Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sixth Day of Christmas: The Collect and Quote for the Week

Our hearth during Christmastide

Beyond the old familiar song, most evangelicals are not aware of the practice of celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas. I wished Pastor Joe a Happy 6th Day of Christmas, and he looked at me as if I was speaking in Swahili.

But our family has been following the practice of celebrating Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany for about twelve years, several years before I started attending the Anglican Church and worshiping from the Book of Common Prayer. For a few years, we only did stockings on Christmas and gave the kids their big presents on Epiphany after celebrating the Twelfth Night of Christmas the night before.

This year we are glad that the Anglicans are hosting a Twelfth Night party at Victoria House; they haven't done so for a few years, and I'm really looking forward to Alice's Christmastide trifle and sweet sherry in the Ackers' antique sherry glasses. With Epiphany landing on a Sunday this year, I'm hoping to attend Sunday services with the Anglicans since I totally missed Advent this year.

Here are today's prayer and readings from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

ALMIGHTY God, you wonderfully created humanity in your image, and more wonderfully restored mankind; Grant that as your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, was made in human likeness and lived in an earthly home, so may we be partakers of the divine nature and live as a holy family; Through Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and rules with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: Psalm 139.14; Hebrews 3.14; Romans 8.14-16)
THE READINGS:Isaiah 61.1-3; Matthew 2.19-23; Psalm 8; Psalm 145.18-22; Ephesians 1.3-14

The quotation I've chosen from my Quotation Journal (started almost twelve years ago) is from one of the Early Church Fathers about the Incarnation:

Jesus was "unashamed of the lowliness of our nature. For it was to him no lowering to put on what he himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its creator."
~Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407)
So I wish you a joyous and blessed Sixth Day of Christmastide as we continue to celebrate Jesus' First Coming as a child in Bethlehem two thousand years ago and as we continue to anticipate His return "to judge the living and the dead."

With Christmastide Joy,

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day and Saint Stephen's Day

"Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen...."

Many, if not most evangelicals, have no idea when the "Feast of Stephen" referenced in the above carol occurs. For many, the day after Christmas is the day to clean up the detritus of Christmas and to pack away the tree and other decorations as Christmas is now over. Some head to malls to return gifts or to take advantage of "After-Christmas" sales. Until about twelve years ago, I was one of them, although our family tradition was to pack up the Christmas decorations on New Year's Day.

But as I've learned more about liturgical worship, specifically Anglican traditions, I've unearthed several joyful surprises. The first, and most important, is that Christmas Day is only the FIRST Day of Christmas, which lasts for twelve days, finishing with a wonderful Twelfth Night feast. Thus today is merely the Second Day of Christmas, and we have much more celebrating to do over the next ten days or so!

I also discovered the uniquely English tradition, also practiced in Australia and Canada, of Boxing Day. I found this explanation on 
the British Shoppe website:

Boxing Day takes its name from the ancient practice of opening boxes that contained money given to those who had given their service during the year. It was also the day when alms boxes, placed in churches on Christmas Day, were opened. The money was then given to the priest or used to help the poor and needy. Another name for Boxing Day used to be Offering Day.
The earliest boxes of all were not box shaped, as you might imagine, nor were they made of wood. They were, in fact, earthenware containers with a slit in the top (rather like piggy banks.) 
During the seventeenth century it became the custom for apprentices to ask their master’s customers for money at Christmas time. They collected this money in earthenware containers, which could be opened only by being smashed, and on Boxing Day the apprentices would eagerly have a ‘smashing time’, hence the expression, seeing how much they had collected. 
A later tradition, and the one which has survived to this day, was the distribution of Christmas ‘boxes’, gifts of money to people who had provided services throughout the year – the postman, the lamp-lighter, parish beadles, parish watchmen, dustmen and turn-cocks – which happened on the day after Christmas Day. 

