.

As I knelt down to pray this morning (I still would *adore* having a real prie dieu like the one above to pray on!), I found myself especially moved by the words of John Baillie in his classic book A Diary of Private Prayer, a book I use on a daily basis as part of my devotion to prayer.

From the Twenty-Seventh Day, Morning:

O Lord my God, who dwellest in pure and blessed serenity beyond the reach of mortal pain, yet lookest down in unspeakable love and tenderness upon the sorrowsof earth, give me grace, I beseech Thee, to understand the meaning of such afflictions and disappointments as I myself am called upon to endure. Deliver me from all fretfulness. Let me be wise to draw from every dispensation of Thy providence the lesson Thou art minded to teach me. Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing heart to bear the burdens of others. Give me a believing heart to cast all burdens upon Thee.

Glory be to Thee, O Father, and to Thee, O Christ, and to Thee, O Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

holy experience

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Poem: For S----

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a friend who is filing for divorce from her husband. When I looked at the new Carry on Tuesday prompt -- a quote from Sir Joshua Reynolds, 18th century artist -- "A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts," I found myself thinking of S---- and her family.

Part of me is angry with her so-called husband, and part of me grieves for a family broken, dismantled, a friend in pain. So I had to write about it, "vent" it, let it flow through brain to pen to paper....

her room hung
with thoughts--
her mind wearily circling,
her discovery.
his lies.
her betrayed tears.
more of his lies.

then truth seeped in,
dripping word
by word
by word
until all flooded--
flowing over the
doorframe marked with
heights of four children--
destroying them
in its wake.

coughing back furious sobs,
she told him
to leave,
strong, firm
among the wreckage
of twenty years.

and so he left,
not looking back.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quotations of the Week: Oswald Chambers

More than any book quoted in my Quotation Journal, Oswald Chambers' classic My Utmost for His Highest whispers God's Truth into my ear, if I but am willing to hear. Page after page is covered in fading sepia ink with Chambers' wise, wise words, birthed of the Holy Spirit.

When I look at the lives that surround mine, I see such pain, such loss: the loss of faith in a spouse and of hope for a marriage; the loss of health as cancer returns; the loss of a beloved father; the loss of significant portions of a bodily organ due to a surgeon's error; the loss of a mother/grandmother in the ruins of the Haitian earthquake; the loss of homes and loved ones for so many in Haiti; the loss of the ability to walk, puzzling doctors and specialists; the loss of wife and family due to sin ... and the list marches on -- tearing apart families, leaving grief in its wake.

Oswald Chambers writes of these times from a time removed from ours, but grief, loss, sorrow -- these shadows over the human soul are timeless, ageless. The pain was as real then as it is now, and Chambers offers a wisdom divinely inspired -- a hope, a confidence that we need now more than ever.

So I offer you a few gems from the pen of Oswald Chambers:

"Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One Who is leading.... One of the biggest snares is the idea that God is sure to lead us to success." (March 19)

"Waiting for the vision that tarries is the test of our loyalty to God." (March 11)

"If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He does not ask you to to put it right; He asks you to accept the light, and He will put it right." (March 23)

"Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but a robust confidence built on the fact that God is holy love.... Faith is the heroic effort of your life; you fling yourself in reckless confidence on God." (May 8)

The Gratitude Attitude, Continued....

On my journey to 1000 Gifts in Ann Voskamp's Gratitude Community, I am pausing by the wayside to thank our Lord and Savior for ...

61. ... the joy of watching Elizabeth choose a laptop that she saved the money for herself, hard-won earnings from a menial job that teaches her responsibility and helps her to value the fruits of her hard work.

62. ... friends on Facebook who pray for me, encourage me, and inspire me to love and good deeds. For friends from gradeschool through college, from various work venues and church friends as well as online friends new and old --"one is silver and the other gold."

63. ... for my job at Brave Writer where I impart my passions online in grammar, writing, literature, and poetry and receive pay for doing so! The perfect job for me.

64. ... for the other teachers of our children besides myself, whether they be at church, at Class Day, in our small town, or family. Thank you for investing your hearts and time into our children and teaching them all I cannot.

65. ... for the rain and snow of the last week as the drought-thirsty land quenched its parched throat with gulps of cool ice-water, nourishing oaks and pines, cedars and cypresses, and the dormant bulbs awaiting their cue.

66. ... for the benefit of a roof over our heads, food in the pantry, and firewood to keep us warm -- so much more than most people in the world possess.

