Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week Links

I usually don't post links until the weekend, but I've run across a couple of good things recently that both so good and so timely that I didn't want to wait till Saturday to post them.

First, is Ann Dominguez's meditation "Willing in the Garden". It is all amazing, but her observation that the exhaustion she thought was caused by her work was actually caused by having to deal with sin . . . well that was just revelatory to me.

Second is Anne Kennedy's post "It's Holy Week", full of the goodness and realism that all her posts are full of, but I found it particularly encouraging as I face all the services and surprises of the week ahead, still wanting to (to paraphrase Dickens) keep Holy Week in my heart.

Finally, if you're not subscribing to the blog Lent and Beyond, you're missing out. The collection of prayers and music they've gathered there is a treasure trove.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Book Notes: "Warbreaker", by Brandon Sanderson

I read Warbreaker because my brother hinted to me that I'd be glad I did.

I was doubtful (for one thing, that's, um, quite a cover). But you know what? He was right. This book was a ton of fun!

Warbreaker turns out to be yet another of Sanderson's brilliantly world-built novels. I loved T'Telir, with its magic system of color and "Breath", I loved the different cultures in the highlands and the city, and most of all, I loved the characters pursuing their goals in the midst of this unique setting.

Like a lot of Sanderson's novels, I felt like this one was slow-going in the beginning, as he put all of his different pieces in place, and introduced us to his new world. But once everything was set up, the action picked up a LOT, and I just couldn't read fast enough. I finished the last 200 pages of this book in a single evening, racing to see what would happen, and how it would all turn out.

It turned out brilliantly. Just brilliantly. It was so much fun. All the set-up was worth it. So hang in there through the beginning.

I guessed one of the big secrets before the end - which is actually pretty satisfying, because it proves that the secrets actually made sense within the world-as-established  - but there were others I didn't guess, and they were just as satisfying, because they also all made sense.

Also, finally, there's this sword. There's this awesome, awesome sentient sword. Oh my goodness, I loved the sword. It was hilarious. It had the personality of the world's most horrifically eager puppy. Horrifically bloodthirsty eager puppy. It was terrible, but it just cracked me up. Very awesome.

So, if you're looking for a fun fantasy romp, I recommend Warbreaker. You won't regret giving it a try.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Let Us Keep the Feast: Holy Week and Easter" - availabe as an e-book!

 I'm happy to announce that in addition to being available in paperback, you can now purchase Let Us Keep the Feast: Holy Week and Easter as an e-book. You can buy it on Amazon for Kindle, and at the publisher's website for Kindle and other e-pub formats - for only $1.99. Instant delivery, right in time for Holy Week.

Let Us Keep the Feast will show you ways to bring the rhythms of the church year into your own home, so that the celebration of the life of the church becomes part of your daily life. Pick up a copy today!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Call for Submissions on infertility and miscarriage (updated)

This is an update of a post that originally appeared here:

I'm editing a book for Kalos Press on infertility and miscarriage, and we're seeking submissions. If you're a Christian writer who has experienced either infertility or miscarriage, and are interested in submitting an essay for consideration, please see the call for submissions here.

And to give you an idea of where we're coming from editorially, here's a bit from the introduction-to-be:
This isn’t a book that offers solutions – there are plenty of experts for that. Nor is this a book that expounds theological explanations for pain and loss – that necessary job is already well done elsewhere.
What this book offers is simpler, and more primary: it offers companionship. No one loss is like any other, yet sharing our losses can offer, if not true solace, at least the comfort of knowing there is someone else there beside you in the dark, someone who understands. We hope that in sharing these stories you will gain the words and phrase to better frame, to better comprehend, to better share, your own story.
ETA: Deadline: Submissions are due by June 1, 2014.

Format: Each piece should be written as a personal essay of 1500-2500 words. While non-fiction, please use a narrative, story-telling style that draws the reader into the piece.

Further notes on format, from the Kalos website:
The book will be devotional/Christian Reflection in style and may be written in a first-person point of view. This project will address the topics from all stages: the early lost, confused, hurt parts; the boiling anger that comes; the moments of joy in the midst that surprise us; the exhaustion and apathy that some deal with; the redemptive work of God in and through impossibly hard times; etc.
We are also interested to see submitters address things they know now that they wish someone could have shared with them. Our goal is to provide a resource for people who are struggling; it won't necessarily make anyone feel better or always offer counsel/advice, but it could assuage some of the sense of isolation. We want to offer a literary companion to others on the sometimes-lonely path that these issues require.
If you're interested in submitting a piece to the project, please take a look at the link, and feel free to contact me with any questions.


Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Notes: "The Rosie Project", by Graeme Simsion

I almost feel like you could pitch this book as "Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory tries to find the algorithm for marriage".

The Rosie Project is the story of Don Tillman, a professor of genetics - and, I'm pretty sure, a man with Asperger's that doesn't know he has Asperger's - trying to find the perfect mate (because he's convinced that a wife will add to his ultimate flourishing).

But he's sidetracked by a new acquaintance, Rosie, and her search to find her biological father.

Rosie, of course, is nothing like Don's picture of the perfect mate, so he immediately dismisses her as a romantic possibility. She's just a friend, who needs his expertise. Right? Right . . . .

And from there, this story is off and running! I enjoyed this book. It's a nice little romantic comedy. It's narrated by Don, and a lot of the humor comes from the difference between what he thinks his going on, and what you (as the reader) can discern is actually going on.

It also has a lot of heart. I'm pretty sure I said, "Aww!" out loud at least once when reading this book.

