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,


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