67. ... my chiropractor, Dr. Charles Burns, who is so concerned and kind, first noticing that something was dreadfully wrong and treating me for the past eight years with patience and perseverance.

68. ... our family doctor, Dr. Donald Adema, an osteopath, who sees us not only as patients but also as friends, inviting us to his home and commissioning stained glass windows from Keith. He and his lovely wife are such blessings in our lives.

69. ... that the two doctors mentioned above work together and pray together to help me gain the utmost in health and wellbeing. Several years ago I was wheelchair-bound and couch-ridden, and now I am able to exercise for 30 minutes on my stationary bike, pedaling up to five miles per day.

70. ... for the improvement in my health and strength, especially over the past two months. I have improved greatly, and rejoice in being able to exercise for the first time in almost eight years.

holy experience

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Creative Mayhem....

The storm clouds cleared; sunshine streamed through our windows this morning. When I made my way downstairs, the three boys were already outdoors, playing in the couple inches of snow deposited by the fifth storm this week. Grateful to be outdoors, the boys discovered a creative and energetic outlet in making snowmen. The large one they started yesterday was finished, and plans were made for its imminent annihilation. When the destruction flopped, T channeled his creativity into re-creating classic snowmen from the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips.

You may view these creative (and rather sick) snowmen on my photo blog: Susanne 365.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hope for Haiti ... Now

Tonight Elizabeth and I watched the amazing, incredible Hope for Haiti Now mini-telethon/concert. The musicians were incredible. MTV lists the entire performances and a mini-review of the song/artists, plus a small window replays the entire concert: MTV Help for Haiti Now.

The most amazing performances in my book was Justin Timberlake's rendition of "Hallelujah," one of my very favorite songs, Stevie Wonder's version of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," and Kid Rock, Keith Urban, and Sheryl Crow's "Lean on Me."

Also, iTunes will be selling the downloads, all proceeds going to Hope for Haiti Now.

Our family gave to Haiti through Samaritan's Purse as they have a 30-year history of working in Haiti and were already a presence there when the earthquake hit.

If you haven't already, please consider donating to the relief efforts in Haiti. I'm sure you already have, and tonight's concert was another reminder that there is a loooong way to go to restore and help this country. Let's not forget Haiti.

Snow Falls...

This morning we awoke to a change in the weather. Instead of the deluge of rain we've experienced all week, snow blanketed our front garden. I snapped a photo from inside our cozy house, looking out through our porch and across the meadow outside our gate.

Our little mountain town, elevation 3800 feet, is only fifty miles east of (usually) sunny San Diego, yet we experience all four seasons much differently than the usual San Diegan. We receive a few snowfalls each winter, usually in January and February; an inch or two is normally all we receive, melting within a few hours.

Around 7:30 this morning I stepped out onto the porch in stocking feet to capture the falling snow. The snow stopped mid-morning, so I took the two younger ones 15 miles down the mountain to Alpine for Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist with Father Acker at Victoria House where Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity meets on weekdays. Following Communion, Jonathan had his guitar lesson with Father Acker until 10:45.

Deciding to skip a trip all the way into San Diego for my chiropractic appointment, we turned eastward and started back up the mountain. Snow started softly falling on my windshield as I boarded the freeway, and we passed a very serious car accident as the snow began to accumulate under my slowly-turning wheels. I took the next exit, deciding to enter our town "the back way" on smaller highways rather than via the slippery Interstate.

But the narrow, winding highways were also snow-covered, so I slowed my speed to 20 mph as "Molly," my beloved '91 Corolla, attempted to keep her balding tires on the slushy road. The snow drifted down in increasingly larger flakes, falling furiously and reducing visibility. I could feel the tires slipping along the paving, the back of the car fish-tailing slightly. Then the snow began to fall in earnest, creating blizzard-like conditions, something definitely NOT seen often in San Diego County. While I started praying under my breath, "Molly" skidded slightly as I edged her up the mountain and into the small community of Guatay. Deciding that conditions were not safe enough to continue, I pulled "Molly" into a parking place in front of the tiny hardware store.

Whipping out my cell phone, I planned to call my husband to fetch us in the van for which we have snow chains, but my cell could not receive a signal. Sighing, I told the boys to stay put in the warm backseat and, taking my cane with me, struggled through puddles and snow to the front door of the hardware store where they allowed me to call home, only five miles away. Keith assured me he would come, so I muddled my way back to the car to wait with the boys.

