Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Total Eclipse...of the Heart

Finally. June 30 came at long last. And with it the third installment of the Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Elizabeth bought online tickets the first day they were available on Fandango--not just for Eclipse but also for Twilight and New Moon as well--a triple feature all in the same theatre. We arrived at 6:10 PM, after eating in the mall and stopping by Hot Topic for Elizabeth to buy Eclipse merchandise (pins and bookmarks) and by WalMart for snacks. Outside the theatre we met up with a local Facebook friend who "friended" me from Sarah's New Zealand blog and her daughter. We walked in past the hall filled with people who started waiting at 11 AM just fifteen minutes before Twilight began at 6:30. We found excellent seats 3/4 of the way up the theatre and stayed there for the whole evening. There was a 20-minute intermission between Twilight and New Moon, and almost an hour between New Moon and Eclipse. But we were in the comfortable theatre seats the whole time, and able to come and go between films as much as we wanted. It was so lovely--so much better than sitting on concrete for over twelve hours.

And Eclipse was everything it was billed to be. Full of action and romance, it followed the book very closely and was very well-acted--by Pattinson and Lautner, anyway. Stewart still gets on my nerves for mumbling too much. Eclipse is my favorite of the four books in the series, having read it at least a dozen times (as I have all of them), and I was totally satisfied with it. More than satisfied.

But I think I might still prefer New Moon over Eclipse.'s a close call. Perhaps after I've seen Eclipse a few more times it may surpass New Moon, but New Moon grabbed me--even haunted me--in a way that Twilight never had...mostly because much of Twilight sucked (both the writing and the acting). But better directors are doing more with the original actors, thank goodness.

Eclipse is full of great themes of family, self-sacrificial love, and no sex before marriage--at Edward's insistence. Those are some wonderful lessons for teens of our time. The love triangle of Bella-Edward-Jacob is dynamic, and we learn the backstories of the Quileute tribe, Rosalie, and Jasper. I was impressed by how much of the book was translated into the film, especially my favorite tent scene which was reshot just a few months ago and is a real standout in the film. And the action...WOW. first glance, I loved Eclipse. But whether it measures up to New Moon is still to be seen. But it might. It just might. I'll let you know for sure after I see it again next week with my daughter and my mom...whom we've also converted into a Twi-Grand-Mum.

If you wonder how a Christian can enjoy a tale about vampires and werewolves, please see my post on "Should Christians Read Twilight?"

Writing in the Twilight,

Monday, June 28, 2010

Giving Thanks...Always

As summer stretches its arms upwards toward the blazing sun, bringing brown to what used to be green across my front yard, and to the fields waving cheerily in dry afternoon breezes, becoming tinder for autumn fires so prevalent in our area, I settle on porch, cupping palm around blue pansies. Green stays only when well-watered, deep. And green stays in our hearts when we water gratitude, deep.

And thus I continue on the path to One Thousand Gifts via The Gratitude Community at Holy Experience as I thank God for...

214. ...the privilege of helping Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity revise his modern-language version of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer over the past few days. What an opportunity and blessing to pray through these prayers, many dating back to the original Thomas Cranmer version of 1549 and others back to the early Christian Church.

215. ...the loveliness of bodily rest, something I have not enjoyed for far too long.

216. ...the hugs of my boys who tower over me (well, two of the three do) yet demand "Mommy-time" despite being teenagers who eat constantly.

217. ...cuddling to pray with my husband when midnight passes and morning edges ever closer.

218. ...watching movies with my girl, our favorite thing to do together. And especially in anticipation of tomorrow night's Twilight Triple Feature at the nearest movie theater.

219. sister and her two kids coming out from Montana and spending this week with us, and the many activities we have planned for this week.

220. ...the hard, hard work my husband does each day, building and painting and sweating in the sun.

221. ...e-mailing our four kids' homeschooling grades into our school last Friday: we're now officially done with the 2009-2010 school year!

222. fellow bloggers, Tweeters, and Facebook friends who read, pray, respond, and give me many a warm fuzzy when I desperately need them.

223. ...the quiet and peace of my prayer corner, looking out window onto browned fields and Cuyamaca cypresses.

224. ...the time to read and watch movies and relax with my family.

225. ...for green things that grow and bloom, despite my benign neglect of my garden.

Thanking God for each of you, too, dear readers,

holy experience

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Quotation of the Week

We've had some discouraging news over the past few days regarding our daughter's dreams of attending Point Loma Nazarene University in the fall. Her Cal Grant fell through due to a technicality, then she missed the academic scholarship provided by the university by 50 points. So, sad and unsure of her future plans for the fall, it's been a tough evening.

As I thumbed through my journal of quotations, the one in which I have been keeping for almost nine years, I came across a snippet from one of my favorite books, The Practice of the Presence of God.

"We must keep our eyes fixed on God in everything we say, do, or undertake. Our goal is to be the most perfect adorers of God in this life as we hope to be throughout all eternity. We must make a firm resolution to overcome, with God's grace, all the difficulties inherent in the spiritual life."

--Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

So we pray that God will work out this snarl, showing us how to proceed in planning her future in His grace.

Walking in His Light,

Saturday, June 26, 2010


High Calling Blogs gave us a Group Writing Project on Bosses. And I knew immediately whom I would write about: Dennis, my first boss.

My first job was at the local mall where, while half-heartedly filling out applications for fast food joints and clothing stores that were far too hip for plain-Jane me, I happened across a bookstore chain. My thought at the time was that if I could handle the bright orange d├ęcor (my least favorite color), working with books would be a more-than-acceptable way to earn money. My unfashionable clothing would work there, too. Even as a teenager I looked too much like a librarian or a teacher—which may explain how I was hired at the bookstore.

The man who interviewed me had bright blue eyes, salt-and pepper hair, and a quiet way about him that a sly smirk in his expression seemed to belie. For some reason I have never fathomed beyond my “I love books” shrug when asked why I wanted to work there, he hired me—a seventeen-year-old with no experience doing anything but babysitting.

On my first evening of work, the assistant manager, a heavy-set woman with gorgeous green eyes named Karen, trained me on the cash register. As I settled behind the island of registers at the front of the store, my new boss, Dennis, walked out of the store at 5:30 on the dot, briefcase tucked under his arm. After he left, Karen informed me that Dennis was gay. My first reaction was, “Well, I don't have to worry about being hit-on, I guess.” Karen smiled.

But somehow, despite Dennis' lifestyle and my Christian beliefs, we got along swimmingly. When Dennis brought wickedly delicious mall food back to his office, he never failed to wave it under my nose and say, “Good stuff, Maynard,” after the Malt-O-Meal commercial popular at the time. I started doing the same to him during my lunch breaks. Within weeks, we were calling each other “Maynard” on a regular basis. It stuck...for years.

A few years later, when Dennis was promoted to a larger store in the next town, he asked me to transfer there too within a few months. In this larger store, I was given “keys” as a Senior Sales Clerk and was taught how to close down the store, balance the registers, and put all the money in the safe at night before locking up.

