Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mid-Week Thankfulness

My lunch this day....

With the start of our 15th year of home education on Monday, then staying down in the city all day Tuesday, today is the day that I'm counting the gifts.

With boys in grades 6, 9, and 11, home schooling is a challenge and a blessing. It is difficult to leave summer behind...the late sleeping, the quiet days, the lack of deadlines.

Yet this summer has been sleepless, with slumber arriving between three and four in the morning most nights. On nights when it arrives earlier and easier, I toss and doze rather than sleep. The flare of chronic pain and fatigue is what Ann Voskamp, in her excellent book One Thousand Gifts (about which I shall write a separate post) calls "the hard eucharisteo," the difficult giving of thanks. She writes truth.

But with the fading of the heat of summer comes autumn, my favorite season. Even as school work begin again, I adore the cooling days, the hours spent in quiet study, the fire blazing in the wood stove that heats our home.

After slowly reading and digesting Ann's book this summer, I resolve to slow down and breathe. My norm during school days is to rush from one task to the next, multi-tasking constantly as I watch over the doing of long division with one eye while teaching online students the finer points of the MLA essay with the remainder of my schizoid-ish mind.

But I want to slow down, as Ann reminds me, and see the beauty and thank God for it. When I purchased Ann's book from Day Spring, I also received a "daybrightener," a daily flip calendar with quotes for each day from Ann's book. And today's provided the needed reminder as we begin the first week of thirty-six for this school year:
"I can't leave crowds for mountain top, daily blur for Walden Pond...but there's always the possibility of the singular vision. I remember: contemplative simplicity isn't a matter of circumstances[;] it's a matter of focus."

Truer truth has rarely been spoken to my heart. As I crave the contemplative, I must remember that contemplation is dependent on the state of my mind, not the state of our house or of our school. As much as I like to think that contemplation comes in retreat, in silence, in solitude, those elements are not a regular part of my life now.

Now my life overflows with boybarians, quarreling often over XBox and chores, issuing complaints regarding each other. I drive more now, transporting daughter, whose eyes haven't been healthy enough for a license, to community college classes. While she is in class I teach middle boy in Starbucks as we bond over caramel fraps. At home, oldest boy teaches youngest, saving me much work for which I'm grateful. I superintend house cleaning which I cannot do myself with chronic pain flaring. I sort laundry, plan menus and grocery lists. I teach online courses, typing lessons to students in New Zealand, Egypt, Ireland, North Carolina, New York.

Once co-op Class Days begin in mid-September, essays shall demand grading, lessons will need to be taught in expository writing and medieval history while boys tackle classes chemistry, geography, chess, and science, plus drive balls deep in PE. And I start another writing project, helping my chiropractor organize and flesh out his vocation for good health calling on God's powerful healing.

So silence and solitude will need to be a place in my mind, soul, and heart rather than in my surroundings. Not that serenity is impossible. I shall have to be aware of the tiny, hidden pools of beauty and peace in my life, and drink them in, quenching my thirst for contemplation.

Soon enough, as kids grow and become adults--graduating our home school, attending college, perhaps moving out--I will be missing these busy days. I need to savor the madness while I can, before the years slip through my fingers, disappearing into vague memories.

So at mid-week I join the Gratitude Community at Ann Voskamp's serene oasis of A Holy Experience, journeying toward my own One Thousand Gifts, with deep thanks in my heart...
631. for sheen and blush on pears, sweet juice dripping down chins

632. for Psalm 119, my favorite

633. for the welcome cool and tranquility of dusk, sun setting long behind craggy peaks, yet highlighting dark tree branches reaching against apricot and midnight-blue skies

634. for tang of Bing cherries exploding in a sunburst on my tongue

635. for winning prize of Home Depot gift card for Keith last night at library summer reading drawing--an answer to prayer

636. for gardening friend who, although moving to opposite coast, leaves her mark indelible in our community garden and in our community spirit

