Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In Memoriam: PD James

Ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew mystery in the fifth grade, I have been a passionate devotee of the mystery novel. I roared through all 56 of the original hardcover Nancy Drew mysteries, followed immediately by the Trixie Belden series of teen mysteries which were so popular in the late 1970's.

In high school after getting my first job as a bookstore clerk at B. Dalton Booksellers, I discovered Mary Higgins Clark's Where Are the Children? and I was hooked. I distinctly remember staying up until three in the morning reading the deliciously creepy-crawly A Cry in the Night and finishing it during my first period Algebra II class, the paperback in my lap, my textbook on the desk.

I had a short-lived relationship with Stephen King while I was in college; Salem's Lot kept me from walking unaccompanied to or from the library after dark. I much preferred his short stories in Skeleton Key. 

After college, grad school, and kids, I found my niche in the mystery market with Anne Perry's Victorian London Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, Victoria Thompson's Gaslight series set in turn-of-the-century New York City, and PD James' mystery series featuring contemporary London's Detective Chief-Inspector Dalgliesh. While I admire and enjoy other mystery series, especially Kate Carlisle's delightful Bibliophile Mysteries and Marley Gibson's Ghost Huntress series of young-adult paranormal novels, Perry, Thompson, and James are the trinity of contemporary mystery writers in my book (pardon the pun).

Of course, one cannot forget the incomparable Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers which started in 1923 with Whose Body? and  ended with Lord Peter and Harriet Vane's rather exciting post-nuptials mystery Busman's Honeymoon in 1937. Spanning eleven novels and several short story collections, Lord Peter will always be my number one literary sleuth, but as Sayers is not a contemporary mystery writer, she's not part of the contemporary mystery author trifecta listed above,

(Although Jill Paton Walsh has done a lovely job in completing (with permission of Sayers' family) the unfinished Thrones and Dominions in 1998 and has since written A Presumption of Death (2002) based loosely on Sayers' The Wimsey Papers published during World War II in The Spectator, and The Attenbury Emeralds (2010). As I looked up Walsh's works today, I noticed that she has published a new Wimsey mystery, The Late Scholar (2014) which I just reserved from the library.)

Now returning to my fave three contemporary mystery authors....

While I knew that PD James was past ninety, I have been hoping for just one more Dalgliesh mystery despite her statement that The Private Patient (2008) was Dalgliesh's final mystery. Her last publication was a Jane Austen mystery entitled Death Comes to Pemberley which was made into a movie in Britain and was featured on PBS last month. With her death on November 27th, the long reign of her poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh, along with her other mysteries, is over...unless she has finished or nearly finished a final novel that we will learn about later.

The world of mystery readers will be in mourning for a long time as James (technically "The Right Honourable Baroness James of Holland Park") started her Dalgliesh mystery series in 1962 with Cover Her Face and finished the series of fourteen novels with The Private Patient in 2008. James also wrote two Cordelia Gray mysteries plus a few miscellaneous mysteries including Death Comes to Pemberley (2011).

So now my beloved living mystery author trifecta of Perry, Thompson, and James has been broken...although the recent continuation of the classic Lord Peter Wimsey series by Jill Paton Walsh has perhaps suggested a possible replacement. (As if anyone could possibly replace PD James....)

Now it's back to grading MLA research first drafts for me....

(Please note the title of the novel on my desk beside the stack of essays I'm grading back in 2010....)


Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday in Advent

When  the sermon started at Pine Valley Community Church last week, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather. Our interim pastor, Pastor Jim, started informing our church about Advent, and the topic of his sermons up until Christmas will be the significance of the four candles in the Advent wreath: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, plus the central white candle, the Christ candle. This is a different set of meanings from the sobering Anglican tradition (Death, Judgment, Heaven [thus the lightening of the penitential purple candles to a rose-colored one], and Hell) as well as the evangelical tradition we observed at Lake Murray (Prophecy Candle, Bethlehem Candle, Shepherd Candle, Angel Candle).

As regular readers of this blog will know, celebrating the Christian Year is one of my passions, and Advent has been central to our family's devotional life since the kids were small. So I was thrilled beyond belief to have Advent being preached from the pulpit; I somehow managed to restrain myself from standing up and applauding mid-sermon. ;) 

The term "Advent" means "coming" or "arrival" and refers to the first Incarnation of Christ as well as the expected second coming of Christ. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest to the Feast of Saint Andrew (November 30), and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.

