Monday, August 27, 2012

The Book of Common Prayer and Quotation of the Week

Book of Common Prayer 2011
As our family begins our sixteenth year of home education, it is entirely necessary to bathe our plans, our children, myself, and our entire school year in prayer.

In the Book of Common Prayer 2011 which I helped to edit, a prayer "For Christians in Their Daily Life" seems extremely appropriate:
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, whose glory is made known in your creation in heaven and on earth; In our vocations, may we not be distracted by that which is passing away, but may we do the work that you have given us to do in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness; So that, in our daily life, we might serve you in singleness of heart and for the benefit of others; For the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  
 This prayer reminds me of the teachings on the Tyranny of the Urgent which I first learned from Sue Edwards, the wife of our former pastor. So often we allow the things that seem urgent, but really are not, to gobble up the time that we could spend on eternal activities: encouraging a friend in crisis, having an earnest, one-on-one talk with one of our children, sharing Christ through word and/or deed, teaching God's Word to our children. But so often the telephone or e-mail or Facebook (not that we can't minister through Facebook, but we must be careful not to allow the fun but eternally worthless parts to swallow up the encouraging of and praying for friends and family which is the true value of social media for Christians) or other seemingly "urgent" activities tend to distract us from the work God has given us to do...which is so beautifully expressed in the above prayer.

So prayer needs to be our first and main ingredient in our home school. Since Day 1 of this home education adventure sixteen years ago, we start our day gathered together. I'm sitting either at the school table or on the hearth, and the kids are stretched out in the recliners, on the sofa, or on the floor as we start our family devotions. These devotions have changed over the years, but over the past five or more years, the Book of Common Prayer has been the centerpiece of our family time in God's Word.

Some evangelicals take issue with the Book of Common Prayer, our present evangelical pastor included. But for me, I find the repetition of God's Word soothing as each day it nestles more firmly into my mind, heart, and soul. The services of Morning Prayer and Family Prayers for Morning, especially in the new Book of Common Prayer 2011, is simply Scripture laid out to pray. We also follow the Lectionary which is an annual plan of Scripture reading laid out for Morning and Evening Prayer; the Old Testament is read through once and the New Testament twice each year.

In addition, the Psalter (Book of Psalms) is laid out in its entirety; in the BCP 2011, the English Standard Version (ESV) translation is used. A new translation (2001), it reads easily yet is accurate; the ESV is the translation of choice at both our EV Free Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church I attend on Friday mornings. So the 150 Psalms are laid out in sixty readings: 30 for Morning Prayer and thirty for Evening Prayer, and are arranged to be read/prayed each day of the month: Day 1 Morning Prayer, Day 1 Evening Prayer, Day 2 Morning Prayer, etc. Thus the entire Book of Psalms is read/prayed every month, in addition to the Lectionary readings which contain an Old Testament, a New Testament, and a Psalm or two, morning and evening, for each day of the year. If we are reading the Psalter as part of Morning and Evening Prayer, then we don't have to read the Psalm readings listed in the Lectionary.

We are warned against "vain repetition" in the Scriptures; for me, the key word here is "vain," as in useless, meaningless. But we are indeed called upon to repeat God's Word meaningfully; how else can we inscribe God's Word onto our hearts and minds? For me (and obviously not for everyone), God's Word is indeed inscribed in my heart and mind through the Book of Common Prayer. In our family devotions, we follow our time in the BCP with each of us taking time to pray aloud for the new day, asking for help and healing for those we know and love and asking for help to accomplish God's plan for us this day. So we aren't merely relying on the BCP for prayers; we also pray extemporaneously as part of our family devotions.

My quotation for this week is from a saint of the early church, and I've found it an excellent reminder of the value of prayer, not just to us but also to God:

"God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God's greatness."
~Saint Gregory of Nazianzen (329-390)  
I need this reminder that I'm not "bothering God" with my requests, but that He delights in my prayers to Him. I've always struggled with prayer lists and praying for myself and others because it always feels as if I'm bringing God a grocery list of demands rather than worshiping Him for Who He is. That's where the Book of Common Prayer helps me. After confessing our sins (which begins every service in the BCP), bathing ourselves in God's Word, and celebrating His majesty and sacrificial love for us, I feel that I can then bring my requests to Him in a right frame of mind. I'm not just praying to "get stuff" from God; I am confessing my sin, worshiping Him, and dwelling in His Word first, and then, filled with His Spirit, I can reveal the needs and desires of my heart more fully and completely.

So as we begin this sixteenth year of home education, I pray that God's glory will surround us as He assists each of us to become the people of His Heart, people who love and serve others in His Name, people who lead worshipful lives focused on Him, people who glorify Him and lead others into His eternal Kingdom.