637. for welcome icy goodness of caramel frappuccino on hottest and weariest of days, a sheer delight of scent and taste

638. for memories stirred of percolating coffee I awoke to each morning of my childhood

639. for comfort food of chicken and biscuits for dinner tonight despite baring pantry

640. for the completion of reading Ann's book, One Thousand Gifts, a book I cannot recommend highly enough--I only wish that I were rich and could purchase ten or more just for dear friends

In slowing down enough to notice the beauties of God right there in front of us every moment, Lord, help me to give thanks for all You that gift me, helping me to see Your goodness and glorify Your beloved Son, the One who first demonstrated the true spirit of contemplation in the Gospels as He withdrew often to pray in solitude.

Praying to see and to thank, to slow down and to contemplate,

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saint Monica, Motherhood, and Home Education

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, his mother
Saint Monica has long been a favorite of mine--an example of determined motherhood and seeking God's best for her wayward child in prayer and in action. Her focus was clear and unsullied. Here is her story, courtesy of Saint of the Day from

St. Monica (322?-387)
The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.
Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous.

At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.

Today, with Internet searches, e-mail shopping and instant credit, we have little patience for things that take time. Likewise, we want instant answers to our prayers. Monica is a model of patience. Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant but wayward son, Augustine.

As our family embarks upon our 15th year of home education, I pray for Monica's tenacity, her self-discipline, her clear vision in loving and serving her children, and her fervent life of prayer, especially on behalf of her children. Her example as a faithful wife and mother brought her family into the Kingdom of God, helping them to love Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. May we mothers, whether we educate our own children at home or not, find much inspiration in Monica's example as well, and may we please our Lord in our faithfulness and tenacity as she did.

As we begin this new year of home education, I pray from the Book of Common Prayer 2011, page 68:

A Collect for Living in the Spirit
Breathe in me, Holy Spirit, so that all my thoughts may be holy; Act in me, Holy Spirit, so that my work, too, may be holy; Draw my heart, Holy Spirit, so that I love only what is holy; Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy; Guard me then, Holy Spirit, so that I may always be holy; All for Jesus' sake. Amen.
(inspired by John 20.22, Colossians 3.23-24, and Augustine's Confessions, ca. 397)

May we all be set apart for the work of the Holy Spirit, whatever our calling in life shall be, bringing glory to our Lord in all we say, do, and think, through His power and because of His love.

Frantically preparing for the school year,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gratitude and Home School Plans

School planning notebook

A week from today we'll be starting Year 15 of home education. I placed a final order with ABeka for T's literature book's teacher's guide and B's math drills/quizzes/tests and key. So now all my plans are lining up nicely. I have organizing to do and detailed plans to draw up, but the main ideas are set.

At Class Day with Heritage Christian School I'll be teaching Intermediate Writing for grades 10-12 and Medieval History for grades 4-6. On August 29th, I'll be starting to teach the MLA Research Essay at Brave Writer, then I'll be starting a Literary Analysis: Anne of Green Gables discussion in early November.

Tomorrow E starts her second year of college, this year at a nearby community college as her financial aid was messed up by both our homeschool group and the college she attended last year. She could only find two classes that were transferable and still open, so she's taking sociology and world history while continuing to work at the Bible camp nearby.

We always start the day with Family Prayers and Scripture readings from The Book of Common Prayer 2011. We also do some Bible memory and perhaps some church and/or art history together as a family as well.