So today is a three-fold day: the 2nd Day of Christmas, Boxing Day, and the Feast of St. Stephen. As Stephen's assignment as Deacon in the early church involved caring for the poor, we also ought to remember the story told in the carol, "Good King Wenceslas." One of my favorite Christmas devotional books, Christ in the Carols, tells of King Wenceslas:
"King Wenceslas the Holy, who ruled Bohemia from A.D. 1378 to 1419, was known for his good works and his care of the poor.... Rather than order his servants to leave a few morsels for the underprivileged peasant or send his page out to find the man and deliver some seasonal gift, Wenceslas chooses to take action himself. Leaving the warmth of his castle, the king braves fierce wind and bitter cold to search out the man. Whether factual or myth, Wenceslas' great compassion in this song reflects God's heart for the lost and the poor.
"Jesus said that he came to seek and save the lost. This is the primary reason that God chose to become man. Not content to send others in his place, the King of glory left heaven and came looking for us. Braving hostile elements, even unto death, he personally sought us out.... Like the page, we are to follow in our Master's footsteps as He continues to pursue the abandoned, the orphaned, the poor, and the lost...."
All we know about Saint Stephen is taken right from the Acts of the Apostles, written by Saint Luke. In the sixth chapter of Acts, Stephen is named as one of the deacons, "men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (v. 3) to make sure that all of the widows were adequately cared for. In the eighth verse, we read: "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the peoples," for which reason Stephen was arrested, falsely accused of blasphemy. As Stephen heard the false charges laid upon him, "all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel" (v. 15). At that point, Stephen speaks before the council, relating the history of Israel from Abraham to Jacob to Moses to Solomon, and he finished his "defense" with these words: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye always did resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye" (v. 51). Their response can be read in the Epistle written below. 

The Epistle reading for today from the Book of Common Prayer 2011 is from the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, relating the martyrdom of Saint Stephen:

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him [Stephen]. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice,“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. --English Standard Version 

The Gospel reading for Saint Stephen's Day is from the 21st chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, starting at the 34th verse:

34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes,some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,[a] whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” -English Standard Version
Jesus' words of condemnation to Jerusalem which mentioned the murders of the righteous, from A to Z (Abel to Zechariah). Christ's Words to Jerusalem often makes me tear up; His sorrow is palpable as he cries out to those He loves enough to sacrifice His life to save.

And today is also the Feast Day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Here is the Collect (collective or public prayer) for this day from The Book of Common Prayer 2011:
GRANT, O Lord, that in our earthly sufferings in witness to your truth, we may always look to heaven, and by faith see the coming glory that shall be revealed; And, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may we learn to love and bless our persecutors, following the example of your first martyr Stephen who called to you, blessed Jesus, our only Mediator and Advocate, who stands at the right hand of God, helping all who suffer for your sake; Who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (References: Acts 7.56; John 15.20; 1 Peter 4.13-14; 2 Corinthians 4.17-18)

Saint Stephen was the first martyr of the Church, and his feast day, falling on the Second Day of Christmas, reminds us that in the midst of the joys of Christmastide is also the cross, borne by Christ and His devoted followers.

Here is the closing of the familiar carol, "Good King Wenceslas": the end of the fifth verse:

"Therefore Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,

Ye who now will bless the poor,

shall yourselves find blessing."
May we follow the advice of the final stanza of this familiar carol, especially on this, the Second Day of Christmastide!

Celebrating Christmastide with you,

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Our Advent Wreath on the Fourth Sunday in Advent

Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday in Advent with the Collect from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

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. 

So we light the fourth candle, the candlelight from the Advent wreath on our kitchen table now bright enough to read the Scriptures and prayers without the need for additional lighting.

What strikes me each time we gather around the Advent wreath is the power of a single candle to illuminate the darkness. Our faith is like that--the light of one is powerful in dispelling the darkness, yet when two, three, four, and more candles are added, the light increases exponentially, glowing so brightly that the darkness is penetrated, pushed back, weakened.

The light of one is amazing...but the light of multiple candles burning in this dark world, revealing what is hidden and dispelling the fear of the unknown...that is POWER.

The power of the One who came to illumine our hearts and homes with His sacrificial love. By dying for us, He has given us His Light so that we may join Him in the great work of dispelling evil and illuminating what is good, holy, and perfect.

A holy and blessed Advent to you all!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Third Sunday of Advent

Today (well, technically yesterday as I'm writing this at nearly 1:00 AM) was the Third Sunday in Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday ("Gaudete" comes from the French word for "rejoice").