May we indeed glorify God in all we think, speak, and do, this day, this year, and always.

Soli Deo Gloria, (to God alone be the glory)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012-2013 Homeschooling Plans

I don't know where August went. I think it mostly was swallowed up in watching the Olympics and in finding my groove as I adjust to non-teaching work between classes at Brave Writer. And yes, some homeschooling plans....

On Tuesday we'll be starting Year #16 of home education. We've been with Heritage Christian School since we started Elizabeth in kindergarten. Heritage provides accountability with quarterly grades and progress reports due, plus they do the high school transcripts, keep the kids' cum files, deal with paperwork for the state, and provide annual academic testing for grades 4-11.

In addition, Heritage offers twice-monthly Class Days at several sites around the county. At East County II, we meet the second and fourth Thursdays at a large church facility for homeroom (elementary kids in one; junior high and high school in another). Then we have two 50-minute classes, a half-hour lunch break, then a final class that's an hour long, leaving us with an extra ten minutes to tidy our classrooms.

Class Days are set up like a co-op: one parent needs to be on a teaching team for two class periods, or they need to help set up, clean up, work at the lunch table, etc. This year I'll be teaching a combination class of Intermediate (college prep) and Advanced (honors) Writing, and my class is full at 15 students with a waiting list. Because I'm a one-woman team and need to spend so much time grading essays, I only have to teach one class to fulfill my co-op requirement.

The boys are looking forward to their classes which begin on September 13. Benjamin, now in 7th grade, will be taking PE (one semester volleyball, one semester basketball), Chess, and Boys' Adventure Class II which involves learning all kinds of boy-type activities. Jonathan, a high school sophomore, is taking double Biology Lab and my Intermediate Writing course. Timothy, a senior this year, has it easy at our Class Day, taking PE and Chess with Benjamin, and PE again. But Timothy will also be a drop-off student at  East County I for a double-period Physics Lab class with his former Biology teacher.

The boys will also be meeting with our wonderful tutor who has known them all their lives: "Auntie Jo" who will be helping Timothy with ACT prep, Jonathan with Geometry, and Benjamin with Pre-Algebra. Jo, a ten-year veteran of teaching high school English at a private school, is a God-send; when I was too ill to teach the kids many years ago when I was first diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases, she drove up the mountain 2-3 days per week to home school the kids for me. Now she's my sounding board regarding curriculum choices, Timothy's writing struggles, etc. I couldn't educate the kids without her.

We always have Family Devotions, usually Morning Prayer or Family Prayers with Scripture readings from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer 2011 as part of our "Opening" each day, and have done Church History, Art History, Poetry, and other courses as part of Opening. This year, however, I think we'll study the Bible with Know Why You Believe: Connecting Faith and Reason by Little plus Family Devotions only.

Our plans for Benjamin (7th grade) are these:
Math: Saxon Algebra 1/2 with Auntie Jo
Reading: Bob Jones 7th grade reader
Grammar: Daily Grams for 7th Grade
Spelling: Tricks of the Trade and Any Child Can Spell
Writing: Various Brave Writer classes and freewrites
Science: ABeka 7th Grade Science
History: Sonlight 100 (American History over two years)
Typing/Keyboarding: Writing Skills: Keyboarding
PE: @Class Day & PV Park
Electives: Chess and Boys' Adventure @Class Day

Jonathan (10th grade) will be doing:
Math: Geometry--Saxon Algebra I and II with Auntie Jo
Literature: Bob Jones 10th grade reader & Brave Writer Shakespeare
Writing: My Intermediate Writing course @Class Day
Science: Apologia Biology and Biology Lab @Class Day
History: ABeka World History
PE: @Park with brothers
Electives: Free Teen Guitar Class in Alpine with Father Acker

Timothy (12th grade) will be finishing up with:
Math: Bob Jones Consumer Math with Auntie Jo
Literature: Sonlight British Literature & Brave Writer Shakespeare
Writing: Brave Writer MLA Research Essay; ACT Prep
Science: Apologia Physics and Physics Lab @Class Day (EC1)
History: ABeka Economics and American Government
PE: Double PE @Class Day & PV Park
Electives: Chess @Class Day; Art Class @Grossmont or Cuyamaca 
In addition to teaching Intermediate/Advanced Writing at Class Day, I'll be teaching various classes at Brave Writer this school year as well. I taught a Fan Fiction class over the summer, and in September I'll be leading the Boomerang Book Club in a discussion of Jane Eyre, one of my favorite novels. In November and early December I'll be teaching the MLA Research Essay, plus in November I'll be leading the Boomerang Book Club's discussion of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Then in the winter term, I'll be teaching the Groovy Grammar Workshop and the Playing with Poetry Workshop, followed by a Literary Analysis Class on Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, my favorite play. In the spring, all thoughts will turn to Shakespeare as I teach my favorite Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing followed by the Shakespeare Family Workshop.