T starts his junior year of high school, and our plans are these:

Algebra II--Saxon with our tutor, Johanna Vignol
Chemistry with Lab--Apologia at our co-op Class Days (double-period class)
American Lit--ABeka, combined with Brave Writer classes for The Hobbit and Merchant of Venice, plus my Intermediate Writing course that I usually teach at Class Day but am teaching him at home.
American History--ABeka
Computer Programming--not sure yet what we'll use
PE--at Class Days (one semester volleyball, one semester basketball)

J starts his freshman year of high school:

Algebra I--Saxon with our tutor, Johanna Vignol
Intro to Literature--Bob Jones, combined with Brave Writer classes for The Hobbit and Merchant of Venice, and Julie's Help for High School for writing.
Geography--"Mapping the World by Heart" at Class Days (double-period class)
Health--ABeka, 1 semester
Physical Science--ABeka
PE--at Class Days (one semester volleyball; one semester basketball)

Then my plan for B who is entering 6th grade--middle school:

Math--ABeka Mathematics 6
Reading--Bob Jones 6 Reader & Spectrum Reading
Grammar--Daily Grams 6
Writing--Brave Writer's The Writer's Jungle
World History--Sonlight 6/SOTW
Literature--Sonlight 6
German--German in 10 Minutes a Day
PE--at Class Days
Chess--at Class Days

So those are our school plans for the 2011-2012 school year, God-willing. And this is our first year ever without an elementary student; yes, they're growing up. Joy and sadness mix, stirred by dust settling on Dr, Seuss books no longer read, picture books no longer perused--all outgrown by tall ones, two towering over me.

And thus I continue on the journey to One Thousand Gifts at the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, thanking God this day:

621. for lazy summer days, resting and reading

622. for boys working hard in hot afternoons

623. for strains of piano notes and guitar music wafting through the house

624. for clothes washed clean, lavender-scented

625. for coolness birthed from August sunsets, and extra blankets needed at night

626. for family photos graced with gleaming smiles and happy faces

627. for Sabbath peace of Sunday afternoons

628. for playing Set and gin rummy with youngest on Sunday evenings

629. for spaghetti sauce bubbling on stove

630. for new story idea rising (and prologue published) as old story prepares to set, only 5-6 chapters remaining

So this last week of summer stretches out, filling rapidly with middle son's algebra "boot camp" classes, E's college classes, and trips to my parents' beach house: first time to clean, and second to play.

Preparing for this new year with thanks,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quotation for the Week...and Sabbath Rest

This summer is nearly over.

Only one more week remains, then school begins on August 29, along with my new Brave Writer MLA Research Class.

My goal this summer has been to slow down, read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts slowly and meditatively, chewing on each chapter and pondering how to apply each lesson to my life.

And just slowing down enough to truly SEE is a lesson all by itself--a valuable lesson that I am hoping and praying to learn and apply.

Part of this slowing down is taking as much of a break from my laptop on Sundays as possible (which is why I'm drafting this Saturday evening to post early Sunday). I'll read e-mail and possibly do a little Brave Writer work from time to time, but my goal is to stay off the computer as much as possible.

Last Sunday night I played gin rummy with our boys. And over the afternoon time I read a little and napped a lot. It was lovely to sssssslllooooowwwwww down and just BE.

And thus my quotation for the week is the theme of Ann Voskamp's beautiful and full-of-grace corner of the blogosphere, A Holy Experience, from which I copied these lines into my Quotation Journal:

"Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
and only [s/]he who sees takes off [her/]his shoes.

The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries."

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Obviously I am a huge fan of Mrs. Browning, especially when our only daughter is named after her, for how could I resist when God gifts me a husband with the surname "Barrett"?

Lord, I pray that You will help us all to truly see the grace of Your world, the beauty in Your people, and the Love in Your eyes, from this day forth and always.

Have a blessed Lord's Day, a full-of-grace Sabbath rest!

Seeing His grace,

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Saint Bernard has long been one of my favorite saints. He seemed to achieve an excellent balance among the different aspects of his life: contemplative prayer, service to others, preaching and teaching, scholarly study in theology, healing schism and reforming the Church, and writing. And the twelfth century was no picnic when it came to Church politics and intrigue, yet Bernard rose far above the fray, seeking God rather than pleasing people. (Something I certainly need to learn to do far better in my own life!)

