Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Biblical Stations of the Cross

Mosaic of Seventh Station of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross has been a devotion of Christians since the first years of the Christian Church. Even today, one can travel to Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrows), tracing Jesus' path to Golgotha.

I first walked the Stations of the Cross at the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside at a Contemplative Retreat with College Avenue Baptist Church in 2003 or 2004; it was a peaceful time that prepared my heart for Holy Week and especially for a solemn and prayerful Good Friday, like no other experience with the Cross I had ever had. It was a soul-changing and life-altering experience.  

Mark Roberts, who writes the Daily Reflections for The High Calling, is currently doing a series on the Biblical Stations of the Cross. Here is his introductory Reflection in its entirety:

Mar 24, 2012
An Invitation to Take Up Your Cross
by Mark D. Roberts

Mark 8:34-38

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (NRSV)
--Mark 8:34

In Mark 8, Jesus uses the imagery of crucifixion to call people to follow him sacrificially. If they want to experience the life of the kingdom of God, they must die to themselves as sovereign over their own lives and live each day under the authority of God.

Many Christians throughout the ages have used the Stations of the Cross to deepen their gratitude for Christ's sacrifice and to augment their commitment to following him sacrificially. Traditionally, the Stations of the Cross included fourteen representations of the passion of Christ, beginning with this condemnation and ending with his being laid in the tomb. The original Stations of the Cross, also known as the Via Dolorosa (way of grief), are in Jerusalem on the path Jesus walked to his death. But many churches throughout the world include artistic stations that help people reflect on the meaning of Christ's death.

Half of the traditional Stations are found in Scripture, while the other half come from ancient Christian tradition. In 1991, Pope John Paul II created a new series of fourteen stations, each one based on Scripture alone. These biblical stations have been attractive to those of us who base our piety more on Scripture than on church tradition.

I have found that reflection on the biblical Stations of the Cross has helped me to experience more deeply the love of God in Christ. Moreover, I have been encouraged to take up my cross and follow Christ more faithfully.

Beginning tomorrow and continuing for fourteen days until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, the Daily Reflections will follow the new Stations of the Cross. My prayer is that, by "walking" the Stations with me, you will come to a deeper understanding of God's love and grace, as well as a greater desire to serve him with your whole life.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What has helped you in the past to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Have you ever experienced the Stations of the Cross? How did this affect your relationship with the Lord?

PRAYER: Gracious God, as we come closer to Holy Week, we yearn for a deeper experience of the cross. We seek to know your love and grace in a fresh way. We want to hear again the call of Jesus to take up our cross and follow him.

As we focus on fourteen passages from the Gospels that highlight aspects of Jesus' passion, may we be drawn into the scene. May our hearts be captured by the horror and the wonder of his sacrifice. May we be encouraged to take up our cross and give our lives in sacrificial service to you. Amen.

P.S. from Mark: Several years ago, some folks at Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I served as pastor, decided to offer the Stations of the Cross as a devotional experience for Holy Week. For obviously Protestant reasons, we opted for the Pope’s biblically-based version. My wife, Linda, offered to paint fourteen watercolor pictures that illustrated the passages upon which the revised stations are based. These were displayed in our church sanctuary during Holy Week, and people were invited to come, to read Scripture, to reflect, and to pray. For many members of my church and community, this was a precious time of drawing near to the Lord in anticipation of Good Friday and Easter. (For the past several years, I have offered the use of Linda’s paintings for churches and Christian ministries without charge. Her paintings have appeared in literally thousands of places of worship on six continents. They are permanently installed in a number of churches. If you would like to use her paintings, all I ask is that you contact me and ask permission. You can view Linda's paintings here.)

My comment to Mark Roberts on The High Calling site (to the above post) reads:

Hi Mark,
I've been leading a Biblical Stations of the Cross since 2006 at my EV Free Church during Holy Week or Good Friday at least. I found art work by the Old Masters to go along with each of the 14 Biblical Stations, then framed and hung them on the back and side walls of our sanctuary. I had started the Biblical Stations as an activity at a contemplative retreat I led, and then we posted the Stations for the next few years.

Currently I attend an ecumenical Biblical Stations with both Protestant and Catholic churches; we walk along the fourteen seven-foot high wooden crosses, reading the Scriptures for each Station and singing "Were You There" adjusted to each Biblical Station.

The Biblical Stations are an incredibly satisfying exercise for the dayus before Easter as we celebrate our Lord's life, His death, and, on Easter, His Resurrection from the Dead. I look forward to your remembrances, Mark, of Christs's Life, Death, and Resurrection through the Biblical Stations.