Through my senior year of high school and most of my college years I continued to work for Dennis. We teased each other, watched The Wizard of Oz at his house, attended The Rocky Horror Picture Show together after work, had rubber band fights in the store when it was empty of customers. (Don't look at me: Dennis started it!)

Then Dennis gave us the news: he had been offered a new job at a prestigious downtown bookstore run by the only major West Coast publishing firm. My Mormon co-worker and I watched Dennis get drunk at his going-away party, drinking potent Long Island Iced Teas while we wisely stuck with cranberry juice. We tumbled Dennis into the cab he had ordered to pick him up at 1:00 AM, reporting to us the next morning that he remembered nothing after 4:00 PM. Not even almost being assaulted by a group of sailors, a story which we embellished for his benefit in the days to come. He called us often from his new job, “checking in,” he said, but in reality, he missed us.

After I graduated from college, I stopped by the downtown bookstore to see Dennis' new digs. He took me on the grand tour, explaining the vast differences between a “real bookstore” versus a “mall bookstore.” Before the days of Barnes and Noble and Borders, the bookstore Dennis managed was the largest non-university bookstore in San Diego. Customers traveled all the way from Los Angeles to drop $500 on books in an afternoon. At the end of the tour, Dennis offered me a job (“Wanna work here, Maynard?”)—which I immediately took to pay off my student loans before starting grad school.

After receiving my Master's in English but unable to find a teaching position, Dennis hired me back at the downtown bookstore. Then Dennis told us that he was HIV-positive, diffusing the staff's tension by bragging about all the milkshakes he was ordered to consume to gain extra weight—waving them under my nose as usual (”Don't you wish you could have some, Maynard?”) But within two months, Dennis' HIV became full-blown AIDS, and he quit working. And within weeks he was hospitalized with pneumonia. I had just discovered that I was expecting a baby, and on the phone Dennis joked with me about both of us being sick (“Are you barfing chunks, Maynard? Me, too!”)—the last time we spoke. One of our co-workers talked to him about eternity and seemed confident that Dennis made things right with God the day before he died.

Wordlessly I ran out of the store into the downtown San Diego streets smelling of exhaust and sea salt when Tom, our new manager, gave us the news that Dennis was gone. I leaned my back against a chain-link fence surrounding a construction site on Ash Street, watching the sparkle of the bay and missing Dennis so much that the sobs wouldn't, couldn't stop. It was October 11, 1991. On the night that we turned back the clocks to Standard Time from Daylight Savings, we gathered at Tom's house to watch The Wizard of Oz in honor of Dennis—the only memorial service he allowed us. We told stories about Dennis, alternately laughing and crying, celebrating his quirkiness, his sense of fun, and his drunken run-in with those sailors.

I still think of Dennis often although he died nearly twenty years ago. There isn't anyone like Maynard—like Dennis. I still see him, waggling his eyebrows like a vaudeville villain, waving onion rings beneath my nose, thwapping me on the back of the neck with a rubber band while I was on the phone with a customer...and hiring me to work for him four times in eight years.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Brokenness

(Image by, used on

I follow my fellow Southern Californian Elizabeth Esther both on Twitter and her blog on my Google Reader. She's a wonderful writer with that fun, snarky edge to her writing that lightens my mood. She's on a journey out of an abusive church upbringing and exploring how her faith works in light of her background. And she makes me laugh. A lot.

Yesterday Elizabeth Tweeted a link to an article on recovering from depression that stated that breaking through "the chains of self-absorption" was key to recovering from depression, that if only the depressed person would look outside herself and strive to serve others, she would recover from depression. Elizabeth Tweeted the article and her unfavorable opinion about it, and was accused of "gossiping"--about a public blog. She was Tweeted, "Perhaps you could write a post on depression. I'll await that post, where you discuss and not berate." So Elizabeth, who has been very open about her struggles with depression, wrote (yet another) post: A Few Handy Tips on Writing About Depression.

All of this background is to say that I know that perky, "if only you had more faith, you'd be well" mentality in evangelical Christendom. I've dealt with it--only a little at our evangelical church, but more so online. I don't write much about my own illnesses here because I'd rather focus on what truly interests ME (and I hope interests YOU), but my illness is not one of those intriguing topics. But the reactions I receive from various Christians is worthy of discussion, I think.

Just for background's sake for my more recent readers, let me quickly lay some groundwork. Nine years ago, after visiting many doctors who insisted that there was nothing "wrong" with me, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Within five months I was transformed from an active homeschooling mom who rode a bike several miles daily, who cared for and taught her four kids, who cleaned and cooked and did all the normal housewifery tasks with ease, who gardened enthusiastically, to needing a cane and often a wheelchair. I couldn't walk 100 feet. I couldn't care for my husband, our kids, or our home. I homeschooled our children from the sofa. I was bedridden for an entire summer, and couch-ridden for the next 18 months.

Most of our church family were wonderful in praying for me, in helping care for our home and our kids, in keeping lines of communication open when I wasn't able to get out of bed, much less attend church. But a few people--mostly in online communities--implied or just baldly stated, "You know, if only you had more faith, you would be healed."

My life as I knew it was gone. Of course I wanted to be well! I was in tears of pain most of my days, and my doctors didn't find medications that relieved the pain for 18 months. But implying and/or stating that my lack of faith was the reason for my current state put all the blame on ME. As if I already didn't blame myself for not being able to care for my family, not being able to care for my house and garden, not being able to teach my kids at home, not being able to lift my head from the pillow, and not being able to afford all the medications that didn't work. Just what I needed: more to blame myself for.

I know these people mean well. Sigh. But the damage they do is enormous.

Slowly, as I prayed and read and talked with friends, and prayed the Psalms, I came to see that brokenness is the key to holiness--an aspect of suffering that several of my Catholic friends pointed out to me. When we are perky-perfect Christians, studying our Beth Moore, and offering advice where we have no experience, Christ can't shine through us. We're solidly us; we're not transparent enough for Him to shine through. But when we're broken, His Light and His Love can shine through the cracks, through the broken pieces.

My new Quotation for the Week is from Anne Lamott's wonderful book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Anne has struggled with substance abuse, with alcoholism, and with depression, and she is one of my favorite writers--mostly because her sarcastic snarkiness makes me laugh one moment while her incisive truthfulness brings tears the next; I am putty in her capable storytelling:

"Holiness has most often been revealed to me in the exquisite pun of the first syllable, in holes--in not enough help, in brokenness, mess."
So I pray that Christ can indeed shine through us broken, messy people, through the "cracks and crazes [in our] enamel," as Robert Frost writes in "Birches." When we reach out to Christ in our utter need--when He is life-and-death to us--He is glorified. His glory shines in and through us. He can be seen at work. And others can see Him at work. We become witnesses of His Love, His Grace. In our brokenness, His Light prisms outward, slinging colors into the darkness. Light to lighten our way...and the way of others also trapped in the darkness, in the brokenness.