So what exactly is Gaudete Sunday? Wikipedia informs us:
Gaudete Sunday (ɡˈdt) is the third Sunday of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Churches, and other mainline Protestant churches. It can fall on any date from 11 December to 17 December. 
The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"), the first word of the introit of this day's Mass: 
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob. 
This may be translated as: 
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.— Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1 
The incipit for the Gregorian chant introit from which Gaudete Sunday gets its name. 
On Gaudete Sunday rose-colored vestments may be worn instead of violet which is otherwise prescribed for every day in the season of Advent. This tradition, previously informally observed in the Anglican Church, was formally noted as an option in the Church of England in the Common Worship liturgical renewal. In churches which have an Advent wreath, the rose colored candle is lit in addition to two of the violet colored candles, which represent the first two Sundays of Advent. Despite the otherwise somber readings of the season of Advent, which has as a secondary theme the need for penitence, the readings on the third Sunday emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord's coming. 

So with this Sunday being the Third Week of Advent, we lit our rose candle in addition to our two purple candles as we celebrated Advent tonight after dinner. There is just something so elemental and sacred in gathering around candles to read God's Word and pray together as a family--it's why Advent is one of my favorite times of year.

However, I was more disappointed than I can express to find that the leaders of our evangelical church which we have attended for over nineteen years have discarded the celebration of Advent all together. Having been ill the first two Sundays in Advent, I had missed the services and therefore had not known about the decision to not celebrate Advent as we have for the past dozen years at least, a practice started by our former worship pastor Rollo Casiple.

I am saddened to see Advent discarded in such a way when it so clearly points the way to Christ in anticipating both the celebration of His First Coming as a little child in Bethlehem as well as Our Savior's Second Coming as promised throughout the Scriptures. How can a practice be more "Biblical" than in waiting patiently for Christ's Return?

The readings today in the Book of Common Prayer 2011 centered on the life and ministry of John the Baptist. And the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent is as follows:
LORD Jesus Christ, at your first coming you sent your messenger to prepare your way; Likewise, may your servants  and the stewards of your mysteries prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; So that at your second coming to judge the world, we might be found a people acceptable in your sight; Who lives and rules with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 
The discarding of Advent by our evangelical church makes me cling all the more to the Anglican traditions that follow the Christian Year as we follow Jesus' footsteps each year in marking times of waiting and times of celebrating, times of sadness and grief and times of great joy. For me, I feel all the closer to Jesus in following the seasons of the Christian Year, and I certainly am presented with far more Scripture in a Sunday Anglican service than I am in a "Bible-believing" evangelical service.

So while I am saddened on this Gaudete Sunday, I rejoice that while churches discard valuable traditions that lead others into the Presence of Our Lord and Savior, His Word is always present to teach our minds and encourage our hearts as we seek to be conformed to the Image of the One who lived, died, rose again, and shall return for us.

Wishing you a blessed Advent,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Celebrating Advent

A repost from the Archives, 2008....

An Advent Calendar
Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. I enjoy it almost more than Christmas in several ways. I love gathering around the Advent wreath, a simple wooden one that Keith made for us years ago -- just an oval wooden plaque with five wooden candle holders glued on -- four around the outer edges and one in the center. I've added silk greenery -- holly strands and some evergreens with purple and silver pears to match the candles. We use the traditional colors of three purple candles, one pink candle, and a center white Christ Candle.

Since we've moved to this house, we have celebrated Advent -- this is our twelfth year of doing so. After dinner the kids and I gather at the kitchen table with the Advent wreath in the middle, and each child gets his or her "turn" once every four nights. When it is a child's turn, her or she lights the candle(s), reads the Scripture passage, and chooses the carol we sing (badly), and after we finish at the table, he or she gets to read the Scripture card attached to that day's pocket of the Advent calendar, a large wall hanging made by Keith's sister for us the same year we moved here. The child also gets the candy or small wrapped gift hidden in the pocket after reading the Scripture card. This year I placed enough Peppermint Kisses in each pocket for us each to have one. I pray after the Scripture and also read the devotional.

Our devotionals have changed over the years. We started off with Jotham's Journey and Tabitha's Travels which are out-of-print and very hard to obtain. Last year I saw them on e-Bay for close to $100 each! I'm missing the second book in the series but definitely can't afford it. Last year we read a little book called Christ in the Carols that contained the words to a carol, a story about the inspiration of the carol, a Scripture verse, and a short prayer.

This year we are using my own devotional, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle, a lovely gift from Dru that I am enjoying immensely. I pray the Morning Office, Midday Office, and Compline myself, but we have been doing the Vespers Office for our Advent devotional. It includes several short passages from the Psalms, a longer Scripture passage, the words to an Advent hymn, and closes with the Collect for that particular week of Advent. The Scriptures are from the New Jerusalem Bible which is easy for the kids to understand, and the Collects have been put in slightly more modern language which works well for us.

