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!