Pat answers don't prism His Grace. Blaming the broken ones for their brokenness only makes one appear as a bully, kicking someone when she's already on the ground gasping desperately for Light in the darkness. Giving advice on brokenness when one has not been broken is a slap in the face to the broken, messy ones. It's like the perfect Christians don't want to sully their hands with our messiness.

It's maddening. And saddening.

And it does not allow Christ's Grace and Light and Love to shine into a dark and hurting world...the world He died for.

Letting Him shine through my cracks,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Return to Contemplative Life

Now that summer days are quietly settling in, the routine of peace becoming the norm of my days with homeschooling done, with deadlines behind me. I get up, spend time in Morning Prayer on my own and then with our children, following the Psalter and the Lectionary of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and praying The Divine Hours through Phyllis Tickle's books or the previous website link. We follow Scripture readings and ancient prayers with family prayer: for our political leaders, for our pastors and missionaries, for sick friends, for our family. As the sun shines brightly through eastern windows, I settle my ESV Bible, 1928 BCP, and prayer journal aside...for now.

At 12:30, my phone chimes church bells, reminding me to go upstairs. I settle on my side of the bed under the northern window, taking my copy of The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime from my prayer corner, and pray the Midday Office. Often I'll reach for my Anglican Prayer Beads and use them as a prayer aid, fingering the beads as I pray for family and friends and pray Scripture.

At 6:00 PM, my phone peals bells again, reminding me to pray Vespers. I need to improve in this prayer opportunity, for I rarely rise to my prayer corner, often combining Vespers with Compline, praying both at bedtime. At Compline I pray through The Divine Hours and Evening Prayer in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer , including the Psalter. Sometime during the day I also meditate on the short and sweet Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen. Daily snippets of his writings provide much food for thoughtful chewing, and before a friend presented me with a print version, I used this online daily meditation from The Nouwen Society.

It's lovely to have time in long summer days to sink into God's Word, into prayer, without pressure or time limits. Summer is my contemplative time, even if I am not a fan of summer's beating heat. I wish I could more easily combine my schooling/work life with my summer contemplative life. I pray that I can meld these two lifestyles far more effectively in the next year...always.

This week I am proofreading and giving editorial suggestions to Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity as he revises the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which is doctrinally strong but consists of some poetic and archaic language that is less-than-approachable, especially with the Scriptures from the Great Bible of 1540. So Father is using the much more accessible English Standard Version (which we also use at Lake Murray Community Church) and is also basing the language of the Collects on ESV language. It's going to be a lovely version of the Prayer Book, one that the Anglican Communion may adopt in lieu of the 1979 BCP. Father is planning to send it to our bishop within a few weeks. I am really excited about the project and find that I am not only proofreading and suggesting other language options, but I am also praying my way through these Collects.

I also hope this summer to spend a few days on a private spiritual retreat, whether that be locally at Pine Valley Bible Conference Center in our town (and where my daughter works), or in the Alumni House of Point Loma Nazarene University , or at one of the contemplative retreat centers in our area, The Spiritual Ministry Center in Ocean Beach or The Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. We'll see where I can spend time least expensively yet also be able to structure my time best in silence and meditation. I have been looking forward to a spiritual retreat all year, especially during my four straight months of online teaching.

We shall see where God leads.

Wishing you the peace of God which passes all earthly understanding,

holy experience

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Nobody's Perfect"

I continue to pull back layers and images I never realized as I write to prompts. A prompt creates an image, a scene, in my mind, and I follow it, trying to find the words to show what I see. Sometimes, like with today's prompt, it's something as simple as a shrug, a turning away, and I jot down the image and keep writing what happens as the scene unfurls.

And thus a poem.

This week's Carry On Tuesday Prompt #58 consists of the first words spoken in Billy Wilder's (in)famous movie Some Like It Hot:
"Well, nobody's perfect."

Nobody's Perfect
"Well, nobody's perfect,"
he shrugged,
shifting away from her.
Not able to see his face,
she couldn't watch the guilt
twisting his mouth ironic,
the self-loathing in his eyes deep.

Clipped was his voice,
chilling her--
signaling the end of a discussion
that had never begun.
She noticed the back of his neck
above his white dress shirt,
a sign she easily recognized
from twelve years of marriage.

In that unconscious
blush she read his guilt--
and his contrition--
as clearly as if
he had confessed all,
begging apology.

Rising silently,
she slipped forgiving arms
around his warm waist,
pressing her lips gently
to the flushed neck
above his starched collar.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thankful for My Dad

(My dad with our three boys at Elizabeth's graduation this month)

In keeping with Holy Experience's 1000 Gifts, I add my thanks to those of The Gratitude Community. Also in keeping with Ann's post about writing "thank you" notes to her mother--Gathering Joy-- I wrote over a dozen little "thank you" notes on lined paper and slid them into his Fathers' Day card--"creative confetti," I told him. He decided to read them after we left.

Dad is still recovering from double bypass surgery he underwent in Hawaii in late April, and Elizabeth's graduation marked the first time I had seen him since his return from their little condo where he recuperated from the surgery. A lifetime runner, his good health is helping him recover although he still tires easily, and (like his elder daughter) he overdoes it occasionally.

So here are some of the thank-you notes I put in his Fathers' Day card. And I thank God that my dad survived open heart surgery and is recovering well, and I thank Him for giving me a father who did/does these things for/with me. The wording may be slightly off as I'm posting from memory:

193. Thanks for teaching me how to ride a bike.

194. Thanks for taking your grandkids to Hawaii when each turns 11/12.

195. Thanks for taking me jogging in the dark at 5 AM when I was in high school.

196. Thanks for teaching me how to drive...even Mom's stick shift Plymouth Duster.

197. Thanks for always treating us to lunch/dinner whenever we celebrate a family occasion.

198. Thanks for attempting to help me with my math homework--especially those pesky word problems.

199. Thanks for taking us on road trips when we were kids: to Wyoming and Colorado, back east to Washington DC and the eastern seaboard, to Northern California.

201. Thanks for taking us tent camping almost every summer.

202. Thanks for teaching me how to play tennis.

203. Thanks for taking us on Sunday drives when we were kids and for repeatedly driving past "the burned-down house" at my request.

204. Thanks for taking the whole family (all 16 of us) to Disneyland or Knotts each spring.

205. Thanks for making the best lunch quesadillas on weekends.

Extra "thank you"s I thought of while compiling the above list:

206. Thanks for working so hard and providing for us so well.

207. Thanks for all the charity work you do and for setting us a good example in this area.

208. Thanks for teaching us the value of money through allowances earned via yard work and house work.

209. Thanks for keeping up the pool so we could swim every day.

210. Thanks for giving us a great place to grow up, with horses and goats, ducks and chickens, and frequent horseback riding adventures.

211. Thanks for telling the worst jokes imaginable.

212. Thanks for helping me to build the coffee table and end tables for our family room in our father/daughter woodshop class.

