Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quotation of the Week: On Prayer

Praying at my desk from 1928 Book of Common Prayer

This week was a week for prayer. With the tornados in Joplin, Missouri (where an friend from junior high lives with his family; they're fine, thanks be to God), a busy week for me plus a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis, and Memorial Day tomorrow, it's been a blessing to bow head, fold hands, bend knees, quiet heart, and seek God.

As I become more accustomed to praying from the Book of Common Prayer 2011, I find myself praying certain prayers more than others, including this Collect for the Spirit of Prayer:

O GOD, you pour the spirit of grace and prayer on all who desire your help; As we draw close to you, keep us from hardness of heart and wandering minds, so that in our thoughts and actions, we may worship you in spirit and in truth; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(James 4.8; Ephesians 4.18; John 4.24) (page 60, BCP 2011)

And as we light candles to remind us of the Light of the World, shining through the we lift hands in praise and supplication before the King of kings and Lord of we seek His face, the One we seek, we hope and pray:

"And help us, this and every day, to live more nearly as we pray."
--John Keble (1792-1866)
And so may we all do so, "this and every day."

Glory to the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever; Now and always. Amen.
(The Gloria Patri, BCP 2011)

Praying with you this day,

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Visit to PLNU

My beloved "Lit Department" now located in the Bond Academic Center

Yesterday after teaching my two high school writing classes at our co-op Class Day at Heritage Christian School, our private homeschooling "school," I stuffed all four kids into our ancient Corolla (who just celebrated her twentieth birthday, btw) and put-putted down to the coast and to Point Loma Nazarene University.

After taking Elizabeth to fill out her transcript request at the Records Office, we drove across campus to its heart (for me): the Department of Literature, Journalism, and Modern Languages, always known (somewhat inaccurately by me) as "The Lit Department."

It's still strange for me to walk on campus twenty-seven years after I first started as a freshman as the campus has radically changed since 1984. The Lit Department is where the Caf (cafeteria) used to be. The Caf (now called "The Commons") is where the rolling lawn that we all collapsed upon and napped in the sun after lunch used to be. Taylor Hall, where the Lit Department used to be, is now devoted to the Nursing Department. There's a new wing of the library and a new religion department far from the old one. Cabrillo Hall, which used to be the residence of the strange Madame Tingley, the noted Theosophist who built many of the campus buildings--Cabrillo Hall, which I swear was haunted my freshman year when we heard strange moaning noises at 2 AM while working on a yearbook deadline, has been moved across the lawn and the lane to a new location.

"The Greek" 

Parts of the campus, of course, remain unchanged. The Greek Amphitheater, pictured above, is the first place the freshman go for orientation and is also the spot where graduatations are held each spring, the last place we enter as students of PLNU before leaving as graduates of PLNU. The view from above The Greek is stunning: the Pacific undulates gently in the background, the sun sparkling on the whitecaps seen through a screen of ancient Eucalyptus and palm trees.

So why were we there yesterday? I was delivering prayer books to the Lit Department Assistant, Rachel, a long-time friend of mine. She ordered several copies of the Book of Common Prayer 2011, and as she was sooooo excited about receiving them, I couldn't resist hand-delivering them to her. She purchased one for her priest at Holy Spirit Anglican which meets in the Bethel Seminary Chapel near College Avenue Baptist Church. I hope that Fr. David likes it. Rachel also provided a copy of the prayer book to the outgoing Lit Department Chair; I hope Carol likes it as well! It's so wonderful to share a labor of love with my academic family.

View of Pacific Ocean behind the cross upon entering the PLNU Campus

PLNU has always meant so much to me, as a student, as a faculty member, and as a parent of a student this past year. To tell the truth, I had no plans to attend PLNU, much less a Christian college, when I set my sights on universities while in high school. No, my eyes were focused on two English departments: Dartmouth and UC Santa Cruz, both of which I had researched within an inch of their lives, studying every catalog offering and reading up on each tenured professor. Their academic reputations and credentials were stellar, and I was beyond excited about both schools, possible academically as I graduated eighth in a class of over 700 students. Local San Diego State University was my fall-back if financing didn't work for the other two; I had meticulously researched their English department as well and was satisfied with my findings.

