Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Glory of Christmastide

Christmas Carols through the ages....

Christmastide is an amazing time of year. While the vast majority of Americans begin the Christmas "season" the day after Thanksgiving and pack away decorations promptly on December 26th, those of us who follow the tradition of the Christian Year have quite a different tradition, one that centers more fully around Christ and His Love for the world.

Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and finishes at sunset on Christmas Eve. While many secular Advent calendars, covered with images of Santa Claus and filled with chocolate goodies behind each window, act more as a "countdown to Christmas," the Christian practice of Advent is so, so much more.

"Advent" means "coming" or "arrival." Thus, Advent is partially our waiting to celebrate the arrival of Christ in human form two thousand years ago on that "silent night" in Bethlehem, born of a poor virgin girl in a cave because there was no room in the inn.

But waiting to celebrate Christ's first coming is not the main focus of Advent. No, indeed! Advent is even more about our awaiting the second coming of Christ our Lord, when he "shall come in majesty to judge the living and the dead" in His "kingdom which has no end."

Advent, with its liturgical color of purple, is a kind of a "miniature Lent," a time to evaluate and re-evaluate how we are waiting for Christ's imminent return. Are we living as we should? Are we as kind and as generous as we can be? Are we focused on God in prayer and in reading, studying, and applying His Word? Have we allowed slothful or sinful habits to take a foothold in our lives? These, and many others, are the questions that Advent forces us to face as we await His coming.

My favorite Collect (a collective prayer, prayed daily for a week by the whole of the Anglican Church) for Advent comes from the Second Sunday in Advent:

BLESSED Lord, you caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Help us to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your Holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; Which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Then Christmas Eve arrives at last, and as the sun sets and the Holy Day begins, we gather for Lessons and Carols, God's Word read aloud between the beautiful carols of the faith. By far, my favorite Christmas carol is "O Holy Night." The words are so beautiful and true--I "fall to [my] knees" in my heart each time I hear about "the night when Christ was born." Here are the lyrics:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
Then comes Christmas morning with our reading of Saint Luke's Gospel, and this Collect which is prayed daily through the Twelve Days of Christmastide:

ALMIGHTY God, you gave your only and eternal son to take our nature upon him and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin; Grant us, who have been reborn and made your children by adoption and grace, daily renewal by your Holy Spirit; Through Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

But the joys of Christmas cannot be contained to only one day; we celebrate Christmas for all Twelve Days, starting with Christmas Eve and concluding on the Eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which arrives with sunset on January 5th.

Today as I was going through my e-mail inbox, I came across my weekly dose of Anglotopia which included the Queen of England's Christmas Address. It's a bit long at 7 1/2 minutes, but I really appreciate her message of love and hope during these troubled times as well as her quotations from Scripture and Christian witness and prayer:

Yet between Christmas Day and Epiphany are additional Holy Days. December 26th marks Saint Stephen's Day, memorialized by the carol "Good King Wenceslas":

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, reminds us to be bold in our sharing of the Good News and to live lives that glorify Christ, no matter the cost.

December 27th is Saint John's Day--Saint John, the evangelist and writer of several book of the Bible: The Gospel According to Saint John, the Epistles St. John I, II, and III, and the Revelation According to Saint John. So today we remember Saint John, one of the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ as well as the man to which Jesus entrusted the care of His mother, Mary while Jesus suffered on the cross: "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19:26-27). John refers to himself throughout his Gospel as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The Collect for today follows:

MERCIFUL Lord, let the bright beams of your light shine upon your Church; By the teaching of blessed John, the apostle and evangelist, may we be enlightened and walk in the light of your truth, so that we may finally come to everlasting life; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
December 28th marks the remembrance of the Holy Innocents, the male children under two years of age whom King Herod ordered killed in order to destroy the prophesied king who had been born in Bethlehem: "Then Herod...sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men." But the Lord had protected Jesus by sending a message to Joseph in a dream to flee with the child and his family to Egypt where they remained until Herod's death.

Entrance to the Mission San Luis Rey Cemetery

Since the decision of Roe v. Wade in the early 1970's, the Catholic Church also recognizes the Remembrance of the Holy Innocents to be a day to also remember the millions of unborn children whose lives have been lost through abortion. When our family visits the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside where our dear friends' daughter is resting in peace, I always stop to pause at the marker inside one of the entrances to the old portion of the mission cemetery which remembers the Holy Innocents who have died via abortion and their mothers who have suffered as a result, for whether one supports or opposes the practice, most women who have undergone the process, for whatever reason, suffer as a result. So we pray peace for them and for a happy reunion with their children in heaven.

January 1 marks the Circumcision of Christ as it occurs on the eighth day, according to Jewish Law, after Christmas Day:

ALMIGHTY God, for our sake your blessed Son was circumcised and bound to the keeping of the whole Law; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit, so that in heart and body, we may put away earthly desires and in all things be bound to the keeping of your blessed will; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Another Sunday (and sometimes two) occur during Christmastide, and thus another Collect is prayed, but the Collect for Christmas Day is prayed daily throughout all Twelve Days, until the Eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night. This last night of Christmas is a night for celebration and revelry as shown in Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night which was performed for Queen Elizabeth at Twelfth Night festivities. Twelfth Night is always a wonderful celebration, and we join the members of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in praying in the season of Epiphany (more on Epiphanytide later) and then celebrating with sherry and trifle in the Ackers' living room.

