Monday, December 22, 2014

Weekend Links: a day late!

Some of the stories need working on before I can see whether they’re interesting enough to finish; some of them stall when they need some heavy-duty research that I don’t have time to do; and there are a few that I started and then realized I didn’t have the chops to do justice to. So those are all partials sitting on my hard drive, and I revisit them occasionally between books to see if any of them are ready to get written the rest of the way yet. If one of them is, I have a big jump on getting the next thing started.
"Annunciation Gap":
One thing almost all the painters agree about: in this scene, the annunciation, they put Mary on one side of the painting and Gabriel on the other, with a gap between them. Sometimes it’s a large gap, as if Gabriel is shouting from across the room. Sometimes there is architecture between them, like posts or columns or half-walls. And sometimes, if it’s installed in a church, the scene will be depicted on two separate paintings, with the angel on one wall and Mary on another, and actual empty space between the two. The angel’s message has to jump from one two-dimensional plane to another, through a gulf of three-dimensional space.
"Let the Children Come":
All this being so, the thing about church is to just go and be there. Not to have any kind of agenda about it. Leave aside the hymn learning. Leave aside the needing to sit still. Leave aside the getting to know of your church family. You want to just be there, yourself, and for your children to be there, even though it is a wretched and horrific hassle. As you're dancing in the back with your baby, or hauling out your toddler for banging on the pew, missing the singing, missing the sermon, missing the announcements, missing everything, and you're bone tired, you back aches, and you're just angry, you just want to go hide in a hole, you stand there, and that's where Jesus is. That is where he is. That's where he was on the cross.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent: the Magnificat

 In a Sunday school class I've been teaching this month, we've been focusing on Mary's Magnificat. And I love John Allen Banks' observation on that famous song of triumph:
Advent presents us with a Christ who is the great reverser of fortunes, the one who (in the words of the Song of Mary) brings down the mighty from their thrones and instead exalts the humble, who fills the hungry with good things while sending the rich away empty (see Luke 1:52-53). Advent is anything but a consumerist season. It’s about a God who cares for the poor, who sent Christ to proclaim good news to the poor, and who calls us through the prophets to show concern for the poor.” 

 (From John Allen  Banks' book Rekindling Advent.)

Advent is a fasting season, and in Christian tradition, fasting is always tied to two things: prayer and charity.  I like how Banks ties together Advent & the Magnificat & charity all in one neat bundle.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Weekend Links: poetry, P. D. James, Lord of the Rings, and more!

Some good reading from around the Web for your weekend:

"Across the Grey Atlantic": a gorgeous piece of poetry from James Harrington:
Across the grey Atlantic,
Across Saint Brendan’s sea,
Is the land where the lairds wear sackcloth
And all the serfs are free . . .
Click through the link to read the rest.

"The Last Man and the First Man":
Scanning half a dozen major journals for obituaries devoted to the most important mystery writer of our time, P. D. James (1920–2014), I was astonished to find that not one of them mentioned her serious Anglo-Catholicism, much less its shaping presence in her fiction . . .
"Can you tell me why Frodo is so important in lotr? Why can't someone else, anyone else, carry the ring to mordor?"
but someone else could.
that’s the whole point of frodo—there is nothing special about him, he’s a hobbit, he’s short and likes stories, smokes pipeweed and makes mischief, he’s a young man like other young men, except for the singularly important fact that he is the one who volunteers. there is this terrible thing that must be done, the magnitude of which no one fully understands and can never understand before it is done, but frodo says me and frodo says I will.

"Things I Love about the Things I Love. Part One: Knitting, Top Five":  this GIF-full post gets it exactly right.

"Ezekiel, 'Uncommon and Eccentric?'": I found this very helpful in understanding a bit more about this hard-to-understand OT prophet.

"SDfAoWOP: the Girl":
There is a God, she says, who can heal and save. How can this be? You wonder. How can a little girl, a child, know this God? How can she set aside the bitterness of abuse and loss? But her clear firm gaze, the strength of her words win you over and you go and tell your husband and he listens.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent: the Old Testament & the New, and What Is to Come

Advent is a funny season, because it's busy doing three things at once:
-it looks towards the Old Testament, where the prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah.
-it looks at the New Testament, where Christ Himself came, human and divine.
-and it looks towards what Is To Be, when the Lord shall come again and judge the living and the dead.

It does all of these at once, and as it does it, it makes us prepare our hearts in at least three different ways:

-We want to thank the Lord for keeping His promises. He did indeed send the Messiah, and we are so glad, and so grateful..
-We want to thank the Lord for being God-with-us. No longer are we alone and left to parse His promises all alone with our fragile, fallible human brains.
-We want to thank our Lord for His promise to come again and make all things right. Indeed, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent: what it is

I really appreciated Fr. Greg Peters' take on Advent here, and it got me thinking about what the season really is, and what it offers to us.

It is all about the Incarnation. It's a month-long time set apart to contemplate the Lord's coming to earth to save us.

I'm so glad that there are four weeks in the year set apart to contemplate that miracle of miracles.