Then one morning I ran into a group of Christian students, a rather close knit bunch I had known since first grade and had circulated along their fringes off and on. They mentioned to me that a recruiter from Point Loma College (as it was known then) was coming second period that morning to talk to any interested students, and we could be excused to miss Algebra II to attend his presentation. Now, anything that involved an excused absence from my least-favorite subject was a huge temptation, so I tagged along with the group.

As the recruiter spoke, a strange feeling of warmth stole through me. And by the time he finished his spiel, I knew without a doubt that I would be attending PLNU.

I knew next-to-nothing about the college. I didn't know what the Nazarene denomination was as I had grown up the only Christian in a nominally-religious home in which I attended a Presbyterian Church for a few years as a preschooler and a Methodist Church for a year in junior high. I knew next-to-nothing about this tiny school's English department. But I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to attend PLNU.

My dad asked me about why, if I wanted to attend a Christian college, I didn't just attend Christian Heritage College (now San Diego Christian College where my husband attended) as it was within walking distance from our home? I couldn't explain the compulsion I felt about PLNU. It was so strong that, having never set foot on campus, I cheerfully wrote out a huge check from my college fund to Point Loma, no questions asked. Talk about blind faith!

At the time as a fairly untutored Christian (who didn't even know what the tern "born again" meant during my senior year of high school), I didn't recognize this need to attend PLNU as God's call. Plus, I had by this time met my future husband; we were officially engaged on the night of my senior prom, so Dartmouth and UCSC were out of the question as I refused to leave San Diego. So this little college on the coast, with only half the population of my high school, became home for me for my first year in the dorms and the next three years as a married commuter student.

And I was truly home.

Sunset over the Lit Department

The Lit Department became my family. I devoted hours of working in the departmental office as a volunteer, sorting mail, making copies, grading tests (and eventually essays). I lived and breathed that department. And when my mentor, Maxine Walker, mentioned my attending graduate school and returning to PLNU to teach, I heard yet another call, one I both recognized and took seriously. So after sobbing my way through graduation behind my sunglasses, already homesick for my beloved department despite the honor of graduating second in my class, I attended USD for two years, received my Master's in English, and after another year off (during which I taught in USD's German Department, worked for Harcourt Brace, finished the work on the book Dr. Walsh and I edited, and gave birth to our daughter), I was fulfilling my dream of teaching writing and literature at PLNU.

But with more children coming along and yet another call to educate them at home, I slowed my teaching schedule, then stopped all together. Three, then four children made teaching too hard, and despite my "dream job," my heart was at home. Perhaps in a couple of years when our youngest no longer needs so much help with his education, and with this new prayer book I've edited to my credit, I may be able return to teaching a class or two, I hope.

So yesterday's visit brought many memories tumbling over each other, and many emotions as well: sadness that Elizabeth can't return next year due to financial aid matters, but knowing that she may need to sort out her own calling, despite being in the Lit Department for the past year with Dean Nelson (who kindly shared his office with me when I was teaching) as her advisor at first, then Carol Blessing (who started the same year I did, only she was tenure-track while I was an adjunct) as her advisor when Elizabeth changed her major from journalism to literature. It was wonderful, though, that she had Mike McKinney, my former German professor and whose second semester German classes I covered while he was on sabbatical, while I'm teaching Timothy and Benjamin German at home. (Stubborn Jonathan insists on learning Japanese, not that I can help him there!)

So this school year closes with bittersweetness as I celebrate the publication of the Book of Common Prayer 2011 that I helped to edit and the close of Elizabeth's first year of college, but not knowing when or if she will return to PLNU; the boys do not seem interested in attending PLNU at present. Of course, if I'm back teaching there, despite the horrendous commute, the faculty discount could make attending there worth their while.... ;)

The main walkway we used to call "Caf Lane"

Strolling down memory lane ("Caf Lane" in this instance),

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rejoining the Journey of Gratitude

(Posted a day late, thanks to stubborn Blogger!)

I've been remiss in continuing my journey with The Gratitude Community of A Holy Experience over the last few months. Earlier this year, I passed the halfway mark to the goal of chronicling One Thousand Gifts as I learn to walk in prayerful thanks.

I have much to be thankful for, and the five hundred plus items on my list (which I hope to recopy into a special gratitude journal) testify to God's goodness. And jotting down these thanks has increased my faith, strengthened my joy.

