Friday, February 26, 2010

A Short Hiatus

(Thunder Mountain Railroad in Adventureland, Disneyland)

Well, I shall be taking a short hiatus from posting while the four kids and I join my parents, my brother, and his two kids on our annual Southern California amusement park trip. We usually alternate between Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, but last year we purchased annual passes for Disneyland/California Adventure which was the same price as our three-day passes. So this year we are returning a few days earlier to use the annual passes again before they run out -- which saves my parents oodles of money. And I prefer Disneyland, anyway -- it's just more magical.

These annual trips are my parents' birthday present to everyone in the family. With my brother and I sharing an early March birthday and my dad's and sister's birthdays in mid-April (not counting all the March/April birthdays among the grandkids), taking a trip together each spring makes for an excellent gift that we can all enjoy together. My sister and her family moved to Montana a few years ago and haven't always been able to enjoy the spring trip much, but Mom and Dad fly in to see them and take them places, too -- like Yellowstone last year. Keith, who doesn't really enjoy amusement parks, will be staying home with our little dachshund and work. We'll miss him, but he will definitely enjoy a QUIET house this weekend.

So, despite finishing one Brave Writer class today (One Thing: Poetry) and starting One Thing: Grammar on Monday, the timing of the trip could be better, but it does look like we should skirt most of the major rainstorms threatening to drown us at "The Happiest Place on Earth." At least my other deadlines are all past me, and an engagement for tomorrow morning was canceled, so after I take J down to "jam" with the Free Teen Guitar Class tonight (and do several loads of laundry), we should be ready to finish our packing and get cracking on up to Anaheim and all the Disney fun.

And I will return just in time to celebrate my birthday on Tuesday!

Look out Matterhorn; here I come!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First Week of Lent

(This button courtesy of Liturgy New Zealand)

It's been a busy but a good week, an encouraging first week of Lent.

The ashes are long gone from my forehead, washed clean as He washes our souls, forgiving our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

I fast, from certain foods and from an activity that has been stealing my time. I enjoyed both briefly on Sunday, and again abstain, but not through my own strength -- oh no! His strength carries me through this holy time, this time set apart. This Lenten time.

I pray, Divine Hours sliding through my mind like fingers on rosary beads. Psalms flutter, burrowing deep in my heart. They nest there, content. I hunger for more, turning the softly-aged pages of the Psalter.

I kneel, candle flaming and flickering, in my prayer corner, a simple bedside table set up with Bibles and candles, prayer books and icons, crosses and prayer beads. He anchors me here, and here I remain, wherever my body may roam.

I worship, prayer book in hand, speaking aloud His Word in chorus with priest and the no-longer childish voices beside me, one rising from chair for acolyte duties of water and wine, one gently shaking bells, chiming at proper times to call us to worship.

We gather, pray, chant, worship at the foot of the Cross, the ancient Creed boldly proclaimed in the slant of morning sun through eastern windows. I stretch in the Grace, slowly finding myself, discovering Him in me and I in Him and the miracle that faith is as He whispers Words in my ear, to my heart: "Live in Me."

I nod ... and live.

holy experience

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Double Blast of Poetry

In the frantic busy-ness of last week, I didn't have the time to jot down Carry On Tuesday's poetry prompt, much less compose a response. So this week I am posting TWO poems in response to Prompt #40 and Prompt #41. Poet friend Sarah filled me in on how to make my lines indent properly in poetry here in Blogger, so I thank her very much for the help!

The first poem does describe an event recently, but blown out of proportion for dramatic effect. The second poem was just a follow-through of the image I imagined when I first read the prompt: a man and woman lying silent, side by side in bed at night, neither of them able to break the silence -- which builds and thickens and cracks and crazes.... I have several friends going through difficult marriages and the breaking apart of those marriages, so my focus is often on them, in thought and in prayer....

Prompt #40: Percy Bysshe Shelley:
"Fear not for the future
Weep not for the past"

breathe this day

the past...
the future ...
.....wrapped in fears,
.....sealed with tears.

the present
.....shimmers, shakes,
.....demanding my attention:
the volume requires reply.

but I run--
escaping boundaries of my present,
.....of home--
..........boxed in by walls
..........and clamoring needs,
I slam the door behind me.

but I can't run far--
.....only to porch steps
.....bepuddled by morning's rain.
chill winds grasp my face--
.....I gulp the shifting of cloud
..........into cramped lungs.

and now
I can

Prompt #41: Michael Crichton's State of Fear:
"In the darkness, he touched her arm and said..."