And then, as if that weren't enough already, Advent encompasses even more: not just the Incarnation - when the Lord Jesus first came to us - but the Lord's second Coming.

There's this beautiful twin focus in Advent: that the Lord did come to us, as He promised He would, and that He will also come again.

In the first coming, when He became human and walked among us and redeemed us, He made us right.

And when He comes again, He will make everything right.

For the first, I am grateful.

And for the second, I say: amen. Come soon, Lord Jesus.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Weekend Links: A Real Advent, Jesse Trees, Free Coloring Sheet, and more!

Some good reading (and listening!) for your weekend:

"A Real Advent":
According to St. Benedict of Nursia the Christian life should be a continuous Lent. And according to Sts. Wal-Mart, Target, and Starbucks the fall should be a continuous Christmas . . .
"The Ultimate Guide to Making a Jesse Tree": This site really does have a bunch of great ideas for making Jesse Trees - hat tip to Lent & Beyond for the link!

"Come and See" - this is a lovely free printable coloring sheet of a Nativity scene for kids.

"Mere Fidelity: Teens and Sexting": I listened to this podcast the other night and it was brilliant.  Sobering and heartening at the same time. I think I want to listen to it again, because I so appreciated the podcasters very Christian approach to our present culture.

"In Which I Wonder as I Wander":
 I've lately been discouraged by how slowly God works out his will. The evil, the rebellion is so huge. The slaughter of people right and left, the corruption, the illnesses that seem to suddenly carry people away. I wander around the church kitchen and beg God to just do something, anything. But especially for him to do something visible, something that rights all the wrongs in a grand and obvious solution. And then I stand and wait because I don't know what else to do. And then, in the waiting, it becomes clear that God is doing something, has done something, but not the thing I wanted him to do. The seismic movements and changes he is effecting are in the hearts of individual people, me included, and they can't be seen. In the swirling smoke and violence of the world, he buds and produces fruit, in secret, hidden before the tabernacle of the Lord . . .

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Morning Prayer Primes the Pump

Sometimes my morning prayer time is rich. But at other times it feels like I'm just going through the motions.

This is a post in praise of just going through the motions.

Why? Well, for the usual reasons: faithfulness, building good habits, doing-the-right-thing-even-though-you-don't-feel-like-it, and, oh yes of course, obedience. Because it doesn't become a false or bad act just because you can't get your heart in sync with your head every time.

But here's my new reason: because even fitful, floppy, funky morning prayer primes the pump.

If I pray faithfully through the office in the morning, going down my prayer list for that day and holding myself, my family, and my friends before the Lord . . . then it's easier to pray the whole rest of the day through.

When I've once lifted up my children to the Lord in the morning, even if it was hard and I didn't really want to sit there and talk to Him about them, I find that the rest of the day? Prayers and petitions on their behalf come easily to my lips.

The pump is primed.

And often those later-in-the-day prayers are so much more heartfelt, more fruitful, more insightful than the grudging morning office I offered.

But I don't think I would have gotten to the more easy, natural, sweet conversation with the Lord unless I'd stuck to it early in the day when I was tired and grumpy.

Honestly, it's just like a human relationship, isn't it?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, December 1, 2014

celebrating the seasons!

I was delighted to see that "Let Us Keep the Feast" was recently recommended both by Beth Felker Jones over at The Christian Century and by Tsh Oxenreider over at The Art of Simple.

They also both list some other great resources for Christmas and Advent, so I encourage you to head on over and add to your reading list!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Getting Ready for Christmas 2014 now

What are you doing to get ready for Christmas?

I tremble to answer this myself, because Advent looms so large this year.

I'm teaching a five-week Sunday school class on Advent this year. My daughter, for the first time, is going to be a part of our church's Lessons & Carols. And then there's Thanksgiving tomorrow, for which I'm cooking A LOT.

The truth is that Christmas seems very far away.

But it's not. And, honestly, because Advent feels so prominent this year, I feel especially motivated to plan for Christmas now, so that once that blessed season comes, I can relax.

I want all my presents bought and wrapped and ready.

I want to be able to stop once the feast is here.

So I'm going over my lists, I'm ordering presents now, and I'm thanking God for a sister-in-law who's willing to wrap the presents for my out-of-state nephews and niece when I send her toys via Amazon. :)

What about you? Are you thinking of Christmas planning now, before Advent even starts?

Whether you are or aren't, I hope you have a blessed Advent. It's a season I love, and I pray it will be full and profitable for you as well.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't Forget the Sugar!

So, once upon a time, I went on a high school field trip.

This was an awesome field trip: it was several nights camping out in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It include hiking inside an inactive volcano, touring caves, visiting an archaeological site, searching for scorpions at night via blacklight, and searching for fossils in a shale mountain.


And on this particular field trip, I got to share a tent with my best friend, Deanna. 

Because we were partners for the trip, we planned our menu together. It was a camp-out sort of field trip, so we had to plan, bring, and cook our own food..

One of the things we decided to bring was Kool-Aid.  I don't know why; for some reason, it sounded good to our teenage selves.

The problem was, it was HORRIBLE.  We mixed it up, looking forward to that sweet, cool, refreshing drink while we were out in the middle of the dusty heat of the Mojave Desert.