Today's Saint of the Day e-mail from states:

Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But the “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.

Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.

The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.

Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.

Bernard’s life in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction.

Yet my favorite thing about Bernard isn't his place in church history, nor his stellar theology, nor his establishment of a holy order. No, it's a hymn, one that is dear to my heart; I especially like the version performed by the group 4Him:

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred head, what glory, what bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! 'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

You may listen to an mp3 of the above hymn plus read more about the hymn here: The Center for Church Music: Songs and Hymns

So as we prepare for worshiping our Lord Christ tomorrow morning, may we prepare our hearts through the help of His Holy Spirit to be like Bernard's: focused, thoughtful, contemplative, worshipful, loving. And may we echo the final line of St. Bernard's most famous hymn in our own lives: "Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee." Amen.

Meditating on the life of Bernard this day,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gratitude After a Loooooong Week

My son, working in our community garden with Peggy and Ann

I haven't been posting at all this past week...mostly because I haven't been sleeping. And when I don't sleep, everything I do grinds to a screeching halt.


I think it echoed.

Yep. It was that kind of week.

But even when one of "those weeks" comes ambling along, scattering every good plan and purpose to the four winds, we can find much to be thankful for.

The highlight of this week is the five-year blogversary of Meditative Meanderings! Yes, as of August 13, I've been blogging for five years. Half a decade.

Cool, huh?

(Yes, sleep deprivation makes me rather loopy....)

So I continue to push on, attempting to NOT fall asleep on my laptop (as has happened several times this week), adding to my journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience.

I am grateful this week:

611. for crisp summer mornings, bright and early

612. for vistas across the meadow, touched by morning sunshine

613. for five years of sharing my scribbles here, with your kind forbearance, dear readers

614. for late nights, cooled from heat of day, house silent and sleeping

615. for my son, his summer spent gardening with members of our community

616. for artful mystery novels that while away painful hours

617. for warmth of spa waters, swirling against sore muscles

618. for candles lit and icons shimmering, worship with body, heart, soul

619. for prayers in the dark, hands held atop quilt as they were 26 years ago when we were newly-wed

620. for scent of freshly-baked zucchini muffins (courtesy of my husband) wafting through our house tonight

So thank you to all of you who have read along with my silly musings and meanderings over the last few weeks or over the last few years. I appreciate your kind feedback, your readership, and your presence in my journey.

Thank you.

With gratitude,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Walking in Gratitude

Highway 8 near the Pine Valley exit

The sun shimmers behind the nearly transparent clouds as I drive into our small town, the unusual humidity in this dry desert-like land drips perspiration between my shoulder blades before ten in the morning.

Living in a small town has its advantages and disadvantages. We stroll across an edge of the meadow that centers our town, rabbits and squirrels disappearing down slim holes in sheer panic, the brush whispering as they pass. Through this meadow we take the short walk to the highway that bisects the town.

On Old Highway 80 nestles the heart of our town of 1200: the county library branch (also known as the hub of the town with its wall of DVDs, its many meetings in the community room, its programs for young and old alike, its computers with Internet access, and its newspapers and magazines, not to mention books), the county park, the gas station/market, the part-time vet, the Sheriff's substation shared with the fire department (with its one paid firefighter and dozens of volunteers who guard our town from fire each autumn), the post office, the charter school, the diner/coffee shop, the realtor, the hairdresser, the community clubhouse, the grocery store, the dentist, the Curves, the motel, the community church, the public elementary school, the "fancy" restaurant, the Lutheran Church, the ice cream/burger stand, and another realtor.

That's it. That's our "downtown," our main thoroughfare.

