Friday, May 24, 2013

Links!: a workout, a calling, and 3 reasons

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout - I tried this! It's a really decent, no-equipment-needed circuit.

"The Calling":
Into this fog came Thomas Merton, the priest in the documentary, whose example offered Martin a way out. But being called is one thing; answering the call is something else entirely. “At that time, joining the priesthood would have been like becoming an opera singer or running away to the circus,” Martin says. He consulted a psychologist instead.
“What would you do if you could be doing anything?” the doctor asked him, a year or so into his therapy.
“I’d be a priest,” Martin replied.
“Well, why don’t you?”
The next day, Martin was on the phone with the local office of the Jesuits.
"Three Reasons Star Trek Endures":
If Kirk is the heart of the show, Spock and McCoy are the head and conscience. Spock is all intellect. He’s the foil to all of Kirk’s antics – logical to the point of frustration, so reserved in emotion that he comes across as frigid, and asexual except when his half-human side gets the better of him. McCoy serves as the voice of human conscience, always at odds with Vulcan logic, seeking compassion and mercy, but also moderation and control. Kirk is stuck in the middle, struggling with these angels and pointy-eared demons on his shoulders. It’s a classic battle among Id, Ego, and Super Ego.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Notes: "Once Upon a Prince" by Rachel Hauck

Once Upon a PrinceOnce Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a fantasy. That's clear from the outset - as soon as you hear the name "Brighton Kingdom" and realize that the plot revolves around a small, imaginary European kingdom, you know it's a fantasy.

Thing is, it was exactly the sort of fantasy I was in the mood for.

"Once Upon a Prince" was fun and light and sweet. The good humor made it fun, the fairy tale elements made it light, but the best part was the romance, which was very sweet indeed.

My favorite sorts of romances are the ones where the hero and heroine are pretty much gone for each other from the get-go and all of the energy of the plot comes out of them trying to figure out what in the world to do next.

This was that kind of romance. I totally bought the instant attraction and affection between Nathaniel and Susanna - it felt very natural and true-to-life. Watching them figure out what to do with the fact - how to deal with their insta-crushes in a mature manner, especially as it became clear that it went deeper than a crush - was a treat.

The setting might be fantastical, but I think the reason I really enjoyed this book is that the relationship rang true. Given that emotional core, I could totally accept the setting as the lovely, yummy icing on the cake it was meant to be.

There were a few elements that pulled me out of the story every once in awhile - a character who didn't quite ring as true as the main couple, a theological point I'd quibble with - but seriously, those places were few and far between, and I enjoyed just about every page. I read this when I was feeling particularly stressed out, and it was as relaxing as a good meal and a hot shower. If this is what you're in the mood for, it's going to be exactly what you were in the mood for. Pure bliss. Lovely.

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Links! and a reminder

First the reminder: this Sunday is Pentecost! Wear red to church and cook something spicy (to remember the flames of fire).  :)  And, more than that, pray and read a gospel passage. As a professor of mine taught me, the Holy Spirit always points us to Christ. Look where He's pointing.

Okay, on to the links:

- "Don't Make Fun of the Renowned Dan Brown":
The critics said his writing was clumsy, ungrammatical, repetitive and repetitive. They said it was full of unnecessary tautology. They said his prose was swamped in a sea of mixed metaphors. For some reason they found something funny in sentences such as “His eyes went white, like a shark about to attack.” They even say my books are packed with banal and superfluous description, thought the 5ft 9in man. He particularly hated it when they said his imagery was nonsensical. It made his insect eyes flash like a rocket.
- "How to Root for Captain Kirk": Every month or so, my husband and I have some friends over to watch Star Trek. We worked our way through all the movies, and now we're watching the Original Series. Which made me the right audience for this article: I find Kirk both unlikeable and a heck of a lot of fun to watch. This article goes a long way towards explaining why, for being a jerk, he's still such a compelling character.

- And if you want more Star Trek goodness, Slate has been publishing a bunch of great articles about the franchise this week. Here's one: "The Top Six Star Trek Mistakes".

- "Enhanced Motion Detection in Autism May Point to Underlying Cause of the Disorder": well, wow.

-"Will Your First Book Be Published?": I love the Books & Such blog for just this kind of practical and insightful article.

-"PB sermon turns silk purse into sow’s ear": I just can't even . . .

- "Tragic Worship":
The psalms as the staple of Christian worship, with their elements of lament, confusion, and the intrusion of death into life, have been too often replaced not by songs that capture the same sensibilities—as the many great hymns of the past did so well—but by those that assert triumph over death while never really giving death its due. The tomb is certainly empty; but we are not sure why it would ever have been occupied in the first place.
Only the dead can be resurrected. As the second thief on the cross saw so clearly, Christ’s kingdom is entered through death, not by escape from it. Traditional Protestantism saw this, connecting baptism not to washing so much as to death and resurrection. Protestant liturgies made sure that the law was read each service in order to remind the people that death was the penalty for their sin. Only then, after the law had pronounced the death sentence, would the gospel be read, calling them from their graves to faith and to resurrection life in Christ. The congregants thereby became vicarious participants in the great drama of salvation.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Real Life and Fiction

My characters aren't me. (Except when I write fan-fiction. Then the heroine is totally me.)