In my e-mail signature during Christmastide, I have included a quotation from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, spoken by Scrooge at the end of the book:

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year."

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So I wish you all a blessed Christmastide!!! May the glory of our Lord and Saviour shine brightly through our lives as we live and love like Jesus, during this season and always!

A blessed Christmastide to you and yours,

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Snowy Christmas Day in Photos

4th Week of Advent...our family Advent wreath

After spending Christmas Eve with Keith's family and Christmas Morning with just the kids, Keith, and I, we drove fifteen minutes (and 2000 feet in elevation) from our little town to an even smaller one: Mount Laguna, elevation 6000 feet.
There at my parents' 600 sq ft cabin, we squeezed nineteen people for Christmas dinner. The saving grace was the foot of snow that kept almost everyone outside: sledding down the hill behind the cabin, snapping photos of sledding, creating a snow-squirrel (don't ask), or, with my extended family, smoking and drinking. ;)
Enjoy the photos!!!
My parents' cabin atop Mount Laguna

Timothy runs down the snowman in the sledding path
My brother Tom, Brooke, Grant, and Elizabeth at the back
Jonathan hurtling down the track
Benjamin trekking back up the hill....
Christmas snow

Merry Second Day of Christmas!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Published in Victoria's Reader to Reader

Victoria has long been my favorite magazine, and my dear college roommate and godmother of our kids keeps me supplied with annual subscriptions for my birthday each spring.

Where else can we read about travel, cooking (with recipes), gardening, home decor, fashion, antiques and collecting, and essays from the Writer-in-Residence, all in one magazine?? The photography is incredible, the writing style elegant, and the values of the handwritten word and leather-bound journals are close to my heart.

So to be published in my favorite magazine??


Yes, the January/February 2012 issue of Victoria published a little piece of my writing--something I sent in response to an e-mail call for pieces on "Winter Comfort Food." So over lunch one day, I jotted a little essay on Keith's amazing Tortilla Soup, describing his techniques and the value of warmth and family around the kitchen table he built.

Then I received an e-mail informing me that they were publishing my little letter/essay. Months past the composition, I had little memory of what I had written, so I was thrilled to receive the issue in the mail yesterday.

So I took a few (ha!) photos to show you the spread on which my writing appears....

The January/February 2012 issue of Victoria which also contains touring information on San Diego, including the historic Hotel del Coronado, beautiful Balboa Park, and scenic La Jolla, all of which are favorite stomping grounds and landmarks in our own family history as the Quayle Brothers Architectural Firm designed buildings in Balboa Park and parts of the Hotel Del, including the famous Crown Room.

Victoria's Reader-to-Reader spread on Cold-Weather Comfort Foods
I love Victoria's beautiful photography and layouts
My little essay sketch on Keith's tortilla soup appears on page 11 of this issue of Victoria
Here's the first column of my little piece
Here's the second column of my little piece
Here's the quotation in the inset

I'm sooo excited about the first publication of my prose in a major magazine!! It's just a little thing in a readers' column, but I'm still thrilled to see my name in print in my favorite magazine!!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas!!!

Family Christmas Letter 2011

December 2011
Dearest Family and Friends,

The Barrett Family wishes you a holy Advent, a joyous Christmas, and a blessed New Year in our Lord Jesus Christ! May His Spirit, comfort, and abounding love fill your hearts and homes this season and always!

2011 has been another challenging year for our family. We have definitely experienced highs and lows, but throughout it all, God's goodness has been very evident, and we are very thankful for His many blessings. 2011 has been a year of prayer, and although not easy, deep in prayer is always a good place to be.

We celebrated Benjamin's 12th birthday this month with an evening of ice skating at the nearby outlet center...which was quite an adventure (and I have the pictures to prove it!). Benjamin is in 6th grade this year as we continue to educate the three boys at home. He is taking classes in Chess, PE, and Art at our co-op Class Days with Heritage Christian School and is in his third year of studying German. Benjamin is extremely artistic, and we always find him working on some project or another. And if there's laughter in the house, Benjamin is usually instigating the hijinks.

Starting high school in 9th grade this year, Jonathan, who turned 14 in June, continues to study music, mostly guitar. He is in his fourth year of guitar lessons with the Free Teen Guitar Class, a ministry of Alpine Anglican Church, but his and his teacher's busy schedules meant dropping piano for this year. Jonathan plays guitar on the last Friday of each month at the FTGC's Guitar Jams in the Starbucks parking lot in Alpine (while I hole up in the coffee mecca to write). This year he is taking a double-period Geography class called “Mapping the World by Heart” plus PE at Class Day, and he and Timothy continue learning higher math from “Auntie Jo,” my dear friend from college, Johanna (if he doesn't drive her absolutely insane!). He's also more involved in the high school youth group at Lake Murray. Quite popular at church, Jonathan is definitely our “cool kid.”

