Monday, March 31, 2014

The angry - and the poor in spirit

Providentially, just after I wrote that last blog post, on anger, I found myself copying over some notes that seemed to apply to the same subject.

(I keep a notebook in my purse, and every month or two, I go through it and copy the handwritten stuff there into a Word document on my computer.)

These notes are from a sermon preached by our deacon, Ryan Bradley, and I seem to recall he said he'd gotten a bunch of this from Dallas Willard. Anyway, it was on the Beatitudes, and it seems to me that it answers a bunch of my questions about what to do with anger. Here are my notes:

That it is safe to be a good person in the kingdom of God. You can afford to be a peacemaker – you don’t have to pay everyone back. You don’t have to do it out of vengeance and you don’t have to do it to protect yourself.
You can afford to be someone who restores relationships – it’s safe to do that in the kingdom of God.
The French embassy is sovereign territory of France, even though it’s on U.S. soil. We are embassies of the kingdom of God. Our very selves are sovereign territory of God’s kingdom.
We are also refugees – allowed into this new, benevolent, oh-so-foreign land and we have to learn to live by the laws of this new land.
“Poor in spirit” – if you’re needy, the kingdom of God is for you.
“Is Christianity a crutch?” “Yes, well, I happen to be a person who needs a crutch.”
We all need a crutch – just some of us are trying to wobble along on broken legs.
“The needy who know it.”  We aren’t the strong, whose lives God is just making better. We are the weak, who desperately need God constantly.
And so we can’t look down on others. They’re right where we are, right?
We are fundamentally the desperate – the ones who need God.

a few thoughts on anger

photo credit: Betsy Barber
So, I was just listening to an actually helpful podcast* on the subject of anger, and they pointed out that anger is a “secondary emotion”, i.e., it comes out of something more primary. That if someone’s snarling, you need to ask, why? What’s the fear, the hurt, the perceived threat underneath that?

I thought that was a great insight. When I'm angry, it's often because I want to strike out against something that I feel is threatening me.

And then the podcast folks went on to talk about how you deal with those underlying issues in a marriage relationship. How you bring them out, look at them together, figure them out. And I could totally follow that. In marriage, we’re committed. And we know each other. And – at least in my marriage – I feel like I can trust the good intentions of the other person.

But it got me wondering: how do you handle that in other relationships - in relationships that are less close, less committed? It's not like you want to open up your deep issues with every single person who ticks you off!

What do you do when you're mad with someone you don't trust? Who you're not willing to "get into it" with?

Part of the reason this bothers me, I think, is I'm such a "J" on the Meyers-Briggs scale: I want things in my life to be well-defined, clear-cut, decided. 

So when I'm mad at someone, I feel like my only two options are: 1) Fix it, or 2) Ignore them completely.

But that's a bit silly. It's a childish sort of black-and-white thinking. In real life, there are people you can't change and you still don't want to ignore.**

Here's as far as I've gotten on the problem: I can't change them, so I need to change me.

Or at least, my stance. And my view. Not who I am, but how I approach things.

Here's the question I've been asking myself about people who make me feel growly: How can I approach them in peace?

It comes back to the Golden Rule. How would I like to be approached? In peace. Even if I'm the person who someone doesn't trust, who someone finds annoying and aggravating, I'd like to be approached in peace. With all the possibilities on the table - including the possibility that it will go well.

I guess what I'm saying is: if I'm not willing to "get into it" with someone, all that leaves is just plain old forgiveness. Letting it go. Leaving it to the Lord, who - praise Him - is willing to "get into it" with all of us. 

Because He loves us that much.

But what do you think? I'm only beginning to ponder this, so this post is really an as-I-am-thinking-about-it sort of an entry, not an I-figured-it-out! sort of entry. Where are you at on how you deal with anger? And what works for you?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*The interview was with Chip Ingram on Family Life Today.
**I'm not talking about boundaries here, or people you actually do need to protect yourself from. I'm assuming you're keeping appropriate boundaries, and avoiding situations that are actually dangerous - emotionally or otherwise. (That's a post for another day!)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend Links: Lent, Psalms, and more!