But we couldn't drink it at all. It was bitter. Terrible. We spit it out.

The field trip continued, and we had a great time. But we never drank the Kool-Aid.

Months later, I was over at Deanna's house, and we were sitting in her room, talking like teenager girls do, about this, that, and everything.

And we started talking about dying our hair.

Deanna and I were both pretty natural girls. We were more into writing stories, drawing pictures, & putting on plays than we were into make-up & primping & the like . . . both of us usually kept our God-given hair color, is what I'm saying.  But we did like beauty-related things that sounded FUN.

So we were talking about dying our hair blue. 

Or purple.

Or whatever.

So . . . we were discussing the virtue of dying our hair with Kool-Aid. Because that's the cheap DIY way to get funky colors for your hair.

And as we were talking, we said, "Yeah, but you've got to make sure not to mix the Kool-Aid with sugar."

And then we looked at each other and yelled in unison, "SUGAR!!!!"

Because we suddenly realized what had been wrong with our field trip Kool-Aid: we'd forgotten the sugar.

And I wrote all of that, because it seemed to me, "there has to be a lesson in there somewhere". 

You know those things you hear, and you think, "That's got to be a sermon illustration"?

Well, it seems to me that there's got to be a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

But so help me, I can't figure out what it is.

There's your story anyway: don't forget the sugar.

Anyone want to help me with the interpretation?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekend Links: the Cold War, getting ready for Advent, and more!

A few interesting links for your weekend reading and listening:

"The City Podcast: Understanding the Cold War": as someone who saw the end of the Cold War, but who was too young to really understand it, I found this short podcast fascinating and educational.

"The Fine Line Between Preparing and Jumping the Gun": a huge list of book links for Christmas and Advent, from Elizabeth Foss.

"The Right Stance Can Be Reassuring":
Watch celebrities on the red carpet, or models on a runway, and you’ll undoubtedly see the classic stop-for-the-flashing-cameras stance: chest open, legs apart, head level, usually with a hand on the hip.
It turns out that this pose not only best shows off what they are wearing, but also might send reassuring signals to their brains that they are capable and competent.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Winner of the Giveaway!

The winner of the giveaway of the complete volume of Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home is Rebekah!

Rebekah, please contact me via email at jessica *dot* snell *at* gmail *dot* com so that I can send you your prize!*

Thanks everyone for participating!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*If I don't hear from the winner within one week, I'll pick another winner, again using a random number generator.

Fr. Ryan Bradley on Desire and Prayer

I was glad to see this and get to listen to it, and thought you might like it too, dear readers:

Visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano

While Shirley was here, teaching us about praying using the Anglican rosary, I was over at her blog, talking about visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano (and sharing some pretty pictures!).  Come on over to Under An English Sky to read all about it!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Weekend Links: Ebola, Hermeneutics, and more

Some good weekend reading from around the web:

"AAFP Member Describes His Harrowing Experience Overcoming Ebola":
I remember very clearly saying to the nurse standing beside me while being treated for Ebola, "I can't breathe. I am sick. I have no reserve. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up." I was working really hard to breathe. I said, "I don't know how you are going to breathe for me when I quit breathing." (There were no ventilators available.) (Elwa Hospital) had only had one Ebola survivor up to that point and he had never been really sick. So everyone I had ever seen with symptoms like I was exhibiting had died.
"Hermeneutics with Samuel Johnson":
. . . meaning comes from the whole and informs each part. No individual bit, no matter how much you clarify it, can in isolation deliver the work's meaning.
"Finding Faith Through Liturgy":
Grandeur hooked me, but it wasn’t what made me stay. The initial mystique of traditional churches may enchant or repulse us — but we need to look deeper. The aesthetic of traditional churches appeals to me, but the substance behind it anchors me. It accommodates my doubts and eases my grief.
"Advent Books - Links & Recommendations" - This is a terrific list of resources put together by the folks over at Lent & Beyond, and well-worth checking out.

"Science Fiction at Its Best: 'Interstellar' Review" - I'm linking to this solely for this paragraph, which I love:
Good science fiction has never been about rocket ships and lasers, but about people. It’s about using alien settings to tease out the nuances of truth that we can’t look at head-on because they involve such quotidian realities that they fade into the background if we look right at them. Great science fiction though marries that universality with stories about grand ideas, meditations on who and what we are as a species and what our future holds. Good science fiction uses the trappings of the future to tell stories of the present, while great science fiction is one layer more: telling stories of the future that resonate in the present even as they map the future. The difference between the good and the great is the difference between simile and metaphor.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Praying Using the Anglican Rosary

Today I have such a treat for you! One of my favorite bloggers, Shirley from Under an English Sky, is visiting with us today and sharing about one of her favorite ways to spend time with the Lord in prayer.