--Susanne :)

Here are this week's Daily Reflections so that you can catch up with the previous Stations:

Invitation to Take Up Your Cross (March 24)

First Station (March 25)

Second Station (March 26)

Third Station (March 27)

So I hope that you will find the wonderful connection with the last events of Christ's life and death that I have found in the Biblical Stations of the Cross over the years. I can't find the words to express how meditating on the Stations of the Cross has deepened my faith walk in general and my experience of Holy Week, especially Good Friday, in particular.

How can we explain in finite human words the sacrifice of the Infinite God Who took our sins upon his own human body...Who was tortured, suffered excruciating pain, and died for us?

Words fail as Christ prevails.

Prayerfully yours,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte

I've long been a fan of the Bronte family. As a young woman in graduate school, one of my major areas of study was the 19th century British novel, and therein I met the Brontes: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell. Their two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died of typhus at school in an epidemic that Charlotte recreated in her seminal novel, Jane Eyre.

Either during the crazy cramming in of every British novel I could get my hands on and further study into the Brontes after I graduated with my Master of Arts degree, I continued to read the works of the Brontes.

And there was only one of their novels I just couldn't seem to like: Wuthering Heights, the only novel published by Emily Bronte, or, as she preferred then, Ellis Bell. I enjoyed all of the others although the quality was quite different among them. Charlotte's Jane Eyre remains heads and shoulders above her other novels: Villette, Shirley and, published posthumously although written first, The Professor as well as Anne's efforts in Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (although I much prefer the latter over the former). Branwell never published a novel although some of his poems were published upon occasion, and the three Bronte sisters published a volume of poetry together under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

All of this history as well as the most important two years of Charlotte's life come to light in Syrie James' excellent The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, published in 2009. I had quite liked her first volume, The Lost Letters of Jane Austen and I have her third novel, Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker ready to start tonight.

While I mildly enjoyed James' first book on Austen, I was swept away by her novel of Charlotte Bronte's life. I've long possessed Mrs. Gaskell's famous biography of Charlotte Bronte in my teetering "to read" stack, being a fan of both Elizabeth Gaskell's work as well as Charlotte Bronte's, and after reading (and even rereading great portions), I am more drawn that ever to the idea of pulling out Gaskell's famous work, published a mere two years after Charlotte Bronte's death at nearly 39 years of age, less than a year after her very happy marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls.

I won't go into too much detail as to the content of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte in case my readers here don't know the outline of her life and the lives of her beloved siblings, but suffice it to say that James' book provoked tears at times, and a delicious romantic shiver at others. It's truly masterful in a way that her first book on Austen, though quite good and somewhat entertaining, lacked.

Perhaps it's Charlotte's late-in-life romance with her father's faithful curate after disliking him for so many years that draws me into Charlotte's "diaries" more than into Jane Austen's "letters." Perhaps a life fraught with tragedy makes for better reading than one of staid drawing rooms and an absence of passion, of zest for life, in Charlotte and her siblings that make this book impossible to forget.

So I'll see how Dracula, My Love is as I start it this evening in my jacuzzi tub...where I don't dare bring my beloved Kindle--on which ALL of the Bronte's novels reside, ready for me to take up again to re-read in delicious and decadent solitude....

So, truly, I can't recommend The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte any higher; I only hope that Dracula, My Love measures up a bit...although I have to admit that The Lost Letters of Jane Austen refuse to do so--just like sometimes petulant Jane herself....

Wishing you happy reading!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quotation of the Week on a Snowy Sunday

Our front yard this morning, as the storm continues to roll in....

This Sunday our family was snowed in, unable to attend church. Six inches of snow may not sound like a great deal of the wintry white stuff, but then this is Southern California.... ;)

So I prayed from my Book of Common Prayer 2011 this morning, including the Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent:

GOD of all mercy, who knows that we are justly punished in all that comes upon us for our evil deeds; In your mercy, grant that we may be relieved by the comfort of your grace; Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

I also prayed the Psalms for the Eighteenth Day which includes Psalms 90-94. Psalm 92 contains some wonderful lines that I prayed while the snow fell in large, fluffy flakes while our family gathered around our roaring fire:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,

to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!

But as I meditate upon my Lenten journey which has been quite the exercise in self-control, I can only pray with Paul's Second Epistle to the Church at Corinth:

"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another."

--2 Corinthians 3:18

So as we continue through the second half of our Lenten journeys, may God strengthen us as we behold His glory, transformed into His image from day to day as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior!

Journeying with you, this Lent and always,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day

Today, March 17, is, of course, Saint Patrick's Day. As a catholic Christian (note the small "c" which denotes a universality, not necessarily Roman Catholic although I love my fellow Roman Christians dearly), I enjoy discovering the Christian roots behind many secularized holidays...rather, holy days.