213. Thanks for being interested in genealogy and getting me interested in our family history, too.

I could go on and on--but I thank God for each of these "thank you"s I can extend to my dad. Happy Fathers' Day, Dad, and thank You, Lord, for giving me the father I have!

With love for my dad and my Father in Heaven,

holy experience

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Honor of My Husband on Fathers' Day

He's a quiet man, my husband. A man who walks with quiet strength, a man who speaks words that count. He is a genius. An artist. A thinker.

Last Saturday he took our new teenager to see Iron Man II to celebrate J's 13th birthday. A busy man, a man who works hard--sometimes seven days per week--took the time to drive into the city to spend time with his middle son. And it was J's request to spend this time with his dad--a sweet thing to want as one's birthday celebration.

Sometimes he takes the boys to work with him, teaching them how to mix and pour concrete, how to lay bricks, how to work hard despite hot sun beating down. Yesterday when the upstairs shower needed plumbing work, he took J under his wing, taught him how to do the work, taught him how to solder. A teacher of precision, of exactness, of service.

Each evening after a long day of work, he pulls out ingredients he worked to purchase and also bought from stores and makes our family dinner. He often teaches our kids to do certain kitchen tasks: how to brown hamburger, how to chop vegetables, how to make his specialities of chicken parmigiana and tortilla soup. Our daughter takes these lessons seriously; she turned 18 this year and knows she will soon be on her own. She already has more cooking skills than I did when I married. He taught me how to cook, too.

His nimble fingers have sewed a quilt for Timothy's room. Created incredible stained glass windows. Sanded baby furniture. Built tables and bookcases for our home. Our children join him in his tiny shop, watching and learning, sometimes working alongside. His dream is for a large work shop where they can all work together on various projects.

His artistic talents are obvious in our children. E makes and sells her own jewelry, twisting wire with practiced hand. T and B draw incredibly-detailed cartoons and sketches that amaze us both. J takes a more hands-on approach to art as the one who most enjoys working alongside his father, yet he also caught Keith's musicality as J strums guitar and plays piano. Their father applauds their work, encouraging them to keep at it. Practice, practice, he smiles.

His gentle hands tousle hair, tickle ribs, pull a face toward him for a kiss. At bedtime his deep voice, quiet and strong, prays over the three boys who surround him in a circle, arms linked around each others' bodies. While taking J shopping for his birthday, he persuaded this middle son to spend his birthday money not on a video game but on airsoft BB guns for the other two boys so that they can all three play together. (J had received one from us that morning.) Keith then purchased an airsoft BB gun for himself, brimming with plans for a surprise ambush in the midst of their twilight wars in our yard. His plans to sniper them from upstairs are intense, requiring a platform on the roof outside our bathroom window. He's more excited about playing these "war games" than they are.

He teaches them to walk in wisdom, thinking first of others, going to God with all needs. And he does not only "talk the talk" but he lives out his wise advice each we all can see his love in the hours he works, the food he cooks, the art he creates, the prayers he prays, the many sacrifices he makes. We only need to notice, to see truly.

I thank God for this gentle, quiet, strong artistic man--the father of our children and a role model for each of them. May our boys grow into the man and father that he is, and may our daughter marry a man like her father.

I love you, my dearest one. Happy Fathers' Day!

With love and gratitude,

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blog Post on Unity in the Church

Daily Reflection
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

A Pleasure We Need Today

READ Psalm 133:1-3

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! [Psalm 133:1]

Psalm 133 envisions pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate a religious festival. Though they have come from diverse places throughout the Ancient Near East, the pilgrims experience profound unity in their expectations and in their shared faith in the Lord. Psalm 133 celebrates the solidarity among God’s traveling people: “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (133:1).

The Hebrew word translated here as “wonderful” is tob, the basic word meaning “good” or “beautiful.” The word translated as “pleasant” is na‘im. This word could be used to describe “sweet” music (Ps. 81:2) and human attractiveness (Song 1:16) as well as the beauty of God’s name (Ps. 135:3). Unity among the people of God is not just a helpful thing or a theologically appropriate thing. It is wonderful to behold and to experience. In fact, it is pleasant!

Don’t we need this sort of pleasure today?! It is far too common for Christians to experience disharmony. Sometimes our conflicts reflect significant theological disagreement. But often they flow from insignificant differences of opinion and style. No matter the cause, however, a lack of unity among God’s people is not pleasant. More importantly, it falls short of God’s intention for us (John 17:11; Eph. 4:1-6).

When conflict arises in the church, we should seek to be agents of reconciliation, people who speak the truth in love. When we experience the blessing of unity among God’s people, we should rejoice and offer thanks for this sublime pleasure.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How have you experienced harmony among the people of God? In what ways do you promote the unity of the church?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, indeed, it is wonderful when your people live together in harmony. There is something truly precious in the unity that is based on your nature, built upon your truth, and nurtured by your Spirit.

Thank you for the times I have experienced the unity of your people. Thank you for the ways we have been focused together on your mission. Thank you for those who have put aside petty differences in order to nurture our unity in you.

O Lord, your church today is so divided! Some of these divisions are not trivial, but reflect deep theological disagreements. Other conflicts would almost be laughable except for the damage they do to your “bride” and our witness in the world. Help us, dear Lord, to be unified, not just in niceness, but in Christ, in the Gospel, in your truth, and in the presence of your Spirit. Amen.
This issue of unity within the church is of the utmost importance to me--and had been for many years. I simply cannot fathom why Christians are so mistrustful of one another--even critical and cruel to each other. Such behaviour saddens me greatly--and does not provide a positive view of Christianity to those who are not Christians (or to those who are, as a matter of fact). How can we say we love others when we cannot offer true love to other Christians who may worship a little differently than we do?

I pray John 17 along with Jesus who prayed it for His disciples and for us as well:
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.
Praying for unity and love among all,

Changes...and Selected Poems

(Image from

Change is inevitable.

But that inevitability doesn't mean I have to like it.

The biggest change in our lives is our eldest daughter graduating after twelve years of home education, and she'll be living on campus in the fall when she starts at Point Loma Nazarene University. She's my best friend in many ways, and I'm gonna miss her dreadfully.

So in the spirit of change, I thought I'd re-do my blog a bit. I truly wish I had either the skills to really make my blog a stand-out or the $$ to hire someone to do it for me. But I've enjoyed playing with the new Blogger templates and made a new header. Someday I'll invest more time into blog design, but these changes will do for now.

And now that the tabs for additional pages show up so nicely, I decided to add a page that contains some of my better poems (in my not-so-humble opinion). They all need vast revision to get them to the level I want them, and much of the depth I'm seeking is only going to come with time and practice. So I post them for now, knowing (and letting you know) that they are not-quite-ready-for-prime-time, but I'm willing to be brave and post them. I have arranged them alphabetically by title. You may click on the "Selected Poems" tab above or click this link to the page: Selected Poems.

I'm pleased with my growth as a poet over the past couple of years, and I'm enjoying the process of writing poetry and learning a little more with each poem I write a poem...even the sucky ones.

