Tuesday, July 28, 2015

the last verse of Psalm 119

I have gone astray like a lost sheep
Seek thy servant: for I do not forget thy commandments.

Parts 1 and 2

I'm going astray
but please come and get me.

I left,
but please come after me.

I am lost and afraid
and it is my fault
I went out and sought the places of fear and horror.

But I am afraid
And I am horrified.

I do not forget your law.
I do not forget the light.

Bring me back,
oh God of my salvation.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Notes: "Glittering Images", by Susan Howatch

I can't remember when I first read Susan Howatch's series on the Anglican Church, but the last time I read them was, I think, when I was on a retreat with my mother at a convent right before my wedding, oh, twelve years ago now?

So they've faded from my memory a fair bit.

But I've been happy to make my re-acquaintance of this fabulous series.

In fact, I've been rather gorging on them this summer.

"Glittering Images", by Susan Howatch, is the first book of her Church of England series. There are six books in the series proper, though there are a few spin-offs that she wrote afterwards.

"Glittering Images" is the story of Charles Ashworth, a clergyman who's well-off, happy in his academic ivory tower, but who is suddenly called away into a slightly seamy mission by the Archbishop of Canterbury: there's a bishop, Jardine, who has been making a lot of noise about the legality of compassionate divorce (have I mentioned this is set in the 1930's?), and the Archbishop wants to make sure there's nothing suspicious about Jardine's private life, so that he can be sure the gutter-press of the day won't be able to find any scandal in Jardine's private life while they're busy making hay of Jardine's daring public opinions on the ending of bad marriages.

So Charles hares off to Starbridge - "glittering, glamorous Starbridge" - a cathedral town pretty clearly patterned off of Salisbury - and stays as a guest with the Bishop of Starbridge, Jardine, ostensibly to study a manuscript in the cathedral library.

During his stay in Starbridge, Charles encounters not just wisps and hints of scandal, but the dark side of his own "glittering image", the public self he's so carefully cultivated, and has to face the more private self he's ruthlessly hidden in pursuit of his own high-minded clerical career.

The wonder of Howatch's novels is that they are so very suspenseful. But none of the suspense comes because you're afraid the main character is going to die or that terrorists are going to complete their doomsday weapon and destroy the world or anything far-fetched like that.

No, the suspense comes because of the protagonist's unavoidable collision with the worst, most hidden, most suppressed, most terrifying parts of his own psyche. We all have bits of ourselves that we don't really want to look at - and sometimes "bits" is generous. "Lots and lots" might be more true, most of the time.

Howatch, amazingly, is able to write about those depths in a way you believe. And not only do you believe it, but you're captivated by the mystery of it.

And also captivated by the drama of all the characters around it - by the drama, by the history, by the theology of the day - by all of the setting and the plot and everything else.

I love these books. Reading them again, I'm still in complete bafflement as to how she plotted something so intricate and so enthralling.

I love these books.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Weekly Links: writing, praying, and being

Just a few links for you this weekend, but they're good!

-First, for my fellow writers/publishing professionals out there:  "Can CBA Novelists Move to the General Market?"    Be sure to read the comments section on this one; there's some really interesting conversation going on there.

-Next, a good idea about how to pray in troubling times, when reading the news is upsetting: "Planned Parenthood, Pay Day Lenders, and How I'm Praying These Days".

-Finally, an article that provides some helpful information for self-knowledge: "What Each Myers-Briggs Type Does In a Rut (The Rise of the Inferior Function".  I.e., find out what coping mechanisms you're likely to resort to when you're under stress.

Have a lovely Sunday!
-Jessica Snell

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

congrats to Rob Beames on the publication of "Cornered by Grace"!

I got to know Rob Beames when I joined Kalos Press as General Editor. Rob is the author of "Cornered by Grace" and I've truly enjoyed working with him.

Rob has a heart for God's people, and for the people who are going to become God's people. He loves the doctrine of grace, and I feel like I've learned to love the doctrine of grace more just by working with him.

His love of God's kind, free, wondrous grace to His people is manifest in this book. It was an honor to work on it with him.

Congratulations, Rob!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

cooking dinner with the kids (well, actually, with one kid at a time)

I always have trouble getting into a summer routine, but this year it was easier, because there were a few things I knew I wanted to do.

And one of them was to cook dinner with my kids.

Bess is almost 11. Gamgee is 9.  And Lucy and Anna are both 7.

Great ages, marvelous ages, capable ages.  (Seriously, dear moms of young ones, it gets better and better. Harder in some ways, easier in others, but . . . better. Because they become people, more and more. And that is lovely.)

But anyway, Adam and I have four children. And that is not so much as some, but it is a fair amount of children as these things go, and while I love them when they're acting like a litter of puppies - all tumbling over each other and shouting and playing and shouting (So. Much. Shouting.) - I also really love spending time with them one-on-one, when I can pay real, focused attention to each individual child.