Ten minutes later, we heard someone from the hardware store calling my name, telling me that my husband was on the phone. I managed to slide my way through the snow drifts again to pick up the phone; the van wouldn't start and Keith told me I was on my own and to drive home slowly. Fortunately, while we were waiting, the snow had slowed, falling now in smaller, tighter flakes that allowed for far better visibility, plus several cars had driven past, leaving melted tracks on the snowy highway.

Turning in my seat, I held a hand out to the boys who placed their hands in mine while I prayed for our safe home-going. I managed to persuade "Molly" to back out of the snowbank that had accumulated during our wait, and somehow she found enough traction to pull us back onto the highway. We proceeded home at 15-20 mph, thankful for the wet tire tracks through the now-slushy snow and the greatly improved visibility for driving. We edged down the hill into our whitened valley, sloshing across the meadow and parking "Molly" in our driveway with grateful hearts.

We certainly experienced an adventure today. The snow continued to fall off and on all day, and many events in our town have been canceled, including our art council's program tonight. I'm thankful to be home, in a warm house with a hot fire in the wood stove, and steaming ham and bean soup for dinner. The word "thankful" seems inadequate to express the relief, the joy, of being home safely.

Gratitude swells in my heart, through my fingers, and onto this blog. Thanks be to God for His guiding Hand in bringing us home safely through the blizzard conditions, something we are not at all used to in Southern California.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"It Never Rains in Southern California..."

Today's storm was the fourth this week. Winds howled around the corners of our home, occasionally screaming down the chimney, violently bending the pine, oak, and cypress trees that surround our mountain home. Rain poured from the gray skies, then hail pounded sideways in the gale. Our front yard filled with puddles, then ponds, then lakes. I could barely open the front door with the winds pushing it closed.

Nine red flag weather warnings for our county scrolled down my computer screen. Wind warnings to 85 miles per hour. Flood warnings along the coast and valleys through Saturday morning. Ocean waves to 15-20 feet. Tornado warnings. Severe thunderstorm warnings. Rivers flooding their banks. Reports of 73 mph winds in La Jolla. Trains between San Diego and Los Angeles were shut down this afternoon. Southwest Airlines canceled all flights in and out of San Diego today, stranding my dad in San Francisco; my mother at least was not alone last night since her brother stayed with her because he couldn't get out to the sailboat he lives on in San Diego Bay. Cars were stranded up to their headlights just a few blocks from my parents' home.

A levee broke in South Bay, in the Tijuana River Valley. More than a dozen power outages struck the county. Many cars were swept away in North County, and news crews filmed kayakers traveling up Mission Boulevard in the beach communities. Many trees fell across roads throughout the county on this fourth day of storms. Mudslides after last summer's wildfires are a real danger. Sea World and Legoland closed today, and at least Sea World will be closed tomorrow.

Tonight the rain descends almost horizontally among the violently tossing trees. Thunder echoes above our home, the lightning waking our boys this evening. Weather experts are predicting five to eight inches of snow in our mountains overnight; our town is right on the edge of the prediction. Rain and hail still tumble from the sky, pelting our roof while the winds continue to shriek around the house and down the chimney as I type.

This is not the sunny San Diego County we know.

During school we drew near the fire, with Timothy doing his copywork at the hearth. In preparation for the storms, the boys stacked firewood on both sides of the woodburning stove, our only heat source besides a couple of electric heaters. Today Keith stayed home from work at my mother's insistence; he was planning to work on my parents' elevator project, but the flooding in the beach areas was serious. He made savory ham and bean soup for our dinner tonight -- perfect for a stormy night.

San Diego's annual rainfall is 10 inches; in the mountains, our annual rainfall is 23 inches. In the city they've received half of the annual rainfall in the past four days. The predictions are for up to 20 inches here in the mountains for the week. The El Nino that is bringing us this southern jet stream and these storms hasn't been this strongly since 1997-98, and perhaps not since 1983.

And another storm is due tomorrow morning.

Trying to stay safe and dry in (usually) sunny Southern California,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Confessional Prayer...

Not being a Roman Catholic, I haven't entered a confessional like the one above. But incredible blessing and help has been mine via confessional prayer.