The Silent Ice

He pulled at the silence,
.....tangible, weighted.
In the darkness
.....he reached,
.....touched her arm...
..........but no words came.
Yet the silence spoke,
.....a familiar bedfellow,
..........stifling their tonights,
..........crippling their tomorrows.

With the buzz of morning alarm
.....normalcy returns,
..........slightly cooler than before,
..........frosting each new day.
The chill silence breaks
.....with mundane reminders:
..........his doctor's appointment at noon,
..........her meeting after work,
while layers of ice thicken and crackle.
Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Forgotten Week of Gratitude....

My last week was frantic. Absolutely, positively unpeaceful. And my weekly opportunity to add to the Gratitude Community slipped past me. It was simply that kind of week.

But now I've been slowed by illness, by a cold which has grounded all in the family except J, our middle son. When we don't slow down, at times God slows up against our will.

And now I have time to do a double list for this week as I add to my journey to One Thousand Gifts ... and beyond....

91. for illness that slows us down and allows us to enjoy one another and home comforts

92. for quiet, huggy moments with family

93. for the last week of a productive online poetry class at Brave Writer

94. for how delicious mandarin tangerines taste when one has a nasty cold

95. for the healing effects of green tea

96. for good books, good movies, and many wholesome entertainments

97. for the beauty of the written word as ideas tangle into unity

98. for friends who show their love and concern through intercessory prayer

99. for the Olympics, watching athletes sacrifice so much to be the world's best in their particular sports

100. for my wonderful husband who loves me far more than I deserve

101. for fresh blueberries, eaten right from the box

102. for flickering candles calling one to prayer

103. for Light shining in the darkness

104. for simple joy in the funny things our kids say (especially our youngest who may be destined to work in the clowning industry)

105. for old black and white movies, especially those featuring Cary Grant

106. for art and the many artists always seeking to better their craft

107. for generous friends who love me far more than I deserve

108. for the readers of this blog who read across the US and Canada as well as all over the world

109. for poetry, coming to mind from heart and soul, through pen and onto paper

110. for blue-gray eyes, freckles, and red curls--all of which I never thought I would learn to appreciate about myself

holy experience

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Quotes on Faith

On this First Sunday in Lent, I am curled up before the fireplace, watching the Olympics and Undercover Boss and nursing a cold, one that has hit everyone in the family except our middle son.

So as we continue in our first week of Lent, I thought some quotations on faith would help to encourage us on this journey:

"A faith of convenience is a hollow faith." ~Father Mulcahy, M*A*S*H, "A Holy Mess."

"Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings." ~Victor Hugo

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~Martin Luther King Jr.

"To me faith means not worrying." ~John Dewey

Wishing you all a blessed Lent as we walk the pilgrim pathway together,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Quiet Day, A Writing Day

Today was a quiet day. A writing day.

A day of accomplishment. A productive day.

A day in which words tangled then untangled as Brave Writer posts for the final week of One Thing: Poetry were crafted, revised--one posted and two ready to post later this week, only links to be checked.

A day in which teaching and joy merged, became one, as next Thursday's lessons for my co-op elementary poetry class flowed, the rise and fall of syllables as haiku and tanka swirled over pages, then printed, readied for copies.

A day in which this week's Brave Writer subscriptions, The Arrow and The Boomerang, bubbled forth, one finished and polished to a gentle shine, the other began, hyperbole as literary term explained, exampled, exhaled. Waiting on a final book to slide home, currently in transit from the library; all is in peaceful readiness awaiting its homecoming.

Essays still clamber impatiently, demanding their evaluations, their Thursday deadline looming. Time will be kind this week, a free afternoon Tuesday to allow my fountain pen to waltz across fonted pages, exhorting and encouraging, correcting and supporting. These high schoolers work hard and expect much; their preparations for in-class essays will lend me an extra hour of grading time if needed, in addition to my prep hour between elementary poetry and high school writing classes.