So while our secular society celebrate the day with green beer, parades, and green everything (let's not go there, shall we?), we Christians remember the missionary behind the corned beef and cabbage, Patrick, a Britain boy kidnapped by Irish pirates, who after escaping, returned to Ireland to share the Gospel of Christ with openly hostile pagans.

I've written posts in the past on Saint Patrick, relating his story; I won't repeat myself but instead will share last year's post which includes links to past postings on Saint Patrick:

Celebrating Patrick, Missionary to Ireland

In honor of Saint Patrick and Irish culture, I thought I'd post today's "Poem of the Day" from the American Academy of Poets. The tune is very familiar, but do we ever listen to the lyrics?

Danny Boy
by Frederick Edward Weatherly

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And when you come, and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
Originally written in 1910 then adapted to the melody in 1913, "Danny Boy" has become a sort of unofficial ballad of Irish Americans. Here's some additional information from Wikipedia: "Danny Boy."

And let's finish with one of the many prayers attributed to Saint Patrick:

May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!
May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore. Amen.
So I wish you all a blessed remembrance of Saint Patrick today and of Irish culture's place in history as Irish monks are credited with preserving much of Western Culture, especially Christian Culture, during the Dark Ages.

May we all share our faith with the brilliance and fervency of Saint Patrick in our increasingly secular country and world, in the strength, power, grace, hope, and love of Christ Jesus our Lord!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brave Writer Classes This Spring

The spring schedule is now up at Brave Writer, and I’m going to be a very busy woman. This winter I’ve taught two family workshops, The Groovy Grammar Workshop (in which we turned grammar upside-down and played with language) and the just-completed Playing with Poetry Workshop in which we explored many aspects of analyzing and composing poems, from haiku to quatrains, from visual poetry to song lyrics. Both classes are among the highlights of my teaching year. :)

This spring I’ll be teaching a Literary Analysis Class on Little Women starting March 12; we’ll be focusing on Louisa May Alcott’s classic which is quite autobiographical. I’ve read extensively on the Alcott family, studying Alcott’s journals and letters plus several biographies of the family as a whole. After reading through the novel together using the discussion questions (the “Think Piece” Questions) from The Boomerang, then writing an exploratory essay on one of several given topics. This class still has a few openings, so sign up quickly to join the fun!!!

Starting on April 16, I’ll be teaching a Literary Analysis Class on The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. We’ll be reading the play together, act by act and scene by scene using a set of discussion questions, then we’ll write an exploratory essay on one of several topics. Shakespeare is one of my favorite classes to teach, and we'll definitely have a blast together as we explore the Bard's play and also watch film clips from certain scenes together. It's gonna be fun!!!!

Then starting on May 14, I’ll be facilitating a Shakespeare Family Workshop. We’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the theatre scene of his day, his sonnets and poetry, then his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. This class is ideal for homeschooling families who are rather intimidated by the teaching of Shakespeare, yet it's also tons o' fun for families already comfortable with the Bard and his works. We'll be watching lots of video clips and will also be doing some hands-on projects, so do join us for a Brave Writer perennial favorite class!

My classes will end on June 15, and after that I’ll be teaching a new class at Brave Writer over the summer that will be a surprise. :)

So, I hope to see you on Brave Writer soon…or if you’d like help with grading your students’ essays, e-mail me at SusanneMBarrett@aol.com

Writing bravely with you,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quotation of the Week: On Lent and Workshops

It's the third week of Lent...which is nearly half over. And my Lenten vows have taken quite a beating. Well, allow me to say that the tech-related fasting is going much better than the food-related one....

But the Lenten quotations keep coming, and after I shared my bulging Quotation Journal at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center's Spring Women's Retreat where I spoke on Saturday in workshops on Journaling in the morning and on Blogging in the afternoon, I find more value than ever in my decade-long collecting of the written words of others.

The Journaling Workshop was very well-attended; the small room was filled, with women standing in the back when the seating ran out. There had to be about thirty women there which is very nicely attended considering it's my first conference speaking gig since I was the main speaker at Lake Murray's Women Retreat in 2006 when I spoke on contemplative prayer and practice. My name will get out more and more as I speak more, too. :)

Both workshops are available here on my blog on the pages under my header: On Blogging and On Journaling, if you'd like to read them. :)

I asked many people to pray for me before I spoke, and I felt His Presence with me as I rarely had to consult my notes; I just shared my journaling practices and offered some assistance, and we journaled together using some freewriting prompts, a method I learned from Brave Writer. So thanks be to God for a successful day of workshops!

