Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your beloved Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

                                  -from The Book of Common Prayer.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Collect for Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

                                                           -from The Book of Common Prayer.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Knitted Finished Objects: a pair of gloves, a scarf, and the Rocio cardigan

Here are some pictures of some items I finished knitting - some recently, some less recently, but hey! I finally took pictures. :D

First, my Rocio cardigan, which is now my mother's Rocio cardigan, because I was a lazy knitter and did not swatch:
But it fits her perfectly and I'm so pleased with it:

I love, love, love the leaf lace on the back. This is such a gorgeous pattern.  I might need to make it again for me (swatching this time, of course!).

Then, my dad's Christmas gloves, which I finished ages ago, but didn't get pictures of till now:
I feel so accomplished: my first pair of gloves with actual fingers!

And, finally, a scarf that Lucy requested me to make. It is much of a pinkness:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Weekly Links: a bit of good reading & watching for your weekend

"Dear Nate: Sinners Happy to Sin Welcome to Dinner, Not Welcome to Communion":

You justly point out, however, that Jesus had fellowship with sinners over dinner. Many of these sinners were “in their sin” and happy at the time of the dinner. Am I missing some act of charity by disfellowshipping Christians who make a virtue of their vice?

"Two Households: Love by the 'Numbers in Romeo and Juliet'": I already liked the play (though not the two protagonists), but this essay made me appreciate it even more.

Finally, some fascinating stuff about internet porn and the brain:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Biola University CCCA Lent Project: Simon of Cyrene

I'm honored today to contribute to Biola's "Lent Project":

And then, we are told in the gospel of Luke, Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross for Jesus. This is different than the depiction in the video, where Simon steps forward—where Simon volunteers to walk beside Jesus. 
Scripture tells us something different: this burden was forced upon Simon. 
Sometimes—often—perhaps even almost always—we do not choose to walk in the way of pain. The Lord Jesus may embrace pain because of love, but we are not as brave as our Savior. 
And despite this, He lets us join Him.

You can read the rest of it here, at Biola's site. 
Peace of Christ to you, 
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lent: a season of less

photo credit: Betsy Barber
In giving ourselves to a season of less, we learn that our personal comforts have little to do with the love of Christ. We, like most of God's creatures, are seasonal and should know that some seasons are harsher than others. There are different lessons to be learned, different habits to be employed in winter than in summer. This is as true in our spiritual lives as it is in our gardens or the forest.
                                  -Cate MacDonald, "Lent", Let Us Keep the Feast.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Weekly Links: new blogs, saying "yes" to Lent, and more!

To start, this week I found two wonderful new blogs. The first, Liturgy of Life, is written by a fellow Anglican and lover of the church year. Check it out here.

The second, Pass the Salt Shaker, is a discussion of singleness and marriage in the church, written by a group of great folks, including at least one of the contributors to Mere Fidelity (one of my favorite podcasts). Check out the new blog here.

Now, on to our regular weekend collection of articles:

"Holy Week Meyers-Briggs": This is just hilarious and awesome.

"Giving Up 'Yes' for Lent":
I don’t want to second-guess my last few years nor frame these amazing opportunities in pessimistic terms. But I do want to consider whether it is always courageous to say "yes." 
"Where Demons Fear to Tread: Angels and the Atonement":
As it turns out, the theologians and artists of the church over the centuries have reflected on this question with surprising results, coming up with several ways that the work of Christ had a significant bearing on the unfallen angels.

"Learning From Bodies":
Ability is not what makes death significant. At birth this baby had capacities below that of a healthy fetus at ten weeks. Holding his body, living and then dead, proves to me that it doesn’t matter how early the human heart beats, how early it is possible to feel pain, or when the senses develop. No ability or strength confers human status—not being viable or sentient or undamaged or wanted. Being of human descent is enough; you cannot earn or forfeit your humanity. If this baby’s death does not matter, no death matters.
"Joseph: the faithful carpenter":
Mary is rightly credited as setting the ultimate example of how Christians should respond to God's calling. But likewise, I think that Joseph is exemplar in demonstrating how God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) loves us, his sinful people. As a husband, father, and erstwhile woodworker, I can find no greater earthly example to follow.