Poetically yours,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pride in My Poetry Students

With the exception of the few years we did not attend Heritage Christian School's Class Days because of my illness, I have mostly taught high school students. In fact, since returning to EC II Class Day for Elizabeth's 10th grade Biology Lab three years ago, I have taught only high school writing, both college prep and honors levels--to mostly 10th-12th graders.

But this year was different.

At the end of last year, I was informed of two things: 1) My Advanced Writing Class (honors, grades 11-12) was closed due to lack of students (actually, there were students who tried to register later and couldn't), and 2) The 4th-6th poetry teacher had decided not to return to Class Day after all, so a class of 15 students was now without a teacher. And guess what? Both classes were scheduled for first period, so shifting to the poetry class was an easy move. The idea of teaching a poetry class was intriguing, so I volunteered to cover the class--which meant "design and write and then teach the class, and grade all student work."

Once September rolled around, both the families and I were to adjust a bit. Somehow misinformation escaped about the class: I was told that the class was a poetry class and therefore designed the syllabus and wrote the class to reflect the subject of poetry; however, some parents were informed that the class was a creative writing class. I added more writing to the class via the writing of responses during our first semester as we read and discussed the lives and works of such poets as Robert Louis Stevenson, e.e. cummings, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, and Emily Dickinson. We lost a few students whose families wanted a creative writing course rather than a poetry class or who felt the class was too much work for their current workloads, but overall, the class seemed very successful.

The students also worked on a Poet Project over the course of the first semester which included the writing of a report on the life of a particular poet and then the copying of five poems by that poet as part of the project. So on our last day of first semester, the students presented oral presentations of their Poet Projects, covering the lives and works of Christina Rossetti, Walter de la Mare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare, Aileen Fisher, Roald Dahl, and Langston Hughes.

During the second semester, our poetry class focused on the writing of poetry. We studied stanzaic structures and wrote couplets, tercets, and quatrains; we tried the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka, and we played with visual poetry in the forms of acrostic, cinquain, diamante, shape, and concrete poems before concluding the semester with letting loose with some free verse.

Our little class of eleven students, grades 4-6, also hosted two Guest Poets: Judith Deem Dupree, author of living with what remains, and Kathryn Belsey who recently completed her Pacific University MFA thesis, Fire Storm and published two poems in the latest In Posse Review. Both poets read their work and/or taught a lesson to my little class, and both were impressed with the quality and depth of work produced by these young poets.

Kathryn Belsey ("Kitty" to those who know and love her) suggested that I should publish my students' work into an anthology of sorts. Our final class on June 10 consisted of a Poetry Reading for parents and family of the poetry class, each student choosing his/her three favorite poems that he/she composed for class and reading them aloud before the class. Secretly I e-mailed the parents, requesting them to e-mail me copies of their students' three poems which I then formatted into a 27-page anthology with "The Poetry of XXXXX XXXXXXXX" at the top of each page, each student (except one) receiving two pages for their poetry--one poet needed three pages as her poems were lengthier than the rest.

I found that I could e-mail the PDF version of the anthology right to Staples, and I picked them up right before class, beautifully bound and ready to present as a special gift to each student in class. After the group of parents had applauded each young poet, I opened the boxes from Staples and handed out the anthologies; both the parents and the students were ecstatic at seeing their work "in print." I wrote an introductory page similar to what I've written here as well as a Table of Contents listing the "Featured Poets" alphabetically, and finishing the anthology with one of my own poems as a gift to them: "Easter Life."

I received many hugs on our last day of class from these wonderful young poets as well as the thanks of many parents who commented, "You brought poetry into our home," and "XXXX loved writing poetry so much that she wrote in her pajamas before starting school" and "I can't get XXXXX to stop writing poems!"

Those comments are more than adequate reward for putting heart and soul into teaching these young poets. My hope and prayer for them is that they will keep writing poetry long after our class ends and that poetry will continue to be a force in their lives long past this year's class.

From Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance:

Hail, Poetry, thou heav'n-born maid!
Thou gildest e'en the pirate's trade.
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail, all hail, divine emollient!
Next year I return to teaching high schoolers in Intermediate (college prep) and Advanced (honors) Writing, both classes that I have designed and written myself. I'll miss the enthusiasm of my younger students, but I've missed my Advanced students this year as well. I teach a short poetry unit in both classes at poetry will continue to be an important force in my teaching for (many) years to come...but never again quite like this little class of younger poets.

In the grip of poesy,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Secrets to Make a Marriage Last...

In light of our silver anniversary this week, I thought I'd take up Ann Voskamp's "Walk with Him Wednesday" theme of Secrets to Make a Marriage Last and give my own list of making a marriage last.

1. Love Extravagantly. Be unstinting with love--loving thoughts in mind and heart and loving thoughts spoken out. Love the way we want to be loved...and the love comes back at us, overflowing our cups and our hearts. Look beyond dripping-faucet-things that can annoy but can be looked past--lovingly. Keep loving and loving and loving.

2. Laugh Together. When my husband and I were still dating during my freshman year of college, he gave me a teddy bear for Saint Valentine's Day--a very "squunchable" (squeezable) bear. Early in our marriage, my husband hid the bear with silly little notes explaining his hiding place: in the cookie jar, hanging from the rotating ceiling fan, etc. Lately, Keith has taken to putting the bear in silly positions in our room, accompanied by silly notes: seated on the space heater with a note explaining about warming his bum on a cold morning, tucked head-first under covers on a Monday morning, etc. His sense of fun loves me. Love and laughter meld together beautifully.

3. Pray Together. Our hands seek each other beneath quilts, and his deep voice prays low, praying for me, for children, for faith in our family, for God's leading, for our love and obedience, for His grace. And both loves--God's and his, tuck me in lovingly as sleep comes swift and stays quiet.

4. Touch Often. In mornings I move slow. Pain makes movement stiff, awkward. But when he comes downstairs, I rise to wrap my arms round, bury my nose into his neck, and welcome day with him. At night my hand sweeps his silvering hair, running through the flat top, touch gentle. I lean down for a kiss, always wanting more. And he gives it. Late night he folds back quilt and slides in, and I pull myself to his side, nestling to him for prayer, for talk, for touch.

5. Talk Art. One of our favorite things to do is browse art museums, pointing out what we like, what we don't, how a painting needs a little this, a bit that. We analyze color, discuss subject, talk style, and reveal soul. I see his, and like what I see; he sees mine and I hope he likes what he sees. His hand rests on back of my electric wheelchair as he speaks, and I marvel that he's somehow mine.

6. Be Patient. I love my husband's patient waiting. When pain gripped me so hard that I couldn't see past myself, he waited. It was hard, much harder than I can ever realize. I hope that I'm able to give more now as pain recedes a little, releasing me a bit to see beyond it. But he didn't give up. He waited. Patiently. And I love him so much for loving me patient.

holy experience

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Silver Anniversary!