From the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

Thanksgiving for All God's Mercies
Almighty God, Father of all mercies;
We humbly give you heartfelt thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and all mankind.
We bless you for creating us and sustaining us,
and for all the blessings of this life;
But, most of all, for your immeasurable love--
the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
For your ways of grace and for our hope of glory.
And give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that our hearts may overflow with thanks,
and that we make known your praise,
not only with our lips, but also in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit,
belong all honor and glory, now and always. Amen.

(2 Corinthians 1.3; Isaiah 63.7; Revelation 4.11; Romans 12.1)

So I journey forward, trying to push through the pain, recognizing the little glories that pepper my days...if only we take the time to truly see as God sees....

Thanking Him this day for:

511. ...the wonder of holding in my hand a book that I helped to edit, the Book of Common Prayer 2011.

512. ...the safety of an old friend and his family who live in Joplin, Missouri, after the F5 tornado that struck Sunday afternoon.

513. ...the blessing of having my girl back home, full-time, finished with her first year of college.

514. ...knowing that we have fewer than 13 days of homeschooling left...then...V-A-C-A-TION!

515. ...the joy of picking up a pen, ignoring the ache, and letting words spill across a page.

516. ...the satisfaction of pulling my head out of the sand, pushing through the pain, and returning to blogging, Facebook, etc., to connect and reconnect with friends old and new.

517. ...the pure white of lilacs blooming in our garden.

518. ...the grace of rain and cool weather despite summer heat looming

519. ...the mercy of God's Word, especially His Psalms.

520. ...the way hours slip past unheeded as my mind melds words into phrase, sentence, page...cutting and shaping the heft of words into poignancy and, I hope, power. The bliss of writing!!!

Giving thanks for His good gifts, now and always!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Quotation of the Week: A Little Humor

Anne Lamott speaking at PLNU
Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience

Two of my favorite writers are Annes--one with an -e and one without, and both have greatly influenced my faith life.

Anne Lamott's trilogy of books, Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace Eventually, are among my favorite Christian books...and this is from an avid reader who doesn't read much Christian "literature" (and yes, I use the word "literature" with "Christian" loosely). Lamott sees Christianity through a very different "glass darkly" than I do, but I adore the freshness she brings, her transparency, her dedication to writing Truth whatever the personal cost to her. Her books are part autobiography, part wise essays, part hilarity, part eyes-tearing-up, and are all-important, life-impacting, truth-exposing works. My Quotation Journal is filled with pages of quotations from her books. I think only Oswald Chambers outranks her in the number of quotes I've scribbled in my journal.

And my "Ann without an -e," Ann Voskamp, I first met on her amazing, incredible, beautiful, thought-provoking, poetic, and transparent blog, A Holy Experience. And now I own her first book, One Thousand Gifts, although I've had very little time to pick it up. I'm very much enjoying the quotation calendar that came with the book when I ordered it from Dayspring. Her homeschooling wisdom, her life experience, her beautiful phrases and photographs--Ann Voskamp is definitely a favorite.

So this Lord's Day (which I hope it will remain if I type quickly enough!) I post a quotation of Lamott's that Ann Voskamp posted on her blog--the perfect combination of two of my favorite living writers....

"Joy is the best makeup. Joy, and good lighting."
--Anne Lamott, quoted by Ann Voskamp on A Holy Experience
So I wish you all a blessed week ahead! I hope that I shall be able to post more here this week, but I have MLA research essay rough draft conferences all week for my co-op students at Heritage Christian School's Class Days, plus my online Shakespeare class to write lessons for and respond to their assignments and comments.

So it's going to be a crazy week...I would so appreciate your prayers for peace and sanity despite the sheer insanity....

God's peace be yours (and mine), this day and always,

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Abbey of the Arts

Although I can't afford an actual subscription, I at least receive monthly e-mails from Image: A Journal of Faith in the Arts. It's a beautiful journal, one I occasionally get my hot little hands on when artistic friends pass me a copy. My poet friend Judith has often attended their summer Glen Workshops which are far beyond both my ability and budget but are tempting, nonetheless.

As I scrolled through Image's monthly newsletter of artists, poets, photographers, etc., I ran across a recommended website that intrigued me: Abbey of the Arts: Transformative Living Through Contemplative and Expressive Arts. I have long dreamt of spending a week (two would be even better) at a monastery (a la Kathleen Norris in Cloister Walk) to communicate with God in the Liturgy of the Hours, in contemplative prayer, in scribbling in my spiritual journal, in composing poetry, in opening myself to the balm of silence and the gentle ordering of my days through praying the Divine Hours. So anything that mentions "monastery" or "abbey" immediate focuses my often-wandering attention.

