Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent Beginneth!

As my daughter and I cook pancakes for dinner this Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Night as it's known in our household), I'm also preparing myself spiritually for the beginning of Lent.

Tomorrow evening I'll attend the Ash Wednesday Imposition of Ashes with the kind folks of Blessed Trinity Anglican as we meet together at the SCAIR Center in downtown El Cajon.

I have my Lenten fast decided and my Lenten additions ready. I don't usually tell either one publicly--only my family knows so that they can help keep me accountable.

As I continue with last Lent's addition of The One Year Book of Hymns to my Compline prayer time before bed each night, last night's hymn struck me, and I want to share it here as well as copy it into my Common Place Book (quotation journal) as it expresses many of the reasons why Lent is my favorite time of year:

Lenten Hymn
by Claudia Frances Hernaman (1838-1898)

Lord, who through these forty days
For us did fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins,
And close by Thee to stay.

As Thou with Satan didst contend
And didst the victory win,
O give us strength in Thee to fight,
In Thee to conquer sin.

As Thou didst hunger bear and thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live
By Thy most holy Word.

And through these days of penitence,
And through Thy Passiontide,
Yea, evermore, in life and death,
Jesus! with us abide.

Abide with us, that so this life
Of suffering overpast,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last!

The Scripture verses accompanying this hymn in this devotional is Mark 1:11-12 from The Living Bible: 

"Immediately the Holy Spirit urged Jesus into the desert. There, for forty days, alone except for desert animals, he was subjected to Satan's temptations to sin. And afterwards the angels came and cared for him." 

So Lent consists of the forty days before the Resurrection, not including Sundays (which are always a celebration of the Resurrection) and thus Lent parallels the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before starting his earthly ministry.

Lent prepares our hearts for the joy of Easter--the celebration of the Resurrection of our Living and Loving Lord. How can we truly celebrate without suffering just a little first? Through fasting and prayer, we draw closer to the heart of Him who loved us first.

Can we fast and pray at any time? Sure. But do we? Not enough--or at least, I know that I don't fast and pray enough. Lent reminds me to do so, to allow the Holy Spirit into the dark corners of my soul and do a spiritual "spring cleaning" and show me my sin so that I may confess it and be cleansed.

To read more about Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent you may read my post On Lent using this hyperlink or by going to the "On Lent" page beneath my blog header.

I wish you all a Holy and Blessed Lent as we all draw closer to our Lord and King!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Grammar Goes...Poetry Pops (In)

On Friday I finished teaching my first Brave Writer online course of 2015...which happened to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Brave Writer! The Groovy Grammar Workshop is the only course I teach that I didn't write myself; it's Julie's brilliant brain child. Grammar rules drilled into us since third grade melt away while we learn to play with words and create nonsense words--and even a nonsense poem! Grammar, after all, is about writing clearly and powerfully, and that philosophy underlies Julie's "topsy-turvy" approach to the grammar monster hiding under our school tables. If we learn to play with language, to experiment with strange word combinations, then we will learn to write more effectively...and with a panache that brings out the wordsmith in us all.

So Monday marks the beginning of the next phase of playing with the power of words: The Playing with Poetry Workshop.  I have been pleasantly surprised that this is my third course in a row to fill up and be closed before the class begins; the same happened with the MLA Research Essay class and Groovy Grammar. This closing of classes has never happened in my nearly thirteen years with Brave Writer, so I'm very pleased and blessed to have full classes. In this poetry workshop, we'll be writing all kinds of poems: the Japanese forms of haiku and tanka, shape and visual poems, traditional stanzas, and lots of "found" poems. Again, the emphasis is to experiment with the power of language, to have fun playing with words and phrases, exploring the musicality of words (even approaching song lyrics as poetry!), and simply enjoying the unbounded creativity inherent in each of us.

This class is especially fun because the moms (and quite often the dads, too) write their own poems along with their kids, so poetry becomes a true family activity. We advise that at the end of the workshop, the favorite poems be gathered, editing, and published in a family anthology of verse. What a memorable way to finish the course!

Last year, an eight-year-old student in our Playing with Poetry Workshop (with the help of her mother, of course) published an illustrated book for kids on writing poetry. Here's the link to Cassidy's book on Amazon: Roller Coaster: A Kid's Guide on How to Write Poetry. Isn't that amazing??!!

So as Playing with Poetry Workshop begins tomorrow, I thought I'd share my favorite poem with all of you. Despite my adoration for 19th century British literature, my two favorite poets are Americans, and my favorite poet is even from the 20th century. The brilliant e.e. cummings (1894-1962), both artist and poet, saw the world in a way that emphasizes the beauty in the ordinary. Each spring my mind quotes "[in Just-]-" as I work the winter soil in preparation for summer flowers and summer trips to the beach bring to mind "maggie and milly and molly and may." But this strange poem that I first encountered in my high school sophomore English class has been and probably always will be my favorite:

Flowers and Hat: Patchen Place by e.e. cummings (c. 1950)

[anyone lived in a pretty how town]
by e.e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


(For a printable copy and to listen to cummings read the poem, check this link:
"[anyone lived in a pretty how town]" --The Poetry Foundation)

So wishing you all as joyous a month [of poetry] as I will be enjoying!!


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