A peace fills me today, as the house sparkles in cleanliness, thanks to children's work this afternoon. Little B sweeps dust from mantel and tabletops, then struggles with unwieldy vacuum across the kitchen carpet, the whirring machine almost taller than he. His freckled face glows with accomplishment when he tugs the plug from the wall, secretly pleased with his work. J, rapidly approaching my height, scrubs upstairs and boys' bathrooms well while T, towering over both mother and father, swipes cobwebs from shadowy corners, vacuums hearth, then curls on sofa to rest, nose and throat red with a cold. E kindly pitches in, scrubs her bathroom and vacuums living room, allowing T to rest and recover. Dishes are done; sink is shiny white, counters wiped clear; all is pleasingly tidy and clean. Sparkling living quarters bring peace.

A restful evening of catching up on many unread blog posts--my sincerest apologies to those I read regularly and often comment upon; I hope to be caught up soon and back to my usual commentary. And Twitter is also read at last.

Life slowly swings back toward a pace of normalcy this quiet, rainy Saturday. While welcome rain soaks into the greening earth, pattering gently on the roof and through the oaken branches of thirsty trees.

A quiet day. A writing day. A productive writing day. A rainy day.

It was a beautiful day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Clawing My Way Through The Week

I feel like this poor cat, swinging at the end of a frayed rope at the close of this week. It's been a frantic week, peace far beyond my clawing grasp.

The few deep breaths, the scarce moments of meditation this week have accompanied ashes and liturgy, silent supplication and the whisper of worn prayer book pages turned, the haze of vanilla candle.

But most of this week has been rush, rush -- of mind and heart as well as typing fingers and restless limbs. Words bustle, muddle together as they flew from my tongue, ungentle.

This morning we hurried out of the house, two boys burdened by school books and electric guitars, into my ancient Corolla, and rushed down the hill, sliding into chairs at Victoria House barely in time for Morning Prayer. Trying to calm heart, breath, and spirit as Psalm 95 pours through me:

Psalm 95. Venite, exultemus.
1 O COME, let us sing unto the LORD; * let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; * and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God; * and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are all the corners of the earth; * and the strength of the hills is his also.
5 The sea is his, and he made it; * and his hands prepared the dry land.
6 O come, let us worship and fall down, * and kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For he is the Lord our God; * and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
8 To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts * as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness;
9 When your fathers tempted me, * proved me, and saw my works.
10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, * It is a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways:
11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath, * that they should not enter into my rest.
I grope in the dark despite the morning light glowing through the cloudy skies, through the eastern windows. My too-short window of peace evaporated all too speedily, as Morning Prayer and Holy Communion do every Friday morning. By the time we reach the final blessing, I feel a heaviness on my soul, a weight, a burden, as I assume myself again and leave sanctuary to return to the world.

Each morning I pull open the window shade over our bed, peer over purpling mountains, Cuyamaca Cypresses, and the wide meadow glowing in mellow morning light before turning to my prayer corner. The heft of the prayer book in my hand, the morning quiet, the mind calming under influence of Spirit -- all create a short-lived miniature sanctuary before the whirl of each day starts.

Then to the computer where work lurks -- lessons to post, students to encourage, breakfast to gulp between e-mails, then Morning Prayer with the kids melding into church history, poetry, vocabulary, and literature. While the boys start their copywork, penmanship, and math, I try to escape to the stationary bike to exercise, vainly attempting to pedal away stress. Then back to the school table for math, spelling, grammar, phonics, reading, science, German, more spelling, more math, more German, and the faint strumming of J's guitar behind closed doors just before lunch.

The church bells of my cell chime, the boys' signal to start lunch, mine to climb stairs to return to prayer corner for Midday Prayer and, if time, Anglican prayer beads. Too soon the mayhem on the TV screen of Jedis defeating enemies fades as boys return to the school table for American History ... Andrew Jackson's presidency, the Industrial Revolution. Questions follow and are answered, and one child finishes while two others push on through sciences, geography, reading, health, writing.

Between and among lessons I continue to teach my online class, cajoling and encouraging in haiku and tanka. And then e-mails bounce into my inbox demanding my attention -- art council, community garden, prayer requests, work needs, co-op student questions ... answered and prayed and updated and saved and marked and dealt with.