Yesterday, June 15, was a special day: my and Keith's Silver Wedding Anniversary. Yes--25 years of marriage! We spent the day together, attending the San Diego County Fair and then having dinner at the Brigantine Del Mar. We enjoyed the Fair very much--attending it has always been one of our favorite things to do, but we haven't gone just the two of us for five years or so. It would have been nicer to walk hand-in-hand, but my electric chair makes holding hands a bit problematic. Our favorite parts are Fine Arts, Crafts (especially quilts), Designs in Wood, the Bing Crosby Hall and other vendor halls, and the Gardens. It's fun to discuss the paintings and the crafts--what we like and what we don't. And we had to share the traditional funnel cake, of course.

Dinner at the Brigantine was lovely. We had a view of the fairgrounds, and I very much enjoyed my Scallops Del Mar with a glass of Pinot Grigio while Keith tried a variety of fried fish, scallops, and shrimp.

This week's Carry on Tuesday prompt fit perfectly with the theme of our silver anniversary, a quote from William Butler Yeats, so I write this to my Sweetie, Keith....

Our Silver Anniversary
"When you are old and grey,"
hold my hand long,
kiss me the way that
.....makes me want more,
take me on a quiet walk
.....under greening leaves,
smile at me with loving blue eyes,
whisper love as you touch my hair,
hold me in your arms so I can
.....bury my nose in your neck,
.....inhaling your scent,
slow dance with me--
.....just this once,
.....dotting each turn with a kiss
as we celebrate 25 years today,
and 25 more so soon time melts into a blur--
25 and 25 more, and, I hope,
.....even 25 more.

I love you, my Sweetheart!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gratitude Overflowing...

This morning as I sleepily rub eyes and blink to concentrate scattered thoughts, planning to recover inchingly from graduation and birthday celebrations (anniversary celebrations start tomorrow), I find myself overflowing with thankfulness. And what better way to celebrate the goodness of God than with additions to the Gratitude Community at Ann Voskamp's wonderful Holy Experience? So on I travel, on the road to 1000 Gifts of a gracious and loving Father of Lights:

So on this drowsing morning, I give thanks for...

181. ...the beauty of Elizabeth's high school graduation, seeing her lovely face smiling at us while she gave her speech, her glow as she stepped down the aisle to "Pomp and Circumstance," her tear-filled eyes as she presented me with a yellow rose in thanks for twelve years of home education.

182. ...the love of family and friends who gathered to celebrate with us at her graduation, several of which who don't usually approach churches, stating that they very much enjoyed the graduation, that is was unlike any other (and it was!).

183. ...the pleasure of seeing other students of mine besides my daughter graduate, most giving speeches, one thanking me in his speech (thanks, Cam!)--students whose essays I've marked, whom I've taught about writing and infused with an appreciation of, if not a passion for, writing and literature--I hope!

184. ...observing through loving mother's eyes the beautiful young woman our daughter has become, so sure of herself (at least outwardly), so enthused about college and her future in God's grace.

185. ...celebrating our son J's 13th birthday also this weekend. He has now passed me in height and will soon pass Keith--a man-child who insists, several times a day, on "needing to hug my mommy." On his birthday he requested Monte Cristo sandwiches for breakfast--one of Keith's specialities, and to spend the afternoon with his dad seeing Iron Man II. He's having a friend spend a couple of days with us, and another friend over today for pizza, cake, video games, and war games in the yard with his new BB gun.

186. ...celebrating my and Keith's 25th wedding anniversary tomorrow. We plan to drop kids with my parents and attend the county fair tomorrow, then enjoy dinner at a Del Mar restaurant. We're also hoping for a weekend away sometime this summer, depending on finances.

187. ...the goodness of God in working out details of graduation and birthday celebrations, of blessing us and our family so wonderfully. He breathes His grace upon us, into us, and we can't help but love Him and all others in response.

188. ...seeing my mom and dad dance a bit at E's graduation Sock Hop yesterday. After my dad's surgery, he is to be recovering, and it was wonderful to see him enjoy himself so much at the Sock Hop; we're so blessed that he's still with us after his double by-pass in late April.

189. ...the blessing of being DONE with our home school year. T has a bit of German to finish, J a bit of math, E & B a bit of reading, but easily accomplished this week, but we've clocked our 180 days and are DONE as soon as I e-mail in our grades to Heritage Christian School.

190. ...the blessing of being DONE with Brave Writer classes for the summer. After teaching four classes in a row with only one week-long break (which was used for class preparations), I need time to rest body and mind, soul and spirit.

191. ...the blessing of being DONE with Class Day teaching at Heritage Christian School's co-op, one of seven co-ops across San Diego County and even in Tijuana. I enjoyed seeing/hearing my high school writing students give oral presentations of their final MLA essays on our last day, and I enjoyed even more seeing/hearing my 4th-6th grade poetry students each give a reading of his/her three favorite original poems. At the suggestion of Guest Poet and dear friend Kathryn Belsey, who truly inspired my little class, I worked with the parents to print an anthology that included each students' three poems; the students and their parents LOVED it!

192. ...the peace of summer break--being able to sleep in, to linger leisurely over my mug of Irish Breakfast tea, the unhurried pace of summer rest, the opportunities opening before me. I may despise the heat of summer, but I love being unencumbered by deadlines and workloads and able to just BE with my family.

All thanks be to God and in His glory,

holy experience

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Second Sunday After Trinity

According to the Christian Calendar, we find ourselves in Ordinary Time. Now, "Ordinary" doesn't just mean "every day," "not special, "not extraordinary"--although it indeed marks an absence of high Holy Days of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost, etc. No, "Ordinary" goes back to the idea of counting, of ordinal numbers: first, second, third, etc. In the Anglican tradition, we track each week by how many Sundays since Trinity. In fact, this Sunday marks the "Second Sunday After Trinity."

For a more in-depth article on Ordinary Time, click here: Ordinary Time.

The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, symbolizing our ever-growing faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as He nudges and shapes us (if we allow Him) into His image: into His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). So as our faith greens, watered by His Word, cultivated in prayer, nurtured in fellowship with others, we grow into Christ-likeness: a beautiful garden for His glory.

Ten or so years ago, I dreamed about heaven. I dreamt that I was planting beautiful rosebushes with deep scarlet blooms--but these bushes were without thorns. Digging in the garden has always been hard physically for me--even before I became ill--but I dreamt that Jesus was there, helping me. And somehow the soil was easy to lift--light, buoyant. In fact, the entire rose bed where I was planting was completely without weeds. Jesus helped me tuck the rich soil around the roots of the scarlet rosebush, its pointed leaves tickling both our noses as we bent into the rose bed, our hands working together. Another aspect of gardening I hate (in addition to digging and weeds) is the perspiration that runs down my face, stinging my eyes. But we were cool despite the warm sun on our backs.

Heaven was all about working alongside Jesus in ideal growing conditions, creating beauty with Him, partnering with Him in simple joys of growing roses--all the hard stuff gone, only the joy remaining.