I followed the link and have only started exploring the site. The first page I found intrigued me: A Monk Manifesto. It consists of a list of seven principles for those who wish to "express their inner monk in their everyday lives."

I'm all for that.

The seven principles are as follows:
Monk: from the Greek monachos meaning single or solitary, a monk in the world does not live apart but immersed in the everyday with a single-hearted and undivided presence, always striving for greater wholeness and integrity

Manifesto: from the Latin for clear, means a public declaration of principles and intentions.
Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.

1. I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.

2. I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.

3. I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.

4. I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.

5. I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.

6. I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.

7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

I signed the manifesto, of course.

Although most of the classes offered at the Abbey of the Arts require payment (and, unfortunately, they are not inexpensive ), they do offer a free seven-day e-course in becoming A Monk of the World which I may sign up for once school is done for the summer.

If I could afford it, I would definitely take the eight-week e-course this summer entitled Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Chronic Illness. Talk about a class tailor-made for my interests and challenges! But unless God drops $125 plus the cost of the book into my lap, it won't be happening. I may purchase the book the course uses, Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness by Mary Earle, which Amazon lists at $11.27 new and from $2.57 used. That sounds more manageable for my budget although I would greatly enjoy the give-and-take of an e-course.

I've also signed up for the Abbey of the Arts e-newsletter. And there is a blog written by the "Virtual Abbess, Christine Valters Paintner" which looks wonderful, too.

So those of you who appreciate Benedictine wisdom or the value of the artistic expression for Christians, you may appreciate perusing Abbey of the Arts. Enjoy!!

On the journey with you,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thoughts on The King's Speech

Keith took me to see The King's Speech when the Oscar buzz surrounding the film was a mere murmur in the corners of the blogosphere--on Saint Valentine's Day, to be precise. Being a long-time Colin Firth fan, I couldn't resist another period piece of his, plus the cast list was a virtual Who's Who of British film legends--at the very least, remarkable Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter reunions: Geoffrey Rush as Lionel (whom my kids know best as Captain Barbosa in the Pirates of the Caribbean films), Helena Bonham-Carter as the Queen Mum (dear Bellatrix in HP), Sir Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in HP), Sir Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop of Canterbury (whom I know best, despite his wonderful Shakespeare portrayals, for his role in one of my favorite modern film noirs, Dead Again with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson), Anthony Andrews as Prime Minister Baldwin (the Scarlet Pimpernel himself, who played against Jane Seymour in the early 80s), Timothy Spall as Churchill (Wormtail in HP), Jennifer Ehle as Lionel's wife (Elizabeth Bennet in P&P opposite Colin Firth's Darcy), David Bamber as the Theatre Director (Mr. Collins in P&P), and more...I'm sure I'm missing some.

What I really liked about The King's Speech, now that I own it on DVD as my Mother's Day gift from the boybarians, is Colin Firth's incredible performance. It's so multi-layered--he makes Bertie look like a frightened lad one moment, a somewhat arrogant ass the next, and a self-effacing, perhaps even humble man after that...and sometimes all three at the same time. One also sees so clearly the selfishness behind the "romance" that was Edward and Wallis Simpson--her calculation, his besotted selfishness. Edward as king was more concerned with appeasing Mrs. Simpson than he was with running the country, despite Hitler knocking at the door. The scene in the wine cellar between the two brothers is so telling: as Bertie asks David what he has been doing with his time, David flippantly retorts "kinging," then Bertie attempts to find out David's foreign policy decisions about Europe, to which David replies offhandedly, "Herr Hitler will sort it all out," to which Bertie returns, "But who will sort out Herr Hitler?" And just after, when Bertie questions his brother more closely, David accuses Bertie of wanting the crown for himself and then cruelly mocks Bertie's stammering responses.

And the relationship between Bertie and his father isn't much better. After reading the Christmas address on the radio, King George V insists that Bertie try to read it, then becomes impatient almost immediately, barking contradictory advice at Bertie while subtly ridiculing his son, whom he well knows may have to assume the British crown after his death as David lacks the common sense to rule well in that challenging time.