And we can walk any one of them from our home in five minutes. The post office, the clubhouse, the grocery store, and the motel are within sight of our front porch, the path through the meadow wending its way to Old Highway 80, the highway that was the only road through the backcountry from the Arizona border all the way into San Diego proper until the late 1960s. Now an historic highway, it meanders through many small towns like ours as it travels up the mountain pass then descends into the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Part of this year's Pine Valley Days Parade

We have much to be thankful for in such a small town. Our 41st annual festival, Pine Valley Days, begins with a deep pit barbecue Friday night, then opens the big day, Saturday, with a parade at 9 AM before the July heat sets in. Everyone then descends upon the county park where the crafters ply their wares from booths, air scented with the grilled burgers and hot dogs, the kids begging for the rides and bouncy houses. Our kids even put each other in jail via the Alpine Outlaws, later bailing jailed siblings out, a non-profit fundraiser for Make-A-Wish.

As happens at the town festival nearly every year, a mid-afternoon downpour and thunderstorm sends shoppers, crafters, families, and townsfolk scurrying under any available cover, effectively shutting down the entire booth area. Clearing after thirty minutes, the country-western band strikes up live music again in the gazebo, and families hang out again, little ones asleep in their strollers and toddlers becoming rambunctious and cranky.

Yes, there are disadvantages to living in a small town, such as having to drive thirty miles to a mall or movie theatre, gas prices 50 cents a gallon above stations in the city, iffy produce and high prices in the grocery store, and only two churches from which to choose. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages as the kids chase frogs in the park, bike ride to work at the community garden, help elderly neighbors with yard and house work, and join in Chess Day at the library. I love facilitating our eight (or so) writers at our monthly Writers' Workshop meetings and talking books with the librarians.
Tammy Mason's beautiful "book quilt" at our garden booth in the park during Pine Valley Days

A wonderful quilter donated this "book quilt," with original book covers of many classic novels (which I am constantly drooling over--only three of the books I have not read...yet!!) to raffle for the library's benefit; our community garden booth hosted the raffle for the quilt during Pine Valley Days.

That's the kind of small town spirit we're talking about.

So I offer thanks for this place as I continue to count the blessings on my journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, thanking God this day...

601. for small town festivals that bring together neighbors we don't see in the midst of too-busy days

602. for the community garden, growing community spirit as well as organic vegetables (and who made $250 at Pine Valley Days, funds to be reinvested into the garden and community)

603. for our little group of six-to-eight writers in our Writers' Workshop who gather monthly at the library to share our work, offer feedback, and encourage one another

604. for summer thunderstorms bringing much-needed rain and cooler temperatures in the midst of July/August heat

605. for old classmates on Facebook who bring laughter and love to my heart

606. for kids working hard, indoors and out, doing chores that I cannot

607. for possibilities of more lucrative work for Keith

608. for crisp summer nights plummeting into high 30s, cooling our heated house beautifully

609. for pale-pink double roses, blooming in cacophony of color

610. for the photo on my mantel of my great-grandmother as a young mother, her two children reading a book with her, one my grandmother--a delicately-colored image from the 1920s

So, happily ensconced in this small town, nestled into national forest which surrounds on all four sides, I find my heart grateful tonight as kids clamber to bed, groaning at too-early (in their expert opinion) bedtimes, but falling asleep, exhausted, minutes later. The house returns to order and peace as blankets are folded, scattered objects tucked away, laundry brought in to be folded in the fresh mountain sunshine of another summer day in this small mountain town....

And so life goes, made more visible for its counting, the importance of little things notices and catalogued here, and later copied into my deep blue Gratitude Journal.

The journey of gratitude continues, and we walk in it as we stroll across the meadow to return a library book and fetch the day's mail.

With warm regards from this small town,

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quotation of the Week: On Church of One and Prayer

Behind the back dorms, Pine Valley Bible Conference Center

Because I had to drive my daughter to work at the nearby Bible Camp (officially the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center), I had to miss church at Lake Murray. At least J, E, and I attended Morning Prayer and the Holy Communion Healing Service at Victoria House with Father Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity Friday morning.