A few articles for your weekend reading pleasure:

"The Work of the People":
Habits and disciplines are formed through repetition. Thus, the ritualistic and repetitive nature of Christian liturgy allows us to engage God in a similar manner from Sunday to Sunday and day to day. This repetition transforms us because it is habit forming. In short, our relationship with God becomes habitual and through this habit God does his work in us as we habitually come to him. 
"Lent for a forgetful person":
But I have been happy and perhaps a little startled to find some things that work for me. Things that, even almost three weeks into lent, have helped to keep it forefront in my mind, even in the middle of every day life.
"David and Saul": Usually I excerpt a quotation from the articles I link to, but I'd be tempted to excerpt the entire last half of this one, both because it's short and because it's excellent. So just go read it - read it because of what Anne has to say about the Psalms.

"504 Meeting at the Junior High": Yes, this:
The trickiest part about having a child who is fine ninety five percent of the time, is that I begin to forget why we have all the structures in place. I begin to second guess. I am tempted to do away with the parts of the structure that are time or money consuming to maintain, things like therapy. Everything feels good, but then I have a 504 meeting where I have to list out the official diagnoses. Then I remember that these people in the room and the psychiatrist who signed the diagnosis paper, would have no hesitation in bumping me if they felt that Gleek did not need the resources they are providing. The fact that they recognized Gleek’s need helps me to know I’m not just making this up. I would like it to all be my imagination, because then I could just stop imagining it, problem solved. Instead I get to walk alongside my girl while she treks her way through a long and difficult growing process.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weekend Links: Facepalm Jesus, purity, talking about race, and more!

Here's some reading for your weekend!

"Coffee with Facepalm Jesus Calling":
An earlier generation asked What Would Jesus Do? But these days, people are increasingly comfortable with skipping the hypothetical, shifting out of the subjunctive, and just telling us What Jesus Would Say, in their opinions. If he were really here, that is: if he were talking, if he were blogging, or meme-ing, or cartooning, or writing devotionals.
"Let the Battle for Purity Begin":
As a young priest in the 1970s, I served for a decade in campus ministry settings. In those years, the first fruits of the sexual revolution were already apparent. Pope Francis’s image of the Church as a “field hospital” in the midst of such wreckage would describe it well.
"On Being White (And Talking About It) – Part 1":
I have seen my students do one of two things when confronted with a glaring disparity in the real world to their beliefs about human equality – they either (1) become very uncomfortable and frustrated that their parents didn’t teach them the truth, or (2) become very self-righteous, sure that equality is real, and that anyone experiencing inequality must be morally at fault for their own situation.
And Part II can be found here.

"Murder in Los Angeles":
The Homicide Report addresses two questions every newspaper covering a major metropolis should answer: who was killed last night, and why? But most newspapers don’t do this because the logic of most newsrooms is that not all murders are sexy, grisly, or surprising enough to be written about. The Homicide Report operates on the inverse principal: Every murder gets a story because murder is inherently worthy of our attention
"Today Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath, Died (1711)": I'm linking to this one because it contains the full text of Bishop Ken's sublime "Evening Hymn". I've long loved the version in our hymnal, and I was delighted to learn that not only does it have more verses, but that there's a matching "Morning Hymn" to go with it!

"What I’m learning about choice and gratitude from not skipping songs on my iPod":
Not having a choice about which song I listen to makes me calculate finding pleasure in songs differently. Instead of actively working to perfectly assemble the music so that it will make me happy, I derive happiness from whatever is in front of me. The switch in mindsets in the same switch you make when you go from being a shopper making a purchase to being a recipient receiving a gift. One involves feeling powerful, deciding which among a variety of items will best please you; the other involves receptivity, seeking what is good in whatever you have been given.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Not worrying about tomorrow

photo credit: Betsy Barber

I recommend to you holy simplicity: look before you, and regard not those dangers you see far off. As you say, they seem to you armies, yet they are only willow branches; and while you are looking at them you may make some false step. Let us have a firm and general intention of serving God all our life, and with all our heart. Beyond that, let us have no solicitude for the morrow. Let us only think of doing well today; when tomorrow arrives it will be called in its turn "today," and then we will think of it. We must here again have great confidence and acquiescence in the Providence of God. We must make provision of manna for each day and no more, and we must not doubt that God will send us more tomorrow, and after tomorrow, and all the days of our pilgrimage . . .
-St. Francis de Sales, from Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World
I think I need to read this every day.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Weekend Well-Spent

Leaf-and-twig dragon houses: the sort of thing that happens when my kids go outside.