In 11th grade this year, Timothy will be 17 in March. He continues to enjoy learning art techniques, and we usually find him with a pencil or pens in hand, sketching something from Lord of the Rings or working on another drawing of some sort. He is taking a double-period Chemistry Lab and PE (with Jonathan) at Class Day; he's been asked numerous times to join the high school basketball team, but he prefers playing for fun over competition. Biking over several times a week to the garden site, Timothy remains very much involved in our town's community garden project where he has taken on a lot of responsibility. He's very involved in the Pine Valley community.

Now 19 and taking a year off from college at Point Loma Nazarene University because of financial aid difficulties, Elizabeth took one class at Grossmont Community College this fall but is mostly working in housekeeping at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center. Elizabeth truly misses being a literature major in my former department at PLNU and living in the dorms during the week and hopes to return next year. She's considering a change in her major, but has much prayer and research ahead before deciding. The down-time at home has allowed Elizabeth to continue with her jewelry business; her products may be seen on her Facebook page. She has also been housecleaning for my parents since my mom has been plagued with chronic back pain all year.

And, as always, I'm crazy-busy. In addition to schooling the three boys at home, I'm teaching Intermediate Writing to high school students and Medieval History to 4th-6th graders (with an excellent team) at Class Day. I'm also teaching online courses during my 10th year at BraveWriter.com in literary analysis, MLA research, grammar, poetry, and Shakespeare, and I've started my own essay grading/editing business at http://www.susannebarrett.com/ Published at Easter this year, I also assisted in editing a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer revised by Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity where the kids and I worship on Fridays. I also celebrated my 5th anniversary of blogging at Meditative Meanderings.

In his determination to make ends meet, Keith continues to work very hard, mostly doing handyman work for various clients. He continues to work in the office with his dad on occasion, designing one custom home this year with a second in the works. Keith also created a beautiful art deco-style stained glass window for clients who saw his two windows in the Ademas' home, and he's also working on a mosaic floor for my parents' elevator. Keith and I continue with the Scripture Reading Team at Lake Murray Community Church in La Mesa which we have attended for over 18 years. Although he's had a couple of health challenges this year, one of which resulted in his losing a good deal of weight, Keith continues as Head Chef in our household, creating new and exciting dishes that the kids are always happy to make disappear...far too quickly.

Our family wishes you a joyous and healthy 2012 as we all go forth in the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! Come let us adore Him!

With love and prayers,

The Barrett Family
Keith, Susanne, Elizabeth, Timothy, Jonathan, Benjamin, and Dash, too!

And the annual Christmas family photo on the hearth:

And the silly version of the annual family photo:

Wishing you all a holy and joyous Christmastide (all twelve days!!) and a blessed New Year in the grace of Christ our Lord,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Anglican Fever" Among Youth

Father Keith Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, the first of nine Anglican churches to leave the Episcopal Church's San Diego Diocese six years ago, sent me a news page today, and one of the articles was simply wonderful, so I have to share it.

The conservative Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) did a story dated December 16 on "Anglican Fever," a movement among the youth, mostly college students, who are involved in many start-up church plants within the Bible-centered Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), of which Alpine Anglican, as a Reformed Episcopal Church, is a member.

The accompanying video which contains more information than the print article, was fascinating:

And here's the link for the article, "Anglican Fever: Youth Flock to New Denomination"

I know that for myself, I am drawn to the Anglican Church because of its focus on Scripture, including the new Book of Common Prayer 2011 which uses the evangelical English Standard Version (ESV) Bible as its source for all Scripture passages. To pray through all 150 Psalms each month, to use the Lectionary as a Bible reading plan for morning and evening, to pray the ancient prayers, creeds, and hymns, some dating back to the first century of the Christian Church--all of these Scripture-centered modes of worship have deepened my faith and caused me to fall more in love with my Savior than ever.

So I am not surprised to learn of youth from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College being on the forefront of "Anglican Fever." The emphasis on weekly Communion, on reverence and congregational participation in worship, and on the extensive reading aloud of God's Word all draw me into the Anglican tradition. I also appreciate the more global emphasis on prayer and the concerns over world-wide poverty. The Anglican Church is extremely strong in Africa and South America, to the point that their churches are sending missionaries here to the US. That's rather humbling, isn't it?

And thus I became involved with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity over seven years ago, first as Christ the King Anglican, and after leaving the San Diego Diocese of the Episcopal Church, in its present form, both pastored by Father Acker. I found a depth and breadth to God's Word, a depth in prayer and practice, and the value of worshiping God with body, mind, and spirit, rather than merely the mind. I am more aware of God's Presence with me throughout my days and nights, and I find myself turning to prayer more than ever. I feel as if I have truly discovered "the heart of worship" in a tiny church meeting in an elementary school auditorium on Sundays and in the pastor's dining room and garage-chapel on weekdays and Holy Days...all thanks be to God.