It was also really fun that several women from Lake Murray were helping out at the Women's Conference, so Joy was helping to sell the copies on the book table of The Book of Common Prayer 2011 that I helped to edit; Patty was helping me at my Journaling Workshop, and my doctor's wife, Marcia, who was leading a workshop on women's health in the afternoon, also joined my morning Journaling Workshop. What blessings!!

My daughter's boss at the Bible Camp told her that a good number of women mentioned the Journaling Workshop when they shared what God was saying to them at the close of the retreat, and I've been asked to offer the Journaling Workshop again in May at the Mother-Daughter Conference.

So tonight I pull out my trusty Quotation Journal which I started in August of 2001, just before moving to Pine Valley, and I found another quotation on Lent to keep us (and especially ME) focused on the reason we sacrifice and fast during this time of year:

"It [penance] does not mean sacrifice and self-denial in the first place, but a 'change of heart,' a victory over sin and a striving for holiness."

--Fr. Francis X. Weiser, SJ

So as we continue in this Lenten season, may our hearts change as we seek the Face of our Saviour each and every day, striving to become like Him through His grace and strength, and definitely for His glory, not our own.

And as I recover from speaking two weekends in a row, I pray for a quiet week ahead with less stress so that I can focus all the more easily on my Lord and Saviour so that He can change my hard heart this Lenten season.

Walking this Lenten Journey with you,

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Broken Vessel--Magnificent!

The cupboards were bare this week. With the arrival of my paycheck, we can fill the pantry and fridge again.

After staring at the mostly-empty fridge, I decided to make oatmeal for lunch.

I pulled out the Irish Oatmeal, the honey, the walnuts, the measuring scoop, a spoon, the small saucepan, and one of the large soup bowls.

Then I noticed the bowl...and the chips along the edge of the bowl.

Sighing, I scooped the half cup of oats into the saucepan, added three half-cup measures of water, and placed the pan on the stove to heat. While I waited for the distinctive burbling sound of simmering oatmeal, I broke the walnuts into small pieces and found the bag of craisins in the back pantry.

While I waited for the oatmeal to boil, I examined the bowl again. We had four of these bowls when we first bought the set at Sears years ago: a red one, an orange one, a green one, and a blue one, each with a different fruit which match our dinner dishes.

But now we have only three bowls; the red one painted with cheerful cherries broke and was reluctantly swept away into the garbage several years ago. 

So without the red one (to match my dinner plate), I am drawn to the blue bowl with grapes on the side. I pick up the bowl and notice the large chip just under the edge.

When one assigns dish duties to boybarians, breakage and crackage happen. It's inevitable.

(They aren't touching my new glass teapot--no way, no how.)

I run my finger over the large chip--actually, it's two large chips, side by side, crevassed one into the other.

But despite the double imperfection, the bowl still fulfills its function: it cradles my oatmeal with walnuts and craisins as I trickle in some rice milk and add a final dollop of butter.

As I consume my delicious lunch of steaming, fragrant oatmeal, I ponder the brokenness, the chips in my armor that show all-too-clearly, even to mere passers-by.

It's hard to not miss such obvious brokenness.

Yet it's in the deeply-hidden broken places that hearts can rupture in pain, souls can scream in agony, minds can whirl with the "what ifs" and "why, God?s."

At least my brokenness is easily to see in cane and wheelchair, trembling hands and dizzy, forgetful mind.

It's the way-down-deep brokenness that can do far more damage than merely chip away at our vanity. This deep separating pulls hearts apart, families apart, friends and colleagues made distant by space and time...and pride.

Why does my brokenness always mask itself behind pride...like a child hiding behind an ancient, towering oak during hide-and-seek? 

But, somehow, God sees this broken body, pain-riddled with halting steps. Yet He still fills me with nourishment...with Himself.

And I pray that I can and will share nourishment with others...the nourishment God provides through His holy Word and divine Presence, and everlasting Comfort.

Also I pray that as I speak at the PVBCC tomorrow, leading workshops in journaling and blogging for Week #2 of the Spring Women's Conference, that I speak and share nourishment...the nourishment of His Spirit, the nourishment of His Word, the nourishment of His living in us daily. (To read the text of my workshops, see "On Blogging" and "On Journaling" below the header of this blog.)

As I finish this tonight, the lyrics to U2's "Magnificent" (my phone's ringtone) call to me. "Magnificent" expresses Mary's song of praise (known in liturgical churches as "The Magnificat") in updated language, and doesn't shy away from the big questions that we all want to ask God. He can handle it, after all. And our response is sweet praise....