It's Monday, and I'm looking back on a weekend well-spent.

Last weekend, Adam was gone to an all-day church retreat, and the weekend before that, I was gone to an all-day church retreat. The retreats themselves were good things, but the lack of a weekend break for three weeks in a row was making us both a little jittery. So all last week, we promised ourselves that we would Take This Weekend Off, I Mean, Completely OFF.

And we did. We went to church, of course, but we didn't stay for the potluck. We made sure the kids had regular meals, but we used a lot of paper plates. Adam read halfway through a doorstop of a book. I finished a long, striped, knitted shawl. The kids played outside a lot. We all watched Mythbusters, and all the flat surfaces of the house grew their own collections of abandoned tea cups and coffee mugs.

It was so needed. By Friday night last week, my brain was moving as stupidly and thickly and numbly as a mouth shot full of Novocaine. I remember, on Friday night, thinking, Should I read? . . . but why would I do that? Should I knit? . . . but why would I do that? I guess I'll go to bed, because then at least I won't have to notice the fact that I seem incapable of summoning up enthusiasm for anything.

It was a little scary, actually, how numb I felt. I guess that's what happens when you get really, really tired. Not the insanely sleepy tired of new parenthood, or the bone-deep exhaustion after illness, but just the emotionless grey drizzle that comes after there's been all too-much emotion, and you haven't had space to process and assimilate it.

But the weekend worked. Sometime yesterday, I paused my knitting to look across the living room at Adam (who was intelligently reading his doorstop on Kindle, rather than paper), and said, "This was such a good idea. I'm so glad we did this." And I let out a really deep sigh, a good sigh, a clear-all-the-oxygen-out-of-your-lungs-and-feel-refreshed-and-refilled sigh.

And now it's Monday. And it's another week. But I'm ready to face it now. I'm even excited about some of the work it holds. I'm even okay with climbing the mountain of housework that builds itself over the course of A Weekend You Take Entirely Off.

Sometimes - not always - but sometimes, you just need to stop for a bit.

And then you go on.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weekend Links!

If you're here from Biola's Lent Project, welcome! This is a blog about faith & family - but particularly about celebrating the church year at home. If you're new to the blog, you might want to check out my page of church year resources from around the web, and also the page of posts by category.

Finally, if you're interested in something more in-depth on celebrating Lent in your home, check out "Let Us Keep the Feast", a book entirely dedicated to bringing the rhythms of the church year into your day-to-day life.

Okay! Now, on to the weekly links! Here's some good reading (and watching) for your weekend:

"I Have All the Time I Need": very encouraging thoughts on being busy (or not).

"Down with Random Acts of Kindness (What’s Best Next)":
It would be too much to say that Perman redeems the genre of productivity lit, but he has accomplished something pretty big here: he has written a productivity book that does most of the theological filtering for me! Instead of needing to supplement my reading with a big dose of the gospel, I find that it’s all already smoothly integrated. Perman has thought through his entire book as a detailed thought project on applying the gospel to the life of work.
"From Father to Son — J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex":
Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent, not only a hallmark of literary quality, but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.

And, finally, some nerdy English language goodness:

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Post at Biola's Lent Project

I'm honored to be a part of Biola University's Lent Project, " a 54-day aesthetic meditation on Christ’s life, death and resurrection." You can read my reflection here.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Quoting Deuteronomy to the Devil

Temptation of Christ, by  Immenraet. 1663. Public domain. Via Wikimedia Commons.  
It's pretty well-known that when the Devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus answered him by quoting exclusively out of the book of Deuteronomy.