Before I discovered liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer, confession was something between myself and God -- which is as it should be (and remains so in Anglican practice). But somehow confessing my sins to God felt ... unsatisfying. I struggled with feeling forgiven. Intellectually, I knew I was forgiven, but I had difficulties in truly believing, in feeling, forgiven. I found myself asking forgiveness for sins I had already addressed with God in vain attempts at feeling His forgiveness in my heart-of-hearts.

As I became acquainted with Anglican practice, the prayers of confession drew me in. Somehow these ancient prayers expressed all that I wanted to say to Christ at the foot of the Cross as I confessed the times I "missed the mark" (which is the definition of sin).

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

LET us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God:

          A General Confession:
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 those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus 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 Declaration of Absolution, or Remission of Sins:

ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live, hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins. He pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel.

Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And the Corporate Confession before receiving Holy Communion, which is prayed, kneeling, by priest and congregation together:

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the Priest (the Bishop if he be present) stand up, and turning to the People, say,

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
These prayers, especially when prayed while kneeling, brought me before Christ in confession in a way I had not experienced before in walking the pilgrim pathway. Hearing someone, even a human someone, tell me I was forgiven makes all the difference.

Each time I rise from my knees, I feel forgiven. I can let go of the sin, release the guilt and sorrow, experience true contrition of heart, and accept His gracious pardoning of my many shortcomings.

I know very well that faith isn't only about feelings. The Christian faith relies first and foremost upon Christ as revealed in the Word of God, His love letter to us, His wisdom passed down to us over the centuries that reveals Who He is and why He does what He does.

Yet God created the human psyche with feelings, and feelings can signal to us when something isn't quite kosher or when something is indeed right. Yes, our feelings can lead us astray if not taken in the context of Scripture, for our hearts are deceitful.

But when feelings and Scripture line up perfectly, grace happens.

When grace happens, forgiveness flows. Not only God's forgiveness (as He promises to forgive whether I feel it or not) but also the grace of self-forgiveness.

And self-forgiveness is the key ... for me, at least. Hearing a human voice assure me of God's forgiveness changes everything to me. What I struggle to believe myself I can more easily accept through the spoken assurance of another, especially when those spoken words arrive through the lens of Scripture.



Aaaaaah... grace.

holy experience

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Home Education: A Writing Prompt

This week's Carry On Tuesday prompt was taken from the well-known lines of Robert Browning:

"Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be...."

I didn't want to walk the obvious path with this prompt, although I have written about age in other poems; instead, I found myself thinking of my growing children, the eldest of whom is graduating from high school this year, the result of twelve years of home education. She spent one year in a private school (7th grade), and, despite making wonderful friends, she was clamoring long before the year was out to come home again for school. One younger brother towers over her while one matches her height; the youngest still remains boyish while his older two brothers race each other in gaining inches and manliness, their deep voices easily mistaken for their father's, even by me. And Elizabeth works, choosing colleges, on the periphery of our home school days. They grow--and part of me mourns for the little ones they were just a mere moment ago.

On Home Education

They scratch pencils
across pages,
filling blanks with
words birthed from graphite.

This ephemeral
hand-holding season
trickles to an end
as we tick off

Shooting rapidly
toward the ceiling,
they smile down upon me,
bending tall spines
to enwrap me
in adult-length arms.

Returning their embraces,
my heart reaches upward, too,
that the best is yet to be.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Quotation of the Week: Thomas Merton

As I searched the pages of my Quotation Journal this morning, hungering for a word or two that would buoy my flagging spirits on this chilly winter's day, I came across a rather long quotation that I copied into my journal over eighteen months ago.

I have long been intrigued by Thomas Merton and hope to delve into his writings in more depth in the future when homeschooling and work will not be robbing my spare time. My dear friend Linda, who cheerfully enables my addiction to books, presented me with two volumes of Merton's journals a couple of weeks ago, and I do hope to sit down with them and ponder life along with Merton himself.

But for today, this quotation pulled at me, especially with the events of Haiti still unfolding, often violently:

"Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because He cannot be at home in it, because He is out of place in it, and yet He must be in it, His place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, excommunicated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world."

-- Thomas Merton

"This demented inn" expresses our sinful, fallen, destroyed world all too well. But Grace has come, "uninvited," to knock at each heart's door, seeking those to worship Him, with no thought as to their station in life. Poor or rich, weak or strong, He extends to each a scarred hand, a palm forever marked with the cruelty of the human race whom He came to save.

To save now as well as then....