Since I would be at the Bible Camp already, I decided to take my Kindle (which contains my ESV Bible and my updated prayer list), my Book of Common Prayer 2011, and Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and have a little worship service of my own: a Church of One Member. I settled into an Adirondack chair in the cathedral shade of vanilla-scented Jeffrey Pines and spent two hours praying, reading God's Word, and cogitating on the various truths in Ann's shy little book.

The sunshine was too warm, so I had to scoot my chair several times, following the blessed relief of shade. Then I settled in again, sipping mango tea and, after tossing my flip flops aside, I burrowed my bare toes into the cool lawn, still dew-damp.

The grounds were quiet at first, then shifted to busy and noisy as a large group of teens piled into buses returning them to the city, then all became near silence again, tranquility broken only by faint birdsong and occasion conversation of camp employees. A few times my daughter's voice wafted my direction as she cleaned the lodge rooms behind me, the familiarity making my wee Church of One more home-like.

Some friends from ancient school days assured me this morning on Facebook of the value of my little Church of One. One friend wrote, "The Sabbath is A Day Of Rest...It is his day off too!! :)," and "Church and communion are in the heart and actions, not a fish or dove displayed on a Volvo...." I value his piercing insight greatly; shining truth typed in reply to informal status, unexpected and welcome. And the other friend typed, "One can have 'church' anywhere. :)" Again, truth flutters, grasped within my reach.

But I know, too, the value of worshiping with our church families. We aren't meant to be alone in worship, although an occasional Church of One can be a welcome anomaly. This morning's two hours disappeared in a seeming instant in my personal cathedral under the ancient pines, my toes curling around damp, cool grass as I read, meditated, and prayed.

And prayer is the key. Some people have asked me how I can pray for an hour or more. It's so easy for hours of prayer to wane as time flutters by, unmarked. When we pray, we speak to the very heart of Our Father, the One who created us, who lovingly shaped our personalities, our minds, our bodies, our very souls. He adores us, loving us so far beyond our limited understanding, so far past our human comprehension.

So after coming home to the rare treat of vacant house this afternoon, I thumbed through my Quotation Journal which I have been keeping for a decade now (as of August 4). And I was drawn to a group of quotations that sought to define prayer....

"Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man [and woman] and inhaling the Spirit of God."
--Edwin Keith

"Prayer is the spirit speaking truth to Truth."

--Philip James Bailey

And of course, the poet within felt a special affinity for this gem:

"Your prayer can be poetry, and poetry can be your prayer."

--Noelani Day

So as we rest and find refreshment on this Sabbath Day, a day on which I've decided to severely limit my computer use so that I can focus on other activities and truly seek a tranquil mind and spirit each week, may we focus on our communion with the One who promises to listen to our prayers, the One who loves us and gave His everything--His only Son--so that we may spend eternity in His Presence.

Praying and resting in Him this Sabbath day,

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Feast of Transfiguration

Raphael's "Transfiguration"

Today, August 6, marks the Feast of the Transfiguration. We read about this Biblical event in the ninth chapter of the Gospel According to Saint Mark, starting at the second verse:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The Collect for this day from the Book of Common Prayer 2011 reads:

HEAVENLY Father, before your Son Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, you revealed his glory on the holy mountain; Grant that we may see the light of his presence, be strengthened to carry the cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Raphael's famous painting, pictured above, shows us two scenes: the transfigured Christ, radiant in glory, and, below, the scene from Mark 9:14-29 in which Jesus heals a boy of an unclean spirit after His Disciples are unable to do so. We see the disciples, confused by their ineffectiveness, as the crowd gathers, asking why Jesus' followers cannot heal this child beset by demonic forces. And when Jesus does arrive, we hear from Him this important truth:

"All things are possible for one who believes.”