And finally, to listen to, The City's podcast this week on "Non-Christian Books" was full of good stuff.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 20, 2015

a bit of gorgeous prose from Louis L'Amour

I've been reading "The Quick and the Dead", by Louis L'Amour, and chapter five started with a bit of prose so beautiful, I just had to share it here:

Before the sun appeared the earth was still, and silence lay like a blessing upon the land. No blade stirred in the coolness, nor any bird in the sky, only somewhere not too far off, a meadow lark spoke inquiringly into the morning. 
One arresting finger of smoke lifted thinly to the sky, and where the horizon drew its line across the heavens, a cloud seemed to lie upon the grass, off where the world curved away from them.

I know that before I started reading him, I didn't expect L'Amour's books to be full of such beauty. But they really are. The man was a master of the craft of writing, and for more than just plot and character.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Being kind to your own family members

We're so good in public. So polite, so understanding, so kind.

But what about at home?

One of the best things my parents modeled for me was being kind to your own family members. These are the people who matter most to you in the whole world. Why would you not be the most courteous to them?

I was reminded of this idea as I read Titus.

Grace and peace to you, wrote St. Paul.

Grace and peace.

This is what we owe to those we live with. The ones we know best, the ones who see us at our worst.

Grace and peace.

Only through the Lord Jesus Christ, who supplies our lack.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yarnalong: "No Way Out", by Susan Sleeman, and Baby Socks

I'm 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?"

Hooray!  A yarnalong!  I haven't done this in a while and I've missed it! :)

Anyway, onward! Here's what I'm reading and knitting:

The book:  I've been reading "No Way Out" by Susan Sleeman. Okay, here's the thing about this romantic suspense: the bad guy not only lives next door to the heroine, he lives on the other side of her duplex. Terrifying much? Yep. That counts as scary enough for me . . .

The knitting: My cousin is having her first baby, and I wanted to knit a little something for him. So I made a baby hat from this free pattern, and now I'm making itty-bitty baby socks (seriously, is there anything cuter than itty-bitty baby socks) from this free pattern.

I love making socks (as you can see here, here, and here), but this is my first time making them for babies. They feel like they are going so quickly, just because of the size! The process is exactly the same, just . . . smaller.

Okay, that sounds super-obvious, but experientially, it's a revelation. :)  

What are you making and reading this week?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lent: quieting the flesh

photo credit: Betsy Barber

Any discipline that the Lord asks of us is no good by itself. Christians are not like the yogis or secular ascetics who believe that certain practices by themselves have power to enlighten . . . Any Christian spiritual discipline is undertaken with much prayer and hope. It is a way of quieting the flesh in order to hear God a little more clearly and to speak to Him a little more honestly . . . Fasting is an attempt at listening to a Being who can speak very quietly, and there is nothing more noisy than our own wickedness.

  -Cate MacDonald, "Lent", Let Us Keep the Feast.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Little Liturgies

I've been thinking about little liturgies. You know, the prayers and blessings that sprinkle our days.

"Liturgy" means "the work of the people". And it refers, of course, to the work of the people in worshipping God, primarily as we meet together as the church. (Maybe even "exclusively" and not "primarily". I'm not sure, to be honest.)

"Liturgy", then, rightly brings to mind the official liturgies of Sundays and feast days that define our weeks and months and years.

But then there are the smaller habits of prayer that develop differently in each household. These aren't official liturgies, but they serve similar functions in most of our lives, and many of them are utterly commonplace and utterly good.

In our home, it's  the "I love you" and "Jesus bless you" at school drop-off.

It's  "The Lord bless you" "And keep you!" that my husband and I exchange as he leaves for work

It's the "Guide us waking, oh Lord, and guard us sleeping . . ." that we pray with the kids each night

I suppose, in the end, that I'm talking about habits, but particularly those habits that tie us to God and to each other at the same time.

I imagine each Christian household grows its own little liturgies as the years roll on. What are the little liturgies in your home?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weekly Links: Writing, the Drought, Word Nerdery, and more!

"Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One":

After eight years of teaching at the graduate level, I grew increasingly intolerant of writing designed to make the writer look smart, clever, or edgy. I know this work when I see it; I've written a fair amount of it myself. But writing that's motivated by the desire to give the reader a pleasurable experience really is best.