Oh, oh, magnificent

I was born, I was born
To be with you in this space and time
After that and ever after
I haven't had a clue only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born, I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice from the womb
My first cry, it was a joyful noise, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent

So may we, the cracked and chipped and broken, reach out to other cracked and chipped and broken ones in the Love that is manifested in our Magnificent Lord!

Nourish us, O Lord. Despite our obvious brokenness and fragility, the cracks and crazes in our enamel, the chips and gauges from our exteriors, use us for Your glory. May we be even more effective because of our imperfections as You transform our hearts, minds, and souls to walk in the footsteps of Christ our Lord.

Praising as a chipped vessel with cracked voice,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Is God's Glory?

Sometimes a devotion just reaches out and plucks at one's soul. And today's daily devotion from The High Calling does just that.

If there's one verse in Scripture that I try to live by, that I try to apply to my life most consistently, it's this:

"...whatever you do, do all for the glory of God."
-- 1Corinthians 10:31, ESV

So Mark Roberts' wonderful Daily Reflection from The High Calling explores this concept of God's glory beautifully and deeply. It's the kind of reflection that settles into my very marrow, uniting body, soul, and spirit into a single flame of worship. Enjoy and ponder....

What Is God's Glory, Part 2
          Ezekiel 10:1-22

"Then the LORD’s glory rose from above the winged creatures and moved toward the temple’s threshold. The temple was filled with the cloud, and the courtyard was filled with the brightness of the LORD’s glory."
Ezekiel 10:4

In yesterday’s reflection, I began to examine the nature of God’s glory as it’s revealed in the Old Testament. We saw that the basic Hebrew word for glory, kabod, comes from a root that means “heaviness.” God’s glory is heavy in the sense that it comprises all the goodness of God. Add together God’s majesty, power, grace, justice, wisdom, and love, and you begin to fathom God’s all-encompassing “heaviness,” his glory.

Yet the notion of heaviness does not fully convey, in English, the glory of God. In fact, if we equate God’s glory with heaviness, we might miss an essential quality of his glory. Let’s take another look at Ezekiel 10:4: “Then the LORD’s glory rose from above the winged creatures and moved toward the temple’s threshold. The temple was filled with the cloud, and the courtyard was filled with the brightness of the LORD’s glory.” God’s glory is not like a giant rock that sits there passively because it is so large it cannot do anything else. Rather, God’s glory shines like the sun.

In fact, if we’re looking for an image to represent, however incompletely, the glory of God, the sun is a strong candidate. For one thing, the sun is the heaviest object in our solar system (with a weight estimated at more than a hundred times that of the earth). But, of course, the sun doesn’t just sit there. Rather, it is continuously active, burning so fiercely that it lights and warms the earth, which is about 93 million miles away.

The similarity between God’s glory and the sun is found in Scripture. Consider, for example, the promise of Isaiah 60:19: “The sun will no longer be your light by day, nor will the moon shine for illumination by night. The LORD will be your everlasting light; your God will be your glory.” This promise comes true in the vision of the heavenly city found in Revelation 21:23: “The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

You and I are called to live our lives in the light of God’s glory. We do so when we acknowledge his glory in worship, and when we live worshipfully each moment, thus reflecting the glory of God in the world.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Can you think of other analogies for God’s glory, besides the sun? How might you live in the light of God’s glory today?

O splendor of God’s glory bright,
O Thou that bringest light from light;
O Light of light, light’s living spring,
O day, all days illumining.
O Thou true Sun, on us Thy glance
Let fall in royal radiance;
The Spirit’s sanctifying beam
Upon our earthly senses stream.
All laud to God the Father be;
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the holy Paraclete.


“O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright,” Latin original by Ambrose of Milan, 4th century. English translation by Robert S. Bridges and John M. Neale. Public domain.
If you would like to peruse Part 1 of "What Is God's Glory," click here: Part 1

Aaaah. I just love Saint Ambrose's beautiful hymn. Hymns from the Early Church resonate with me soooo deeply, just knowing how they've been a means of worship for Christians around the globe and through the centuries, and that we can join in worship with the Heavenly Host when we, too, raise our voices through these ancient, holy words.

So may we all shine with the glory of God while we go about our ordinary daily routines, His glory making the ordinary extraordinary. Because that's what He does.

Soli Deo Gloria, this day and always,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Slowing Down to Savor the Moments

Tea pot and cup of Irish Breakfast Tea, photo by Susanne Barrett, copyright 2012

I am a busy woman. I have a husband and four children at home (ages 12-19). I home educate our three boys in grades 6, 9, and 11 (our daughter graduated from our home school two years ago). In order for the boys to get the co-op classes they need such as chemistry lab and basketball, I teach two classes twice a month at our co-op Class Days: 4th-6th grade medieval history and high school expository writing. I'm teaching 7-8 classes online to home schooling families at Brave Writer this school year, including two Shakespeare classes.