Yesterday when we attended the Friday service of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity at Victoria House, Father Acker explained the situation of this portion of Scripture more clearly. This place, near Caesarea-Philippi, a shrine to Pan, the Roman God of partying and mischief, at which Jesus was transfigured was a large rock wall next to a waterfall. In the rock wall, various niches had been carved, with statues of different deities, all of whom were worshiped by the pantheistic Roman culture. So when Peter, rather overwhelmed by the power of Christ's transfiguration in the presence of Moses (representing the Old Testament) and Elijah (representing the New Testament in the form of John the Baptist), suggested setting up three "tents" (niches), he was talking about adding images of Moses, Elijah, and Christ to the pantheon of gods. Then the voice of the Lord steps in, straightening out any possible misunderstandings, by declaring Jesus as His Son and commanding Peter, James, and John to listen to Christ.

So may we indeed listen to Christ in our lives as we are transformed ourselves into His magnificent Glory as, through the Holy Spirit, we become more like Him in all we think, say, and do.

On the path to transfiguration with you,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Journey to 1000 Gifts Continues....

Timothy on Christmas Day, 2009

Opening gifts is a joyful experience. Usually.

When it's a birthday or Christmas or Mothers' Day, etc., joy arrives in the receiving and in the giving.

We happy parents watch our children unwrap our choice for them, confident in their enjoyment of what is masked by brightly-coloured wrapping paper and elaborately-coiffed ribbons and bows.

We take photos of their smiling faces, placing the images with care in our photo albums, labeling names and dates.

We give; they receive, thanks gushing from their lips.

Do thanks gush from our lips when we receive God's gifts?

God's gifts are not as obvious in their presentation as the gifts we give. No patterned wrapping paper and delightful bow signals to us, "this is a gift from the Lord."

No, we need to have eyes to see and ears to hear, for God's gifts are fleeting at times, a mere flash of insight, a faint whisper of Grace.

And these gifts are the ones I am attempting to count, creating my own album with words rather than photographic images--although a few of those work their way into my remembrances, too.

And as I count, I create space in my overcluttered memory for this slice of Mercy, this dollop of Grace, this whisper of Beauty, this faint sunrise of Praise.

We can't let Busyness triumph or allow the "tyranny of the urgent" to take over, masking the gifts in the wrapping paper of rushing-past-it-all, tied with ribbons of not-enough-time, taped shut with this-must-be-done-NOW.

For these are the gifts unseen, unheard, and thus unopened.

How would we feel if our children didn't see the gift we wrapped so lovingly for them, tied with a bright ribbon, given with a hand-lettered card expressing our love? How would we feel if this gift was passed over in the always-rushing day, never noticed...never opened...never appreciated?

"To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in heaven.

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress;

So our eyes look to the Lord our God...."

--Psalm 123:1-3a

And so we open our eyes that we may behold the wonders of our God (Psalm 119:18), and sing of his strength, sing aloud of His steadfast love (Psalm 59:16), giving thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 118:1).

So the journey to One Thousand Gifts with The Gratitude Community continues, jotting the gifts we see and hear, the gifts we open with joy, even the hard ones for which we see no reason but trust in His infinite goodness....

581. for rain that drenches, puddles gulped greedily by summer-thirsting land

582. for fans that circulate summer-warm air, cooling tempers as well as bodies

583. for bluer-than-blue delphiniums that graciously reseed themselves each year

584. for piano music drifting through our home, original compositions of our middle son

585. for Psalms singing the melody of praise, my heart reaching the high notes that my voice cannot possibly attain

586. for small town parades ending with grand finale of the town heroes: our volunteer firefighters who bravely defend us from autumn scourge of flames

587. for my lap quilt, tied with prayers of our church, purple pansies soft against my face

588. for the reaching out of hearts, deepening dear friendships over pinot grigio and Ben and Jerry's

589. for grace passing through summery days, resting body and mind and spirit

590. for peace of prayer, touching my spirit deep and true and real with tangible grace

591. for the grace of a Raven sent to soul-starved, exhausted Elijah-friend

592. for rolling laughter caused by black-and-white movies watched on humid afternoons