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Gifts ... A Journey to One Thousand

I continue on my journey to Gratitude, a path to One Thousand Gifts, little and life-changing, from the Father of Lights....

51. ... the sweet miniature red dachshund who curls up with me each evening on the sofa, who sleeps with my daughter each night, who amuses the boys who play with him each day, and who takes the greatest delight in wrestling with my husband. Dashwood (Dash for short) is truly family.

52. ... the gift of wordsmithing that brings such frustration, such joy, such responsibility, such a depth of emotion and being.

53. ... the global outpouring of aid, prayer, and funds to Haiti in the wake of last week's horrible earthquake. The love for the people of Haiti and compassion on their behalf, from people of all faiths.

54. ... the roaring fire in our wood-burning stove that warms our house and home, built each evening by my 14-year-old son from wood piled and hauled by all three boys. Their work warms my toes and my heart.

55. ... this little mountain community, nestled 4000 feet above the sea--1200 souls who weather storms, both of weather and of life, together.

56. ... the antique Seth Thomas clock that graces the center of our wooden mantel, its chimes summoning childhood memories of my grandparents' dark, quiet home where it lived before coming to roost in our home.

57. ... Tuesday afternoons, my "free" afternoons in which I hope to write--to play with words, pushing them outward from hidden inward spaces where they hide, resisting the drawing forth that writing is, the revelation of the unknown in me.

58. ... the ancient prayers, supplications of pilgrims traveling the Christian pathway over the centuries, the lifting hands of praise a millenia ago, hearts spilling words of worship that we still speak in this postmodern age.

59. ... the warm waters, spun by air to jet against sore, tired muscles, the spa that relaxes muscles, relieves pain, allows me to fall into a mostly-untroubled sleep each night.

60. ... even this pain, chronic now for eight years, that twists muscles, swells joints--that slays me, disables me, yet frees me from the bane of selfishness, lack of compassion, over-serving, over-mothering. It's not an easy thing to be thankful for, yet, in a strange only-God-could-do-it-this-way way, my illness has indeed been a gift. A difficult gift, one I sometimes wish I could return-to-sender, but a gift nevertheless. A gift of which I am still plumbing the depths....

holy experience

Prayers This Morning

As I glanced through my Twitter page this morning, a prayer caught my eye. Spread over two "tweets" was this prayer posted by MagnificatMag:
"We pray for blessings on this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that the unity of believers which graced the early Church will transform the faith and charity of all Christians today."
Those of you familiar with this blog know that Christian Unity is truly an issue near and dear to my heart. As an evangelical with a strong appreciation for Church history and liturgical worship, I see all professing Christians who adhere to the Nicene Creed as my brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they be main-line Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Non-Denominational. I hope that many of you will join me in praying for Christian Unity this week even as our prayers reach out to those who so desperately need the aid and grace of Christ in Haiti.

Speaking of Haiti, in an e-mail last night, Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity sent us a link for the Anglican Relief and Development Fund; Bishop Boyce is on the board of this organization.

Included in the e-mail was this wonderful prayer which I am printing to use in our homeschool this week and for as long as is needed:

O MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of men, women, and children of Haiti for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy; endue their souls with patience; comfort them with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon them, and give them peace; Direct and provide for those providing relief and aid, O Lord, that by our giving thy holy name may be glorified and thy love made known ; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Continuing in prayer for the good people of Haiti and for those who are helping them in many ways and for loving unity within the Church of Christ Jesus,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

{in}couraged to haiku

Haiku are a wonderful way of expressing creativity. In fact, the lovely women at {in}courage have challenged us to write a haiku as an expression of our creativity.

I enjoy writing haiku, the Japanese form of poetry which involves the composition of three lines, the first line consisting of five syllables, the second of seven syllables, and the last of five syllables again. I used to write them on Twitter as TwiHaiku during National Poetry Month (April) last year. But an opportunity to not only write a haiku here but also share it on the {in}courage website (and a chance to win a small prize) makes writing this haiku practically irresistible.

And of course I can't write just one....

bare winter shimmers,
sparkles radiate outward,
His peace glows inward.

gray days, cold, wintry --
ice-chill gripping me bone-deep,
faith in spring's return.

fire glows brightly,
warmth radiating bone-deep --
comfort in His grace.

home candles flicker,
brightening, shining warmth and light --
Promise in darkness.