Advent also marks the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition.

We've been celebrating Advent since 2001 in our household. Keith made us the tabletop Advent wreath above, and through the years we have celebrated Advent with different materials. We read through the adventure books Jotham's Journey and Tabitha's Travels which tell an adventure story that ends on December 24th at the manger and the birth of the Christ Child. We've also used a little book called Christ in the Carols, a devotional with the lyrics to and the background of each carol with a closing meditation and prayer. We've used the Scripture readings from Focus on the Family or the Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer. As the kids grow up, each year we do something slightly different.

Each family member has his/her turn to light the Advent candle(s) in the wreath and to read the Scripture from the Advent calendar wall hanging Keith's sister made for us with 25 hand-embroidered pockets for candy/gifts and a laminated Scripture verse attached to each one.

The Book of Common Prayer 2011 has the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent which is to be prayed during the Advent season until Christmas Day:


ALMIGHTY God, give us grace to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now during this present life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility, so that at the last day when he will come again in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to eternal life; Through him who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. (References: Romans 13.12; 2 Timothy 4.1; Philippians 2.5-8; 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17)

Advent is richly symbolic. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is “the light of the world” and that we are also called to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” The purple of the candles symbolizes the royalty of Christ, the Almighty who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The rose candle reminds us that hope and peace are near, available only through God. The white candle, the Christ candle, recalls Christ’s holiness, purity – He who was without sin who died for the sins of all. The greenery, symbolizing abundant life, surrounds a circular wreath – never ending, eternal life. The red of the holly berries reminds us of His blood to be shed on the cross for us.

The origins of the Advent wreath are found in the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who, during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, gathered wreaths of evergreen and lighted fires as signs of hope in a coming spring and renewed light. Christians kept these popular traditions alive, and by the 16th century Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From Germany the use of the Advent wreath spread to other parts of the Christian world. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens. Three candles are violet and the fourth is rose. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent.

Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is purple, the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week which points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death: The Nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the Crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is not only to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the purple color of Lent. In the four weeks of Advent, the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season. 

The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history; it is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. This is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture readings for Advent reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life in this double-focus on past and future. 

Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power and glory. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live "between the times" and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s in-breaking into history in the Incarnation and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which "all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption," it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to "love the Lord your God with all your heart" and to "love your neighbor as yourself."

The primary focus of Advent is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as we wait together to celebrate His birth, death, and glorious resurrection. 

My favorite Advent devotional is Watching for the Light, and from it I have jotted down some wonderful quotations, including the one for this week:
"Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent--that is, a time of waiting for the Ultimate."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So enjoy your family or church celebrations of the Advent season. I'm so glad I started the Advent tradition when our kids were fairly small so that it has become an important part of their childhood memories. 

NOTE: I'm sorry that this blog has been practically silent since school began--it's been a truly crazy autumn with an overwhelming teaching load which caused a flare-up of my autoimmune illness. So here at last is a post--yay!! :) 

Wishing you a blessed and holy Advent,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Teaching 2014-2015 Classes at Heritage Class Days and Brave Writer

This fall will be a very busy one for me. In addition to homeschooling our two high school boys (a freshman and a senior—our other two have already graduated high school), I will be teaching writing and literature classes at Heritage Christian School’s East County II Class Days Co-op as well as online writing and literature courses at Brave Writer.

I’ve taught at Heritage’s Class Days since 1997 when we officially started homeschooling our four children. This year I will continue teaching Expository Essay I (formerly Intermediate Writing) to fifteen students. This class is based on the Writing 110 (freshman composition) courses I taught at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) before we started our homeschooling adventures.

We will be covering the descriptive essay (Keen Observation from Brave Writer's The Writer's Jungle), the personal essay, the comparison and contrast essays, the definition essay, the literary analysis essay, the poetry explication essay, the in-class timed essay, the revised essay, the persuasive essay, and the MLA research essay over the school year. We meet in class only eighteen times over the school year, so the students usually have two weeks in which to write and submit their essays via e-mail; I comment and grade their essays, returning them before the next essay assignment is due so that they may apply my suggestions to their next assignment.

This year I am also preparing a new class: Discussing Shakespeare. This class is based on the many Shakespeare plays I have taught online through Brave Writer. No written work will be submitted; this course focuses on reading and discussing the comedy, history, and tragedy plays of Shakespeare, including clips from filmed performances (either actual movie versions or films of stage plays), reading certain scenes aloud, discussing the background, characters, poetry, and themes of the plays, etc. We will start with a look at Shakespeare’s life, times, and writing style and the Elizabethan Theatre scene, and then we’ll explore three comedic plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice), two historical plays (Henry V, Richard III), and three tragic plays (Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet). Before each class meeting, I’ll e-mail links to audio versions of the plays, film recommendations, humorous links regarding the plays, etc., to the students to help them to thoroughly enjoy the plays.

While the courses at ECII Class Day will extend all the way to the final days of May, the classes I teach at Brave Writer are of much shorter (yet far more intense) duration. On September 2, I’ll start teaching a four week high school class entitled Literary Analysis: A Tale of Two Cities. We will read and discuss this Dickens novel for three weeks, and then finish the class with the students choosing one of the four options for their Final Writing Project: 1) writing a letter from one character to another; 2) writing a formal review of one of the several recommended film versions of the novel; 3) writing a comparison/contrast essay on two characters from the novel; or 4) writing an exploratory essay on a theme from the novel. After completing the class, students will receive a Brave Writer High School Transcript form detailing their final course grade, the contents of the class, and the high school credits earned.

Literary Analysis: A Tale of Two Cities will be followed by the five-week Literary Analysis: British Poetry which will provide a survey of British poetry as well as in-depth analysis of nine poems (three per week) following a week of learning how to analyze a poem. The Final Writing Project will entail a poetry explication essay on one of four British poems not yet studied by the students. Poems for analysis and explication are still being chosen but should cover the major movements of British Poetry (Medieval, Renaissance, Neoclassical, Romantic, Victorian, Modern, Post-Modern).

Following the two Literary Analysis courses at Brave Writer will be one of my favorite courses, the six-week MLA Research Essay. Using the seventh edition of the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, students will be taught how to select an appropriate persuasive topic, how to locate sources and create source notes, how to take notes from these sources, how to write and format an outline, how to draft an MLA research essay using parenthetical citations, how to revise the first draft (with feedback from other students and the instructor) in a virtual read-around, how to format a Works Cited and create a Title Page, and finally, they will submit their final draft, including Title Page, Outline, 5-7 page Research Essay, and Works Cited to be graded by the instructor and returned via e-mail with comments, a grade, and a Brave Writer High School Transcript form detailing their final course grade, the contents of the class, and the high school credits earned.

In Brave Writer’s winter term, I will be teaching two family workshops: the Groovy Grammar Workshop and the Playing with Poetry Workshop. Both workshop classes are set at one price for the entire family, and activities are provided for students ages 6-18, rather like a buffet in which families choose which activities will be most valuable for their students. Parents are also encouraged to do these activities along with their students, and I’ve received some amazing poems from parents in past years. In addition to the two workshop classes, I’ll also be teaching Literary Analysis: Rebecca. Daphne DuMaurier’s wonderfully gothic mystery will be a delight to discuss and analyze, and the same four options for Final Writing Projects as we saw with A Tale of Two Cities will be required of students. All three courses are four weeks in length.

In the spring term at Brave Writer, I’ll be teaching another family workshop class, the Shakespeare Family Workshop. A five-week workshop, we’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre scene (Week One), Shakespeare’s writing style and his sonnets (Week Two), and then we’ll spend the final three weeks on Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, one week on each. As with the other two family workshop courses, a variety of activities will be made available, and each family may choose the activities that will work best for their family learning style, ages, interest levels, etc. Lots of fun links are provided to charm the least-eager fan of the Bard. And finally, we’ll end the spring term with Literary Analysis: Twelfth Night. Set up similarly to the Literary Analysis courses on A Tale of Two Cities and Rebecca, we’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre, and Shakespeare’s use of language (Week One) before reading and discussing the play in-depth for two weeks, and then complete the class with the same Final Writing Project options as the other two classes.

In the summer, I hope to teach the Fan Fiction class again. This course allows creative writing—writing stories based on popular books, movies, video games, TV shows, etc. With students already knowing their characters well from the original works, story writing becomes much more exciting as we learn to extend our favorite characters into new adventures. Fan Fiction is a wonderful way to keep kids writing over the summer without realizing that they are actually writing; it’s that fun!  