An Advent Wreath

Here is the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent that we will pray together each night during Advent:

Almighty God, give us all grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which Your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in His glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I really enjoy gathering around the lit candles in a darkened room, watching our children's faces in the flickering light as we read the Scriptures, pray, and sing together. It's a precious time, and I always hate to see each Advent end, even though Christmas Joy is right around the corner....

Wishing you all a most blessed Advent season,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Racing Toward the Finish Line...

Well, I picked a very busy month to attempt to write 50,000 words before November 30th. Unfortunately, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) occurs every November, right in the middle of one of my busiest months of the year.

So what have I been doing this month?

I've been inundated with essays to grad for my co-op high school writing class at Heritage Christian School--two sets of essays from a class that's full past the class size limit. And the essays required a lot of commentary from me--corrections, encouragement, suggestions, praise.

In other words: time-consuming.

Then I also am completing my high school MLA research essay course at Brave Writer with twice the number of students I had last year. And this month they submitted outlines, first drafts, and final drafts of their research papers, all of which required detailed grading not only of content and usage but also of all of the nit-picky details of the MLA format.

In other words: crazy time-consuming.

Then, add to that the fact that I'm trying to finish editing the first draft of an e-book on grammar for work, and we have complete and utter chaos.

And then I decide to try to finish my novel and write 50,000 words during this insane month?

I really should be committed.

There are two days remaining of the NaNoWriMo challenge, and I have 13,000 words left to write.

Well, that's a vast improvement over last year's challenge in which I posted 14,000 words on the final day, making the midnight deadline with a mere eight minutes to spare.

And I have time to write tomorrow both before and after teaching my writing class, and Friday is fairly clear. I still have the grammar book to work on and a chapter of my novel to post online, plus three teen boys to homeschool, but I am finally seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the NaNoWriMo tunnel.

 Even if I am writing this post at 2:00 in the morning.

Okay, going to sleep now so I can teach and write tomorow--uh, I mean, TODAY.


Writing furiously,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Feast of Christ the King

Today, the last Sunday of the Church Year, is known as the Feast of Christ the King. The new Church Year begins anew next Sunday, December 2, with the First Sunday in Advent.

Advent has long been one of my favorite seasons in the Church Year as it marks the end of the loooooong Ordinary Time. And Ordinary Time isn't called so because it's "ordinary," as in not special, but because of the way the passing weeks are marked with ordinal numbers: The First Sunday After Trinity, The Second Sunday After Trinity, etc.

Today marks The Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Trinity, so Ordinary Time stretches out for nearly half of the calendar year. I'm happy to see the liturgical color green (symbolizing our growth in the faith) slip away and the lovely purple of Advent (and Lent) be dusted off and displayed. The purple of Advent symbolizes the Kingly nature of Christ as we await the celebration of His First Coming as a babe in Bethlehem and, more importantly, await His Second Coming promised in the Scriptures. That's what Advent is all about: waiting and hoping.

And I love it.

Here is today's meditation from The High Calling, written by Mark D. Roberts:

How the king rejoices in your strength, O LORD! He shouts with joy because you give him victory.Psalm 21:3
Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in the Christian Year (or Church Year or Liturgical Year). What began in Advent a year ago is now coming to a conclusion. We started out yearning for the coming of a king who would bring God's salvation and peace. Today, the coming of God's kingdom is celebrated throughout the world as Christians worship Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Psalm 21 speaks clearly into our celebration of Christ the King. Originally, it was a psalm of David that celebrated the victory or the coronation of an earthly king (perhaps David himself). Speaking to the Lord, David says, "You welcomed [the king] back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold upon his head" (21:3).
In this image of the crowning of the King of Israel, we see something of the future. We catch a glimpse of the day when Christ will be crowned as King of all creation, when every creature in heaven and on earth will bow before him (Phil. 2:9-11). In that day, God's peace will fill the earth. The wolf and the lamb will dwell together in harmony (Isa. 11:6). Wars will cease, and weapons of war will be turned into tools for farming (Isa. 2:4). God's justice will prevail throughout the world (Isa. 42:4).
We aren't there yet, are we? Yet, in anticipation of what is to come, and in recognition of the fact that Christ is King even today, we celebrate him and his reign. We do this with songs and prayers. And we do this by offering ourselves as his servants, living for him, not just today, but each and every day.
In what ways do you experience Christ as King? How might the fact that Christ is King change the way you live each day? What aspects of the future kingdom do you long for today?
Crown him with many crowns,/ The Lamb upon his throne;/ Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns/ All music but its own:/ Awake, my soul, and sing/ Of him who died for thee,/ And hail him as thy matchless King/ Thro’ all eternity.
Crown him the Lord of life,/ Who triumphed o’er the grave,/ And rose victorious in the strife/ For those he came to save;/ His glories now we sing/ Who died, and rose on high,/ Who died eternal life to bring,/ And lives that death may die.
Crown him the Lord of peace,/ Whose pow’r a scepter sways/ From pole to pole, that wars may cease,/ And all be pray’r and praise:/ His reign shall know no end,/ And round his pierced feet/ Fair flow’rs of paradise extend/ Their fragrance ever sweet.
Crown him the Lord of love;/ Behold his hands and side,/ Those wounds, yet visible above,/ In beauty glorified:/ All hail, Redeemer, hail!/ For thou hast died for me:/ Thy praise and glory shall not fail/ Throughout eternity.
("Crown Him With Many Crowns," by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring, public domain.)

And from the Book of Common Prayer 2011, the Collect for The Feast of Christ the King:
Sunday Before Advent: Christ the KingALMIGHTY 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. 

So as we complete this Church Year, may we take the time this week to reflect on how God worked in and through us over the past year, and may we also turn in prayer to our Lord, asking for His blessing and guidance to be with us as we embark upon a fresh year in His Kingdom.

Feasting on His Word with you,

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Update

Well, here we are, with nearly twenty days past us and ten more to go in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And where am I? At barely 20,000 words.

At least I have all of this week off from homeschooling to write. Thank goodness!! :)

But writing isn't the only task on my blotter this week. I have comparison essays to grade for my high school writing course at Heritage Christian School, our home school Private Study Program (PSP), as we call umbrella schools here in California. Twice each month, our co-op Class Days are held at Del Cerro Baptist Church, and while my boys take classes in biology, chess, PE, Boys Adventure, and, yes, poor J is taking my Intermediate Writing course, I teach Intermediate Writing to sophomores, juniors, and seniors in which they write ten essays plus an MLA Research Essay. My writing class is based on the writing classes I taught as an adjunct instructor at Point Loma Nazarene University, and my feedback from former students indicates that my class is almost always more challenging and/or more difficult than the college composition classes they take from community colleges, SDSU, PLNU, and even UCSD. Every student who has taken an AP Writing exam after my class has received a 5, the highest mark possible.

However, I recently made a change to the class: all essays will be submitted via e-mail. Up until this time, there has been a regrettable lag between my receiving, grading, and returning the essay and the student receiving and applying the comments and suggestions I offer. Usually, I return their essays with my copious comments on the same day that they submit a new essay assignment, one that they have written without the benefit of my commentary and suggestions for improvement. But with e-mail grading, I can receive, download, grade, upload, and return the essays before the students submit their next assignment, thereby giving them time to read and apply my suggestions to the next assignment before it is due.

In addition to the comparison essays I need to grade by Monday, November 26, I also have the final MLA Research Essays for my online MLA course at Brave Writer to grade. I'm also grading these essays online: downloading, grading, uploading, and e-mailing the essays back to the respective families whose teens took my six-week course. The good news is that after I grade these essays, which require about two hours each to check formatting and sources, grade, and comment upon, I don't teach again until January. So in December I plan to complete the grammar e-book I've been working on with Julie and perhaps the MLA e-book as well, plus revise some older subscriptions for The Arrow, a monthly language arts subscription for grades 4-6.

Needless to say, I will be busy!!

But I do want to make some good progress in NaNoWriMo, even if I don't complete all 50,000 words. My primary goal is to complete a first draft of my second online novel; I just posted Chapter 49 online last Thursday, and I'm currently drafting Chapter 52. I think I'll end up with 55 chapters or so all together, perhaps with an epilogue. I'm grateful for the book's popularity; while my first novel (completed in 2011 NaNoWriMo) has garnered nearly three-quarters of a million "reads" (hits), my second novel, the one I hope to finish drafting this month, has passed 1.2 million "reads" on the main website on which I post a new chapter each week. I think I've done well among the teen girl readers thus far, and I have some plans for other short stories and novels to come after this one. We shall see.