And although this vision was only a dream--and I rarely remember dreams at all--it has comforted me somehow, showing that even now I can help Jesus grow things--growing my own faith, growing my marriage in His grace, growing our children for His glory. Yes, we still have hard work, weeds, and the sweat of our labor to contend with, but Jesus comes alongside us, the Master Gardener, planning the design of our landscape according to His vision and always ready to lend a hand whenever we allow Him to.

So that's my idea of these Ordinary Days--a time of rooting out weeds, of digging deep into the cool soil, of wiping the sweat from our brows, of planting, watering, cultivating and growing our faith and the faith of those around us. For this is a Community Garden we live in--not a private garden--and we all need one another; it's an integral part of His Master Plan.

So here's a new quotation for this week, on growing and gardening:

"If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?"
--G.K. Chesterton

And the Collect for this week from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

O LORD, who never failest to help and govern those whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless you with an ever-growing faith, one that blooms forth grace, hope, peace, and love for all,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Elizabeth's High School Graduation

Friday afternoon I stood nervously in the crowded church, fanning myself with the program. I caught Hannah's eye--one of my honors writing students last year--as she raised her violin to her chin, Peter (another former student and hopefully in my honors class next year) lifting his violin and bow at the same time. In perfect synchronization, the bows shot up then down as the opening bars of "Pomp and Circumstance" rang forth from the Heritage String Ensemble--made up entirely of home-educated students of Heritage Christian School. As the familiar strains filled the church, Hosanna stepped forward into the aisle, stepping in time to the music of the live orchestra. Then we saw her...

...eighth in alphabetical order, her blue gown bringing out the blue of her eyes, her hair over her shoulder, throwing us a nervous smile. Keith stood on the aisle, snapping photos as she proceeded toward the front of the church, her cap at a rakish angle. She passed us, her blue and white tassel bobbing against her cheek.

Following the line of students, she filed into the front row on our side of the church, the graduates lining the rows with the Sounds of Freedom, Heritage Christian School's award-winning choir, behind them, unobtrusive in black. As the final notes faded and the orchestra quietly exited, our principal, Mary York, mother of seven, stepped forward to present the Mothers' Diplomas--diplomas to the mothers who were graduating their youngest students (I only have eight more years to go!). After the commencement address by Scott York, the principal's husband, the students came into the pews, yellow roses in hand to present to their mothers. Elizabeth came down to us, handing a tearful me a rose with a hug, then hugged Keith and my parents before heading further back into the pews to greet and hug my brother, Keith's dad and sister, my parents' best friends Dan and Francie, my mom's cousin Rick, and my dear college friend and the kids' math tutor and second godmother, Johanna.

Very soon after the looooong presentation of diplomas started. With seventy-five students, almost half of which gave 90-second speech. Many of the speech-givers are part of our school's debate team who just competed in the Nationals, and Elizabeth's speech was not out-of-place among them. She was a little nervous, forgetting her favorite line about those who spoke willingly versus those who were forced to give a speech as their parents' graduation requirement. :) But she did a great job! Some of the speeches were funny, some serious, some a mixture, but it was wonderful to hear the speeches and see a few antics here and there--like Justin's punk/pop bandmates rushing the stage to give him flowers. Many of the graduates were former writing students of mine, so I enjoyed hearing their speeches and watching them speak--one even thanked me publicly. Thanks, Cam. :)

After the ceremony, my extended family, not exactly churchgoers, noted how nice the ceremony was. Elizabeth stopped to hug her fellow graduates, many of whom she had started kindergarten with at our twice-monthly Class Days. We chatted with family and friends for a little while, then got in line for dinner which was catered for the school by Pat & Oscars. As we stood in line, we were given appetizers by one of the juniors--who just finished my writing class--and then we were able to look at the seniors' photo boards they had prepared as we waited in the dinner line. Within ten minutes we were sitting down to eat. As soon as we finished the meal, the boys brought us cake, and then Elizabeth was talking with friends, signing their yearbooks while they signed hers.

I love that our homeschool private study program (PSP) is such a wonderful balance of school and homeschooling: yearbooks, senior events, senior formal, a beautiful graduation ceremony with caps and gowns, speeches and a lovely sit-down reception. Class Days provide science labs, writing classes, chess clubs, foreign language and music lessons, and all sorts of classes from preschool to American Government and Economics, film and theatre, PE and cooking. And then the rest of the time, we're at home with our children, accountable via annual testing for grades 4-11 and quarterly progress reports/report cards. The school prepares high school transcripts for seniors and offers outside courses in SAT prep, honors chemistry, plus sports teams--basketball and volleyball for boys and girls right now, and a new drama club that performed its first play--plus a student newspaper. It's a great balance between home and school, family and friends, activity and relaxation.

And we are so thankful for Heritage Christian School and our first homeschooled graduate, our Elizabeth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Grace of Fatherhood

(Photo from Scientific American)

This morning I followed a Twitter link to High Calling Blogs' newest Community Writing Project: a vignette/poem on Fatherhood.

So here's mine, based on my second birth, our first son:

The Grace of Fatherhood
Over the delicate skin of our newborn's cheek,
your hand brushes, awed,
the roughness of work-wearied fingers
gentled by the grace of this moment.

You don't speak. You don't have to.
I watch the emotions flow across your face,
one after another, a spring-river of thought:
recognition of your features and mine in this
miniature person birthed mere moments ago,
messy, blood and fluid drying in his hair and
clinging sticky to his unwashed body. You see
your eyes, my nose, your mouth, my hair color--
and wonderment rushes after, wonder at this gift
of God's grace so long waited for.

For this day waned long, through the pain of miscarriage,
you holding me in deep night sobs that you
barely understood, but compassion and love were
strong in you for the loss of the child you never knew--
whom only I knew with morning sickness wracking, nausea
beating down the days. Then, blink, and the child was gone.

But now the pain is lightened, released, as another child,
not a replacement but his own beloved self,
bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh,
looks deep into your eyes, his blue gaze wise--
as if he knows he's balm, he's joy,
he's the one we've waited for--
and you touch his face shaped like yours--
like yours already.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Returning to Carry On Tuesday

Ahhh, I'm finally returning to my previous schedule of writing (at least) a poem a week using the new Carry On Tuesday site prompts. It feels good to put pen to paper, allow ink and images to flow and meld, to not judge my work right at first but let it settle in, knowing that it will definitely require revision and reworking, but being okay with it...for now.

This week's Carry On Tuesday Prompt #56 comes from the opening words of Salman Rushdie's book Enchantress of Florence: "In the day's last light...."

Day's Last Light
Lowering myself to sit
on wooden porch steps
in the day's last light,
I sigh,
pulling in deep gloaming breaths
that purify body and spirit as
the rosy sky brightens
then darkens,
the sun slyly winking as it
disappears past purpling hills.

The quiet descends, too.

As birds settle into nests,
their songs all sung,
bats swoop darkly against
fading hues of the western sky.

I let it enter,
this peace--
allowing it to rinse away
trivialities that seemed
so pressing during daylit hours:
.....the kids' squabbling over chores,
.....the worries over unpaid bills,
.....the stresses of daily living
..........filling body and soul
all filtered away
until I'm left with calm,
vital Truth.

I curl into Him, content,
and He rocks me to sleep on His breast.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What's Really Important?

Each morning I read several devotional e-mails, and currently my favorite one comes from The High Calling of Our Daily Work. With the author's written permission, I am reproducing today's devotional in its entirety, as I believe it addresses an integral point of Christian and Church life.

Daily Reflection
by Mark D. Roberts,
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

What’s Really Important?

READ 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. [1 Corinthians 3:7]

For sixteen years, I was senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, a moderate-sized church in Orange County, California. Compared to most churches in America, we were large. But Irvine Pres lived in the shadow of several megachurches, including Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Mariners Church in Newport Beach, and the granddaddy of them all, Saddleback Church, where Rick Warren is the senior pastor. Thus it was easy for smaller churches in the area to feel inconsequential. Over the years, I found myself in many conversations with pastors who, motivated by envy and resentfulness, spoke poorly of local megachurch pastors.

How sad! And how inconsistent with the teaching of 1 Corinthians 3. In this chapter, Paul begins by rebuking the Corinthians for their spiritual immaturity (3:1-3). What reveals the fact that they haven’t grown up in Christ? They are jealous and divisive, based on their divided loyalties to their favorite Christian leaders: “When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,' and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,' aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” (3:4).

Then, Paul moves from rebuke to instruction. He helps the Corinthians—and us—to understand Christian ministry in a new light. Apollos (an eloquent Christian evangelist in the time of Paul) and Paul are not the point. They are merely “God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News” (3:5). They served different and complementary roles when they were present in Corinth: “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow” (3:6). This growth, and especially its source, is the main thing: “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow” (3:7). Those who participate in the growth process “work together with the same purpose,” God’s purpose as God’s servants (3:8).

The Church of Jesus Christ, and the individual churches it comprises, will be healthy only when we think of church and ministry in the terms of 1 Corinthians 3. If one church grows large while another remains small, there is not room for jealousy or gossip. Both churches, and the pastors who lead them, are part of God’s work.

As pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I was motivated by 1 Corinthians 3 to begin praying consistently for other churches in our area. In my private prayers and in my public prayers in worship, I would pray for our sister Presbyterian churches, as well as for other churches in our region, both small and large. Around the major holidays, I would make a special effort to pray for the megachurches and their pastors, because they were touching tens of thousands of people. If Saddleback Church added to their congregation after one Easter season as many people as Irvine Presbyterian Church had on our membership roles, thanks be to God! What was important was that God was making the seed grow.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced divisiveness in church having to do with loyalty to different leaders? How does 1 Corinthians 3 challenge you to think, speak, act, and pray differently?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I thank you for the diversity of your church and its leaders. Though we emphasize different things, every church that preaches and lives your Gospel is part of your work in this world.

Help me, dear Lord, to see the church with your eyes. Keep me from petty jealousy and divisiveness. Help me to focus on what really matters, not who is doing the planting, but you and your work of growing your church.

I pray for church leaders today, that we would be unified in Christ and his truth, even as we differ over certain matters of theology or practice. Help those who shepherd your flock to do so with mutual appreciation and common prayer. Break down walls of division between churches and leaders. May we live out your calling as one people.

All praise be to you, O God, because you give the growth! Amen.

I find this devotional especially helpful today as I, also a Southern California resident, see the same attitude toward the mega-churches in the San Diego area: The Rock, Shadow Mountain, Journey Community Church, Horizon, Skyline, etc. I attend two smaller churches: Lake Murray Community Church with about 350 people (including children) and Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity with about 20-25 people, including kids, at each Sunday morning service. We attend on Friday mornings, and several shut-ins are unable to attend regularly, but it's still a very small church. While Lake Murray does much ministry: children's ministry, homeless ministry, ministry to retirement homes and County Mental Health, Alzheimers' homes, discipleship groups, Bible studies, etc., tiny Blessed Trinity offers the Free Teen Guitar Class--free guitar lessons to teens, taught by Father Acker himself--plus, they are very much involved with the other churches in Alpine through ecumenical Thanksgiving and Good Friday Stations of the Cross services, a community Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day, Easter services outdoors in the county park, and much involvement with the other churches in the community.

The few times I've been able to attend a Sunday service, I've noticed Father Acker praying for a specific church and pastor in the Alpine area. He's been quite involved in the monthly inter-church meetings among pastors in Alpine. Here is this little church praying for other churches. They get it: it's all about what is really important, or, rather WHO is really important: Jesus Christ our Lord and showing His love to others. And I really love that about this little group of Anglicans who gathers each Sunday morning in the auditorium of Alpine Elementary School. Not that Lake Murray does anything different or wrong; I guess the focus on the churches outside the home church is just more obvious at Blessed Trinity.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekend Away....

It's been a crazy-busy week with driving into the city Tuesday-Saturday, even twice on Thursday. So this weekend, I'll take E down into El Cajon for her SATs. While she tries to gain the extra 50 points she needs for the $4000/yr academic scholarship at PLNU, I will park myself in the nearest Starbucks with my fountain pen and a stack of MLA essays to grade, all due on Thursday plus student semester grades which are cumulative since September. I definitely have my work cut out for me.

After the SATs, we'll run a couple of errands before heading down to my parents' place at the beach. They're arriving home from their eight weeks in Hawaii and after my dad's double bypass surgery last month, they have no desire to come home to a house messy with construction dirt and the dusty footprints of the many workers (including Keith) who have been installing their elevator--which is being installed to help my mom climb the two flights of stairs in the house but now will also be used by my dad as he continues to recover from his surgery. So my parents have hired E to clean their home in preparation for their homecoming this week. Keith and the boys will be there as well as he finishes the few details of the installation--applying trim, etc. while she vacuums, dusts, cleans bathrooms and kitchen....

And me? I hope to finish grading essays but also stroll the half-block to the beach, dig my toes into the sand, and read the new Mary Higgins Clark novel I picked up from the library this week: The Shadow of Your Smile. It looks intriguing; she's one of the few contemporary mystery writers whose whole canon of work I've read and continue to read as each new book is released--including Anne Perry, Victoria Thompson, Lilian Jackson Braun-- although I started reading Mary Higgins Clark's books from the very beginning of her career with Where Are the Children? and A Cry in the Night under my desk in my high school Algebra II class.

So my plans for this weekend include sitting in the sun, slathered in organic sunscreen, the sea breezes fluttering my hair, and toes digging deep past hot surface sands into the deep, sea-cooled dampness that clings darkly to toenails. My laptop will remain chastely at home, gathering dust and able to also rest--for once.

So I shall see you all on Monday when I return to "real life"--our last week of homeschooling for the year, and my last week of officially homeschooling all four children. Ever. But I'm not going to think about that--at least not until E's graduation a week from tonight....


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