So Bertie's one friend becomes Lionel, a commoner who addresses the future king by his family name, insists upon them being equals, and teaches Bertie so much more than how to work through his stammer. And eventually we discover some of the reasons behind Bertie's speech difficulties: abused by a nurse who favored David, he was not fed properly which caused life-long digestive trouble for him. And then there was the younger brother who died of epilepsy at 13, far from the public eye. So much pressure was placed upon the Royal Family even then...almost as much as now.

So we see the background of the man who became a symbol of national unity in England during the Second World War when he and his wife, Elizabeth, the parents of the current queen, refused to leave London during the months and years of air attacks, earning themselves the trust, respect, and adoration of their subjects.

Funny at times, uncomfortable at others, poignant and praiseworthy, (but with quite a lot of cursing--actually as speech exercises!) The King's Speech well-deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Colin Firth definitely earned the Best Actor Oscar, hands down. It's by far the best film of 2010 in my humble opinion, as well as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Royally yours,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now Available!

At last!!!

The Book of Common Prayer 2011 is now available! You may read more about this new edition available for liturgical review at Book of Common Prayer 2011.

This new edition uses the English Standard Version Scriptures and hearkens back to the original Cranmer prayer book of the late 1540s, but is presented in modern, accessible language. Retaining historical and doctrinal accuracy, our prayer for this edition of the Book of Common Prayer is that it will introduce many people to the Biblical Anglican Church, allowing them to experience the prayer book for the first time.

The title page reads:

“This Book is for trial use by the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America for liturgical review. This Trial version has not been authorized, at present, for general use except as permitted by the ordinary of each diocese.”

So it is our wish and our prayer that this new trial edition of the Book of Common Prayer will be a valuable tool for understanding the Anglican mode of praying the Scriptures for those outside of the Church of England tradition and that it may be a viable alternative for those using the 1979 edition for readability yet not appreciating some of the compromises made in that Book.

I am so blessed to be part of this project. Father Keith Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in eastern San Diego County, who revised this Book of Common Prayer under the direction of Bishop Richard Boyce, asked me to help him edit this project. What seemed to be some quick proofreading soon evolved into intense editorial sessions lasting over nine months. As I am not a member of the Anglican Church, much of the theology and content was new to me, and my ignorance and many questions became quite helpful in fleshing out explanations of aspects of the Anglican tradition and practice. I have been attending weekday prayer and Communion services with Fr. Acker since 2004, but my church membership resides within the Evangelical Free Church.

I started praying with the Book of Common Prayer over ten years ago, using a 1662 edition illustrated with illuminated manuscripts. Then when I discovered a nearby Anglican Church, I was introduced to the 1979 book, and then to the 1928 which I have used for the last six years exclusively until this new 2011 edition. As a scholar of medieval literature, I adore the beauty of language in the 1928, but its main obstacle was its inaccessibility to a modern audience that was not made up of medievalists.

We pray that the Book of Common Prayer 2011 will be a blessing to many, both within and outside of the Church of England, who desire to pray the Scriptures and the historic prayers of the Anglican tradition.


Monday, May 16, 2011

A Writerly Life

There is nothing so pleasant, so relaxing, so freeing, as putting pen to paper and birthing forth words. As I plundered my Quotation Journal this cloudy afternoon, a day far too cool for May, I unearthed a little gem that perfectly expresses this joy of writing:

"It's such a pleasure to write down splendid words--almost as though one were inventing them."
--Rupert Hart-Davis
It's a compelling thing, this urge to write. I have to admit, though, that writing feels a great deal more like work when a computer is involved. I adore pen and paper far too much--the simple mechanics of watching words flow across a page.

And I treat myself to superior writing implements. My favorite pen--the one I use in daily life for grading, for correspondence (yes, I write actual notes and letters--handwritten ones!), for lesson planning, for jotting the grocery list--is a Waterman fountain pen, a royal blue swirl with gold trim which I refill with blue cartridges. When I am truly ambitious, I write with a rosewood-handled, brass-nibbed pen that I dip in sepia ink. about the purest of joys, especially when writing on quality parchment-type paper or in a leather-bound journal!

Although I have not recently been blogging as much as I have in past years, I have been writing...fiction, of all things! Those of you who know my writing style have my permission to quirk an eyebrow in my particular direction...I am so NOT a creative writer. My strengths as a writer lie in clear prose and intense poetry, not in imaginative fiction. But while I have been pushing myself to write fiction, I haven't had the wherewithal to compose blog posts. I suppose I need to channel some writing energy into other areas besides my wee, silly novella.