In addition, I have my own grading/tutoring/editing business. And in my spare time (ha! I try not to snort indelicately at the thought of having spare time!), I write. And write and write and write. I write here on my blog and on the many other blogs I keep up for myself and for various organizations, such as our local writers' workshop and our community garden, plus some fun fiction stuff that provides me with that creative release we all need so much.

So, yes, I am a busy woman.

And the one thing I think God is teaching me this year is to slow down and savor the moments.

"How to do this slowing-down thing?" you ask. Because I know you. You're just about as busy as I am, aren't you?

Well, a couple of things happened this past week to remind me of the grace of slowing down and savoring.

This past weekend I spoke at two workshops at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center's Spring Women's Conference; one workshop was on journaling, and the other on blogging. While I put a great deal of time and effort into the blogging talk (which can be read in the "On Blogging" page just under the header to my blog), strangely it was the journaling talk that spoke the most to me, and from what I've heard of the testimonies given at the end of the retreat, spoke to the women who attended as well.

Journaling--the art of writing in a journal (although I definitely included blogging as well) is becoming a lost art, going the way of a gracious cup of tea and the handwritten letter. To take the time at least once per week to pull out a pen (I write with a Waterman fountain pen which is much more comfortable for my hands which are riddled with rheumatoid arthritis) and a lovely journal and write what is on our minds and hearts provides us with the opportunity to slow down and savor. Whether we are recounting recent events or writing a prayer to God or gathering gifts for our gratitude journals, the gracious act of pen gliding across paper is soothing.

Journaling slows our dizzy minds and focuses our flitting thoughts. Whether our penmanship is copperplate or a scrawling mess, whether we write sublimely or misspell half our words, the act of slowing down to write brings us to a place of deep thought where we can actually hear the still, small voice of the One Who loves us everlastingly.

Another method for slowing down and savoring is through the age-old grace of tea. Never developing a taste for coffee although I love the scent of percolating java, I've always been a tea drinker. But each busy morning, I fill a 16-oz ceramic mug with water, heat it in the microwave for three minutes, then toss in a tea bag. That was my routine...until my birthday on Friday. You see, for Saint Valentine's Day, my husband and I left the kids with my parents, a long-standing family tradition as my parents provide pizza and ice cream sundaes while the kids create and decorate Valentine cards and sometimes ice cookies.

We had a lovely dinner, then decided to stroll the mall. My husband, being the chef of our household, insisted on stopping at Williams-Sonoma where we admired the many kitchen gadgets while secretly snorting at the prices. When I asked after a tea ball for steeping loose tea as mine had rusted out, we were directed to a small tea store. The scent was marvelous as we sampled different green, black, white, and herbal teas. But I quickly noticed the lovely glass tea pots which held a removable reservoir for loose tea; under each teapot was a glass bowl with a tea light candle to keep the tea in the pot above warm.

Guess what my husband gave me for my birthday? Yes, just such a lovely tea set. Now I can steep 40 oz of tea and keep it warm throughout the morning. And I can use a smaller, more gracious tea cup (with a saucer, even!) since I don't have to be tossing my mug into the microwave to rewarm my tea (and often forgetting and leaving the mug of now-cold tea in the microwave until dinner time). Sipping tea from a cup with saucer and pouring warmed tea from a lovely teapot is another way to slow down and savor the moment.

And, as I mentioned to both workshops this past weekend, slowing down to gather our many gifts into gratitude journals is perhaps the best way to slow down and savor the quickly-passing days. I've joined Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare 2012 on her blog, A Holy Experience, jotting three gifts into a journal each day to reach one thousand gifts by the end of 2012. As I ponder the day's prompt (today's is "a gift bent, a gift broken, a gift beautiful), I am forced to slow down, to think and consider, to let mind wander down old paths nearly forgotten, now made crisp and clear by remembrance.

Ranunculus in Window, copyright Susanne Barrett 2012

And keeping a gratitude journal in particular transports us into the lap of Our Loving Father as we say, "thank you, Daddy," for the many gifts He gives so bountifully, if we just slow down enough to truly see and take notice. My "gift bent" today shall be the ranunculus in my front window, a gift from our own church's women's retreat two weeks ago. The slightly-wilting petals caught the glow of morning light so beautifully this morning that its loveliness caught in my throat for a moment. I'm not much of a photographer (that's my husband's area of expertise), but I did attempt to capture the light on the ranunculus this morning through my lens. I shall also capture it, I pray, with words that will soften the image with the love of its Giver, its Creator.