And stress builds as energy wanes, afternoon wearing on and naptime ever beckoning. I dream of flannel pillowcases, sheets, and duvet cover, warmth personified and oh-so-necessary as winter temperatures plummet with the disappearing sun, winking in western windows.

In the rare moments of peace, pen finds hand and poems flow, words spilling forth, birthing images and phrases. Creativity must burst forth, on paper and here in this little square space, presented before all the world to see.

Weekend doesn't look to hold peace at this point with deadlines looming, one class finishing and another beginning in the next week, and papers to be graded piling up and demanding attention. Sleep is needed -- and rest --in light of chiropractor's scolding today whose first words were to rest. Perhaps two weeks from Saturday. Yes, I think I may be able to rest then -- a definite possibility.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Arts and Writing Conference

All week, among commenting on haiku and tanka in my online Brave Writer poetry class, teaching my boys about the Industrial Revolution in our home school (along with all other elements of our daily lessons), frantically putting up our new community garden blog, working on my Boomerang deadline for Brave Writer, and reading aloud The Hobbit each morning (and writing a poem or two), I have been working on getting the publicity done for our arts and writing conference in May.

Our town is tiny (pop 1200), so having an arts council at all is an accomplishment. A monthly writing workshop is icing on the cake. Then turning these two small groups into a huge arts and writing conference is quite a daring thing. But our founder, Judith Dupree, has long rocked such workshops/conferences. She first secured Dr. Dean Nelson, founder of the journalism department at Point Loma Nazarene University, with whom she is a long-time friend. I also know Dean well from my student days at PLNU as well as my time there as an adjunct instructor when Dean graciously shared his office with me. Judith has deemed Dean "The Ringmaster" of the conference.

Judith also worked her magic in calling in Jim Schaap from Iowa, professor, writer, and photographer. Then she rounded up local talent in our dear friend Kathryn Belsey (my darlingest Kitty!) who just received her MFA in Poetry, harpist Susan Raimond, artist Norm Daniels, and many other local artists, including my dear husband Keith Barrett.

The conference is entitled "Beauty and the Beast: Art in an Age of Adversity" and will take place Friday, May 7 through Sunday, May 9 at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center in our beautiful town of Pine Valley, California.

For more information, available workshops, and registration, please see one of our blogs: Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council (MECAC) or MECAC Writers' Workshop. I am the official registrar, so feel free to contact me for more information, and I can e-mail you an agenda and registration form, if you are interested in attending.

So for all these reasons, and lately, the latter, I have been a bit scarce here. But I hope to be here more often and writing about more stuff.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Remember Ash Wednesday

(From last year's Ash Wednesday service with Father Acker at Victoria House, Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity)

Remember Ash Wednesday
O woman--
the dust of you
(body heart soul)
formed in
My Fingers,
My Palms.

O woman--
as the burnt sacrifice
across your forehead,
I brand you
as Mine.

O woman--
My Love flows,
(My Heart to yours)
as you kneel,
your contrite tears
opening My Embrace,
enfolding you.

O woman--
You, who are dust
will return to dust.
My Breath brought life
to you, woman,
with a Holy Kiss,
and with another Kiss
shall you return.


Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Lent

I posted the majority of my Lenten talk (I skipped the part on celebrating the Christian Year as it was running long already) on a separate page on this blog as it's rather lengthy. You may access it at the top of my header by clicking on "On Lent" next to "Home."

The talk went really, really well, and the ladies seemed to really enjoy it. Celebrating the Christian Year, especially Advent and Lent, is a real passion of mine. I was thrilled today to receive two "Notes" on Facebook from our former pastor, Rollo Casiple, who has preached on Lent at his church in Miami for the past two weeks, once on fasting in Lent and once on prayer in Lent.  If you're a friend of mine on Facebook, I "shared" them already on my page. If you're interested in his thoughts, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I e-mailed them to you. Just let me know in the comments below.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Preparation for Lent

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I have my Lenten presentation at the Lady Bereans Bible Study at Lake Murray Community Church. My talk is twelve pages long so I may have to edit "on the fly" as I talk tomorrow. I'm really excited about being asked to talk about something so near and dear to my heart to some ladies also near and dear. I'll post a late addition to my Gratitude Community tomorrow. If you are a person of prayer, I would very much appreciate your prayers for a wonderful talk and discussion of Lent tomorrow at a church that does not practice Lent.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Quotation of the Week

I have been so pressed with Brave Writer business over the last two weeks that I've left up my Quotation of the Week for almost three weeks! Yikes!