The quotation I really wanted to share with you all this week (you get two for the price of one this week...lucky YOU!) is about the compulsion to write. As I read my Mother's Day gift from my daughter this afternoon (The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide), Meyer discusses her compulsion to write the first book, and I couldn't help laughing a little and agreeing.

Writing is a compulsion--an addiction almost. It's the one thing I do in which I lose track of time, even if I'm merely blogging. I can write for two hours and not realize the passage of time as I am so involved on my wordy little world. And thus I discovered this quotation, jotted down ten months ago in my Quotation Journal:

"The only reason to be a professional writer is that you can't help it."
--Leo Rosten (1908-1997)
Do I ever live this truth! Writing is hard work, and I can procrastinate like you wouldn't believe...until I sit myself down and pick up my pen or start tapping on the keyboard. Then I'm on another planet, and words are my raw materials and ink (or the keyboard) is my tool as I carve out a little corner of the world for myself.

And I can't help it. I have to do it.

Writerly blessings,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Power of Confession

During each Lent for the last five years or so, I have asked Father Acker at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity for an appointment to hear my confession. I have never participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (what Catholics call Confession) at a Catholic Church, but I draw great comfort and help from the Anglican tradition of Confession.

As an evangelical for the past eighteen years, I had always heard that confession is a private thing between us and God, but of course we may seek and confess our sins to an "accountability partner," someone whom we respect and trust and who will ask after us, helping us to stay the course regarding a particular weakness, issue, or sin.

The Anglican concept of Confession seems to be a balance between the Catholic and the evangelical practices--and I always appreciate balance. :)

The first rule of Anglican Confession may be summed up this way: All may. None must. Some should. (This little rubric amuses me for some reason.) Confession is available to all, and while it is not required, some of us should definitely take advantage of the comfort and help that the formal Sacrament of Confession brings.

And Anglican Confession does not have to be given to a priest; any Christian may hear our confession as we aren't confessing to a priest but directly to God, with a trusted Christian friend (who may be a priest) hearing us and giving us counsel. 

The new Book of Common Prayer 2011 (this link should be live later this weekend) contains a section on "The Sacrament of Confession" (p. 133) and a "Form of Confession and Absolution" (p. 134), and this Form is what we used at my recent confession during Holy Week. As the "penitent," I spent time in preparation in the week before my appointed time with Father Acker, praying for God to reveal my besetting sins as well as any other specific sins I needed to confess and receive advice regarding. God gave me quite a list, of course which I jotted down in my prayer journal.

The "Sacrament of Confession" in the BCP 2011 states:
Every Christian needs to honestly recognize those actions in which we turn from God's command, not making excuse. With contrition we are to seek not only forgiveness from God, but also forgiveness from those we have wronged, in keeping with the rule of charity and making restitution as we are able.

In order to receive God's forgiveness, the Church does not require that a person confess their sins in the presence of a Priest, but only that all Christians be honestly assured in their own conscience of their duty in this matter. However, the Sacrament of Confession provides the assurance of God's grace and forgiveness, advice and counsel, and reconciliation to the unity of the Christian community.

No one should be offended by the manner chosen by another. Let all remember the rule of charity and not judge the conscience of others, seeing that there is no warrant in God's Word for doing so.

The Book of Common Prayer 2011, page 133

So the "Form of Confession and Absolution" proceeds this way:

The Penitent may ask a blessing:
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

The Priest prays:
The Lord be in your heart and on your lips, so that you may rightly and truly confess your sins: In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Penitent asks God's forgiveness of actions done or left undone:
I confess to God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, before all heaven, and before you, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed, through my own fault. And especially, I have sinned in these ways...
The Penitent briefly names the sins, taking care not to make excuse by circumstance or explanation, but simply naming the sins committed.
For these and all my other sins that I cannot now remember, I am heartily sorry, firmly purpose amendment, and humbly ask pardon of God, and ask of you penance, counsel, and absolution. I ask God to have mercy upon me and ask for your prayers on my behalf.

The Priest may give counsel and assign prayers or hymns as signs of thanksgiving for God's forgiveness.

If assured of repentance, the Priest may absolve the Penitent with the following or similar words:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive you your sins; And by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Ezekiel 33.11; Mark 1.15; Matthew 16.19; Acts 20.32; Romans 6.22)

The Priest may add:
Go in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins, and pray for me, a sinner too. Amen.