On a recent trip to York Minister Cathedral, I picked up a small rosary. I had not intended to buy one nor had I had any thought prior to that visit about praying the rosary, but lately I have been finding my prayer life a struggle. I start off fairly well, but within minutes my mind is drifting and thinking of other things. I bring my focus back on praying, but it’s not long until once again my mind is off on its own merry way. If my mind is not dancing to its own tune, then I find that I am praying one minute and the next the sunlight is peeking through the curtains and it is morning! If you have struggled with the same issues then I do not need to tell you how frustrating it is. I feel guilty that after all Jesus has done for me, I cannot come before Him and be still. I cannot focus long enough to lay myself at the foot of the cross and commune with my Saviour.

Back to the Cathedral … I stood in the gift shop on the way out of the Cathedral and held a small rosary in my hand, I fondled the beads, allowed my fingers to pass from one bead to the next and pondered on the peace that comes from being in such a magnificent place of Christian worship. I wondered about the rosary, about each prayer bead and pondered if perhaps physically holding and moving my fingers over such an aid would be of help. We are high church Anglicans, but not quite Anglo-Catholic so the rosary is not part of my everyday life.  On impulse I walked quickly over to the counter before I changed my mind and made my purchase.

Since then, each time I come before the Lord in extended prayer, I pick up my rosary and move my fingers from each bead as I pray for each person, each worry, each praise that I offer up to God. Of course I am not by any means using the rosary as it ‘should’ be used, but that was never the intention. The goal was to be able to remain focused on my Lord and Saviour. And it’s worked! Having that physical object in my hand has helped me to remain focused, to keep my thoughts drifting off.

I have since done a bit of research and found that the rosary is not exclusively a ‘Catholic’ thing. The Anglican Rosary is used quite commonly by – well Anglicans – and Christians from other denominations.

The Anglican Rosary is a combination of the Catholic Rosary and the Jewish Prayer Rope. It is comprised of 33 beads (the traditional number of Jesus’ life). There is one invitatory bead followed by 7 beads each (week beads) with a single bead (called the cruciform) in between each set of week beads. There are no set prayers for the Anglican Rosary, it’s your choice what you pray. Of course the Book of Common Prayer is full of choices and inspiration if you cannot find the words – which happens doesn’t it? There’s a great little article here which might give you more clarity if you are interested and incorporating this tool into your own prayer life. 

I have found my small rosary to be such a useful aid. It’s easy to be surrounded by peace and tranquillity inside a church and feel your soul soar towards your Lord and Saviour, but when you are surrounded by the busyness of everyday life, pressures and routines, it can be a bit more difficult. At least that is true for me. My Book of Common Prayer and my unassuming (you get such pretty ones out there!) rosary has truly helped me to focus my prayer life more, and for that I am truly grateful.

My thanks to Shirley, and please be sure to visit her blog, which is a treasury of gorgeous pictures, yummy recipes, and encouraging words!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yarnalong: "What's Best Next" and Viajante (again. some more.)

Linking up with Ginny, over at Small Things, who says, " Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading . . . I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?"

The yarn
The knitting is . . . sigh . . . still Viajante. It is a lovely, lovely pattern. But I have been working on it for over a year!

Not the pattern's fault. More the yarn. The yarn is yarn I recycled from a thrift store shirt, and it's super-thin, unspun, 2-ply silk. Soooo splitty.

Mind, it's going to be gorgeous when done, but it's picky knitting. I think I want to make the pattern over when I finish, only this time with a lovely, tight-spun wool!

The book
Right now I'm reading "What's Best Next?", by Matthew Perman.   It's a Christian take on productivity. In fact, the subtitle is "How the Gospel Transforms How You Get Things Done."

Grand aspirations!

But, honestly, it's good so far. I've only gotten through the first few pages, but he already has me  looking forward to read about getting things done in a grace-full way.

A Giveaway!
Speaking of books, I'm giving one away!  All you have to do to win a copy of "Let Us Keep the Feast", a book on bringing the rhythms of the Christian year into your own home, is to go and comment on this post. Please stop by and leave a comment for a chance to win!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

being a part of the church

So, our family is part of a church plant right now.

That means that we're serving a lot.

There's really no other choice in a church plant: everyone serves, or nothing happens.

And so, for the first time in my life, I find myself serving. Almost every Sunday. In more ways than I ever dreamed I would.

And you know what?

It's wonderful.

I wish I could tell everyone this. Because I didn't know it for so long. But volunteering at church is wonderful. It's the best way to be a part of everything.

I never would have volunteered to be a lay reader. But our church needed lay readers, and so I said, "I can do that."

And I've found myself reading the scriptures to the whole church.

It's amazing.

And I never would have volunteered to serve at the altar. But our church needed servers, and so I said, "I'll help, if you need me."

And it's humbling and astonishing.

And I never would have volunteered to be a part of the "kitchen ministry". But we have potlucks every week and I said, "I know how to wash dishes."

And it's so good.

This is what I want to tell everyone: jump in and serve. I know that at big churches, it feels like they don't need you.

But they do.

And I know that at small churches, it feels like there are cliques that already have everything handled.

But they don't.

There's a place for you.

And the church is there to serve. And if you need it, the church is there to serve you. And you can just come and listen and pray and be ministered to, if that is where you are, and that is what you need. No guilt, if that is where you are at.  (I have been there. Most of my life I've been there, actually. Maybe that's why I'm finding this time now such a gift)

But if you have the faintest inkling that there is a place that you want to help in, if you have the least urging that there is something that you can do . . . follow that. Volunteer. Jump in. Ask, "how can I help?"

Because the best place in church is the place of service.

I never knew. I never knew.

But now I know. And I'm realizing that serving is another form of being served. 

Because the One who meets us in our service is the Lord, and we are back in the place of receiving. 

In service, we meet Him.

And there is no greater gift.

The church belongs to the Lord.

This is life in the church:  all of us are unprepared, all of us silly, all of us unworthy . . . it’s okay, jump in anyway. 

If you’re invited, then you’re supposed to be there. Don’t worry about it any more than that. 

We’re kids, serving at the Father’s table. 

In the family, everybody helps.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

P.S.  Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the complete volume of "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home"!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Feast of All Saints!

I sat down at my computer, all ready to write about this lovely feast day, when I saw that Ann had already done so, and better than I possibly could:
There is just a month left in the Church year.  Still time to finish strong.  This final month is all about finishing: appreciating the fellowship of believers across centuries, realizing the abundance of blessings God has given us at Thanksgiving, and celebrating Christ the King and his eternal Kingdom.
She has suggestions for celebrating today, Thanksgiving, and Christ the King Sunday. Head on over and read on!

Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Children's Books for All Saints Day

Joining in with Jen, over at Conversion Diary!
Tomorrow is All Saints Day!  I love sharing stories of the faithful Christians of the past with my kids. Here are some good books we've enjoyed over the years:

1) Caedmon's Song, by Ruth Ashby: a lovely picture book rendition of one of the earliest poems written in English.

2) Women of the Bible, by Margaret McAllister: This lovely book was a present from my mom, and my girls love it!

3) A Song for Joseph, by Mervin A. Marquardt: I grew up on this lovely, sing-song story of the foster-father of our Lord. I still love it.  It's only available used, but it's worth seeking out.

4) John the Baptist, by Ronald Klug: the wonderful thing about this book is it doesn't end right at John's death, but the final page shows his followers going to Jesus. Which is what all the saints do: point us towards the Lord.

5) Hero Tales, by Dave & Neta Jackson: This book is for older children, and introduces them to some more modern Christian heroes, like William Tyndale and Dwight L. Moody.

6) I Sing a Song of the Saints of God, by Lesbia Scott, illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown: the text of the perfect children's hymn for All Saints Day is beautifully illustrated. Don't just read this one to your kids; sing it.

7) Saint George and the Dragon, by Margaret Hodges: yes, this is a legend. And yes, it's important that your children understand the difference between legends and history. But it's a beautiful, Christian legend, and the illustrations in this book are just gorgeous!

Which books are your favorites? I always love adding to our home library. :)

And while you're here, be sure to enter the giveaway for "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home"! This book will help you bring the rhythms of the liturgical season into your every day life.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Giveaway! "Let Us Keep the Feast: the Complete Year"

The complete edition of "Let Us Keep the Feast" comes out tomorrow!

And to celebrate, I'm giving away a free copy of the paperback version.  :)

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post, and next Saturday I'll pick a winner using a random number generator (with my apologies to my awesome international readers, I'm limiting this to the continental USA only, please).

Please enter, and share this on Facebook, Twitter, or  your blog, so others can enter too!

I can't wait to share this book with you all - it's larger than the booklets, and includes cool extras, like a scripture index and a chapter on celebrating the saints days.  And all of the good stuff about incorporating the rhythms of the liturgical season into the rhythm of your ordinary, day-to-day life is still there. There's enough information in this book that you'll be able to find a place to start, but it's organized and low-key enough that you won't feel pressured to do everything at once.

This is the resource I wish I'd had ten years ago, and I'm so glad that it's here now. :)

And if you just can't wait, "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home" is available to order now, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Thanks so much for your entry!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Psalm 73: Talking to God About Talking to God

Psalm 73 is just a little bit meta: it's a conversation with God about the speaker's conversations with God.

I love that this is in the Bible.

I've listened to Psalm 73 several times this week during my devotional time, and I keep being struck by the simple, honest reflection, "I was as a beast before thee."

Because the psalmist isn't hiding from God. Instead, he's reviewing a time in his life that was particularly painful. It was a time when he was full of doubt and fear. And instead of hiding from God, he's laying it all open before Him.

He's reflecting on a time that was past, and trying to see what it all meant.

He's honest about his doubts; he's honest about his fears.

And he's honest about his own state: "I was as a beast before thee."

Animals are instinctual. And when we humans are at our worst, so are we.

But the psalmist doesn't hide this from God (as if God doesn't know).

Instead, he takes this hard time in his life - this time when he doubted that God would at the end make all things well - and he lays it out before his Lord.

He thinks about it. He reflects on it.

And he says, "Here I was: in despair. Until I went into your sanctuary.
"And then, I understood."

He sees the Lord's place. He sees the real place of the wicked.

And then - extra gift! extreme generosity of our Lord! - he sees his own place in the universe:
But it is good for me to draw near to God: 
I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Our place is to declare the goodness of the Lord.

And He is good.
Amen, and Amen.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend Links, for your reading pleasure

"What Makes for a Stable Marriage?": fascinating bunch of research-based charts.

"He Often Has to Remind Me":
It’s my stomach that always wakes me up. Whenever I’m bothered by something, invariably I end up awakened in the night with my stomach in knots. Over time, I’ve learned that the only remedy is to talk with God about it while I journal. The physical act of writing slows me down, focuses my thoughts, and allows space for God to intervene. But until I begin writing, I am often clueless as to what it is that’s actually bothering me. I wish my mind were as sensitive as my stomach! 
"Rich and Poor | The Question That Wrecked Us Both":
The last time Maureen, a child of poverty who now leads the organization in Kenya that Mercy House partners with, spent a few weeks in our home, it wrecked me. That’s what happens when you see your first world life through the eyes of someone from the third world.
When she saw five bikes hanging in our garage, she wanted to know if we sold bicycles. Why else would we have so many?
"A Christian of Integrity Resigns His Office":
Magistrate Kallam’s resignation merits deep respect and admiration. It often seems that there are few Christians in modern-day America who are willing to take a principled, moral stand that affects their professional standing and livelihood.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Recently-tried Recipes

Here are some recipes I've tried recently and enjoyed. Thought you might like them too!

1) Faux "Orange Julius": This was very like its namesake. A delicious weekend breakfast treat.

2) Chilled Black Bean, Feta, and Cucumber Salad: a nice, healthy summer lunch.

3) Tex-Mex Chopped Salad: oh, this was so good. A party in your mouth. And a perfectly delightful dinner.

4) Greek Pasta Salad: Yummy, again. (If you haven't caught on yet, I only link to recipes I liked.) This was one that was stellar the first day, but even better the next.

Also, for what it's worth, I added a can of cooked chicken, just to up the protein content for my six-person family.

5) Garlicky Baked Shrimp: I actually made this with a frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe's - so I had more than just shrimp. Despite that, it turned out really well. I liked the crunchy topping, and the convenience of baking the seafood instead of sautéing it.

Let me know if there's any good recipes you've tried recently - I love getting new ideas for dinner!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Notes: "Attachments", by Rainbow Rowell

I am a sucker for epistolatory novels. I have been ever since I read the classics "Daddy Long Legs" and "Dear Enemy".

So, when my sister-in-law recommended Rainbow Rowell, and I saw that Rainbow Rowell had written an epistolatory novel, I signed right up.

I didn't even care when, a few chapters into Attachments, the epistles in question turned incredibly (and I mean that: I didn't credit it anymore) narrative.

I was already hooked on the story.

"Attachments" is a novel that alternates between the point of view of Lincoln, the technician hired to monitor a large newspaper's staff email system, and the emails of Jennifer and Beth, who both work at said newspaper.

Lincoln slowly falls in love with Beth, solely through reading her emails. Meanwhile, Beth is slowly developing a crush on the guy she occasionally sees around the office - but has never actually met.

Basically, it's a romantic comedy - and I mean the comedy part: I laughed out loud frequently. Not heartily, but frequently. :)

I really enjoyed this. Cautions for a bit of language, and secular sexual ethics. But it reallyis  a lovely little read.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Crocheted Finished Object: Altar Cloth for the Credence Table

Or maybe I should call it the Credence Table Tablecloth?  A little repetitive, that.
This was really a labor of love.

But so little labor, really, at least in terms of tiresome labor. The pattern was simple and pleasant to work, and the work itself joyous.

Someday, I want to make something better, something that uses actual Christian symbols (crosses, etc.) in the lacework, but for now, this covers a rather beat-up table that our little church plant is using out of necessity, and adds a bit of beauty to our weekly worship.  I'm so happy I got to do my little bit here.

The idea of the church-members working with their hands to deck the church is a concept I love, and one I think that goes back to the making of the tabernacle. Someday, I'd love to see a needleworker's guild at our church, to work alongside the Altar Guild.

But here's a bit of a start. I'm so happy with it.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Libation for St. Luke

Today, October 18, is St. Luke's Day, and I have a drink for you in celebration of the feast day!

Now, I fully admit that the origin of this drink is a little silly - okay, more than a little silly: the origin of this drink is a pun.

St. Luke is sometimes referred to as "Luke the physician". So he's a doctor. And he lived during the days of the Roman Empire.

The drink is a rum & Dr. Pepper. (Like a rum & Coke, but oh-so-much better.)

A rum'n'doctor.

A Roman doctor.


I know, I know, I'm so sorry.

BUT. If you do want to raise a toast to St. Luke in all sincerity, and you'd like to use a punny drink to do so, here's how you make a St. Luke:

To make a "St. Luke":
-1 can Dr. Pepper

-1 oz. rum

Mix and enjoy! (Responsibly, as a legal adult, etc.)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Notes: "The Sword Bearer" by John White

I've written about the other Anthropos books by John White here and here.

This one is a little different. The Anthropos books are Christian children's fantasy. And if the first few are a sort of allegories of the New Testament, this one is definitely an allegory of the old.

And as such, it's darker. Darker, and harder to read.

Nonetheless, despite the darkness, and despite the frustrating obtuseness of John, our protagonist, who is constantly choosing to be stubborn and wrong and stupid in the face of choices for goodness and mercy and right, this is a good book. (In fact, the truth is that John's stupid stubborness is all-too-recognizable-and-familiar, at least to this reader.)

I've been reading this book to my children in the evening, before our prayer and Bible reading. They draw or play with magnet sets while they listen to the story. And this book has inspired a lot of drawings. It's that kind of very visual fantasy world - easy to picture and to sink into.

And I guess I have to go back on what I said a bit: it's not all Old Testament allegory. A big part of the plot, especially in the beginning of the book, revolves around "the wine of free pardon".   I loved the inclusion of this simple analogy to the Eucharist. It means even more to me now than it did as a kid.

I guess the highest praise I can offer to this book is this: my son, Gamgee, swears that he dislikes this book when we're not in the middle of reading it, yet every time I picked it up and read another chapter, he was open-mouthed, caught up in the suspense of what's-going-to-happen-next, and eager as any of his sisters to hear how things would go for Jon, and Mab, and everyone else on the island.

This is a great read-aloud. I loved it when I was young, and I'm happy to say that now, as an adult, my kids love it too.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

scripture memorization as a type of copywork

Recently, in one of her blog posts, Melissa Wiley talked about the idea of daily doodling being "just another kind of copywork"

And aside from making me pull out my sketchbook again (no, really), it made me think about why people - artists, speakers, etc. - have classically trained by copying the greats. It's not an unusual idea, historically, to learn your craft by aping your betters. Now we might call it plagiarism - and it would be if you didn't give the person you were copying from credit - but it's not such a bad idea to learn what you want to learn by scrupulously copying folks who are really, really good at it. Yes, eventually you strike out on your own, and find your own new ideas and your own new ways, but you learn the method by copying the greats.

Think about it; it makes sense:

If you copy good writing, your brain and your hands get to experience what it feels like to write great words.

If you copy good painting, your brain and your hands get to experience what it's like to paint great work

And . . . if you memorize scripture, your brain and your heart get to experience what it is like to think like the great men of God who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Think about that. It's amazing! But anyone who has taken the time to sit and memorize scripture can tell you that it's true: if you memorize God's word, you will think in the patterns dictated by the Holy Spirit.

Read the Psalms through monthly, like monks do, and you will find yourself thinking along those lines whenever you hit a time of anxiety or stress or joy. "Blessed be the Lord!" you will hear yourself think, "who has not given us as a prey to their teeth!"

It will astonish you when it begins to happen. "Where did that come from?" you will wonder. But there it will be: the words of God, echoing in your own sinful head.

It's absolutely amazing. It's such a gift.

It's why we memorize scripture.

Because these rhythms of grace don't come naturally. But the lovely, stupid, pattern-loving structures of our very human brains thrive on memorization. They love repetition.

Like Chesterton says, it's that very childlike joy of "Do it again! Oh, do it again!" that lives down deep in our human brains.

And if your brain yells "do it again! say it again!" to the rhythms of scripture? Then you're that much further ahead when the Holy Spirit has something for you to hear.

The patterns of His own speech, His words, will already be there in your head.

It's just good training. It's just following the basic principles of good training.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Weekend Links: Letters, gospels, and more

"Pastor Saeed's Letter to His Daughter Rebekka":
I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY In your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family.
"The Gospel, the Gospels and Rome - Where Do We Draw the Line?": Such a nice, long, chewy article.

"The Food Lab: Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous)":  My husband and I are determined to give this a try. It's exactly the kind of food we love eating and - portable! cool!

"Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Coffee":  And this one is cool because you can make the pumpkin-milk base ad keep it in the fridge for a few days. Mmmmmm . . . .

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Notes: "Cleaning House", by Kay Wills Wyma

I had to get this book. Of course I did. The premise was to good not to.

Teaching your kids to clean the house, in 12 easy months?  (And when, pray, did the idea of "12 months" become a manageable stretch of time in my eyes? Must have been sometime after I turned thirty . . .)

But, yes: I do want my kids to become capable adults. That's the whole point.

(Well, no. The whole point is to raise them up in the love and admonition of the Lord.

But after that? I would like them to be capable adults.)

This book did not leave me thinking that I wanted to follow the exact same schedule that the author did, but I was encouraged to give my children more responsibilities as they grow, and to remember that they can do a lot more than I assume they can.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

follow-up on "Brother Ass"

Gustav Jaeger: Bileam und der Engel, PD-US, via Wikimedia Commons
This is a follow-up on my post "Brother Ass".

I ended up talking to my husband about that blog post - the one on bodies, emotions, and the prophet Balaam.  And in that conversation, and after reading comments on the original post, I realized that there was a little more that I needed to explain.

What I'm not saying
In that first post, I talked a bit about how our bodies and our emotions are inseparably tied together.  But here's the thing: when it comes to stress or anxiety or depression or the like, I'm not saying that it's all in your head. I'm not saying: make yourself feel better, and then you'll feel better.

I love traditional medicine.

I have traditional medicine to thank for the fact that my kids and husband are alive. My youngest two children were saved by modern medicine (monoamniotic twins) and so was my husband (melanoma).  My sight was restored by modern medicine (laser surgery!) and I've been grateful for antibiotics and vaccines time and time again.

And psychotropic drugs? They are a Godsend when you need them.

So I'm not saying: be happy and you'll be healthy. It's more complicated than that.

What I am saying
Our bodies, though, are more connected to our minds and our emotions than we'd like to believe that they are.

We want to believe that our feelings have nothing to do with our health. And that's just not true.

Of course, there are things we can't control, like genetic predispositions to depression. Or the brain development that results in autism. Or cancer striking out of the blue. Or so many, many other devastating illnesses, injuries, and conditions.

But what can't be denied is that our psychological states affect our bodily functions, and vice versa.

Stress results in cortisol spikes that lead to all manners of disease.

Or try going without sleep for a night or two in a row. You'll be as drunk as a sailor.  Or at least as same as makes no nevermind. You can mind-over-matter that.

God made us with bodies. Those bodies aren't something separate from us. They are part of us. They are not the whole of us, but they are us.

If you deny your body, you're a heretic. Having a body is part of what it means to be human. Your body is part of you. And it changes how you experience life and how you can experience life.

And sometimes, when you're particularly in denial, your body can be smarter than you are.

Your body might be what sees the danger before you can, like Balaam's ass was able to see the angel before he could.

Your body might warn you - by panic attacks, by back aches, by persistent lethargy - that you're living in a manner that is unsustainable.

St. Francis
St. Francis famously called his body "Brother Ass" - and that's where I got the title for these blog posts.

Because our bodies are like that. They are dumb animals - dumb until God grants them speech.

And then they tell us what we really need to know. They warn us about the angels in our pathway; they save us from death.

People used to call this sort of thing "nervous breakdowns". Now we might say "panic attack" or "depressive episode".

But it's the same thing: our bodies are no longer able to carry the burdens our minds and hearts force on them.

I like this about bodies: that they are honest. Like the animals that they are. They do their best, but some things are too much for them. Drink too much, eat too much, sleep too little . . . eventually your body will let you know about it.

Balaam's ass carried the prophet well, as far as she was able. But eventually, she was able to tell the prophet about a danger the prophet himself could not see.

Our bodies do the same thing.

And I am grateful for that.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend links: Productivity, special needs, and funny Austrailians!

"How to Get Things Done": I really liked the way Tim Challies laid out a straight-forward theological argument for Christian productivity. First in a series.

"About that mom who’s not bragging about her kid":
So the next time you are having lunch with friends and the talk turns, as it often does, to what your kids are doing and the kvelling begins — one of the moms is happy that her daughter aced the SATs, the other’s son just got into law school, a third mom glows about her daughter’s engagement — and you see that one of your friends around the table is sitting silently, fiddling with her drink, just waiting for that part of the conversation to pass? Consider that quiet mom. She loves her son or daughter just as much as you do. Smile at her, and ask how her child is doing. She may need to do a different kind of kvelling.

I loved this video:

Have a great weekend!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, October 3, 2014

A New Job

I'm happy to announce that I've accepted the job of General Editor at Kalos Press, a literary imprint of Doulos Resources.

I've greatly enjoyed working with Doulos and Kalos on a freelance basis, and I'm delighted to have been offered a job on their staff!

I'll be doing work in acquisitions and in developmental editing, along with a few other tasks. We've got some great books in the pipeline and I'm excited to get to work on them.

I'll still be blogging here about books, faith, and family - that won't change!  I just wanted to share my good news with y'all. I so appreciate the fellow readers and writers, parents and bloggers, and brothers and sisters I've met through this blog.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book notes: "At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time", by Sarah Arthur

I loved the concept of this book: a selection of poetry and prose for each week of ordinary time, given as an aid to prayer and devotion.

And I love even more that Sarah Arthur was able to pull that concept off.

I didn't read this quite as slowly as suggested, but I did read it slowly. Bite by bite, over a long period of time. (And in Ordinary Time, no less!)

It worked really well that way. I delighted in how often the author offered me up selections by authors like Rossetti and Herbert. I enjoyed the chance to read authors I hadn't heard of before. I really liked the way each week had a theme, and the way the readings fit those themes.

I have to admit that the intro didn't really do it for me (and, sadly, I read it long enough ago that I don't remember why - so you can just as well chalk it up to me being silly as to any fault on the part of the author), but I really, really enjoyed the book itself, so . . . well, ignore my reaction to the intro. The book is great, and I can see using it for many Ordinary Times to come.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yarnalong: Knitting socks and reading "Made to Last"

Linking up with Ginny over at Small Things, who says: ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

The knitting: Plain ol' vanilla socks, my regular pattern. What can I say? Pretty yarn, and a plain stockinette sock, and I'm in knitting bliss, because it's so easy and relaxing.

The book: The book is "Made to Last", by Melissa Tagg. I've just barely started it, but the premise is fun and the writing good, so I'm enjoying it so far. A sweet, easy romance novel sounds about right for the beginning of fall.

How about you? What have you been reading and crafting? 

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

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