So here is a wonderful quotation that is fitting for the beginning of Lent as Ash Wednesday is mere days away:

"Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desires and his disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly."

-- Saint John Eudes (1601-1680), from The Life and Reign of Jesus in Christian Souls

Wishing you all a blessed preparation for Lent this week,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saint Valentine

Valentine's Day is about much more than candy hearts, roses, and chocolates. The root of this romantic holyday is all about martyrs to the Christian faith. The stories have faded over the centuries, much now classed in the realm of legend rather than fact. However, the archeological discovery of a church in the Roman catacombs dedicated to Saint Valentine demonstrates that indeed a Saint Valentine existed in third century and was well-known enough to have a church dedicated to his memory.

Wikipedia tells us: "The name 'Valentine' (Priest Valentio) does not occur in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, compiled by the Chronographer of 354. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those '... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.' As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the lives of any of these martyrs. The Saint Valentine that appears in various martyrologies in connection with February 14 is described either as:

A priest in Rome,

A bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), or

A martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle, (1493); alongside the woodcut portrait of Valentine the text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't finish him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Various dates are given for the martyrdom or martyrdoms: 269, 270, or 273.

Another source relates, "But there is no doubt that one St. Valentine really did exist because archaeologists have extricated from the forgotten ruins, a Roman catacomb and a church dedicated to this saint."

So I wish you all a blessed memory of Saint Valentine on this coming day dedicated to romance and love, remembering that Christ indeed is the true Lover of Our Souls and loves us with an eternal, unchanging love that we can no nothing to increase or decrease. God loves us just the way we are, but, as Pastor Stephen reminds us often, He loves us too much to let us stay that way. The pilgrim pathway we travel has been trod hard by the footsteps of the saints who have preceeded us, and their histories can encourage us along the way.

Happy Saint Valentine's Day, all!

Opening Ceremonies

Tonight the kids and I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.


For me the highlight came just before the entrance of the Olympic flag. I'm not a big k.d. lang fan, but her rendition of my favorite song, "Hallelujah," was breathtaking, although I still think I prefer Justin Timberlake's version of the Hope for Haiti telethon.

The entire Opening Ceremonies has been incredible. And should be, for $30-40 million! Yes, it was lovely, but think what that money could have done for Haiti or other poor countries! The artistic side of me appreciates the beauty of the Ceremonies, yet the practical part of me cringes at that much money being spent.

The moment of silence for the fallen Georgian athlete who died on the luge run this morning was touching, and I offered my prayers as well.

The earlier parts of the Ceremonies was beautifully done. The trek across Canada was stunning, as was the tap dancing -- seriously!

I shall be bleary-eyed (or more bleary-eyed than usual, I should say) for the next 18 days or so while the Olympics play out. I love the figure skating especially, but also have to watch Apollo Anton Ohno go for his golds, plus Shawn White the snowboarder and the skiiers are incredible, too.

There's just something about the Olympics that draws me in, draws many in around the world. The Olympic Flame enters the stadium as I type this, wheeled in by a para-Olympian and then lastly by Gretzky, and the mechanical problem has happened that I read about on Facebook strikes. But the torch is now lit and the games may begin!

Go USA! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lenten Reflections, Part 1

(button courtesy of

A week or so ago I was asked to do a presentation on Lent next Tuesday for the Bible study I used to participate in at Lake Murray and just haven't had time for lately. Lent is a precious, precious time of the year for me, one I look forward to because God makes Himself more present to me as I set aside extra time with Him through the 40 days preceding Easter.

I will be spending the next few days doing more research on the origin, history, and practice of Lent. My favorite resource thus far has been Martha Zimmerman's Celebrating the Christian Year, a wonderful resource especially for families with young children. Not only does it contain history, but Zimmerman, the wife of a Presbyterian pastor, also includes recipes and crafts for each of the holy days of the Christian Year, from Advent (the beginning of the church year) to Thanksgiving.