"The Scorching of California": So, this is properly terrifying . . .

"9 Things You Should Really Know About Anglicanism":  Useful info here.

"10 Words We've Forgotten How to Pronounce":  fellow word nerds, click here!

"That Way We're All Writing Now": Oh, and here, too.

"A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism": as someone who is still coming to grips with the practice, I found this helpful.

"Not Angry: At Least Not for Long": on a hard virtue.

"Introverts and Extroverts Brains Really Are Different, According to Science": more personality fun!

Finally, on the very important practice of nosing and tasting whisky ("and this tells you . . . absolutely nothing").  Enjoy the accent!

Friday, March 13, 2015

A great resource for reading the daily offices

I was recently sent a link to a great resource for reading the daily office: the Trinity Mission, offers an audio (and text) reading of the daily office.  So you can go to their site and listen and read and pray along to Morning Prayer, Mid-day Prayer, and Evening Prayer.  This includes the daily scripture readings.

Like I said: a very helpful resources! Hope it's a help to you.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Book Notes: "Mudhouse Sabbath", by Lauren Winner

I know it sounds strange that one of my requirements for recognizing good writing is "It's easy to read", but what I mean by that is not "it's simple" or "it's mindless", but rather that "the author has done her work."

It is hard to explain concepts clearly and hard to write clearly enough that the reader can follow after you without misconception. But good authors do that work. Good authors do the work for the reader.

And Lauren Winner is one of those writers.

"Mudhouse Sabbath", by Lauren Winner, is about the Orthodox Jewish customs that she learned in her youth, reinterpreted through her newfound Christianity. She says that Christians have a lot to learn from their Jewish neighbors and she managed to convince me.

She examines customs surrounding the Sabbath, hospitality, mourning and many others, telling stories and elucidating traditions along the way. It's really written for Christians, I think, but anyone interested in religious traditions would find richness here, I think.

Each chapter examines a different custom. I especially loved her take on mourning, which is something we either address badly in the modern Western world or (worse still) fail to address at all. I think she is right in saying that the Jewish traditions here, which involve a LOT of communal support of the bereaved, have a lot to teach us.

Here are a few quotations that I really loved. In the chapter on prayer, Winner says:

"What I say to Meg is this: Sure, sometimes it is great when, in prayer, we can express to God just what we feels; but better still is when, in the act of praying, our feelings change. Liturgy is not, in the end, open to our emotional whims.  It repoints the person praying, taking him somewhere else." (pg. 61)

And in the chapter on aging, she says:
"I do not look after Mom because it is consistently easy and delightful. I do it because I am obligated. I do it because of all the years she looked after me. This is a sort of holy looking-after. It is not always fun, but it is always sanctifying.  And in this way, perhaps, caretaking is something of a synechdoche of the spiritual life. Most good and holy work (like praying and being attentive and even marching for justice or serving up chili at the soup kitchen) is sometimes tedious, but these tasks are burning away our old selves and ushering in the persons God has created us to be." (pg. 97)
Emphasis mine in both cases.

I read this quickly because it was so well-written, and it's stayed with me because it actually has a lot of substance.  Recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Notes: "A Circle of Salt", by E. J. Weaver

(Note: I first posted this review on my account on Goodreads, but I thought I should also publish it here.)

I had the privilege of reading A Circle of Salt before it was published* and it has stuck with me for such a long time!

It stuck with me because the author's words painted such very *vivid* pictures. I felt like I had walked into a fairy-tale book illustrated by Mercer Mayer or Trina Schart Hyman. Even months after I finished it, I could still *see* Vasilissa, the heroine, running desperately from the wicked Koschei, or in the warm peasant's cabin, or surrounded by the clear, light sea on the island where she met her beloved.

It's odd, I suppose, to insist that a good author can paint a picture with nothing but words, but Weaver is one who can.

One oddity stuck with me as well, and that was the unexplained coexistence of Faerie and of Russian Orthodox Christianity. The truth is, though, I that I thought the plain mystery was a more honest solution than almost any other I could think of. 