If we would only slow down, savor, and SEE...that it's all because of Him, the One Who Creates and Loves and Came Down to us...the One Who Heals and Sacrifices, taking our flogging for us, taking our sin for us...the One Who Lives Always and Laughs Much and Loves Eternally...the One Who Loves even me, Loves even you, Loves even ALL.

Even when the bad comes and evil seems triumphant, when cancer strikes, when jobs disappear, when hunger gnaws, when tornadoes tear houses into scraps and families into grief. When all seems lost and useless, and pain is everywhere we look, and our hearts ache and throb with hurt--our hurt and others' hurt--He is still there in the midst of it all, loving us and comforting us and holding us to His Heart.

When we rail against Him, pounding our ineffectual fists against His broad chest and wailing the WHYs, He remains. He takes it all. He took it all. He shushes us with His comfort, then nudges us back into the world to do what little we can, to be His arms that hold and heart that breaks and hands that serve. And while the problem of pain is one we'll never be able to answer on this side of the veil, we can SEE Him at work, loving and healing, comforting and strengthening...if only we slow down and truly SEE and savor the moments of pain and joy and everything in between.

Slow down and Savor Him with me today. Taste and see that He is good. And let's journal and drink tea and watch Him at work, joining Him in love and service, this day and always.

My first post for the Write it, Girl Link-Up 

Slowing down to savor this day,

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quotation of the Week...and The Joy Dare

On Saturday I spoke at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center's Spring Women's Conference, and I'll be speaking there for the second weekend this Saturday as well. My first workshop on journaling went very well; I rarely used my notes, and everyone laughed in the right places. My daughter, who works at the "Bible Camp," as we locals all call the PVBCC, said today that her boss informed her that several women had given testimonies at the end of the weekend retreat about the value of the journaling workshop, so thanks be to God for answered prayer!! I had prayed for Him to speak through me, and I could feel it. The talk was effortless in building rapport and friendships with the women, so, as my e-mail signature states, Soli Deo Gloria..."to God alone be the glory."

So as I consider the value of journaling, of slowing down my busy life with the comforting and all-too-familiar scrip-scrape of brass nib against dry paper, I pulled out this quotation from my battered and nearly-filled Quotation Journal that I've been keeping since August 4, 2001.

Over the years I have collected many--nay, a multitude of quotations on many subjects--and I'd like to share this one with you:

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues."

I have also been taking part in the Joy Dare 2012 at A Holy Experience, jotting three gifts (blessings) each day to read a thousand by the end of 2012. Here are a few that I've written in my Joy Dare Gratitude Journal in the past week:

168. my hair graying, a reluctant honor
170. memories of Lake Cuyamaca all a-glimmer
173. wisdom lined in beginnings of crow's feet
174. experience gained with each white hair
178. slide of pencil across paper
183. Hershey's Kisses melting on birthday-tongue
184. gift of ink, green and bright
187. widow's mite around my neck, 2000 years of history worn lightly
189. faith, worn deep and wrinkled with age
195. shells from the sea

So may we all walk with thanksgiving, and, as the Scriptures state, being "watchful and thankful." For when we watch, when we see, we can't help but to thank the One Who grants us these often-unseen gifts.

Walking in gratitude this day, and, I pray, always,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Saturday Evening Blog Post, Vol.4, No. 3

It's been quite a while since I've joined the fun of Elizabeth Esther's Saturday Evening Blog Post. Elizabeth asks us to choose our favorite post from the last month and repost it to share.

Unfortunately, because of my busy teaching schedule with co-op classes at Heritage Christian School and online classes with  Brave Writer, plus focusing on my fiction writing in my (very) few spare moments, I haven't posted much to this blog in the past month.

But one post stands out to me, especially as I haven't composed a poem in more than seven months.

So, I chose my poetry post Love Poem to a Wren to share. I hope you enjoy it!!

And the workshops at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center's Spring Women's Conference went very well today. Yes, I'm an exhausted, puddly mess who is not planning to stir in the slightest tomorrow, but the workshops were truly enjoyable for me, and I pray they were a blessing to those who attended. The 4:15 blogging workshop was quite sparsely attended, but so were most of the other workshops at that time as most of the women were exhausted by the constant rush of activities that naps before dinner was a more attractive option than yet another workshop. But it was still a pleasant time, and I am looking forward to next weekend when I get to do it all over again. :) Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. :)

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Speaking This Weekend

I spent last weekend enjoying cold but lovely weather at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center (PVBCC) for Lake Murray's annual women's retreat. Our speaker was a longtime friend of mine, Jan Friesen, a former missionary to North Africa. Jan and I became acquainted at another women's retreat almost fifteen years ago when we were both rather trapped in the "babies' cabin" nursing our little ones, chatting merrily all the while. So to hear and see Jan speak this past weekend truly blessed me and prepared me for what this weekend and next shall hold.