Which was my heads-up that I ought to start paying more attention to Deuteronomy.

So, when Deuteronomy came around in the readings again this year, just before Lent, I tried to pay attention. I listened to Deuteronomy on audiobook, with my browser open to Bible Gateway, so I could quickly look up any passages that caught my attention, keeping them tabbed for later study.

Here are a couple of passages that did catch - and hold - my attention:

A prophet from among your brethren:
"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command." - Deuteronomy 18:15-18
This, of course, is Moses, speaking to the people of Israel, reminding them of the time that they begged the Lord not to speak with them. Sounds weird to our ears, right? Begging not to hear from the Lord?

But: "They have spoken well," says the Lord. What? Sounds so strange to me. But look at what follows, "I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put my words in his mouth . . ."

This is why it sounds strange. Because we live in these latter days, after the incarnation of Christ, in the days when we may approach God, may truly call him Father. Jesus, a prophet from among us. Jesus, God become man.

God made a way for us to be able to bear to hear Him.

Pure mercy and grace.

Rejoice in all that you put your hand unto:
There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.  -Deuteronomy 12:7 
I have nothing profound to say here. It just struck me as beautiful and kind that part of the prescribed worship for God's people was to spend some time feasting before Him and rejoicing in the good work He'd given them to do, and the richness that had come out of that work, because of God's blessing it.

He shall read therein all the days of his life:
“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel." -Deuteronomy 17:18-20
Here is a mandate for daily devotions if I have ever heard one. If the king of Israel was supposed to keep the Law by him and read it every day that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, shouldn't we, who are so blessed as to have copy after copy in our homes? Rich as kings, we are. We ought to act like kings, too, and study that we not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left.

So that's what I found on my read-through this time. What's your favorite part of Deuteronomy?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. I stole the title for this post from Rich Mullins.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Knitted and Crocheted Finished Objects!

I've done lots of yarn-a-long posts this year, but I've neglected to post pictures of the finished objects!

So, here are some things I've finished knitting and crocheting recently. (All the links go to Ravelry, where you can find sources for patterns and yarn.)

A knit cap with lovely cables:

A lace blanket in wool that I swear looks prettier in real life than it does in this crappy picture:

Socks! (with, again, a terrible picture. I'm sorry!)

A garland of sparkling stars! (I think this might go up on the tree next Christmas.)

More socks! (I love knitting socks. Happily, I love wearing them, too!)

A pair of bright red fingerless gloves for a relative in the snowy north:

Some colorful potholders (I dig how the colors pooled):
What have you been making lately?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, March 10, 2014

How to Make Your Own Housekeeping List

Last month, I blogged about my housekeeping list, and mentioned that it had evolved over the years.

What if you’re just at the start of figuring this out? What if you don't know where to start in making your own list? No shame in that: I think a lot of us hit adulthood realizing that day-to-day stuff is more complicated than we thought. You can have the very best of parents, and still you’ll stumble across the odd gap here and there in your knowledge of how to run a home.

Moreover, most of us end up in homes that look different than the homes of our childhood. Maybe you grew up in a suburban house, and end up in a city apartment. Or maybe you grew up in a log cabin in the sub-Arctic and end up in a Southern California condo. (Just to pick a not-at-all random example!)

So here’s my advice for starting your own housekeeping to-do list. This won’t make everything run perfectly right away, but I think it’ll get you well started in the right direction.

Step 1: Take Notes
Don’t change anything the first week. Just write down what you actually do. Do you do the dishes once a night? Do you let the pile up and tackle them all every few days? Write it down.

Step 2: Evaluate
After you’ve got your little journal of your weekly chore-doing, study it. What works? Is your kitchen always clean because you’ve got a habit of cleaning up after every meal? Awesome! Write down “clean up after every meal” on your new chore list. Don’t change what’s working.