Plus, in addition to drafting the chapters for my current novel, I have been going back over the drafts and editing them into publishable chapters for my readers who definitely start messaging me, asking for the next chapter if I'm as much as a day past my usual posting deadline. So I haven't merely been writing with the usual NaNo abandon; I've been refining and editing what I've been drafting in order to publish and post the past three chapters of my novel--and revising and editing is far more time-consuming than drafting. MUCH more so.

So I do hope to complete my primary NaNo goal of finishing the first draft of my current work-in-progress (WIP) this month, even if I do not complete NaNoWriMo's 50,000 word requirement for the month.

And thus...back to writing!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints' Day 2012

All Saints by Fra Angelico

Today, November 1, is the Feast of All Saints. On this day we remember all of the saints who have walked the pilgrim pathway before us, living the Christian life in a God-pleasing manner.

The Collect for All Saints from the 2011 Book of Common Prayer 
ALMIGHTY God, you have woven your disciples into one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of your Son, Christ our Lord; Give us grace to follow your Saints in righteous and holy living, and to come to the joy beyond words which you have prepared for those who truly love you; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 

From's Saint of the Day e-mail:

The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended "that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons" (On the Calculation of Time).
But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost.

How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast, now recognized as a solemnity, in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.
Comment:This feast, first honored martyrs. Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their conscience, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity. In the early centuries the only criterion was popular acclaim, even when the bishop's approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took form in the last 500 years. Today's feast honors the obscure as well as the famous—the saints each of us have known.
Quote:“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.... [One of the elders] said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9,14). 
All Saints of Scotland Icon
And from The High Calling's Daily Reflection:
Today is All Saints Day, a holy day recognized by the Catholic Church and, in various ways, by various Protestant denominations. Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the Sunday of All Saints on the week after Pentecost.
Some Christian traditions focus on remembering special Christians on All Saints Day or bringing to mind believers who have died and gone to be with the Lord. This day offers a fine opportunity to thank God for those whose lives have honored him and made a difference to us. Yet, it's important to remember that the biblical sense of "saint" includes all of God's people, not just those who have excelled in discipleship. I thought it might be helpful for us to review what we learned about saints from Ephesians 1:1.

In the opening verse of this letter, Paul addresses the letter's recipients as "God's holy people." Traditionally, the Greek word hagioi, translated here as "God's holy people," is rendered "saints." Thus, the King James version reads, "To the saints which are at Ephesus." In fact, the English word "saint" comes from the Latin sanctus, which means "holy." So, saints are holy people, by definition.
But what does it mean to be a holy person, a saint? From a biblical perspective, something is holy when it is set apart for God and God's purposes. So, an animal to be sacrificed to the Lord is holy because it is designated for this special function. In Exodus 19, God set apart the Israelites as his own "treasured possession" (19:5). They would be a "holy nation" (19:6) through which God would make himself known to the world. In the New Testament, believers in Jesus Christ are referred to as "saints" or "holy people" because they have inherited Israel's divinely conferred status as people set apart by God for him and for his saving purposes.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are a saint. You are a holy person. This does not necessarily say anything about your worthiness to receive this title or your exemplary lifestyle, however. I wouldn't recommend that you go around putting "Saint" in front of your name. Rather, you are a saint because God has chosen you to belong to him and his people. He has set you apart so that you might participate in his redeeming work in the world.
Remember, you are not a solo saint. There is no such thing from a biblical perspective. Rather, as a saint, you have been joined to the family of all saints, including those who live around the world and those who have gone to be with the Lord. Therefore, on All Saints Day, it is a perfect time to remember that God has made you special for him and his purposes, and that he has joined you into the eternal, worldwide fellowship of all his saints. Moreover, it's a good day to take seriously the fact that God wants to make himself known in this world through you as a member of the family of all saints.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the word "saint" or "holy person," what do you envision? Do you believe that God has set you apart for himself and for his mission in the world? Who are some of the "saints" who have encouraged you in your faith? Why not thank God for them today?
PRAYER: Holy God, it is amazing to think that you have set me apart for you and for your mission. Thank you for choosing me to enter into a relationship with and to serve you in the world.Help me, dear Lord, to live out who I am as a saint. May I see my whole life in light of the fact that you have set me apart for you. May I live distinctively, reflecting your presence and values in all that I do. And may I do so as part of your family of saints.
Thank you, gracious God, for those saints who have meant so much to my discipleship. I thank you for those I have never met, like the Apostle Paul, or J. S. Bach, or C. S. Lewis. And I thank you for those who have nurtured me in a personal way, for my parents and grandparents, for my Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, for my pastors and mentors. Thank you, dear Lord, for these wonderful saints! Amen.