593. for coolness of evening while I journal-write from our front porch, the peace well-worth the mosquito-bites swelling redly on my ankles

594. for solving several challenges of teaching a new class at co-op with a single phone call to a wise friend

595. for eager ideas regarding teaching elementary medieval history this fall, a new class

596. for income at long last, enabling the repair of van brakes and other neglected practicalities

597. for cold, sweet Popsicles on hot, humid evenings

598. for late night chocolate conspiracies with daughter o' mine

599. for celebrating ten years (as of August 4th) of jotting words and phrases in my beloved Quotation Journal

600. for completing two weeks of thanks and opening 600 gifts since the start of this journey in December 2009

For these gifts, now opened, I thank You, Father--for allowing me to see and hear them, smell, taste, and touch them, over this journey of nineteen months. I echo the liturgy of the Psalmist: "For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord" (Psalm 117:2).

With gratitude from the depths of my heart,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quotation(s) of the Week: On Literature

My upstairs bookshelves, chock full of my favorite literary gems

They are my addiction.

My first job was, after all, in a bookshop--the old orange-themed B. Dalton Booksellers in the nearest mall, Parkway Plaza. I worked in bookstores off and on for ten years: three B. Dalton stores (Parkway, Grossmont, and Glasshouse (Sports Arena & Rosecrans), and the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (HBJ) Bookstore on 5th and A in downtown San Diego.

So I worked in bookshops from my senior year of high school through college and then before and after graduate school. In fact, I was still working in the HBJ Bookstore during and after my pregnancy with Elizabeth. The mall stores were fine, but the HBJ Bookstore was incredible--the largest non-university bookstore in all of San Diego County--that is, until the Barnes and Nobles and Borders moved into town. It was not uncommon for customers to drive down from Los Angeles, one hundred miles to the north, for a Saturday afternoon of browsing. And it was not uncommon for some customers to purchase a few hundred dollars' worth of books in an afternoon.

And I was proud to stock the Poetry and the Belles Lettres (literary) sections; in fact, when the store closed in late 1992, I kept the Poetry sign from the top of the bookcase; it's pictured above, on top of my own private poetry "section."

On Friday night I spent the night with a dear poet friend who moved recently into San Diego proper. Over chicken marsala and pinot grigio, we discussed theology, poetry, literature, friendships, and many other topics. It's so lovely to have such a lovely kindred spirit with which to talk books and literature! She has her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry, while my Master of Arts is in plain old English--so she's more a writer of poetry while I am a student of poetry, prepared to sit at her feet and drink in her wisdom.

We re-discovered a forgotten (by myself, at least) truth: literature isn't only found in books. I toted an impressive stack of DVDs down the mountain with me for out evening pleasure, and we selected the classic The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. Over Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Heath Bar and my homebaked Cranberry Oatmeal cookies, we found that the screen writing of this classic film was simply incredible. The quick wit, the sly asides, beautifully acted with impeccable timing, of course--all combined to create a masterpiece not only of film but of literature as well.

Some people ask me regarding the definition of literature--versus just fiction, short stories, poetry, plays, etc. I consulted my Quotation Journal and unearthed a few gems to elucidate this term--after all, my undergraduate degree was not in English; it was in Literature--which is also Elizabeth's major at this time.

This first quote informs us about the reading of literature; the second, written by one of my favorite American authors (Jewett's Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) is a delightful summer read), explores the writing of literature.

"The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it."
--Elizabeth Drew

"The thing that teases the mind over and over for years, and at last gets itself put down rightly on paper--whether little or great, it belongs to Literature."
--Sarah Orne Jewett

As the summer winds down, July fading into August and schools starting over the next few weeks, perhaps we have time for just one more great work of literature to read on the beach, or, even better, perhaps a great writing concept awaits the attention of our pen or keyboard.

Only time shall tell true literature from the mere book....

Literarily yours,


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