What about what’s not? Is the floor crunchy because your once-a-week sweeping isn’t cutting it? Okay. Don’t feel badly, and don’t panic. Just tweak it. Write down “sweep floor twice weekly”. Then do that for a week. At the end of the second week, evaluate. Was that enough? If so, that’s what stays on your list. Not enough? Make it three times. Try again. Evaluate. Wash, rinse, and repeat for all of your chores.

Final step of evaluation: what are you not doing at all? There’s bound to be something, and these can take longer to notice. But as you get into a rhythm, eventually you’ll look up and think, “Huh. I think my windows might need washing every eon or so.” Put it on the list.

Step 3: Just Do It
Once you’ve spent a few weeks getting a list that more or less works, just live it. Follow the list, check stuff off. None of this works unless you actually do the work. But if you do, you’ll have a clean house! And, honestly, that’s worth a lot more than a lot of us admit. It’s sanity-inducing, it honestly is.

A Few Notes
Did my example of only sweeping once a week make you wince? Yeah, me too. But that’s because I have four kids, a cat, and a dog. I sweep ALL THE TIME. When there was just me and my husband? Once a week honestly might have been more than plenty.

And that’s my point: your list isn’t going to look like anyone else’s. Your list might not even look like your-list-last-year.

This sort of thing takes two things: constant tweaking in concept and constant diligence in actually doing the work.

Those two things – the flexibility and the consistency – seem opposed, but they actually work together beautifully. You need both.

Also? I’m totally preaching to myself here. Don’t come over to my house and throw tomatoes! I do struggle and have struggled with this. Why do you think I have so much to say about it? :D  It does not come easily or naturally to me, not at all.

But it’s important to me, because I’m happier when my house is clean. And my family is happier. And we can actually do stuff in our home, which is hugely important to me. I want room and space for all the craft projects that we do, and the games my kids play, and those long homework sessions, and those long but-so-much-more-enjoyable read-aloud sessions, and those meals together, and those movie nights with friends, and . . . . and, and, and.

Just all the stuff. I want it all. But when my house is messy (and guys, seriously, it has been messy so many times), I feel grumpy and I don’t want to do anything.

So, yeah. Totally preaching to myself. Not lecturing at you. Reminding myself why it’s worth it.

But if you get any good out of me lecturing myself, well, that’s not just the icing on the cake, it’s the sugar sprinkles, nonpareils, and candles, too. :D

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekend Link Round-up: so many links!

Lots of good reading for your Sunday afternoon. Enjoy! :)

"It’s Not Just Sabbatarians Who Need Sabbath":
Sabbath teaches us to depend upon God. By taking one day away from our normal responsibilities, we declare our dependence upon God. We do not need to work seven days a week in order to have daily bread; we can work six days and spend the seventh in worship, rest, and Christian fellowship, and through it all trust that he will provide for our needs. 
"Words of Radiance and the Art of Creating Epic Fantasy":
A big book doesn’t indicate quality—but if you find a big book that you love, then there is that much more of it to enjoy. Beyond that, I felt—and feel—there is an experience I can deliver in a work of this length that I could never deliver in something shorter, even if that’s just the same book divided up.
"The Ratatouille Trap":
And yet I think there is a serious danger here, a Ratatouille trap. It is so much easier for nice people, and I am ignoring the bigots, to encourage hapless dreamers that we forget to check for what this post assumes: aptitude, drive, and gumption. I once met a student who hated reading, memorizing, or long hours who had as his ambition going to Harvard Law School. When I pointed out what the student would have to do to get to Harvard Law School, he accused me of “stealing his dream.” I was happy to map out an actual plan to get him there, but he wanted to dream about getting there instead. He wanted the lifestyle of a retired, super-successful lawyer, but was not willing to do the work or run the risk of doing family law in a local strip mall.
"Rediscovering Jesus’ Hymnbook":
Godly anger, heart-wrenching sorrow, dark depression, effulgent joy, honest questioning, and exuberant praise are just a sampling of the emotional range covered by the psalms. Most churches sense the burden of teaching their people how to think. Very few consider their responsibility to teach their people how to feel. The psalms serve as the tutors of our affections.
"Marked by Ashes":
At my first Ash Wednesday service several years ago, I knelt in a quiet, contemplative sanctuary and was surprised by feeling almost irrepressible rage. As the priest marked each attendant with a cross of ashes on our foreheads, I felt as if he was marking us for death. I was angry at death. I was angry at the priest as if it was somehow his doing. 
"Ashes to Ashes: Death and Dogs and Children and Jesus":
So there I was, kneeling and thinking, ‘I can’t believe we’re all here sitting in our own places and it’s all so calm’, and I hear Elphine begin to say ‘shshsh’ over and over and over again, and then the faint mosquito tones of Marigold hissing “wait wait wait wait.” By that point we were all covered in ash. Elphine had herded them forward, pushing and pulling and generally bossing. Then psalm 51. Then the hissing and whispering. Mid way through the litany the hissing became full throated talking and gasping. Then, mercifully, the peace. Elphine brought them up and handed them to me. “I’m sorry,” she said, “Marigold asked me why we had to have ashes all over us and I told her that she was going to die. Sorry.”