So as we focus on the amazing men and women of the Faith, those who are now the "great cloud of witnesses" who cheer us onward as we run the Race, may we look to His Holy Word which encourages and helps us:
Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
May we indeed run the Race for God's glory as so many of his Saints have done for the past two thousand years!!

Wishing you a blessed remembrance of All Saints,

Monday, October 22, 2012

To NaNo or Not to NaNo...

I've taken part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) several times in the past few years.  NaNoWriMo involves writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November; the fun part is that NaNoWriMo is a global effort; participants do the challenge with over 300,000 other writers around the world. One can have Writing Buddies, and participants also receive encouraging e-mails from some fairly impressive authors; participants may update their progress daily. NaNoWriMo provides some fun bells & whistles that allow progress to be posted on blogs or websites.

With a bunch of my online friends, I joined up in 2008 and managed to write half of a highly-autobiographical novel called The Pilgrim Pathway that I doubt I'll go back to edit; it was a decent first attempt at writing fiction, but it isn't really interesting or publishable. In 2009 I completed the second half of  The Pilgrim Pathway. I took a break in 2010, participating in a poem-a-day challenge on the Writer's Market website, hosted by the editor of Poet's Market. I don't think writing a poem a day was much of a "break"; it was actually more taxing than writing the 1,667 words daily to complete NaNoWriMo.

In 2011 I returned to NaNoWriMo, challenging the students in my homeschool co-op expository writing class to join me for extra credit. Between teaching two co-op classes and an online course through Brave Writer, plus homeschooling the boys, it wasn't easy to find time to write 1,667 words per day...which I rounded to 2,000 words/day to keep it easier to track plus allowed me to take off Thanksgiving and a few other days (such as teaching days). But I still ended up posting 14,000 words on November 30, verifying the completion of 50,000 words with eight minutes to spare. Whew!

So, with only one co-op class to teach (but with more students than last year) and the same Brave Writer online class going, plus the three boys to teach, should I attempt NaNoWriMo this year or not?

Last year I completed one of the novels I was publishing online in weekly installments, and I managed to get several chapters ahead on another novel I was also publishing online. If I attempt NaNoWriMo 2012, I will be completing the second online novel and then either starting a new novel or completing several unfinished short stories. I would love to be that productive!!

However, the problem I ran into last year was that as I post a new chapter online each week, I have to go back and edit that chapter for publication. Yikes! That's a lot of extra writing!!

I am offering the same extra credit incentive to my co-op writing class as I did last year, so I will need to participate somewhat so that I can track their progress. Plus, at least one member of our small town's writing group is participating, and we meet once a week during NaNoWriMo to write together in the library.

In addition, a lot of writers in the online communities where I post my fiction are doing NaNoWriMo, and I've made two NaNoWriMo accounts, one under my real name for my students' benefit, and one under my pen name for chatting with my fellow fiction writers.

So, should I participate in NaNoWriMo or not? I'm hoping to, but I suppose we'll see if it's realistic to actually finish. So I suppose at this point that I will TRY, but know that I may not finish this year.

If anyone is doing NaNoWriMo and would like to become a Writing Buddy, you can find me under the user name of SusanneB--I love having writing buddies!! :)

Writing with you,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Poetry and Quotation of the Week

I have long been a fan of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. I became a fan of his work in my literature classes at Point Loma Nazarene University as we studied his poetry in several classes. Hopkins is an admirable man as well as a talented poet (and history shows us that those two qualities do not often coalesce in the same person!).

As the Poem of the Day e-mail from the American Academy of Poets stated today: "...Gerard Manley Hopkins once gave up writing poetry for eight years while training to be ordained as a priest, though he later returned to the craft."

So with Hopkins we have a dual talent: poetry and the priesthood, a combination that birthed some of the most original worship poems ever published. Today's Poem of the Day celebrates Hopkins' most famous poem, the final lines of which are among my favorite lines of poetry of all time.

Please enjoy with me "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! 
bright wings.

Have a blessed week, everyone!!


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