Plus I have essays being submitted for comments and grading through my website,  Homeschooling families from across the US send me their junior high and high school essays, and for $10 per double-spaced, 12-point font page/part page, I offer copious commentary, suggestions for improvement, encouragement, and a letter grade for the assignment. To read more about my online essay grading service, check out Susanne Barrett: Online Essay Grading Service. Sample graded essays are also available for review. 

So these courses are my teaching load for this year. I’ll definitely be quite busy, but I’ll also be having so much fun teaching on and writing about British literature and many more of my favorite topics.

Have a wonderful fall,

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Jesus Prayer

Quiet Time at my desk....

Every morning when I open my e-mail inbox, I read and pray through the Daily Reflections from The High Calling.

Today's Daily Reflection includes a Scriptural prayer that has long been near and dear to my heart. When I practice Centering Prayer, this is the prayer I use.

Here is today's Daily Reflection by Mark D. Roberts in its entirety:

Jul 28, 2014
The Jesus Prayer
When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The High Calling
The High Calling The High Calling
The High Calling The High Calling
The High Calling
The High Calling
By Mark D. Roberts
As Jesus and his disciples journeyed near Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was about to pass his way. So he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47). When people tried to get Bartimaeus to be quiet, he shouted even louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This simple cry for mercy has inspired countless prayers during the last two millennia. In particular, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, one of the most common and influential prayers is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This so-called “Jesus Prayer,” which has a variety of forms, is spoken millions of times each day by believers throughout the world. It begins with an acknowledgement of who Jesus is as Lord and Son of God. This goes beyond the messianic confession of Bartimaeus, who addressed Jesus as the Son of David. Then, the Jesus Prayer makes a simple request: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” We need God’s mercy, not just every now and then, not just when we’re in a tough predicament, but throughout our lives, each and every day. As sinners, we need to experience God’s forgiveness, cleansing, and freedom. This comes, not through our efforts, but through God’s mercy. Because of his love for us and his faithfulness, God’s mercy is new every morning (Lam. 3:23).

How different our lives might be if we learned to rely on God’s mercy each and every day. Learning to pray the Jesus Prayer regularly helps us to be open to God in new ways as we acknowledge our dependence on him and his matchless mercy.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever prayed the Jesus Prayer on a regular basis? Do you ever ask the Lord for mercy? What would it mean for you to live each day by leaning on the mercy of God?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

 Wishing you all a blessed week in God's mercy and grace,

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Writing Life...or Not

While I have been trying to write away this month toward my goal of 30,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo, I'm just not getting there.

Yes, I'm teaching an online course in writing Fan Fiction for Brave Writer, and yes, we've had a lot going on in our family. But the writing just isn't happening.

I did manage to write a short story of 3000+ words that has a nice twist for an ending. I want to go through and revise/edit one more time before I post it online. The idea came to me back in May when I had no time to write, and while the deadline for the story contest from which the prompt was taken is long gone, the idea hasn't left me alone, and I'm pleased with the almost-final result.

I have the next chapter of my novel ready for revising/editing as well; I hope to post both this week.

But that's really only about 10K words. It's far better than nothing, and I plan to keep drafting the next few chapters of my novel this month to see how far I can get. This fall's teaching schedule is going to be absolutely crazy, so I won't have much time to write at all as I'm teaching online courses at Brave Writer straight through from September 3-December 23, including time to grade essays. I start teaching my two classes at our homeschool co-op on September 11, and before all these courses, I'll start our 18th year of homeschooling and my final year of teaching two students at home (B in 9th and J in 12th) during the last two weeks of August.

Our homeschooling corner--of course, it's only this neat and organized on our first day of school! 

So in the spirit of trying to write as best I can this month plus as much as I can in August as I prep all of these courses and our homeschool year, I posted two new writing quotations this week for inspiration:

"What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it toward the condition of the man who wrote it."

~E.M. Forster

"Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."

~G.K. Chesterton

So thanks for reading, and I hope that you have a wonderful July as you also write, read, work, and do whatever you do. And now it's back to Camp NaNoWriMo to try to reach at least near 30,000 written soon as I grade my students' first flash fan fics (300-1000 word stories) for our Brave Writer summer class.

Writing rather feverishly,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: You Had Me at Merlot

Title: You Had Me at Merlot
Author: Marley Gibson
Year of Publication: 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: R for language and intimate situations
Medium: Kindle

I really enjoyed You Had Me at Merlot--so much so that I read it in fewer than 24 hours. I simply couldn't put it down. The characters were quirky yet believable, and the plot realistic yet intriguing.

Poor Hale (yes, that's her name) has had a rough year: divorced by her workaholic doctor husband Curtis, Hale is adjusting to life as a single woman who is still in love with her ex-husband. Working as a copy editor at one of New York City's premiere wine magazines, within a five-minute period, she is fired for working on her novels during her lunch break on her work computer (but really to save the magazine's new owner her salary) and receives a phone call from her mother with news that her grandmother has died. So Hale quickly packs up her office and heads home to Pensacola, Florida, to her quirky Southern family. And then the plot really gets going....

I'm a huge fan of Ms. Gibson's Ghost Huntress series (please write more soon, Marley!!), but I wasn't sure if I would like her contemporary fiction without the paranormal aspects. I can now say that I most certainly did enjoy this book--and I also learned a great deal about wines!! :)

My only criticism is that I would have liked to have had another chapter (or two) between the last one and the epilogue so that the final character introduced could have been more concretely developed. I felt as I did at the end of the newest Jane Eyre movie (2011, I think): not enough time was given to the joyous reunion between Jane and Mr. Rochester. Here I felt that I was robbed of the joyous discovery of this new character and how this new character fits into the overall scheme of the story.

But overall, I thought this book was compelling. I haven't read an un-put-downable book in a long time, so You Had Me at Merlot was a lovely interlude among everything else I'm doing this summer (such as teaching a fan fiction writing class to kids ages 8-17). I'm definitely going to check out more of Marley Gibson's books while I wait, with arms folded and foot impatiently tapping, for the next Ghost Huntress book. ;)

(Hint, hint, Ms. Gibson!)

Happy summer reading,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Returning to Camp NaNoWriMo

I am so thrilled that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which occurs each November, has a couple of "camps" during the rest of the year. Between my teaching loads with Brave Writer and Heritage Christian School's East County 2 Class Day, I barely have time to keep up my e-mail, much less write 50,000 words in November.

I did Camp NaNoWriMo in April, which with our two weeks of Easter vacation, a light teaching load at Brave Writer, and my Expository Essay students at Class Day deeply ensconsed in their MLA Research essays, I managed to complete. These "summer camps" are much less intensive than November's Herculean task with "campers" able to set their own goals rather than the "50,000 words or bust" mentality of the usual NaNoWriMo. In April I set myself a goal of 30,000 words and just squeaked under the deadline at 11:58 with 30,002 words. Whew!!

So I'm tackling Camp NaNoWriMo this month, with July's goal the same as April's: 30,000 words, mostly on my current novel entitled Only by Moonlight. I also want to work on a short story that I started in May if I have time, but I really want my focus to be on my current novel. It's been slow going, with my posting a chapter monthly on average instead of weekly as I have in the past. But then, these chapters are much longer than the ones I have written in my two previous novels. (I think I've learned my lesson about keeping to shorter chapters, at least in writing the first draft; I can always combine chapters in the editing process once I have a completed first draft.

I'm teaching the summer Fan Fiction class at Brave Writer right now, but I should be able to keep up with writing 1000 words/day (with the 4th of July off) while teaching since I'm not homeschooling the boybarians.

Right now I'm at about 4500 words (a wee bit behind) and plan to spend much of today writing once I get my class posts caught up. So I hope to have a very productive month with Camp NaNoWriMo!!

Writing happily,

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Parents' 50th Anniversary

Carl and Judy Lower: June 27, 1964
One of the joys of last weekend was celebrating my parents' Golden Wedding Anniversary--50 years of wedded almost-bliss! :)  Nearly 100 of their family and closest friends celebrated with them at the Bali Hai Restaurant on San Diego's Shelter Island. I don't have photos from the party yet, but I will post them when I do.

In the meantime, enjoy some more of their wedding photos: June 27, 1964:

The wedding party: (Those who attended the 50th Anniversary party are in bold) (L to R): Chris Thompson, Rich FarwellPam Wilson-Hammond (maid of honor), unknown groomsman, Judy and Carl, Ronald Lower (best man, deceased 1971), Joanne Lower-Askey (matron of honor), Bob Farwell and Vicki Farwell-Gall)

Back up the aisle, married!
Escaping the church

In the receiving line

Parents with the bride and groom, L to R: Richard Farwell, Dorothy Lower, Wade Lower, Judy and Carl, Mae Farwell

Carl and Judy cutting the cake

Off to the honeymoon...and fifty years of marriage!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Today we remember with solemn thanks two apostles and martyrs of the New Testament Church: Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

I think that we get a wonderful perspective on the lives of these two paragons of the Early Church from the Saint-of-the-Day e-mails from

Peter (d. 64?). St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.

The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.

And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).

But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.

He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b).

Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17).

Paul (d. 64?). If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.

Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.

Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise.

In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.

We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: "It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father's revelation. I, not you, build my Church." Paul's experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.

The Collect for Saint Peter's Day from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:
ALMIGHTY God, who through your Son Jesus Christ gave to your holy apostle Peter many excellent gifts, and earnestly commanded him to feed your flock; Make all Bishops and Pastors diligent in preaching your Holy Word and your people faithful in following the same, so that they may receive the crown of eternal glory; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (References: 2Peter 1.1-2; John 21.15-17; 1Peter 5.3-4) 

So as we celebrate this Lord's Day, each Sunday lauded as a mini-Easter, may we focus on the Holy Trinity: the Father who created us, the Son who died and rose again for us, and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. And may we also remember and emulate the saints who have trod the Pilgrim Pathway before us, especially Saint Peter and Saint Paul. 
Have a blessed day!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trinity Sunday, Father's Day, Anniversary, and Quotes for the Week

Partially from the Archives....

The Sunday following Pentecost/Whitsunday is the celebration of the Holy Trinity. Trinity Sunday is a celebration of just one day, and the liturgical color is white, symbolizing the purity and sinlessness of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now that the Holy Spirit has arrived on the scene to complete the Trinity, Ordinary Time shall begin starting next week, stretching over twenty-some weeks to Advent in late November to early December. Nearly half of the Church Year consists of Ordinary Time for which the liturgical color is green, symbolizing the continual growth of our faith as we follow Christ and endeavor to become more like Jesus. During Ordinary Time, the weeks are counted as being "after Trinity": the First Sunday after Trinity, the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, etc.

But today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The website Church Year explains:
Trinity Sunday, officially "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity," is one of the few feasts of the Christian Year that celebrates a reality and doctrine rather than an event or person. On Trinity Sunday we remember and honor the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Trinity Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost, and lasts only one day, which is symbolic of the unity of the Trinity. The Eastern Churches have no tradition of Trinity Sunday, arguing that they celebrate the Trinity every Sunday. Westerners do as well, although they set aside a special feast day for the purpose.

The Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

For the Epistle today, the 1928 BCP requires the reading of the fourth chapter of Revelation; you may read it here in the English Standard Version: Revelation 4 ESV.

The Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday is written in the third chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the first verse through the fifteenth. You may read it here, again in the ESV: John 3:1-15 ESV.

Today is also the Feast of Title for two churches in the San Diego area, both of which have removed themselves from the liberal San Diego Episcopal Diocese and have put themselves under the authority of Biblical leadership: Holy Trinity in Ocean Beach (part of the city of San Diego) and Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity in Alpine, thirty miles east of San Diego. I have been attending weekday healing services led by Father Keith Acker when he was Rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church and also after he and his church left the Diocese and reformed as Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity which is now part of the Reformed Episcopal Church. So blessings to both churches on their Feast of Title!

So today we give special thanks to our Lord who is realized in three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although we praise God for the Trinity each and every day of the year, this day we celebrate it more than usual, remembering His gracious goodness, His lovingkindness, and His everfaithful mercy. In the words of the Gloria Patri, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Here's the Collect for Trinity Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who gave grace to your people to proclaim the true Faith, acknowledging the glory of the eternal Trinity and, by the power of your Divine Majesty, worshiping One God; Keep us standing firm in this Faith and always defend us from danger; Who lives and rules, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Also, I wanted to share a couple of quotations on The Trinity...which are not easy to find, by the way. But I think I like these words from an Anglican who started the Holiness movement:

"Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God."      
~John Wesley

And one more quotation, this time from a friend of mine, a former missionary to East Asia (China) who shall remain nameless to protect her identity:

"Because of the cross, everything is redeemable."

Today is also Father's Day as well, so I wish all fathers, including my own and the wonderful father of our children, a wonderful and special day!!

In addition, today is also my and Keith's 29th wedding anniversary!! We plan to enjoy being home today and then to go to the Fair later this week. So to further celebrate our anniversary, I post this Collect today from the Book of Common Prayer 2011:

GRACIOUS God, who consecrates the covenant of marriage to represent the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church; We ask your continued blessed on your servants, Keith and myself, that, as husband and wife, [we] may continue to love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, so that [our] home may always be a haven of blessing and peace; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (References: Malachi 2.14-15; Ephesians 5.25, 28, 32; Colossians 3.18-19.)

So on this very special day in so many ways, I wish you all a blessed Father's Day and Trinity Sunday as Ordinary Time begins once more....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

News on 20th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea

"The Greek" Amphitheater at Point Loma Nazarene University, home of The Writers' Symposium by the Sea.

Point Loma Nazarene University will host its 20th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea in late February. The amazing writers who have attended and shared their thoughts on the craft of writing over the last two decades have been phenomenal: Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Philip Yancey, Kathleen Norris, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Eugene Peterson, Calvin Miller, and other journalists, novelists, poets, bloggers, and non-fiction writers, both Christian and secular. A good number of videos of past featured writers at the Symposium are available via UCSD-TV's Writer's Symposium page. 

The news was just released that to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Writer's Symposium by the SeaDean Nelson (my former creative writing professor and later my kindly office mate when I taught there) will be having a conversation with Joyce Carol Oates. The announcement with details may be seen here if you scroll down a bit (and ignore the "19th Annual" heading): Joyce Carol Oates at Writer's Symposium.

Dean has outdone himself in obtaining such a major figure in American literature to celebrate the Symposium's 20th anniversary. I am so thrilled that Joyce Carol Oates will be coming on February 26

Tickets will go on sale in November, and I'll be one of the first in the virtual queue. Meanwhile, I have a copy of a small book I snatched from the library shelves last week to read (once I finish teaching Romeo & Juliet at Brave Writer this Friday!): First Love. It's a small, illustrated Gothic novelette, and I'm very much looking forward to perusing it as my first book on my Summer Reading List. 

The Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council's Writer's Workshop is hoping to host another of our popular Write-Ins next month to coincide with July's Camp NaNoWriMo  so that we can enjoy coffee, tea, treats, and a few bursts of creative conversation while we tap away on our keyboards or scratch away in our notebooks for a few hours, usually from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. As soon as we have a date cleared with the Pine Valley Library for the use of their Community Room, I'll post the date here on this blog and on the MECAC Writer's Workshop website.

Happy Writing, Everyone!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost: The Joy and Comfort of the Holy Spirit

A repost from the Archives as I frantically attempt to keep up with my wonderful Brave Writer students in our discussions of Romeo and Juliet...

I just do not understand something. Why don't evangelical churches celebrate Pentecost? Scripture tells is that the Gift Jesus promised His disciples has arrived: the Holy Spirit! We read Christ's promise in the 14th chapter of the Gospel According to Saint John, beginning at the 15th verse:

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.... 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you....(ESV)"
Then on the Feast of the Pentecost, with Jerusalem filled with Jews from around the known world, Christ fulfilled his promise fifty days after His Resurrection. We read in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles:

"2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested [1] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.' 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?' 13 But others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine'” (ESV).
Peter then preaches to the astounded visitors to Jerusalem (also in Act 2), quoting the prophecy of Joel hundreds of years past as well as passages from the Psalms of David while also relating what he and the other disciples witnessed of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as well as the many sightings of Christ following His resurrection from the dead until His ascension to the right hand of the Living God. Peter concludes:

"32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing" (Acts 2, ESV).
And then we read the response of the crowd listening to Peter:

"37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' 38 And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.' 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, 'Save yourselves from this crooked generation.' 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2, ESV).
The events of this Pentecost were simply incredible, and it is from this amazing Gift of the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit of God, that the Gospel of Christ first began to spread and the Church first began to form. Why evangelical churches do not celebrate Pentecost is a mystery to me. It always lands on a Sunday and thus it can be easily celebrated with Scripture readings, with praise songs and hymns about the Holy Spirit, with sermons grounded in the Holy Spirit, and perhaps even with baptisms since approximately 3,000 people were baptized and added to the Church on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection in Acts 2. Pentecost is a Biblical holy day, and we can celebrate it Biblically, too, with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart[s]" (Ephesians 5:19, ESV).

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, one of the Collects (collective or public prayers) for Pentecost reads thus:

"Almighty and most merciful God, grant, we beseech thee, that by the indwelling of thy Holy Spirit, we may be enlightened and strengthened for thy service ; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen."
And the Book of Common Prayer 2011's Collect for Pentecost (also in the sidebar of this blog):

"O GOD, you teach the hearts of your faithful people by sending us the light of your Holy Spirit; By your Spirit, give us right judgment in all things, so that we may rejoice forever in his holy comfort; Through the victory of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and rules with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen." (References: John 14.26; Acts 2.1-4; Philippians 1.9-10; Acts 9.31)

The Anglican Church has an interesting name for Pentecost: Whitsunday which comes from the white garments worn by those who are baptized this day, just as over 3,000 people were baptized on that first Pentecost in Acts 2. In the above hyperlink to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry of "Whitsunday," an interesting fact is given:

"Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in 1 Corinthians 16:8 probably refers to the Jewish feast. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday; besides it was so closely bound up with Easter that it appears to be not much more than the termination of Paschal tide [Eastertide]."
So why is this important Biblical Holy Day, celebrated from the very earliest days of the Christian Church, hardly mentioned in evangelical churches, including my own? I don't know. I simply don't get it. But I pray that the evangelical churches will indeed start to celebrate Biblical Holy Days more and more in the future, pulling on the rich, 2,000-year heritage of Pentecost/Whitsunday.

Wishing you a blessed Pentecost,

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Blessed Ascension Day

Reprinted (with a few alterations) from the Archives....

Today is Ascension Day, forty days after Christ's Resurrection, when He gave His final earthly encouragement and directions to His disciples before Ascending to the right hand of the Father. Today's Epistle reading is from Acts 1:

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (English Standard Version)

The Gospel reading relates the same event, also told by Luke at the close of his gospel account:

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)

The Collect for Ascension Day from The Book of Common Prayer 2011 which Father Keith Acker of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity modernized and I helped to edit:   

ALMIGHTY God, as we believe your only eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven; Grant that we may also ascend into heaven in heart and mind until, at the last, we may dwell with him forever; Who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and always. Amen.

Father Bosco Peters, an Anglican priest in New Zealand who runs the amazing site, posted a wonderful reflection on Ascension can be read here: Ascension Day.

On Twitter, Father Peters noted that Ascension Day is a holiday in several European countries, such as France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc. Yet we in America hardly even know of this Biblical holy day, at least among American evangelicals. Part of Eastertide which lasts until Pentecost (just ten more days!), Ascension is obviously noted in Scripture as being forty days after Christ's Resurrection. 

This holy day has been celebrated since the early years of the Church, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
The observance of this feast is of great antiquity. Although no documentary evidence of it exists prior to the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine says that it is of Apostolic origin, and he speaks of it in a way that shows it was the universal observance of the Church long before his time. Frequent mention of it is made in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and in the Constitution of the Apostles. The Pilgrimage of Sylvia (Peregrinatio Etheriae) speaks of the vigil of this feast and of the feast itself, as they were kept in the church built over the grotto in Bethlehem in which Christ was born (Duchesne, Christian Worship, 491-515). It may be that prior to the fifth century the fact narrated in the Gospels was commemorated in conjunction with the feast of Easter or Pentecost.... Representations of the mystery are found in diptychs and frescoes dating as early as the fifth century.
You may read the full article from the Catholic Encyclopedia here: Feast of the Ascension.

I just don't really understand why American evangelical churches do not celebrate these Biblical festivals, or at least Pentecost if not Ascension. Pentecost lands on a Sunday every time, so there's really no excuse not to at least mention it...if not read the Scriptures recounting the gift of the Holy Spirit to the waiting disciples and perhaps even preach on the subject. Yes, every day of our earthly existence should be a celebration of what Christ has done for us, and every Sunday should indeed be a celebration of the Resurrection power and love of Jesus. But noting and celebrating these other Biblical holy days seems like a wonderful idea to me, one in which we can walk in the footsteps of our Risen Lord, glorifying Him who first loved us.

Enjoy a blessed Octave of the Ascension,


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