Last but not least, who knew this song could sound this good?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Breakfast edition

1) So, what do you usually serve your kids for breakfast? This morning my girls made themselves cheese toast, and my son had a bagel. Sometimes we make sandwiches. I have one daughter who likes oatmeal. They all like muffins or pancakes, but we don't always have time for those.

See, the thing is, we used to do cold cereal, but recently I've been looking at the label and I just can't. Third ingredient sugar? O-kay. First ingredient sugar? I just can't.

So now breakfast feels very haphazard. I figure if there's something whole grain and something dairy, we've got a nice good carb/fat/protein mix. But . . . it's not always very organized.

2) I guess it doesn't matter whether or not breakfast is organized. But I still feel like I want more ideas!

3) Oh - and quesadillas. We often have quesadillas for breakfast. (Or tortillas spread with Nutella. With milk. Which isn't quite quesadillas, but we can pretend, right?)

4) Not me, though. I usually have muesli or yogurt and fruit or leftovers from dinner . . .

5) . . . and yes, chicken curry tastes surprisingly wonderful first thing in the morning.

6) But my kids don't think so. They'd rather have p.b.-and-cheddar sandwiches. Or whatever it is they've discovered recently.

7) Which brings me back to . . . what do your kids usually have for breakfast?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s.: More wonderful quick takes can be found here, at Conversion Diary.

p.p.s: Of course, the really vital part of my breakfast is coffee. Mmmm, coffee.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

This morning we were up and out of the house early, before the sun was even all the way up. At church, the children all agreed that we should sit in the front, and I agreed too, because sometimes having a better view of what's going on at the front captivates the children's attention.

There were ashes, and I looked down the row of kneeling figures, and was sorrowful to remember, again, that they would all die. But then there was the peace, and communion, and I remembered that our great and good Lord had come down to become one of us, so that we would not have to die alone, nor forever. Oh the graciousness of God.

And so I wish you a good and holy Lent. I'm not excited about the season, exactly, but I'm so glad that it's here, because my own greed and gluttony and sloth have been weighing on me, and I'm so grateful that the church says, "stop it, now," and all I have to say is "okay."

It's time to be clean. Time to let go of my stuff and just listen to the Lord. Time to soak in the scripture and look in the faces of those I love, and especially at the face of the One who loves me most of all.

May you have a good and holy Lent. May God's grace be with us all. We need it, oh so badly.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

P.S. If Lent has crept up on you, and you're still wondering what it is or how to celebrate it, here are some more places where you can find some inspiration and guidance, or just words for when you don't have any:

-"The Lent Project": a devotion a day, incorporating art, scripture, and music.
-"What to Give Up for Lent": some good advice
-"Lent 2014": a longer list of resources.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I'm guest-posting about Lent over at Clutter Interrupted today. Here's a sample:
In a crowded and busy life, we crave a time for silence and simplicity. We want to stop and reflect. To pray and to listen. To just be still.
Please come on over and read the rest here.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Interview with Cate MacDonald

Hi folks! Ash Wednesday is fast approaching, and to prepare for that, today I have an interview with Cate MacDonald, the author of the Lent chapter in "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home".