But, in my professional fiction, the characters aren't me. It's fun to write about someone else, someone entirely made up, and see how real I can make her. I ask myself, "Who would find herself in this situation?" Or, better yet, "In this situation, what sort of person would have the hardest time?" Because that person, of course, would also have the most room to grow.

Still, despite the fact that my characters aren't me, I usually find part-way through a book project that I've ended up giving them problems I'm puzzling through in my own life.

Like now. I'm writing about two people falling in love and trying to avoid being killed at the same time. So not where I am in my own life, right? I'm happily fallen already and, thank God, no one's trying to kill me.

But when I look past the big plot points - the new romance and the murders that are inherent in the genre and that provide the momentum for the story - I find that both my hero and heroine are mulling over what it means to be a real grown-up.

What does it mean when you get past thirty, and you've made your first big mistakes and - more than that - have survived them and become your adult self? what then?

What happens when you're old enough to assess your character because you finally have enough character that it can be assessed?

What does maturity look like when you can't hope to be really mature, really wise, for decades yet, if ever - but you're still a grown-up, and you can't get away from that fact? (And you don't even want to get away from it, because being a grown-up is good.)

What do you do when you are old enough to look back at your younger self and wince at her mistakes, but are too far past those mistakes to really have any chance of fixing them?

When you're old enough to have a real self, and young enough that that real self isn't really mature yet, isn't wise, isn't done? When you've got a good idea of your responsibilities, and and even better idea of your limits? When you know your best isn't going to be enough, but that not giving your best would be unconscionable?

That you are not enough, but that no one else can be you.

When you finally understand that some disasters really are disasters, when you know how you could have prevented the ones in the past, but are just as sure that you won't be able to prevent the ones in the future?

How do you gather yourself together and decide to go on, trusting the Lord, doing your best, knowing you'll fail, knowing that failure isn't going to be a sufficient excuse for giving up?

Yes, apparently I am wondering about all of these things - and finding my answers - and all of it in a story that isn't about me.

Nope, not at all.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, May 13, 2013

Daybook for May 13, 2013

outside my window . . . it is HOT. But so bright and lovely, I almost don't mind.

I am listening to . . . Nothing. But I should put something on, because I have Jonathan Coulton's "I feel fantastic" going round and round my brain and I think it's time for a new track.

I am wearing . . . shorts and a t-shirt. Nothing spectacular for, lo, it is Laundry Day.

I am so grateful for . . . my family. It's the end of the school year, and pretty much everyone in my family - on both sides - is somehow connected to academia, so everyone's stressed, but . . . we're all okay. And I'm grateful.

I'm pondering . . . the life of Dallas Willard. I'm so grateful for the work he did and am praying for his family, who must miss him very much.

I am reading . . . TOO MANY THINGS. Again, some more.

I am creating . . . I'm doing heavy edits on a novel, and really enjoying seeing the story that's growing stronger in the middle of the mess.

around the house . . . it's about time to switch the girls' clothes out for the next size up. Such a big chore . . . but so satisfying when it's done!

from the kitchen . . . watermelon and strawberries FTW! I love SoCal.

the church year in our home . . . this weekend we went on an Ascension Day hike with some friends from church. It was lovely! We decided that we probably want to make hiking a regular church activity, and I'm excited at the prospect of getting outside regularly with the people I worship with.

recent milestones . . . I turned Celebrating the Church Year at Home in to the publisher. I think it's good, you guys. The authors did such good work, and when it's done, it's going to be a book you can open at any time of the year and find the exact information you need to celebrate whatever season you're in. It's very readable, and very dense with ideas and inspiration. I'm excited. :)

the week ahead . . . editing the novel! trying not to die of heat stroke!

picture thought . . . my dad and me at the top of the Ascension Day hike:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Links - Habits, Hospitals, and more

"Choosing the Right Habits":
As you know, I am a big proponent of life-change through habit. I thought this quote was good for emphasizing how the "right" habits are not one-size-fits-all, and how "good" choices can have hidden costs.
"Opening Questions to Bad Conversations": a sampling from this painfully fun blog:
"Do you know where the morgue is?"
 "Wait, how many pills did you give him?"
 "Does the patient have any family you think might be likely to sue?"
"Oh, so this was the patient you were talking about?"
"Cheer Up!" and Other Obnoxious Advice:
If Jesus could be sad, and say he was sad, without sin, then so can we.
The word count limit fails to allow me to list the giants of the Faith who made “bad confessions” from Abraham to David to Paul. Great Christians have become great by admitting their pain, exposing it, giving it to God, and then being transformed. C.S. Lewis wrote “A Grief Observed” after all not “A Grief Unconfessed” and Mother Teresa journaled on her doubts and acted on her faith.
Her confession was her life. 
"Come Away With Me":
Tracking spiritual growth is difficult. Maybe we’re not meant to “track” it as though it were the Prime Interest Rate. Becoming more holy seems to happen when we’re not looking. Like the tiny wood anemone I saw yesterday as I sat on a bench in the woods. It is so diminutive it is barely noticeable. Suddenly your eyes focus and there it was all along.