Monday, August 29, 2011

Chapbook Entry for "Hearing God", by Dallas Willard

"All of the words that we are going to receive from God, no matter what may accompany them externally or internally, will ultimately pass through the form of our own thoughts and perceptions. We must learn to find in them the voice of God in whom we live and move and have our being." - pg. 182

"It cannot be stressed too much that the permanent address at which the word of God may be found is the Bible." - pg. 183

"God acts toward me in a distinctively personal manner. This is the common testimony across wide ranges of Christian fellowship and history. I think it is this sense of being seized in the presence of Scripture, in a manner so widely shared, that gives the Bible its power to assure us in the face of our continuing fallibility. We stand within a community of the spoken to." (emphasis mine.) - pg. 184

"Without any real communication from God our view of the world is very impersonal, however glorious we may find God's creation. But there is all the difference in the world between having a fine general view that this is our Father's world - or even that an arrangement has been made for our eternal redemption - and having confidence, based in experience, that the Father's face, whether in the dark of the night or the brightness of the day, is turned toward us, shining upon us, and that the Father is speaking to us individually." - pg. 186

". . . God is not a mumbling trickster.

"On the contrary it is to be expected, given the revelation of God in Christ, that if he wants us to know something, he will be both able and willing to communicate with us plainly, just as long as we are open and prepared by our experience to hear and obey." - pg. 191

When seeking direction regarding a specific matter and direction doesn't come: "I do not cease my general attitude of listening. But I am neither disappointed nor alarmed, nor even concerned, as a rule . . . From my own experience, then, and from what I have been able to learn from the Scriptures and from others who live in a working relationship with God's voice, I am led to the following conclusion: Direction will always be made available to the mature disciple if without it serious harm would befall people concerned in the matter or the cause of Christ." - pg. 200

"Think of it this way: no decent parents would obscure their intentions for their children. A general principle for interpreting God's behavior towards us is provided in Jesus' words, 'If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!' (Lk 11:12). How much more will our heavenly Father give clear instructions to those who sincerely ask him - in those cases where he has any to give? Where he has none to give, we may be sure that it is because it is best that he does not. Then whatever lies within his moral will and whatever is undertaken in faith is his perfect will. It is no less perfect because it was not specifically dictated by him. Indeed it is perhaps more perfect precisely because he saw no need for precise dictation. He expects and trusts us to choose, and he goes with us in our choice.

"Several different courses of action may, then, each be God's perfect will in a given circumstance. We should assume that this is so in all cases where we are walking in his general will, are experienced in hearing his voice and, on seeking, find no specific direction given. In these cases there are usually various things that would equally please God, though he directs none of them in particular to be done. All are perfectly in his will because none is better than the others so far as he is concerned, and all are good. he would not have you do other than you are doing. (Of course, being in his perfect will does not mean you are quite flawless yet! You can be in his perfect will without being a perfect human being!)" - pgs. 206-207

The above rings so true with my own experience as a parent; I love watching my children choose between goods. They become more themselves when they say, "This and not that," and in such cases, what I'm hoping is not that they choose one good or the other, but that they choose what is best for them, and I rejoice that they have more than one good to choose between. It makes so much sense - as our parenting, at its best, is only a pale reflection of the fatherhood of God - that He would rejoice in seeing us choose between goods too. It must be like watching a toddler, finally able to take more than ten steps in a row, wobble confidently towards his stuffed bear instead of his stuffed rabbit, grinning all the time at his accomplishment. You're just delighting in him, and are happy for him to grab either toy.

A quotation from John Wood Oman: "We can only be absolutely dependent upon God as we are absolutely independent in our own souls, and only absolutely independent in our own souls as we are absolutely dependent on God. A saved soul, in other words, is a soul true to itself because, with its mind on God's will of love and not on itself, it stands in God's world unbribable and undismayed, having freedom as it has piety and piety as it is free." - quoted on pg. 204

Sunday, August 21, 2011


There's a small section in Tennyson's great poem, In Memorium, about the raising of Lazarus from the dead. One part made my breath puff out in a half-laugh, half expression of astonishment, as Tennyson wondered how Lazarus might have answered his sister when she asked him where he had been those several days he was dead, and observes:

Behold a man raised up by Christ!
The rest remaineth unreveal'd;
He told it not; or something seal'd
The lips of that Evangelist.

Indeed. One wonders.

But then the next section of the poem caught me by surprise with its beauty:

Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits
But, he was dead, and there he sits,
And he that brought him back is there.