Perfect? No. I got annoyed at the characters a time or two, and (as I'm pretty sure most of the readers of this blog subscribe to traditional Christian morality), I should give a heads-up that this is definitely not a Christian book. There's nothing graphic in here, but there's enough objectionable content in here that I'd not recommend this one to a teenager.

However, if you like romantic comedies, this one's got it all: humor, character growth, and a really sweet love story. I really enjoyed it. :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What people are saying about "Let Us Keep the Feast: Holy Week and Easter"

I'm excited to say that the Holy Week and Easter edition of "Let Us Keep the Feast" is now available for purchase! Here is what people are saying about it:

Summer and winter, day and night, work and rest. We are all familiar with these rhythms of life. This booklet introduces us to the rhythms of Christian life as lived according to the seasons of the Church year, with its feasts and fasts, its high-days and holidays. Helpful, challenging, and instructive: I recommend it.
     -Dr. Michael Ward, author of "Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis"

Brilliant and illuminating: that is the what I have found living the Church Year to be and what this book is. 
     -John Mark N. Reynolds, Provost at Houston Baptist University

I am pleased to commend to you this wonderful little book on the Church Year entitled "Let Us Keep the Feast." It will be helpful to anyone who wants to better understand and experience the spiritual growth that comes from living out the Christian Calendar. Each chapter ends with a number of suggestions to enrich the season, and this provides a variety of resources appropriate for children and families at home - music, fun activities, poetry, prayers, Scripture verses, and other suggested readings. I highly recommend it for any parent who wants to enhance the Sunday morning experience at Church by supplementing it with what takes place at home during the week.
     -The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth

The feasts and festivals of the Christian year contain such a plethora of practices and depth of richness that most of us can barely manage to scratch the surface. However, the Let us Keep the Feast guide for Holy Week and Easter brings together in one place a cornucopia of resources that will certainly enrich anyone's celebration of this important Christological season. From learned explanations on the theological significance of Holy Week and Easter to practical suggestions and resources for celebrating these events meaningfully and with solemnity, this guide is indispensable for use in both the church and the home. Seasoned liturgists and newcomers to the church year will both benefit richly from this excellent book. I commend the authors for putting such a useful guide into the Church's hands.
-Rev. Greg Peters, PhD, Associate Professor of Medieval and Spiritual Theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University, author of "Reforming the Monastery: Protestant Theologies of the Religious Life"

Consider picking up a copy today!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

Guest post: On Motherhood and Poetry, by Elena Johnston

Today I'd like to welcome Elena Johnston to the blog. Elena is a mother and a poet, and she's here today to share how those two vocations work together in her life.

These days, it's hard to write much prose.

Tonight is something of a windfall, though. I can't exactly go to bed until the load of vomit-covered bedding comes out of the dryer. Hence the midnight writing time.

This is how it always seems to go. During this season of motherhood, writing happens in the most unexpected ways. I take what I can get.

And usually, what I can get is verse. This time of life isn't conducive to prose, but it's a a marvelous time for poetry. My heart is almost unbearably full, and the words that rumble around in my head are more thick with meaning than ever before. I have a lot to write about, for the very reasons why I don't have time to stop and write. But thank God, formal verse actually benefits from multi-tasking.

When I'm able to structure my writing life well, my vocation as a mother improves my poetry, and my vocation as a poet improves my mothering. Poetry can thrive in the cracks and in-between spaces of a busy life, somehow nourishing what it feeds upon.

Prose is a (for the most part!) a luxury for people who can write their thoughts down immediately. For now, as I'm writing in the middle of things, I depend upon the age old-tools of rhythm and rhyme. The formal structures hold the thoughts in my memory until I'm done changing the diaper, until I've finished the load of dishes, or until I get to a nice long stop light.

As long as I make good use of the mnemonic assistance of meter and rhyme, the fact that I can't write my thoughts down immediately is actually a good thing: I forget all but the very best phrases, and much of the editing process happens painlessly and automatically.

My poems turn out better when I write them in the middle of things.

A little bit of organization goes a long way when it comes to maintaining this sort of writing life, and I'm never more than a little bit organized about it. Most of my poetry makes its way into the rotating supply of unlined journals that I try to keep on hand; still, I always wind up with a good deal of residue. We have a big clear plastic box where my husband religiously collects the scraps and snippets of poetry swirling around our living room. It's all a big jumbled pile, but at least it has a lid on it. The lid is important, but so is the chaos underneath. When I go through my work looking for things to build on and edit, it is good to see how all the ideas tangle together. Poetry grows out of the unexpected connections between things.
Illuminated manuscript of Cicero's Philippics, via Wikimedia Commons (PD)
The tangling vines of a country hedgerow figure prominently in illuminated manuscripts, and I love the metaphor. You leave a little space wild in order to mark off the cultivated spaces, and it contributes to a greater order. It reminds me of my favorite poem of them all, where there is evening as well as morning, and chaos, too, has its place, like night and the monsters of the deep.
photo credit: aaron.bihari, creative commons, some rights reserved.

As I work on my poems, I often fill the margins with vines. The orderly growth pattern provides structure for my doodling pen. Penstroke by penstroke, the orderly pattern grows into a chaotic jumble. And slowly but surely, I'm learning how to shape that jumble into a tidy border. A few stray tendrils will always poke out here and there, though, and I'm glad. The in-between spaces are where the poems grow.

You can read some of Elena's excellent poetry here. I love it all, but a few favorites you might start with are this one, this one, and this one.