My friend Teri, who works at PVBCC, asked me to lead two workshops for their annual Spring Women's Conference for which the theme is "Legacy." So this Saturday morning and next Saturday morning, I shall be leading a workshop in Journaling: A Legacy of Love and in the late afternoons I shall be leading another in Blogging: Letters to the Savior. (I did not choose the titles, promise.)

I'm putting the finishing touches on both workshops today, a day I am actually at home ALONE. I know. It rarely happens, especially for homeschooling moms. We're used to being surrounded, perhaps even inundated, by our kids 24/7, so an empty, peaceful house is truly a gift from above. Seriously.

In the Journaling workshop, I'm going to cover the different types of journals and tips on being consistent in journaling at least weekly. I'm especially focusing on Gratitude Journaling a la Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, and her Joy Dare 2012 Gratitude Project as well. I'm going to briefly include blogging and 365 photo blogging, but most of that will be included in the blogging workshop. It's nice that the journaling workshop is at 11:00 AM so that those interested in blogging can attend that workshop at 4:00 PM.

This Monday I was fortunate to attend Point Loma Nazarene University's annual Writers Symposium by the Sea, as I usually do. Past years have included interviews with Eugene Peterson, Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Donald Miller, Christopher Buckley, Kathleen Norris, Frederica Mathewes-Green, and many other illustrious names in Christian writing. You can Google videos of past Writers Symposium interviews and watch them on You Tube or through UCSD TV.

So Monday's guest was Christian author and blogger Rachel Held Evans. Because of my following of Elizabeth Esther's wonderful (and delightfully snarky) blog, I became aware of Rachel and her book Evolving in Monkeytown as well as her wonderful (and also delightfully snarky) blog. I think at one point in the last year, we exchanged comments on each others' blogs. Anywhooo, Rachel was ushered in and out of PLNU's Department of Literature, Journalism, and Modern Languages (hereafter called "the Lit Department" as we dubbed it as students eons ago) while I conscientiously worked on my online poetry workshop class on my laptop in the department foyer.

On one of Rachel's less-hurried stops in the Lit Department, I introduced myself and mentioned Elizabeth Esther, and we had a lovely chat about blogging, theology, observing the Church year, and The Book of Common Prayer 2011. (The *one* time I don't have my copy with me, of course--drat!) Then Rachel was off again (I don't know how that woman survived the day--she was rushed hither and thither in a virtual whirlwind rivaling the storm outdoors), and I returned to commenting on haiku poems via my laptop while my daughter Elizabeth (currently planning to return to PLNU and the Lit Department) visited another department, sat in on a class, stopped by Records, and pow-wowed with Financial Aid.

In the mid-afternoon, we braved the horrendous storm (poor Rachel--this was not the ideal introduction to "sunny San Diego" she was expecting!!) to attend Rachel's presentation in the Women's Studies Department mostly on her new book My Year of Biblical Womanhood: Or, Why I Lived in a Tent During My Period (I may be slightly off with the subtitle; I can't find it listed anywhere) which is coming out in September. Wanting to explore the fad of "Biblical Womanhood" in conservative evangelical circles, Rachel spent a year literally living out all the commandments concerning women in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. The results are humorous at times; life-changing at others, and always, always, thought-provoking. 'Cause that's what Rachel does.

But Rachel's blog is extremely popular, and she gave many excellent tips that I plan to work into my workshop. I looked at a couple of other bloggers, namely Robert Lee Brewer, the editor of Poets Market (a division of Writers Market), and, of course, Ann Voskamp, my favorite blogger. Because I don't know if I'll be working with blogging newbies or veterans (or, most likely, a combination of both), I'll have several approaches in my workshop so I can switch it up to fit the workshop attendees.

So today I hope to finalize my talks and prepare my Power Point or slide show of various blogs out there as well as time the workshops so I won't go over or be too far under. It looks like the schedule has 90 minutes per workshop. I can definitely use all my time with blogging, so I'm bringing a few journal writing prompts along with paper for some in-workshop free-writing.

So if you're reading this post, I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I embark on this new adventure of leading workshops. I know it isn't too different from teaching a class (which, as a former college instructor, I'm well-accustomed to doing), but I really want these workshop to inspire women to write their legacies, either privately in a journal or publicly in a blog. May God receive the glory for all that happens this weekend!

From The Book of Common Prayer 2011:

DIRECT us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and bless us with your continual help; So that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your Holy Name, and finally by your mercy obtain everlasting life; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Writing for His glory,


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