Whenever I'm not teaching, I'll be helping to edit and update older monthly subscriptions, expand some online classes into e-books, and other similar sorts of jobs for Brave Writer in my new position as Senior Teacher, Staff Writer, and Curriculum Developer.

And in between all of this, I'm still offering my essay grading service for homeschoolers through my website, I'll make corrections and offer encouragement and ideas for improvement for $5 per double-spaced page (or part page) in 12 point font. It's a good deal; after all, it's not every day that a former university instructor grades essays for homeschoolers.

Obviously, with all this going on, it's not easy for me to find time to write myself, whether it be journaling, blogging, composing poetry, publishing fan fiction chapters online, etc. But I do try to write something each week to keep me honest and active as a writer. My doctor insists that we all need creative outlets, after all, and writing is definitely mine.

Have a lovely school year, everyone!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Feast of Transfiguration

(Image from
Repost from Archives, 2009

August 6 marks the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, a feast celebrated on this day for only the past six hundred or so years but still an important Biblical event that should indeed be remembered by all Christians, no matter their mode of worship. This event is described in three of the four Gospels in the New Testament, revealing Christ for Who He truly is, to paraphrase Thomas: Our Lord and Our God.

A couple of years ago in our Sunday School at Lake Murray Community Church, our teacher, Bill (who has since left Lake Murray to return to the Catholic Church), passed around copies of The Transfiguration by Raphael, seen in the above image. We were slowly proceeding through the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, verse by verse, chewing on God's Word, savouring it, sucking the marrow out of it. At this time we were discussing the event of the Transfiguration and what was also happening while Christ and his chosen three were on the mountain as depicted in Raphael's painting: below the supernatural transfiguration of Christ is a scene of chaos in which the remaining disciples are unable to release a young boy from the demons possessing him. Using artwork to help us more fully understand the Scriptures was a new method for me, but then we can learn a great deal about the Bible and literature in general from the keen insight of artists.

Christian Art, in the Middle Ages and even far into the Renaissance, became "the poor man's Bible" in a way. The vast majority of the population was illiterate, so the artwork hanging in their churches told them the stories behind Biblical events like the Transfiguration as well as stories of the Saints. For example, parishioners who couldn't read would recognize a painting of Saint Sebastian by the arrow plunged into his side. So while they listened to sermons in church, their eyes would wander to the art in the church, linking the images to the Biblical and Saint stories they had learned. Art told the stories without words, a gift of beauty as well as education to an illiterate populace. And Raphael's "Transfiguration" is such a one as it relates two Biblical events occurring simultaneously: the heavenly vision of a transfigured Christ and the earthly battle against demonic possession, a battle only won when Christ Himself stepped in to assist His Disciples.

The Saint of the Day e-mails from describe the Transfiguration thus:

All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). With remarkable agreement, all three place the event shortly after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death. Peter’s eagerness to erect tents or booths on the spot suggests it occurred during the Jewish weeklong, fall Feast of Booths.

Certainly Peter, James and John had a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity strong enough to strike fear into their hearts. Such an experience defies description. And certainly Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected—a theme John highlights throughout his Gospel.

Tradition names Mt. Tabor as the site of the revelation. A church first raised there in the fourth century was dedicated on August 6. A feast in honor of the Transfiguration was celebrated in the Eastern Church from about that time. Western observance began in some localities about the eighth century.

On July 22, 1456, Crusaders defeated the Turks at Belgrade. News of the victory reached Rome on August 6, and Pope Callistus III placed the feast on the Roman calendar the following year.

One of the Transfiguration accounts is read on the second Sunday of Lent each year, proclaiming Christ’s divinity to catechumens and baptized alike. The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent, by contrast, is the story of the temptation in the desert—affirmation of Jesus’ humanity. The two distinct but inseparable natures of the Lord were a subject of much theological argument at the beginning of the Church’s history; it remains hard for believers to grasp.

“At his Transfiguration Christ showed his disciples the splendor of his beauty, to which he will shape and color those who are his: ‘He will reform our lowness configured to the body of his glory’” (Philippians 3:21) (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae).
The Collect for The Feast of the Transfiguration from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
So the Transfiguration shows us the divine side of Jesus, revealing His Power and Glory, while the chaos of humanity below cries out for His help -- a picture not just painted by Raphael hundreds of years ago but a picture of daily life for us as well. We have to look for those moments of Divine Revelation in our own lives on a daily basis. They are there, if only we choke back our fear and open our eyes to see them.


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