I enjoyed reading this very much, and I'm still struck, as I turn back to it, by the clarity of Weaver's prose. 

I am also deeply grateful for such a lovely (and loving) introduction to Russian folktales. I didn't know much about them before I picked up this book, and now I feel like I know not only some of the good stories, but a good deal of the heart behind them.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*Full disclosure: I got to read this before publication because the author is a friend of mine.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Plotting Bliss

I've handed in the edits on "Not Alone", our upcoming book on infertility and miscarriage, which means one very important thing: I get to write fiction again!

I've actually started writing my new novel, just because I knew exactly how I wanted it to start, but I'm also still working on the plot.  (This is so that when I get past the first few chapters that I'm sure about, I'll be sure that my characters still have somewhere to go.)

And when I say "plot", I really mean "plot, characterization, thematic structure, setting, conflict, chapter arcs, research" and, oh, so much more.

I love this part.

Not as much as I love the actual writing, mind.

(There's nothing as hard and satisfying as writing and nothing as thrilling as having written.)

But there's something wonderful about the plotting. I love going through all my checklists and prompts and seeing how everything's going to fit together. I love those moments when I realize things like, "Oooh, if the villain says that, then the heroine's going to think this, and then the hero can reassure her thus, and then . . ."

I love watching it all come together.

And I can't wait to finish writing this book.

Because here's the really marvelous thing about the plotting process: the plotting process is what makes me very, very, very sure that I'm writing a book that I'll want to read.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Weekly Links: On Going to Mars, Sex, Lent, and more!

Some good reading (and watching) for your weekend:

"On the Dangers of Attempting Mars":
So fretting that people who choose to go on an expedition they know is dangerous are going to die...is silly, and also presumptuous.  Humans have been dying for tens of thousands of years.  The ones who stayed home died.  The ones who migrated died.  The ones who went out and did dangerous things, new things, died in droves. The ones who fought in wars and the civilians in whose lands war raged died . . .

Top 10 Things I’d Say About Sex If I Had No Filter: This has a lot of interesting food for thought, but I love this part: 
I think we’re so scared of people having premarital sex that we oversell the honeymoon. Let’s talk about sex as a decades long fun research project, not a “one night entry into bliss”. Seriously. 
Ha! "Decades long fun research project" - I love it!

"'Have a (nearly) Cheerless Lent!' He said thoughtfully":

Now I could be Mr. Philosophy and point out that “happy” can mean “human flourishing” as the Declaration uses it in “pursuit of happiness” but it would not help matters. Fasting from the world, the flesh, and the devil is necessary for human flourishing but it is not human flourishing. 

And finally, why Jackie Chan is truly the best at what he does (I particularly like the insight about showing the beginning of a hit twice; it reminds me of "tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell it to 'em, and tell 'em that you told 'em):

Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Notes: "Not God's Type", by Holly Ordway

I found out about Holly Ordway's "Not God's Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms", as I said earlier, by listening to one of my favorite podcasts, "The City".

There's a lot to love about this book - from Ordway's descriptions of fencing, to her love of literature, to her honesty about her good motives and her bad -  but what I loved the best was her description of her Lord.

I've been a Christian since I was a toddler. I remember loving the Lord, as "the lamb of God", from when I was about three years old. That picture of him captured me, and I have been his ever since.

But reading Holly Ordway's description of coming to know the Lord as an adult was so good. I loved reading about him as she came to know him, if that makes sense. I've come to know God as an adult, but I didn't know him first as an adult, you see?  And the thing about being a part of the kingdom, about being a part of the family of God, is that you can know God better by hearing about him from others.

He is infinite, and infinitely good.  And so there is always more to get to know. I read Holly's depiction and thought both "yes, that is the Lord I know" and "oh! there is more to know about him!"

This is a beautiful book. It's one I can recommend whole-heartedly, not just because of the subject, but because of the beauty of the prose.

The end of the book didn't resonate as much with me as the beginning for the very simple reason that it's about Ordway's further conversion to Catholicism, and I disagree with her arguments and theology in this section. But it'd be a pity not to pick up this book because of that; I trust our Lord will heal our divisions when he returns, and in the meantime, I loved reading Ordway's story of coming to know him.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)