Then one deep love doth supersede
All other, when her ardent gaze
Roves from the living brother's face,
And rests upon the Life indeed.

Can you even imagine?

And yet someday we will all sit around a table in that company: our beloved dead, who are no longer dead, and Life Himself.

God have mercy on us sinners.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

more yarneating baskets!

Okay, the joints in my hands are sore and the writing callus on my finger now has a blister to keep it company, but this triple-stranded crocheting is addicting! It just eats yarn (good for the decluttering effort) and it makes such useful stuff.

I mean, you'd hate to wear anything made with this technique, but for household items, it makes a wonderful, sturdy-but-flexible fabric. Here's a small basket to corral the remotes:

And here's a tote for the kids' toys:

I'm loving this. I wish I'd thought of it earlier!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Links! pronoun use, kitsch and how Harry Potter should have ended

Here's an article from Scientific American about what the pronouns we use can tell us about ourselves. Seriously. With statistics and everything. Even the researcher behind the project never thought that researching pronoun use would lead to any discoveries but . . . well, read the article. The pronouns we use most frequently are actually incredibly revealing.

I know a lot of you also enjoy podcasts, so let me recommend this one from the Scriptorium, discussing kitsch and camp, and whether or not we can still afford to be silly in the digital age.

The brilliant folks at How It Should Have Ended now have a video for how Harry Potter should have ended. I have to say: their solution is quite clever and even plausible for the character involved:

But my favorite part (now that you've watched it, right?) is Voldemort's "I'm pointing my wand at you as hard as I can!" :D Yep! That was certainly the one part that was a lot sillier in the movie (where you didn't have any narration to explain what was going on) than it was in the book (where you did).

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, August 20, 2011

decluttering WIN (and crochet FO)

There was a pile of power cords sprawling under the end table in our living room, making that corner of the room look messy. (I was able to notice this only because the rest of that corner had recently been decluttered.)

I wanted to contain the mess by nesting all the cords together in a basket, only I didn't have a rightly-sized basket. I tried a smallish one, and it looked nice for a moment, but as soon as we plugged anything into the cables, they all spilled out of the basket. No good.

I thought about buying a basket, but then I had an idea: I could make one, and not only clean up the mess in the corner, but use up some old acrylic yarn I had no other plans for.

I got three coordinating colors of yarn and crocheted them, holding all three together:

The resulting basket is just the right size:

I like this technique. The fabric it makes is stiff enough to hold the shape of the basket, but you can still bend the basket, which is nice for fitting it into the odd corner. I want to try using this technique again to make a square-bottomed tote - I bet it'd be great for holding toys, or for gathering toys that have been scattered around the house (I'm picturing handles made by leaving two parallel slits near the top of the tote - that should be pretty sturdy).

Crocheting with a triple strand of worsted weight yarn is a little hard on the wrists. But worth it for the results. It's so satisfying to be able to solve a problem by making something.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Links! culture, SAHMS, fashion, and more!

And Sometimes Tea talks about politics, but more interestingly (to me, anyway), she talks about how in our culture "I disagree" is increasingly being taken to mean "I hate you". (I also recommend the comment thread on this post.)

Jennifer Fulwiler writes about how "Stay-at-Home Moms Need Help". I can't agree with her more. And the comment thread on this article is even better than the comment thread on the previous article.

Betty Beguiles reviews the upcoming fall trends (can it be a trend if it hasn't happened yet?). Though I disagree with her opinion on dusters (dusters are AWESOME!), she has the rest of it pretty well nailed. And she's very funny.

Here's a cartoon from The Ironic Catholic that summarizes the nature of internet arguments.

Crochet is often wacky and colorful in bad ways, but I think this sampler afghan is wacky and colorful in all the right ways. Each square was designed by a different pattern author and uses different stitches but the colors are all coordinated. In its nature it's like an old-fashioned embroidery sampler, but due to scale it reads visually more like a crazy quilt. Speaking of, do you think I'm crazy for wanting to make it? I'm visualizing it in white and blue and green . . .

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Crocheted Finished Object: Noah Beanie

This is another fabulous pattern from Kristin Omdahl, who also wrote the Birch Vest pattern I made recently.

All the kids wanted to try it on:

The yarn is Chroma from Knit Picks and was really fun to work with - although I was frustrated by the fact that there were two different breaks in my skein of yarn and after one of them the colors started running in the opposite direction . . . oh well, it was still much more good than bad, and I like the finished product.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Daybook for August 17

outside my window . . . eighty-degree weather in August. So weirdly wonderful.

