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,

Monday, May 26, 2014

Prayers for Memorial Day

My grandfather, Captain Richard E. Farwell, was serving as First Officer on the USS Ward just outside Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941 when the Ward fired upon and sank a Japanese mini-sub shortly before the attack began. For more on his service, see this previous blog post: A Day to Remember.

I hope to have time to slip down to Greenwood Memorial Park to put a flag on his grave as I have in past years.

Mark D, Roberts, who writes the amazing Daily Reflections for The High Calling, today sent out a prayer for Memorial Day which I include here in its entirety:

PRAYER: Gracious, Sovereign God, Lord of all nations,

On this Memorial Day, we pause to reflect upon our blessings as a nation and the high cost of those blessings. We offer our prayers of thanks and intercession.

Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, for opportunities to flourish, and for the security of our land.

Thank you for those who have served in the armed services of our country, risking their lives for our liberty.

Thank you for those who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing in such a costly way for the sake of others, including me. Thank you for those who have given their lives so that those who live in other countries might experience freedom from tyranny.

Thank you for a day set apart, not just for celebration, but also for solemn remembrance as we consider the sacrifices of so many in our military.

O Lord, may we be more aware of just how blessed we are as a nation. May we be more grateful for our blessings, more faithful in stewarding them well, more eager to share them with others.

We pray today for the families and friends of those who have given their lives in service to our nation. May they be comforted in their sadness. May they be reassured that the sacrifice of their loved ones contributes to a worthy cause. May they be proud of those they have lost, entrusting their ultimate fate into your gracious hands.

Even as we remember those who have given their lives in the past, we also think of those whose lives are on the line today. Protect them. Encourage them. Bring them home safely...and soon.

Give wisdom to the leaders of our armed services, that they might know how best to deploy the troops in the cause of freedom. May their efforts be successful, so that peace with justice might be established in our world.

Guide those who lead our nation in international affairs. Help them to pursue diplomatic paths that prevent needless conflict. May they have your wisdom about when and how to use the military might you have entrusted to us.

God of peace, stir in the hearts of the leaders of all nations and in all who would use violence to further their cause. Change their hearts and minds. Give them a passion for peace. Bring an end to the pain, suffering, injustice, and violence in our world.

We know, dear Lord, that ultimate peace will not come until your kingdom is here in all of its fullness. Nevertheless, we pray for a foretaste of the future. We ask for the growth of peace throughout our world today, so that fewer and fewer men and women will have to risk and even to sacrifice their lives. We long for the day when people will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).

May your kingdom come, Lord, and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!

All praise be to you, God of grace, God of mercy, God of justice, God of peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords! Amen.


And adding to this prayer, I post the Collects For Those Serving in Our Armed Forces and For Memorial Days from The Book of Common Prayer 2011:

LORD God of hosts, stretch forth your almighty arm to strengthen and protect the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guards of our country; Support them in the day of battle, and in times of peace keep them safe from all evil; Endue them with courage and loyalty, and grant that in all things, they may serve without reproach; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (References: 2 Samuel 22.2-4; Deuteronomy 31.6; Hebrews 13.5-6)    

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give you thanks for all your servants who have laid down their lives in the serviceof our country; Grant to them your mercy and the light of your presence, so that the good work which you have begun in them may be perfected; Through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. Amen. (References: John 15.12-17; Ephesians 2.5-6) 


Wishing you all a blessed memorial of those who have served and died for the sake of freedom and a joyous celebration of those who continue to serve our country.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Venerable Bede and Grading, Grading, Grading....

Grading Essays....

Today marks the Saint's Day of The Venerable Bede, one of my favorite English saints. The wonderful Saint-of-the-Day e-mails from, from which I learn so much about the men and women  on the Pilgrim Pathway before us, tells us a little about his life. I here include the daily e-mail in its entirety:

Sunday, May 25, 2014
St. Bede the Venerable
Bede is one of the few saints honored as such even during his lifetime. His writings were filled with such faith and learning that even while he was still alive, a Church council ordered them to be read publicly in the churches.

At an early age Bede was entrusted to the care of the abbot of the Monastery of St. Paul, Jarrow. The happy combination of genius and the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar, perhaps the most outstanding one of his day.

He was deeply versed in all the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history, the lives of the saints and, especially, Holy Scripture.

From the time of his ordination to the priesthood at 30 (he had been ordained deacon at 19) till his death, he was ever occupied with learning, writing and teaching. Besides the many books that he copied, he composed 45 of his own, including 30 commentaries on books of the Bible.

Although eagerly sought by kings and other notables, even Pope Sergius, Bede managed to remain in his own monastery till his death. Only once did he leave for a few months in order to teach in the school of the archbishop of York. Bede died in 735 praying his favorite prayer: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As in the beginning, so now, and forever.”

His Ecclesiastical History of the English People is commonly regarded as of decisive importance in the art and science of writing history. A unique era was coming to an end at the time of Bede’s death: It had fulfilled its purpose of preparing Western Christianity to assimilate the non-Roman barbarian North. Bede recognized the opening to a new day in the life of the Church even as it was happening.

Though his History is the greatest legacy Bede has left us, his work in all the sciences (especially in Scripture) should not be overlooked. During his last Lent, he worked on a translation of the Gospel of St. John into English, completing it the day he died. But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing remains today.

“We have not, it seems to me, amid all our discoveries, invented as yet anything better than the Christian life which Bede lived, and the Christian death which he died” (C. Plummer, editor of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History).

As we remember this amazing Saint, we can also access his Ecclesiastical History of the English People free through Christian Classics Ethereal Library here: Bede's Ecclesiatical History of the English People. Although I read this book back in my Christian Tradition course as an undergrad at Point Loma Nazarene University, I've been wanting to refresh my memory of this wonderful work. And as an informal Anglican (I've been attending Friday Morning Prayer and Holy Communion Healing Services with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity for the past eight years and helped to edit The Book of Common Prayer 2011 which uses the English Standard Version for all Scriptures), I want to re-read Bede's History in light of all I've learned about the English Church since my college days.

But such reading projects will have to wait. The moment I finish this post, I need to grade the final MLA research essays submitted by my Expository Essay I and II classes at Heritage Christian School's East County II Class Days; with our final class meeting this Thursday, I must grade and return these essays plus compute final course grades for my students. Fortunately, Engrade is a huge help in tracking grades; I've even started using it for my Literary Analysis courses at Brave Writer to keep track of all of the points for various discussion question responses, etc.

And speaking of Brave Writer, my Literary Analysis: Romeo & Juliet class is gearing up to discuss the play starting this week. In past courses, I've received 75-100 essay posts within 24 hours that I need to respond to, commenting on content and depth of analysis.

So with finishing up our last three weeks of the school year, with B finishing 8th grade and J completing 11th,  with Heritage Christian School, grading research papers and computing final grades for my Expository Essays courses at Heritage's Class Day, and keeping up with the students in my Romeo & Juliet class at Brave Writer, you may not see me again until after June 13, our last day of school and the final day of the Romeo & Juliet class.

So, needless to say, The Venerable Bede will be waiting until then as well.

But to keep me on track for the next couple of weeks, I've posted this quotation on the wall above my desk as a reminder:

"The divine moment is the present moment."
~Saint Catherine of Genoa

Those are good words to live by, I think, especially during these next three crazy-busy weeks.

See you after the grades are all in!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bitten by the Writing Bug...and Quotes of the Week

When I was a child, I loved the idea of becoming a writer. I used to pound away on my mother's old manual typewriter from the early 1960's, but I was usually writing letters from one stuffed animal, my blue camel (remember the old "Camel with the Wrinkled Knees" from the Raggedy Ann books?) to my brother's equally blue stuffed French poodle named Pierre, and he would respond in kind on Pierre's behalf.

But writing stories? I think I sat down only once to write a story, and I think I wrote two pages. Writing fiction didn't seem to be my "thing."

In my high school Creative Writing class, I learned how to compose poems and did fairly well--well enough to be published in a couple of our school's yearbooks and in a couple of literary magazines during my junior and senior years.

Once I attended college at Point Loma Nazarene University, I wrote more poems for the literary magazine and enjoyed writing essays for my various literature classes, but writing fiction remained a difficult task. In my Creative Writing class with Dr. Dean Nelson, I struggled with believable characters and plot lines.

After that course, I decided that I just wasn't a writer of fiction...and never would be.

But then a bunch of e-friends jumped onto the National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo) bandwagon, and in 2008 I joined them. I drafted 50,000 words of a novel, and in 2009, I completed the novel. Well, mostly completed it; I still have a LOT of editing to do.

In late 2010 I started writing on Wattpad under a pen name, and I haven't stopped writing fiction since. I've now completed one novel of 146,000 words, another of just over 200,000 words, and my third novel is at 70,000 words, not to mention several shorter works of about 10-15,000 words.

So it took me entering my 40's before fiction writing really grabbed my mind and heart and soul. But I write a lot now--nonfiction on my blog and for the various courses that I teach at Heritage and Brave Writer, plus writing fiction. It's become a compulsion, even an addiction. Perhaps someday I'll be able to publish my work; we shall see.

So here are two intriguing quotations from women writers of the 20th century into the 21st. Their thoughts on writing are provocative and thought-provoking...and so very true.

"You become a writer because you need to become a writer--nothing else."

~Grace Paley (1922-2007)

"Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself... It's a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent."

~Harper Lee (1926-)

So have a wonderful week, everyone--and keep on writing!!

Writing with you,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Did It!!!!

Yep, I barely sneaked in under the wire at the last possible second, but I did it!!

I wrote 30,000 words during the month of April for Camp NaNoWriMo. :)

For those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world sign up to encourage each other as they tackle a unique goal: writing 50,000 words during the month of November. I've "won" (met the goal of writing 50,000 words in 31 days) in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012.

So what happened in 2010 and 2013, you ask? Well, in 2010, I knew I had a crazy-busy November, so instead I chose a different writing goal: The Editor-in-Chief of The Poet's Market, Robert Lee Brewer, hosts a PAD (Poem A Day) Challenge: writing a poem a day following the prompts given on Robert's Writer's Digest blog, Poetic Asides, for the entire month of November (and he offers another PAD Challenge in April). I'm not sure if it was less time-comsuming to write a poem a day or write 1667 words of fiction a day, but I did accomplish the PAD Challenge in November 2010.

In 2013 I had another crazy-busy November ahead of me, so instead of wisely choosing another writing challenge, or more wisely yet, not taken up ANY writing challenge that crazy month, I tried NaNoWriMo...but only made it to just under 12,000 words.

So I promised myself that when I had a break in teaching, I would catch up on NaNoWriMo. And I did, with one of NaNoWriMo's two Camp NaNoWriMo events, held each April and July. We set our own writing goals for this "Writing Camp" and we aren't limited to novels only--any kind of writing qualifies.

So with 30 days in April (including a two-week Easter vacation from homeschooling and a co-op Expository Essay class working feverishly on their MLA Research Essays which means no grading of their essays for me !), I planned to write 30,000 words--1,000 per day. Not too difficult, right? Although April was half-free of the daily routine of home education and I didn't have loads of essays to grade for our co-op Class Days through Heritage Christian School, I was still juggling one of the Brave Writer family workshop classes, namely the Shakespeare FamilyWorkshop. But as this class is fully prepared because I have taught it before, it requires minimal time and effort, mostly just responding to questions and posts from the families.

So I hunkered down and began Camp NaNoWriMo, starting with new chapters for my current novel, Only by Moonlight, and on a story that started as a dream in the novel but took on a life of its own. So the dream turned into 10,000 words of a new novella called An Enchanted Evening. I moved the setting of the novella from the dream taking place in Chicago during World War I in Only by Moonlight to the Regency era in England--London, to be precise--the time period and general location for Jane Austen's books.

It didn't help much that on April 30, the final day of Camp NaNoWriMo and also the deadline for a writing contest on one of the sites where I post my writings, we had the strongest winds we've experienced since moving to this mountain village in 2001. With winds topping 101 mph in Julian, another mountain town, and our own town experiencing winds of 90+ mph, we lost electricity starting at 5:45 AM. And the power wasn't restored until 5:45 PM. Thus out of the final 24 hours of Camp NaNoWriMo, 12 hours were without power.

I used my laptop's battery power to do a final edit on the unposted three parts of An Enchanted Evening, having posted the first three parts of the novella on April 29. Utilizing my smart phone's FoxFi app which provides a WiFi hotspot for getting online (but drains my phone battery very quickly!), I managed to post the final three chapters just before both my phone and my laptop ran out of battery power. Once the power was back up, I continued writing for Camp NaNoWriMo once I had caught up on my neglected e-mail inboxes and responded to the various posts for my online Shakespeare Workshop, but I knew I was cutting it close on completing the 30,000 words I needed to meet my goal.

And I posted precisely 30,001 words at 11:59 on April 30! When I added 11 more words for a total of 30,012 words a few seconds later, I was denied a chance to update; midnight had arrived, and Camp NaNoWriMo for April was over and gone. That's how close I was to NOT completing my writing goal for the second time in four months.

Now that I completed my goal, Camp NaNoWriMo offers some lovely "prizes" for "winning"--and chief among them is a free printed copy of my work--which I'll think about doing if the printed copy of my adventure story/romance is REALLY free as I study the fine print of the offer.

So Camp NaNoWriMo has been a success, and I'm thrilled that I not only have two new chapter to add to Only by Moonlight, but that I also have An Enchanted Evening ready for some final edits and tweaking.

After enjoying such a productive month of writing, I couldn't resist adding two new writing quotations to the Quotation of the Week in my sidebar, and I'll include them here as well:

"I am a galley slave to pen and ink."

~Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)

"Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish."

~John Jakes (1932--)

So now I'm off to start editing my latest chapter of my novel and embark on yet another busy week of teaching writing, squeezing my own writing endeavors into the corners of my busy homeschooling days now that school is back in session and we begin the final week of the Shakespeare Family Workshop with an overview of the Bard's tragedy plays, focusing later on Hamlet in particular.

Have a lovely week!!

Writing with you, 


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