And it struck me that since dinner has to be made every night, and since each of them enjoys spending time in the kitchen (none so much as Bess, who is the sort of child who makes banana cream pies from scratch - pie crust and meringue and pudding and all), that taking one of them every weeknight as my Dinner Buddy - i.e., co-chef - would be a great way to get some one-on-one time in.

And it has been.

Now, to be honest, making dinner with a seven-year-old (or nine-year-old, or almost-eleven-year-old) makes dinner prep. take twice as long*, but that's an okay price to pay for some quality time with each of these small people I love who are swiftly ceasing to be small and so quickly becoming big people with personalities and loves and annoyances and hang-ups and joys and everything that makes up a person in this world.

I want to be there with each of them as they grow through these important years.

Making dinner is just one small way.

But it's a good way. And I love this time, and I am grateful for it.

Thanks be to God.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*I lie. It's at least three-times-as-long.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Notes: "The Blue Sword", by Robin McKinley

I think I've read this before, but if I have, it was so long ago that I'd forgotten almost all of it.

"The Blue Sword", by Robin McKinley, is, as far as I can tell, the first fantasy novel published by Robin McKinley, one of my favorite authors.

The reason I'm not sure whether or not I'd read this before is that though the beginning felt familiar the ending was a complete surprise. The likeliest explanation is that I started this when I was a teenager and never actually finished it.

But I couldn't help but finish it this time, because it was so, so good.

It's definitely old-fashioned. The point-of-view shifts drunkenly from character to character, which is a definite no-no for authors these days. But I kind of loved it in this book: the drifting POV made it feel comfortably familiar, properly fitting in with the distinguished fantasy novels of my youth. (Oh youth! - the sixty-year-old me will probably laugh at me for feeling old right now.)

So what is it about? Well, Harry (as the main character, Angharad, prefers to be known) is sent to the outskirts of the empire after the death of her parents. Clearly mirroring the British empire, this fantasy empire known as "Home" has subjugated much of the known world - but not all of it. The mountain people of Damar are still free, and the border with Damar is right where our heroine has been sent.

Early in the novel, Harry is kidnapped by the King of Damar, but the kidnapping isn't ill-meant, and in fact, becoming "of Damar" ends up being the making of Harry, and the making of Harry ends up being the saving of Damar - and alsoof the empire of "Home".

It would be easy to dismiss this as a paint-by-numbers Hero's Journey, except that McKinley wrote this before the hero's journey was so fashionable for writers. Also, "The Blue Sword" is so earnest - in the best of ways - and it can't be mistaken for a dull, fashionable, by-the-book legend. It's too real, too immediate and, in some ways, too imperfect.

I loved it. I argued with it, I wanted more explanation in some parts, I fought with it, I didn't like everyone in it, but I loved it.

McKinley is very good, and she became more polished later ("Shadows" is an excellent example - you can read my review of it here), but she was good from the beginning, and this book proves it.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weekly Links: Planned Parenthood, Obergefell, earthquakes, and more!

So very, very many links for you this week. (Possibly because I took a week or two off!)

Enjoy the good words of people so much smarter than me.

"After Obergefell": I always find it heartening when smart, godly people give good counsel on what to do (as opposed to the disheartening feeling I get after reading an article that's a mere wringing of the hands):
Churches must take responsibility for marriages and families. The argument that we need to protect marriage for children is true in principle, laughable in practice. In sections of America, marriages aren’t steady enough to protect anyone. The best argument for traditional marriage is a thriving traditional marriage.

"The Really Big One" - Terrifying. (And makes me happy to be a bit east and a bit south of the region they're talking about. But still, as some one close to the Pacific and very sincerely in earthquake country? Terrifying.)

"10 Foods that Regrow in Water Alone" - Here's a break from the doom-and-gloom: things still grow! And better and more easily than you might have guessed!

"The End of Sexual Ethics: Love and the Limits of Reason": charity and logic applied to sexual ethics and identity.  God bless you, Matt Anderson.

"Arms Wide Open":
I am the type who rehearses life. I plan. I practice. I think of every possible thing that could go wrong, and I set aside provisions for them. I am careful and fearful and shy. But my daughter? She is brave.

"Planned Parenthood and the Atrocity of Corpse Selling": This is really horrific.

"I, Racist":
You are “you,” I am “one of them.” 
"How We Do Family Devotions":
I read slowly and expressively with just enough drama to cut through their early-morning fog. I pause to tell my daughter to remove her hands from around her sister’s neck, and keep reading. When I have come to the end of our passage I briefly explain something from the passage (and by “briefly” I mean a minute or less). Sometimes I have to cheat by quickly consulting the study Bible notes so I’ll have something worth saying. Then I try to come up with a question or two I can ask the kids—a question of comprehension or of application. And I explain why calling your brother “a stupid idiot” is inappropriate during a reading of 1 Corinthians 13. And that’s our Bible reading.

"Non-Competing Theories of the Atonement":
As I told my veteran pastor of my plans to do graduate studies in the doctrine of the atonement, a wry smile creased his face as he asked: "So...which theory of the atonement do you believe in?" I responded, "All of them!"