I am listening to . . . knitting and crocheting podcasts. Thinking it's about time to switch to some music.

I am wearing . . . A light, full cotton skirt and a tank top. I feel comfy and pretty, and that's a valuable combination.

I am so grateful for . . . kids who love to play together. Seriously.

I'm pondering . . . appearance and what we communicate by how we look, whether we want to or not.

I am reading . . . Tennyson's In Memorium. Also, just finished Deadline, and am bummed that the next one in the series isn't out yet.

I am creating . . . a couple of scarves, one out of laceweight alpaca, and one out of my Kool-Aid-dyed yarn.

around the house . . . The upstairs is clean and picked up. The downstairs is clean and NOT picked up. My goal is to have both floors clean AND picked up by the weekend.

from the kitchen . . . there is much fresh produce and very little actual cooking. That's okay: it's summertime.

real education in our home . . . Bess and I are popcorn-writing a story together, i.e., she writes a sentence and then I write a sentence. It's about fairies, but the best part is the names of their evil goblin enemies, things like "Snot Rag" and "Rotten Mustache" and "Poop Paper". Gamgee is learning to read.

the church year in our home . . . I thought a lot about the Dormition of Mary on Monday, but didn't do anything to celebrate it. Still enjoying the long, green, post-Pentecostal season. Making Christmas presents. Grateful for mass every Sunday.

recent milestones . . . Gamgee read his first book!

the week ahead . . . getting the house in order. Finishing the bulk of the research for the next novel. Reading to the kids, a lot, I hope.

picture thought . . . perfect morning from camping: in the Sierras, next to the fire, drinking coffee, reading Tennyson.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Lend me your eyes; I can change what you see"

I've been camping up in the Sierras with my family and some friends and it was glorious. Then I came back and didn't blog for a whole week because, frankly, regular life was glorious too and I didn't feel like missing it to write anything but fiction.

And so I got to thinking, recently, about why I like writing fiction (like novels) better than I like writing non-fiction (like blog posts). Especially as I like reading non-fiction almost (but not quite) as much as I like reading fiction.

And I realized that it's because in non-fiction I can't use specific examples. When it comes to writing about marriage, parenting, the devotional life, etc., many of the specific examples I'd like to use are private, either to myself or to others.

But in fiction - ah! fiction! my home, my love, my strong cup of tea! - I can make up the examples. And they're all the better for being made up because, unlike when writing a blog post, it's not like I write a book thinking, "this will explain my deep beliefs about marriage". No. That would be a boring book.

Instead, I have some scene, some "what if?", some picture of two people together doing something, and I think, "who are they? why are they there? what happens next?" and the questions get the wheel turning and suddenly the story is spinning itself out from under my fingers like roving turning into yarn.

And somewhere in the midst of that I get to think about all those non-fiction topics that fascinate me. I know that what I believe comes out in my stories, but the important part is that it comes out. I don't have to state it, I don't have to argue it. If I do my job right, the story is the argument. And even if you don't agree with me*, if the story has internal consistency, you might admit my beliefs' plausibility. You might, for a moment, say, "I can see what you mean." And the whole world opens up when authors can do that for you.

Art is, I am more and more convinced, the job of saying, "Look at it this way." I've thought that ever since I first saw a Van Gogh painting in high school and realized that afterwards I looked at irises differently. Even though what he painted isn't what irises actually look like, he showed me that there was more to them than I ever could have seen without him lending me his eyes.

I'm no Van Gogh. But I want to do what he did. I want to say, "look at it this way," because so many other people have done that for me.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*Watch me just ignore modern literary theory that would tell you that what I think has nothing to do with it. Ha! Somebody say that to Dickens' face. Or Tolkein's. Or Tennyson's . . . sure, they didn't mean anything by what they wrote. Give me a break . . .**

**Of course, I also don't mean to imply that you can tell what the author thinks by identifying him with one of the main characters, or the narrator, or anything like that. It's not that simple. You have to take the work as a whole. But on the other hand, if you read "Jane Eyre", and don't think that Charlotte Bronte had something to say about integrity, and that Jane's long argument to Rochester before she leaves him doesn't about sum it up . . . well, I don't think you know how to read a book.

***title quotation from Mumford and Sons' "Awake My Soul".