Me: Hi Cate - it's so good to have you here today! You’re the author of the Lent chapter in "Let Us Keep the Feast", so I wanted to start by asking you: what’s your strongest Lenten memory, good or bad?

Cate: My strongest Lenten memory is my first Ash Wednesday service. I didn't grow up in a liturgical church, so my first service was at the Anglican church I went to in college. I can still remember the incredible beauty of the low-lit nave and the solemnity of the service. It was unlike anything I'd experienced in church before; it was simultaneously rich and heartbreaking, as it should be given what it begins. It introduced me to Lent in a way that would stick with me for years, as since that time Lent has always been a special season for my heart.

Me: Thank you for sharing that memory. And it leads really well into my next question: what do you think the heart of the Lenten season is?

Cate: I think the heart of Lent is quiet. We spend that forty days quieting our hearts, heads, and bodies (Eliot's Ash Wednesday explores this well).

Lent is a time for doing well something that we tend to do very badly: sit in our limitations for the sake of understanding Christ's sacrifice. We fast to quiet our hearts and bodies and remind ourselves that we can't do all things all the time without harming ourselves. We quiet our church services, and remember the more somber truths of the Christian life. We embrace solemnity, which is hard. But really, we get quiet, and we remember that we are only who we are, and Christ is (thank God) who He is.

Me: I think my favorite part of your chapter was when you said, “Lent is hard and Lent is long, and so Lent is really good for us.”

So, as you were researching, did you discover anything about the season that surprised you?

Cate: I think, as with much of the Church year and liturgy, I was impressed by the pervasiveness of Lent throughout the world, which is something that us Evangelicals often lose sight of. As an example of this forgetfulness, I was teaching a class on Eliot's Ash Wednesday last week. When I asked if anyone in the primarily Baptist classroom knew what Lent was, one Senior answered, "it's that Catholic thing." He's right in one way: if we take his statement to mean catholic in the sense of the universal church, then yes, that's what Lent is.

Me: Yes, it’s comforting to remember that all of the church year is for all of the church. So, finally, which section of your chapter was the most fun to write?

Cate: For the Very Young! I'd not thought about how children could and should experience Lent, and what might help them to understand it. I used to teach preschool, and remember the challenge of communicating complex biblical concepts to little ones. I really enjoyed thinking through that process for Lent.

Me: Thanks so much, Cate!

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Links, mostly about Lent

I swear I'm not trying to make posting my weekend links on Mondays a habit, but apparently it's becoming one anyway!  So, a day late again, here are this week's collection of good links from around the Web:

"Married to Depression":
Howard is a bright spot in my life. He makes me laugh. He makes my days better, which is why it hurts so much when this amazing person vanishes into himself and radiates despair or anger. Suddenly instead of having a life partner who is carrying half the load, or even saving me because I’m stumbling, I have a person who is faltering and struggling to carry only a fraction of what he usually does. Not only that, but he radiates the bleakness and it permeates the house, actually creating additional stress and strain. These days we have good strategies for minimizing the impact of a depressive episode. That was not always the case.
"What Is Lent?": this is a very short, incredibly helpful explanation of the season, and how to celebrate it. Highly recommended.

"Lent is Just Around the Corner": some good thoughts on celebrating Lent as a regular person in a regular family. Like most of us.

"8 Reasons Not to Shave Your Dog": not about Lent, but as someone who does own a double-coated dog, I found this really helpful and informative!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Lent for Kids and Grown-ups: a Podcast

Hi folks! In lieu of a post today, I have a real treat for you: a podcast!

I had the privilege of being a guest on Houston Baptist University's podcast The City, and the treat part of it is that my interviewers were the magnificent Cate MacDonald and Dr. Holly Ordway, who have so many good things to say about celebrating Lent, and what the season has meant for them in their spiritual lives. I was really inspired by their words, and hope you will be, too!

You can listen to the podcast here. Enjoy! :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell