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

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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