For me, Lent had been a time for spiritual spring cleaning, an opportunity to seek out the Lord and clear the detritus that has accumulated in my life over the past year and restore my relationship with Him and with others. Yes, we should always keep our relationship with Him our first priority and we should always seek Him every day of the year, not just Lent. But life and its incumbent busy-ness can come between us and our Saviour, and somehow spiderwebs build up in the dark recesses of our soul and need to be swept clean, removed from ourselves. And through seeking His direction through extended prayer and time in His Word, He reveals those musty corners and hands us the broom and mop to get the job done.

Some in the evangelical realm would (and have) accused Lent of being about "penance" rather than "repentance." But they have it wrong, at least in the way that I have always practiced Lent. Lent is about repentance, a turning away from sin and a turning toward Christ. Very much so. As Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness before starting His earthly ministry, we spend these 40 days in fasting and preparation to celebrate the miracle and the power of Christ's resurrection.

Some also say that as the Bible doesn't command us to celebrate Lent, we shouldn't then celebrate it. But the vast majority of evangelicals obviously celebrate Christmas and Easter. No one should be forced to observe Lent, nor should those who celebrate Lent see themselves as more "godly" than others, just as those who celebrate Christmas and Easter (or who refuse to celebrate these holy days) should see themselves as more "godly" than other Christians. After all, Christians are commanded to "see others as better than themselves" in Scripture.

In addition, some evangelicals state that Lent makes our spiritual lives about ourselves -- what *I* give up, what *I* do, what *I* say. But again, this idea is a misguided view of Lent. The people I know who observe Lent spend extended time in prayer seeking God's guidance in keeping a holy Lent in His strength and not our own. What shall we fast from, Lord? What shall we read or study? How shall we pray and with whom? What do we need to confess? Whom do we need to seek for reconciliation of relationships? A proper Lent is about our personal relationship with God and with others, which, asfter all, is His will for us. It's not all about "me"; it's about learning to live more fully in and for Him.

So I shall continue my study and practice of Lent. I know what I shall fast from -- something I am not mentioning in public in order to follow the Scriptural mandate about fasting in keeping it between God and me and my immediate family for accountability. As far as my study and my other additions to my Lenten Rule, I am still seeking Him.

Wishing you all a Holy Lent,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Faith ... in Verse


beyond my grasp,
trying to peer into unseen, unknown.
future fading,
falling through fear.

words fail me,
choked before birth,
mind running dry--
a rocky pass
too daunting to attempt.

reaching through mist,
I dare to
touch His Face,
as He lifts
gentle, bloodstained fingertips
to dry my every tear.

holy experience

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

That Flighty Temptress, Imagination

This week's Carry On Tuesday's prompt (#39) was taken from the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Phantom of the Opera -- from the haunting song "The Music of the Night":

"Night-time sharpens, heightens sensation.
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination."
This poem came out *far* more sensual than any I have ever written. Don't be too shocked, k?

Muse of the Night
stirred by darkness,
sharpened by night,
Imagination wakes.

an elusive temptress--
demanding much,
frigid in response.

sensations heightened,
gasping in pleasured waves,
she releases
image upon image
so freely
that mind and pen
can scarcely embrace all.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fruit of a Grateful Heart...

Greek Ampitheater, Point Loma Nazarene University

Continuing my journey to 1000 Gifts as part of the Gratitude Community...

81. For bare cupboards filled to overflowing this week

82. For God's incredible provision and grace

83. For Elizabeth's college decision to attend Point Loma Nazarene University, my alma mater and former employer where I taught for a few years

84. For sweet friends whom God is using for our provision

85. For incredible worship with the Anglicans and The Book of Common Prayer

86. For Irish Breakfast tea ... "the nectar of the gods"

87. For flannel sheets and flannel comforters and flannel pj's and flannel everything!

88. For ink and paper and words and poetry and all things bright and beautiful!

89. For a *very* full online poetry class at Brave Writer this month

90. For all the readers of this blog who encourage me so greatly, just by stopping by and occasionally leaving a comment....

holy experience

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Meditation: Dressed in Gentleness

Dressed in Gentleness by Henri Nouwen

Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.

Gentle is the one who does "not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick" (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let's dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.

                                                           -- Henri Nouwen, Daily Meditation

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Writing and Not Writing

Last Sunday we experienced a truly "Beautiful Day" as our former worship and youth pastor at Lake Murray, Rollo Casiple, his lovely wife Sarah, and one of their sons returned to Lake Murray from their home church in Miami, La Vina.

As we chatted together after Rollo's sermon and a carne asada/pollo asado taco fundraiser for the youth group, Rollo turned to me and asked me about my book.

My book.

The book that lives and breathes in my daily life but remains in my mind, unwritten.

Yes, I lead a busy, busy life with homeschooling four children, teaching two co-op classes at Class Day, teaching two online classes a quarter at Brave Writer plus writing two monthly literature subscriptions, plus Logos (Lake Murray's monthly literary discussion group), Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council events including a monthly Writers' Workshop, and a group in our town starting a community garden.

I love to write. Writing here in this blog is a blessing, a (nearly) daily discipline that stretches me and keeps me focused on the art and craft of writing. I try to write at least one poem a week, some more successful than others. I've worked on a novel for the past two Novembers through NaNoWriMo.

But my nonfiction book sits there in my mind and in a file on my laptop. The book idea came about when I was asked in 2006 to speak at our women's retreat at Lake Murray on contemplative prayer. I did tons of research in the months preceding the late March retreat, "unschooling" the kids during that time so that I could focus on research. After writing the retreat materials, I realized that I had much more material than I could ever use in a weekend retreat. In fact, I had the beginnings of a book, a book that teaches evangelical Christians the value of liturgy in public and private worship.

I have laid out an outline. But I simply haven't had time to research more deeply in these areas in order to write chapters that can also be published separately in article form.

I did take the main ideas of the book and turned it into the NaNoWriMo novel I've worked on for the past two years, with a character learning about the liturgical church. In this way, I haven't had to support my ideas academically so much as follow my character in her experiences.

Here is my planned outline:
Tentative Outline: Light of Liturgy
Introduction: background, testimony, summary of main points
Chapter 1: Church Unity (worldwide communion of believers united)
Chapter 2: Saints (worship vs. veneration)
Chapter 3: Icons (idols or windows to heaven?)
Chapter 4: Church Calendar (celebrating Christ and His Saints all year long)
Chapter 5: Church Sanctuaries (worship via the five senses)
Chapter 6: Sign of the Cross (only for Catholics?)
Chapter 7: Scripture (prevalence in worship)
Chapter 8: Prayer Books (vain repetition?)
Chapter 9: Contemplative Prayer (solitude, silence, centering prayer)
Chapter 10: Confession (value of confession for church unity)
Chapter 11: Communion (symbolic elements vs. real presence)
I also had the idea of writing a separate book on living the Christian Year, covering:
Ordinary Time
Ash Wednesday
Pam Sunday
Holy Week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday Vigil
Ordinary Time
All Saints/All Souls
So I suppose that I actually have two books simmering. But I'm afraid that with my busy schedule and having to "measure out my [strength] with coffee spoons" because of my autoimmune issues, I just don't see that I will be able to truly devote myself to working on these books until I graduate a kid or two from our homeschool. I just hope that these topics will still be as popular then as they are now. We shall see....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Enigma That Was J.D. Salinger

Like every other high school student in the early 1980's, I read J.D.Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye in English class. I didn't like it. Literary characters become real people for me, at least for the time that my nose and mind are buried in the book world in which they live ... and die. And Holden Caufield was not someone I would ever like, could ever be friends with. His self-absorbtion was boring and his language disgusting. I cringed a lot while reading Catcher, bombarded by this character who walked all over me, not caring that he left huge bruised footprints in his wake. I put down the book with relief when it was finally finished and was absurdly grateful that my English teacher, Mr. Sebastian, was not requiring a paper to be written on Holden. I tried re-reading Catcher in my more mature twenties and set the book aside in disgust after ten pages. Holden and I were simply not going to be friends, and the less I saw of him, the better. And so has our relationship remained.

But in the 1980's, a co-worker at B. Dalton was a huge Salinger fan. Susan and I both appreciated reading "real literature" versus the mass media slop available. She tended toward the more modern literature of Updike and Atwood while I remained enconsced in the nineteenth century novels of Austen, the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell. But we both knew good stuff when we ran across it and shared with each other generously; while I harkened her back to the nineteenth century, she dragged me forward into the twentieth.

And her favorite author was ... Salinger. Of course.

But not Catcher in the Rye.

Susan opened to me a whole new world of Salinger. She started me slowly with Nine Stories, most of which involved the eccentric Glass family -- child prodigies who had been on a radio game show in the 1930's and now struggled with living in a world in which their genius was more encumbrance than blessing. The most shocking tale is the first story, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." Oh, it seems tame enough ... until the last paragraph, even the last sentence. Through these stories we gain glimpses into the life of an extraordinary family who can't live well in an ordinary world.

Here's a link to introduce you to the Glass family or refresh your memory: The Glass family.

The above article reminds us that all of the Glass family stories but one were first printed in The New Yorker, that erudite home of erudite writers. They were collected into several books: Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. The influence of eastern mysticism pervades the books, both via Buddhism and the Eastern Orthodoxy Christian faith. Several of the Glass "children" discuss the Eastern Christian classic The Way of the Pilgrim (which I read a few years ago) and the contemplative Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

As a young woman who had grown up without a great deal of religious influence (although I became a Christian at age 8 after attending a Mormon Sunday service with neighbors), the brief glimpses of Christianity in Salinger's books drew me into them as I hungered and thirsted for glimpses of Christ. Probably not the effect he was striving for as a writer, but one I valued nevertheless. (I had the same reaction to any songs that mentioned Jesus or God, but that's another post.)

So with Salinger's death last week, I find myself mulling over the conundrum that Susan posed to me all those years ago throughout the 1980's when we worked at B. Dalton. Susan stated one night that she couldn't decide: did she want Salinger to live a long life after which all the stories and books he had composed over the years would at long last be published, or did she wish him a short life so she could get her hands on his supposed books that much sooner, even if he had written fewer works? We both decided at long last that we wished Salinger a long life, hoping desperately for two things:

1. That he kept writing all these years since his last publication in the early 1960's, and

2. That he had arranged to have those stories and books (if they exist) published posthumously.

Since he has indeed lived a long life, passing away last week at the age of 91, we can only hope for additional stories and books to be added to the Salinger canon. And I hope for more stories of the eccentric Glass family as seen through the eyes of Buddy Glass, the "sane" brother who narrated so many of the stories and may have even "written" Salinger's so-called masterpiece, The Catcher in the Rye.

Over the weekend I found a wonderful article about Salinger and his reclusivity: Seaching for Salinger But Finding Something Better. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Walking with Him in Solitude

David Lorenz Winston, "Solitude"

Solitude. That rare commodity. In the rush and whirl that is mothering and homeschooling, I am surrounded by people all day. Precious people, yes. But my deep-of-deeps yearns for that uncommon thing: solitude.

In dark hours past midnight in our sleeping house, I breathe in the aloneness, knowing all the while that the dawning will birth an exhausted mother and teacher. Yet those few moments "scratched in the dark," as Ann Voskamp writes, somehow refresh my soul, re-energizing me to face another day surrounded by people, people I love.

As a borderline introvert/extrovert, I need people in my life, thrive on having people in my life. Yet the introvert side of me yearns for the holy ground of time apart, time alone.  

Time to let thoughts flow, perhaps flow from mind to pen to paper.

Time to bask in quiet rather than drown in noise.

Time to listen with keen soul rather than talk.

Time to meditate, to turn mind to things eternal.

Time to turn ear and heart to Him who holds me in the palm of His hand.

But in the busy-ness of common days, minutes and hours slip through time and space, disappearing from present into past -- unstoppable. Voices, sounds, noise distract, drowning the calm core of being where serenity and solitude dwell, blessed by the Hand of God.

I long for abbey or monastery -- just for a few days. A few days of silence, of prayer, of allowing the calm core to emerge in safety, protected by walls and prayer and Word.

The Beauty of Word who lives in noise and in silence, in crowd and in solitude, Who meets us wherever, whenever. We only have to ask.

holy experience


Blog Widget by LinkWithin