James 5.16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

The Book of Common Prayer 2011, page 134

I always end up a soppy, red-eyed mess during Confession; Father Acker knows to have a box of tissues at the ready for me. :) Yes, I confess my sins daily (or very nearly) to God as part of the Morning and/or Evening Offices of Prayer, but as many of us know, sometimes we need a person to be "Jesus-with-skin-on" for us.

I need to hear with my own ears that God has forgiven me. I need to hear the counsel--always excellent and Spirit-led as it pierces my soul--regarding conquering my besetting sins, in my case sins of fear and pride. I need to hear the Scriptures that pertain to my weak areas. I need the encouragement that comes from unloading my sins at the foot of the Cross. And I need to hear the assurances from God's Word that I am no worse than other believers so that I can walk forward without fear.

My "penance"--which is not a form of punishment as the root word is "to think"--or, as the Anglicans call it here in the new BCP, my "sign of thanksgiving for God's forgiveness" this time is to read and meditate on Psalm 42 as an antidote to fear. And I have been doing so, although not as often as I would like. If my mind were clear enough, I would love to memorize it, but my pain medications make memorizing Scripture very difficult as my memory is quite hazy most of the time. But here in Psalm 42 from the BCP 2011 Psalter (English Standard Version):

Psalm 42
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6 and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

This is the Power of Confession: laying out our soul--sins, warts, and all--before another trusted believer, asking God for His forgiveness; taking the words of absolution into our deepest of deeps, knowing that He is indeed a God of mercy and forgiveness; receiving the grace and counsel that leads us ever closer to our Savior; and then being gifted with a specific portion of His Word to hold onto when temptation strikes again and the Enemy seeks another battle.

Confession like this is difficult for many evangelicals to grasp, and it's not easy for me to express the power and grace that I receive in the Sacrament of Confession, but I pray that some may find help and encouragement through my experiences.

In His Grace, now and always,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Apologies, Quotations, and Etcetera

In case you haven't noticed, I have been pretty much hiding under a rock since January.

I'm not sure why, really. Much of it has been just busy-ness: teaching four Brave Writer classes over five months, plus teaching two co-op writing classes for high schoolers through our home school group; homeschooling the three boybarians; writing fiction (I know--so not my usual genre of writing!), finishing up details with the Book of Common Prayer, etc.

And I have neglected far more than this blog, unfortunately. I have almost completely disappeared from Facebook until this past weekend. I have neglected my real-life friendships as well as my cyber-friends with whom I participate in prayer circles, posting to others but sharing little of myself. And a huge change: I stopped composing poetry--I don't think I have written a poem at all in 2011. (Now that's scary!)

Some of the reasons for climbing under the proverbial rock and not emerging has been health-related; my pain levels are definitely affected by stress. (For more details, click on "Chronic Illness" here or under the blog header.) And some of my reasons have been friend-related: I have several very close friends who are going through hell in their marriages, several of them divorcing. And my heart just aches for them--for their emotional pain, for the brokenness of their lives and their families, the loss of their self-esteem, and in a few cases, even the loss of their faith. I somehow burden myself with their pain--not a healthy habit, I know, but one that I can't help but shoulder from time to time...although I know very well that I need to release them to God.

So, anyway, three friends--one a writing mentor and second "mom," one a dear, much-admired "older sister," and one a long-lost friend from elementary school, encouraged me greatly over the past few days, and as I prayed, God pointed out to me how very much I have distanced myself from people outside of my immediate family, including all of you who are kind enough to read this blog.

So I offer to you my heart-deep apologies for the distance I have created, and I hope and pray that I can remain more involved in all of my relationships as teaching winds down and summer approaches. I hope that you will indeed forgive me, and I hope also to return to a greater presence on Facebook and to reading the many blogs I subscribe to--something else I have been shamefully neglecting.

As I perused my beloved and rather tattered Quotation Journal this afternoon, I found a wonderful quotation from my dear friend and spiritual guide, Brother Lawrence, that Ann Voskamp quoted on her lovely and thought-provoking blog, A Holy Experience, a quotation I seek to live out daily rather than merely assent to:

"Our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does on doing them for God rather than for ourselves." 
--Brother Lawrence (c. 1614-1691)

So I pray that I can indeed crawl out from under this rock and do all things, including writing this blog, for God rather than for myself. Sounds like a wonderful way to start this new chapter of life, doesn't it?

In His Grace, Always


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