So in this Fourth Week of Advent, I pray along with the millions of Anglicans worldwide the Collect (collective prayer) for this week:

O LORD, raise up your power, we pray, and with great might come among us; And, as our sins and wicked ways greatly hinder us in running the race that is set before us, let your abundant grace and mercy come quickly to help and deliver us; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, belongs all honor and glory, now and always. Amen.

Wishing you a holy and blessed Advent as we await the Coming of Our Lord,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Quotations

Our Advent Candle Wreath at Lake Murray, as built by Keith

Advent has long been one of my favorite seasons of the year. I love gathering the kids around the Advent wreath Keith made us a decade ago, lighting the candles and reading God's Word together. It's a precious time of seeing His light shine through the darkness as His Words ring out, bright and true.

Over the years, I have collected quite a few Advent quotations. Usually I share one quotation per week, but with my Advent being so incredibly busy with classes and essays to grade, I haven't been able to post here often. But after staying up grading final essays for my last online class until 3:00 AM this morning, I am finally free to write and post.
One of my favorite Advent quotations is by a now famous man, written well before he became world-renowned:

"It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus open the doors of hope."

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI

And another, written by one who died a martyr's death:

"A prison cell in which one waits, hopes,...and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And, finally, a wonderfully thoughtful view of the season of Advent:

"Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place."

--Edward Hays, A Pilgrim's Almanac

So as we enjoy this Advent season in which we anticipate the celebration of our Lord's First Coming while we wait patiently for His Second Coming, may our hearts and minds be fully devoted to Him Who loves all of us perfectly and everlastingly.

Wishing you and yours a holy and blessed Advent,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

YES!!!!! NaNoWriMo Winner!!!!

YES!!!!!!!! I buckled down like crazy yesterday with 36,500 words written out of the 50,000 words required to "win" National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote ALL DAY LONG.

And I finished. I verified my 50,000-word "novel" with exactly 14 minutes to spare before the midnight November 30 deadline.

I didn't write a novel, though. I completed one novel already started and worked on additional chapters for a second one.

They're not publishable, but they've been wonderful stress-relievers when stacks of essays are teetering precariously and editing jobs are piling up.

It's just been plain FUN.

But finishing NaNoWriMo was also important as for the first time, I offered extra credit to my co-op high school expository writing class: one extra credit point for every 1,000 words written, for a maximum of 50 extra credit points.

Therefore, I couldn't very well not finish when I have half my class as Writing Buddies.

So with a throbbing neck, aching and swollen fingers, and a drained brain, I am simply grateful that, by the grace of God, I pulled out the proverbial "Hail Mary" and wrote my heart out.

Did any of you try NaNoWriMo? How far did you get? Did you finish/win? What did you write? Please leave comments so we can chat about our NaNoWriMo experiences.

Happily spent from writing,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another NaNoWriMo Update

Well, here it is. November 29th. In previous NaNoWriMo years, I've been done by now. Finished. Waving my "winner" banner in everyone's faces. Savouring the triumph and all that jazz.

Yep. Here it is. November 29th. And I'm at 36,500 words. That's 13,500 words shy of "winning" by writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th...yeah, in a mere 26 hours.

So, the question is: Is it possible to write 13,500 words in 26 hours, get a few hours of sleep, homeschool three boybarians, and complete the remainder of my extensive "To Do" list, all by midnight tomorrow night?


Why am I lagging, you ask?

Let me count the ways...

1. I was sick with a nasty cold and sinus infection for a complete week...

2. We did a lot of entertaining at the beginning of the month, which included a lot of cleaning of a very dirty house...

3. My Brave Writer class (Literary Analysis: Anne of Green Gables) has sucked a great deal more time from my writing than I had planned. It's a hoot to teach, but it gives me little time left over for writing...

4. Almost everything that I have written has also been edited at least once and posted online, so in a way, I've done double the work...

5. I've had a huge upswing in my own essay grading business, so that's taken a good deal of time, too...not that I'm complaining...

6. My chiropractor was out of town for two weeks, thus my neck and upper back are in constant pain, making typing difficult....

So, yeah. I'm not done. Nowhere near. Either I can take all day tomorrow and type my little heart out (and drive both my chiropractor and my family up the wall), or I can resign myself to abject failure.

Which one would YOU choose?

Okay, okay already--I'm getting offline to go write more of my novel. Sheesh. Who knew you were so pushy?

Blogging when I should be NaNoWriMo-ing,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update

Well, it's been a slow NaNoWriMo month thus far. Yep, eight days left and I'm barely halfway at 28,000 words.

But I've been editing my work at least once before publishing online, so it's rather like writing over 50,000 words so far.

The good news is that tonight I completed one of my stories; it ended up at just over 140,000 words written over 360 days, just five days short of the one-year anniversary of starting it and publishing it online.

Now I can concentrate on my second story...which only needs to be updated weekly which hopefully means that I can actually write now, edit later for the most part. Once I write, edit, and post tomorrow's chapter, that is.

I had hoped to get farther on the second story and have a nice bank of rough drafts to draw on for a few months, but the first story required many more words to complete than I had planned. Yep, those final four chapters ended up requiring almost 24,000 words.

So, yeah, I've only invested about 4K words into the story I wanted to be writing. But it feels GREAT to have one finished. Now my attention goes to the second one and its shorter chapters, so I should make some decent progress.

It helps that we're off school all week, plus I'm "officially" off Brave Writer this week, too. I will check in on my Literary Analysis class here and there, but not regularly as usual. It's kind of a make-up week for them anyway.

So...keep on writing, NaNoWriMo'ers!! I do have to catch up because I have half a writing class at our homeschool co-op who have joined NaNoWriMo for extra credit, and as they've all "buddied" me, I need to keep up my writing rep with them. Especially as one of them is already finished. ;)

Writing onward,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christ the King Sunday

Today is the final Sunday of the Christian Year, the celebration of Christ the King.

And today's daily devotional at The High Calling was superb in explaining this observance. I have copied the devotional in its entirety:

Nov 20, 2011
Make a Joyful Symphony to Christ the King
by Mark D. Roberts
Psalm 98:1-9

Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song,
with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn.
Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!

(Psalm 98:5-6)

Today is a special holiday in the Christian year (sometimes called the liturgical year or the church year). It is Christ the King Sunday. This holiday is not as well-known as other celebrations such as Christmas or Easter. But it holds a unique place in the Christian year as the last Sunday of the year. On Christ the King Sunday, we celebrate the coming reign of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords. We delight in the fact that when Christ reigns, the world will be restored, peace shall reign, justice shall be established, and all people will live in the fullness of the kingdom of God.

In the providence of God, our chapter from the Psalms for today perfectly fits the themes of Christ the King Sunday. If you’re new to the Daily Reflections, I should mention that on the weekends I focus on the Psalms, working psalm by psalm through the entire collection of 150. Today “just happens” to be the day for Psalm 98. This whole psalm resonates with the victory celebration. God has won. It’s time to rejoice. Verses 5 and 6 focus our praise: “Sing your praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!”

Every Sunday, Christians gather to celebrate the victory of God through Jesus Christ. The one who was crucified was raised on Easter Sunday, thus defeating sin and death. On Christ the King Sunday, we shout to Christ the Lord with gratitude for his sacrifice. We announce his victory to the world, inviting them to join us in our celebration: “Shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!” (98:4).

On Christ the King Sunday, we complete the cycle of the Christian year. It began almost one year ago with Advent. In that season prior to Christmas, we set our hope upon God, yearning for our Savior, as did the Jews so many centuries earlier. Today, we celebrate the fact that the Savior came, born in a manger. That he lived among us, proclaiming the kingdom of God. That he died, taking upon himself the sin of the world. And that he was raised from the dead, breaking the power of sin and death itself. Christ rules today as King of kings. This we celebrate, even as we look forward to the time when we will fully enjoy the life of his kingdom.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you live as if Christ is the King of kings? What would it mean for you to acknowledge his kingdom each day? How can you celebrate Christ the King in your life today? How can you celebrate Christ the Kind in your daily work this week?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

Propers for the Sunday Before Advent: Christ the King:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who restores all things in your Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords; Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people, so that we may abundantly produce the fruit of good works and be abundantly rewarded in your eternal kingdom; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Jer23.5-8; John6.5-14; Ps85.1-13; Hebrews7.1-7

So we pray the old Christian Year out in thanksgiving and praise as we welcome in the new Christian Year beginning next Sunday with the First Sunday in Advent!!

Wishing you a blessed day of victory in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Publication News!

About a month ago, I received the monthly e-mail I usually receive from Victoria Magazine. One of the things listed there mentioned the writing of a short piece about our favorite winter comfort food.

Right then and there, I drafted a short essay on Keith's amazing tortilla soup...how the Southwest cooking warms us on snowy nights, etc. I quickly proofread the piece and sent it off to Victoria.

And promptly forgot all about it.

Until yesterday.

I received a short e-mail from one of the editors at Victoria, informing me that my piece was chosen to be published in the January/February 2012 edition of Victoria Magazine.

Here's my first written acceptance for publication:

Hi Susanne,

I just wanted to let you know that we have selected your letter about your favorite comfort food to appear in our upcoming Jan/Feb12 issue of Victoria. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. If you would e-mail me your mailing address, I will be happy to send you a couple of comp copies once the issue comes out. Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Anne Garry

Anne Garry
Managing Editor, Victoria
Hoffman Media, LLC


It's just a short little piece that should appear in the "Reader to Reader" section at the beginning of Victoria, one of only two magazines I receive (along with Ruminate, a Christian arts and literature magazine, both gifts from lovely friends. But it's my first acceptance for publication.

And combined with Thursday's feature of my post about the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge of last year, which included one of my poems, on the homepage of the She Writes website, this week has become quite an outstanding one for publication.

Well, I'm quite behind in NaNoWriMo now at only 12,000 words, so I'll have to write 2000 words every single day for the rest of the month, plus an extra 2000 this weekend. It's doable, but it's going to take some real concentration.

Which may be a bit difficult, given that three of the kids and myself are coming down with colds.

Aah well--that's the writing life.

Writing with you,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Last Year at This Time: Nov PAD Challenge

So this year I've returned to the adventure of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) after taking last year off. After all, fiction writing isn't my thing. My participation in NaNoWriMo in 2008 marked my first foray into fiction writing since college, and somehow, nonfiction writer though I am, I was hooked.

I think it was the freedom of NaNoWriMo that drew me in, hypnotizing me into writing until the wee small hours most nights when the rest of the household slept. I wrote with only a single sheet of notes in front of me: just a class schedule, a few background notes, a few street names. And I just let my fingers roam, typing whatever came to mind as I followed my main character around, describing what she did, what she said, how she felt.

I finished the challenge in 2008, and in 2009 I attempted and succeeded in completing the second half of the 2008 novel. It was a heady feeling for a nonfiction writer usually bound by facts, writing stories straight from my brain with such abandon.

But when 2010 rolled around, too many obligations filled my proverbial plate to consider participating in NaNoWriMo, so I tackled a different challenge that I thought would take less time and less energy.

I was wrong about that last part. My choice for last November's writing challenge was anything but quick and easy. In fact, I'm pretty darn sure that I spent more time on it per day than I did with NaNoWriMo.

Robert Lee Brewer, the editor of Poets Market offered his annual Nov (November) PAD (Poem a Day) Chapbook Challenge on his Poetic Asides blog on the Writers Digest website. In past years I had pounced on the opportunity of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) in April, but with the main website that hosted it now defunct, Brewer's poem-a-day challenge truly appealed to me.

While I enjoyed the different daily prompts which evoked some very different poems from me than I had composed previously, the major advantage to the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge was the contest itself: a chapbook of poems composed during the Nov PAD Challenge would be chosen by Brewer (and perhaps be published?).

Plus, with some fairly impressive names in poetry participating, some of my poems received some excellent feedback from contemporary poets. The movers-and-shakers of the American poetry scene were coming to my blog and leaving very helpful comments to help me improve some of my more promising efforts.

Brewer's daily prompts seemed fairly simple on the surface, but when explored more deeply, the possibilities (and thus my imagination) abounded. Over the course of the month, my writing deepened and broadened wonderfully, maturing me both as a writer and a poet. And isn't that what we desire more than anything?

If poets decide to participate in NaNoWriMo, Brewer also hosts a Poem a Day challenge in April as well, his own version of NaPoWriMo. So all is not lost if November is too busy to join the Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge.

Link for the rules for Nov PAD Chapbook Challenge:

Link for Brewer's Poetic Asides Blog (the site of the challenge):

Writing with you this month,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quotation for the Week

I'm a teensy bit behind in my NaNoWriMo word count. Just a teensy bit. Our household has been very busy, readying the house for company--friends over for dinner last night and a blogging friend and her husband spending a few nights with us this coming week.

I also have a bunch of work to do for my classes this week: lesson planning for the week for our three home-educated boybarians, new discussion questions to post at Brave Writer for my Anne of Green Gables Literary Analysis class (and responses to their replies), lesson preparation and essay grading for my medieval history and high school writing courses at Heritage Christian School's Class Days, plus NaNoWriMo and posting edited chapters on Wattpad in a timely manner.

So a little inspiration is definitely needed to help me push through this busy month.

And it comes from an unlikely source: the "curmudgeonous" George Bernard Shaw. (Yes, I made up the word curmudgeonous--I think it describes Shaw perfectly.)

"Only in books has mankind known perfect truth, love, and beauty."

--George Bernard Shaw

Yeah, I know. The idea of "perfect truth, love, and beauty" is a bit of a reach to apply to NaNoWriMo, and especially to my teen stories.

But one can dream, right?

I'm just so excited that the main story I'm writing for NaNoWriMo hit a high on Wattpad of #1 in the Thriller category and #3 in its main category, nearly reaching into the Top 100 works on the entire website (#103) this week. That's amazing!! :)

So on I tap, tap, tap, writing furiously while attempting to juggle all else that I need to do in addition to writing a 50,000 word novel, especially this week.

With a never-ending tap, tap, tap,

Friday, November 4, 2011

Update from NaNo Land

Well, it's Day Four of National Novel Writing Month, known affectionately as NaNoWriMo, and it's going well. My goal for the end of today is 8,000 words, and I'm slightly over 7,000 right now without having written today.

And today, with one of the first rainstorms of the wintry season, is a perfect day for writing. I even have a cup of hot chocolate at my elbow to assist me.

This is a strange year for doing NaNoWriMo as I'm juggling two partially-written stories, one nearly done and one only a few chapters in. And as I'm posting finished chapters on a writing website, I have to take breaks from writing freely and creatively to revise, edit, and proof before posting new chapters on schedule: weekends for the nearly-finished story, and mid-week for the newer story. If I don't post on time, I start receiving whining complaints from readers. And that's not good. Some even claim withdrawals, but I wouldn't go that far. ;)

So I'm popping back and forth between the two stories, wanting to finish the first (I have 2 1/2 chapters left to write) then devote myself to the second story for the remainder of NaNoWriMo.

It's also fun having so many Writing Buddies this year. Several former writing students, now graduated, have joined and rejoined, plus a few online friends and at least two students from my current writing class. (Yes, I offered extra credit.) We keep track of one another and give each other a swift kick if the writing totals start stagnating. It's really wonderful.

So I thought I'd post the Prologue of my second story; I've published this prologue and eight short chapters so far online. Let me know what you think, okay?

Prologue to Pinned but Fluttering

How had it gone on this long? I wondered, my eyes listlessly wandering over the nearly-bare room lit by a single light bulb hanging from the water-stained ceiling.

It had all seemed so simple at first. So normal.

Now I was locked in this room nearly 24/7, only allowed out while being escorted to the bathroom three times a day.

Like an animal.

I missed the sun. So much.

But I missed my parents even more. Even after all these years, I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that they're gone. Both of them. It had happened so fast, one right after the other.

Tears rose unbidden to my eyes, blurring the dirty white walls, the plywood nailed securely over the one small, boarded window.

If it weren't for the battery-operated alarm clock on the floor next to the mattress I slept on, I would have never have any idea of the time.

I could tell day from night by the frequency of bathroom breaks, not from the usual rhythms of sunlight and darkness.

Not that either of them would ever let me even pee in peace, anyway.

But I had a strange feeling that things were going to change. And soon.

I could sense the tension between the two of them—the way they bellowed and screamed at one another hour after hour, the animosity building between them each day.

Part of me was scared silly. Change, in my book, was never a good thing. Change had always meant a definite worsening of my lot. Yep, every stinking time. Always. Change was bad.

But part of me was restless, perhaps even excited. Through the thick, bolted door, I had managed to catch just enough of their incessant arguing to figure out what the fighting was all about.

It was all about me.

But this time, I could be granted a chance—the chance I've been praying for every night...for years.

It only took one slip on their part, and I could be free. Free of this tiny room. Free of their anger...which they always took out on me. Free of them.

All love I'd had for them when I was a child was gone...long gone. I wasn't sure that I had the mental energy to hate them, even after all this time. But I did know that I didn't love them. That I would leave them the very first chance that came my way.

Because I knew that one chance was all I would ever, ever get.

So if any of you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, please comment and leave me your user name so that we can become Writing Buddies.

Writing furiously,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Muslims and Christians

Image Attribution

On this All Saints' Day, a day in which Christians remember those saints, both those recognized by the Church as well as those living quiet lives for Christ's Kingdom, I received a thought-provoking (and prayer-provoking) e-mail from K, a friend of mine serving as a missionary in Asia. She's also a superb writer and this morning she sent out a thought-provoking article on her observations of Muslim-Christian relations. With her kind written permission, I am reprinting her article in its entirety:

As part of my research for the week, I was reading up on the history of missions to Muslims since the founding of Islam.

Mostly, what I read made me profoundly sad. Sad, and frustrated. Because it seems like Christians and Muslims have been talking past each other for several hundred years, and fighting the same battles over and over again, without ever really understanding each other.

What makes it worse is that among Christians, Muslims often have the reputation for “hardheartedness” or “stubbornness” when they don’t immediately accept the gospel offered by foreigners. Reaching Muslims is seen as hopeless, impossible. But often, the problem is not that Muslims are refusing to accept what God has done, but simply not understanding what is being offered to them, because of religious vocabulary differences, cultural differences, or just plain old language differences.

Likewise, among Muslims, Christians have the reputation of being colonialist, overbearing, and stubborn in their insistence on trying to bring a foreign way of life (complete with dirty foreign meats and several foreign gods) into a very, very different culture.

The most heartbreaking passage of this particular paper pointed out that many Christians simply want the demise of Islam – if Muslims don’t become Christian, at least they can become secular. So Muslims who encounter foreigners often feel that the very foundations of their society are under attack – better that they learn to watch “Sex and the City” and wear revealing clothes than continue to worship the Creator God in the traditional way. As attractive as freedom in Christ is, it comes bundled with western promiscuity, western traditions, and a western worldview. And yet, we continue to call them the “stubborn” ones for refusing to change.

Seriously, I wanted to cry when I read that. Call me crazy, but I think God has a deep, abiding love for Muslims. I think their culture (like every culture) still carries strong reflections of God’s image. And I think that followers of Jesus must learn to change from within – first, from within themselves, and then from within their culture. I cannot preach a secular gospel; I cannot say that religious and cultural heritage don’t matter. Nor can I deny the power of Jesus to help people re-invent culture in new, God honoring ways. Because of the cross, everything is redeemable.

We need to stop looking for outward change, without caring about the heart reasons for the change. A woman who takes off her headscarf might be experiencing freedom in Christ, or she might be lusting after western culture. A man who stops praying five times a day could be liberated, or he could be lazy.

And we need to care enough about the people we’re supposedly trying to reach to try to understand their culture from the inside, and not just dismiss it as completely worthless or ungodly. After all, didn’t we all start from a place of unknowing, a place of groping after some form of truth in one way or another? No matter where we come from, God is able to redeem and transform us into a new creation; how can we say that anyone is truly beyond hope?

Thanks for listening to the sadness of my heart on this issue. Would you take a minute to stop and pray for the interaction between the Christian and Muslim worlds – to pray that there would be a brighter future springing from the knowledge of Jesus?

Thought-provoking? What do you think? Especially on All Saints' Day?

Thinking (and praying) tonight,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quotation for the Week: On Writing

With NaNoWriMo starting on Tuesday, an inspirational quotation on writing seems to be in order for this week. Of course, the daily encouragement e-mails from the wonderful people at NaNoWriMo are helpful, but sometimes a quotation from our own journals, one that snatched our attention and inspired us enough to jot it down months or even years ago, may be just the ticket to start strong and avoid the unsightly procrastination monster.

For some of my consistent readers, a warning: these quotations are reprints of ones I have posted before on this blog. But they're sooooo good that they're worth another perusal, I think. :)

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotion."
--James Michener

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."
--Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
--Anton Checkov

So as we gather our creative forces in preparation for NaNoWriMo, we can find inspiration in the most obscure corners where no one dares to explore, or in the brightest hallways where many have tread and continue to do so.

As long as we keep writing, writing, writing. For it is only in writing that our writing will improve, and thus we seek the heart and soul of our craft: the beauty and truth inherent in the written word.

Writing with you,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yep--Another Banner NaNoWriMo Year!!!

Yep. I'm gonna do it again. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.

The goal of NaNoWriMo: Write a 50,000-word novel in a month, in this case, November. Thirty days. 50,000 words. Fun.

I participated in 2008 for the first time. Yes, me. The NON-fiction writer. The I-barely-survived-creative-writing-in-college writer. The writer who had not penned a work of fiction since that same creative writing class...which I think culminated in a story about a flea named Spike.

I wrote a story about a single woman on the journey from the evangelical church to the liturgical, historical Anglican church. Of course, the story was quite autobiographical, but I took my creative writing professor's words to heart: Write what you know. And I completed the challenge: 50,000 words by November 29th, 2008.

In 2009 I tackled the second half of the novel which I had titled The Pilgrim Pathway. Have I touched it since November 28, 2009? Nope. It's very rough (actually, "extremely rough" would be more accurate), but mostly complete.

Last year I was teaching an intensive Brave Writer class over the month of November, so I elected to take up a Poem-a-Day challenge through Robert Brewer's Poets Market blog on the Writers Market website. I wrote thirty poems, a few of them decent, and received some wonderfully helpful critiques from some fairly major poets. Cool. But I think I sunk as much time into the poems as I would have in NaNoWriMo.

But the joyous freedom of allowing a story to unfold in one's brain and flow through tapping fingers onto a computer screen was too addicting. I started writing a fiction story on another website in the middle of the month; I've been posting a chapter a week and am down to the final three chapters. The story contains 50 chapters (very short, 25000-word chapters which is what the website handles best), and 200 pages on my computer, 150 pages on the website. And this story has followers: it has garnered over 110,000 "reads" (or hits), over 1100 votes/likes, nearly 1000 individual comments, and last week the 50th chapter reached a high ranking of #9 in its category. So I guess I couldn't stop writing fiction after all.

So I'm back with NaNoWriMo in 2011, and I'm planning to work on a second story I started on the same writing website in August. It's called Pinned but Fluttering. So far I have a prologue and seven chapters written, and it's even more popular than my first story. I posted Chapter Seven early Wednesday, and this morning it's ranked #4 in its category and #2 in the Thriller category--it reached #1 in the Thriller category for a few days last week. Out of over a million stories and poems posted on the site, these rankings are very encouraging!

And the exciting thing about NaNoWriMo this year is that I'm doing it with friends! In 2009, I "friended" a writing student and a member of our local writers workshop, and we worked together, encouraging each other. My local friend and I even met at our library and wrote next to each other, our fingers typing as we composed companionably.

But this year I will be participating with several former writing students, all having graduated high school, plus my workshop friend. And on a whim I offered extra credit to my current writing class in our home school co-op--one extra credit point for every 1000 words written, with a maximum of 50 extra credit points. And almost half the class raised hands when I asked who was considering participating in NaNoWriMo this fall.

And NaNoWriMo is more than a bunch of people writing: over a quarter of a million adults participate, along with school programs for kids. But NaNoWriMo is a non-profit, so in the spirit of sharing the love of writing (and the money), I'm posting a two-minute video on all they do, with the hopes that many of us will send in a few bucks to keep the ball[point pens] rolling..

So...who's in??? Post your NaNoWriMo user name in my comments, and we can journey together!!

Writing with you,


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