Friday, January 15, 2010


It's been difficult to focus this week. The earthquake and its aftermath are foremost in my thoughts, as are our neighbors, L&S. L's mother was killed in the quake when the building she was in at a medical conference collapsed. My heart grieves for them, for those who have lost family and friends, for those who lost all of the little they had.

Ideas, thought, flitter back and forth, in and out. But they refuse to alight, to stay, to come into full focus. Emotions are stronger, pulsing, insistent. Sometimes illogical.

Grief. Sadness. Anger. Hope. Sorrow.

These emotions play musical chairs in my depths, changing places to the unheard tune--some winning at times, others dominant later.

I've read some thought-provoking responses to the events of Haiti and responses to those responses. A few worth reading:

Donald Miller, one of my favorite Christian writers

Elizabeth Esther, author of a blog I follow

Both of these reponses are in response to Pat Robertson's comments about Haiti. If you aren't familiar with his comments, you may watch the video here: Robertson

A difficult video to watch, but the True Christian, Biblical response: Liturgy New Zealand

Anger. Sorrow. Grief. Sadness. Hope.

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul--"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quotations of the Week: On Suffering


In light of the terrible events in Haiti this week, I felt led to post several quotations on suffering:

"Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and callus."
-- Wallace Stegner

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."
-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings."
-- Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

Hearts weep.

I heard about the earthquake last night, about the ground jostling and buckling beneath the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. I saw the photos this morning, high-rises tumbled like Legos, shocked faces unable to take in the devastation.

But, selfishly, I felt grief for the loss of life, for the pain and suffering only distantly. Very distantly.

Until an hour ago.

An hour ago I received an e-mail from our small (pop 1200) town's homeschool group. A dear, dear family who has accompanied me to Seder meals with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity lost a loved one, a loved one I met once myself.

L and S are wonderful, peaceful people. The kind who stop by just to say "I love you." Who reach out to help others so readily: caring for the sick in our town; adopting children from China and Taiwan.  S has accompanied me to Lake Murray's Women's Retreats. Elizabeth has babysat for them. I taught writing to their oldest last year; in the past, we've done a California History co-op, taking turns teaching.

S and I walked a labyrinth a long while ago -- treading narrow, curved paths while the summer sun sank westward, praying deeply through the hour. Comfortably not speaking.

Girls' nights on L&S's back deck, glasses of ruby wine in hand under twinkle lights, laughing at their children's antics.

L's mother was at a medical conference in Haiti when the quake struck. The building she was in at the time collapsed, and her death has been confirmed.

An earthquake thousands of miles away impacts our little mountain village. E-mails fly. Prayers are offered. Meals are made and delivered. Hugs, vain attempts at consolation, demonstrate heart-deep love.

And now I grieve.

The irony strikes me, and I grieve more deeply that it takes a personal tragedy to make the pain of hundreds of thousands, even millions, real to me. The news, so easily ignored before, now attracts my attention now that neighboring lives are involved, touched, broken.

I try not to bristle in offense at the so-called Christian response of Pat Robertson who claims those suffering somehow deserved this tragedy, calling the quake and its devastation a judgment of God because "Haiti swore a pact with the devil." Who is he to interpret the mind of God? I feel ashamed to be identified with the same Name he claims. I echo a friend who writes,"I wonder if God is sick of being accused of mass murder in the guise of terror and natural disasters?"

Christ wept when tragedy came to His neighborhood, to His friends. He cried consolingly with Martha and Mary, even though He knew that joy was mere moments away, that He would soon call "Come forth!"

He wept then, at the death of a friend. He weeps now, at the deaths of many friends. The fallen world ... a fallen place. So much sadness, terror, grief. He weeps with us.

What can we do but weep with Him? Extend a helping hand. Lift helping hands in prayer:
O God, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to us who call upon thee, and grant us thy help in this our need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayers in Time of Calamity, 1928 Book of Common Prayer)
And then we weep with those who weep.

holy experience

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...."


Carry on Tuesday Prompt #35 from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...."

The worst of times --
fear penetrating
the marrow,
suffocating the good,
the best.

A winward spirit,
fingers wrapped firmly
around my throat --
pressing, pressing in.
Stalking the halls of memory,
exhausted by repetition,
unable to be released
from its damnable task.

A glimmer
in the darkness,
a sparkle,
as blackened windows
pearl with dawn.
Dayspring arrives,
conquering the ghosts,
hefting truth,
stifling my demons --

at least until nightfall.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett


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