Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Gail Kittleson on Advent, Fear, and Following the Lord

Today I'm delighted to host a guest: novelist Gail Kittleson, who brings a reflection about Advent and about following God despite our own fear.

The Gospel message hinges on change. That precipitous day marking the end of our Advent season is fast upon us, bringing to mind Jesus’ clear instructions:

Unfortunately, human beings fear change more than a visit from the IRS. Change implies risk, and for better or worse, we cling to the same old ways, comfortable thought channels, and familiar attitudes. 

Changing means we’d have to follow in the steps of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Talk about life-altering experiences—she endured the rough donkey ride to Bethlehem and birthed her infant in circumstances that left much to be desired. What went through her mind as she greeted the scraggly shepherds and heard the angels sing?  

And Joseph—surely he realized by then that he’d given up control completely. But with his heart open to the Almighty’s plan, he listened for more guidance. And it arrived, albeit two years later, in the form of the Magi's gifts and another dream. 

In this season of darkness and expectation, much as we fear change, we long to believe and embrace God’s plans for us.  We balance our hopes and dreams in an ambivalent conundrum, for, 

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." (George Bernard Shaw)

Once, Advent’s forty days meant waiting for Epiphany, when the Magi visited the Christ child, God Incarnate. The Church focused on His Second Coming, but as the centuries passed, Roman Christians began to associate this season with the birth of Jesus.

So we have new birth juxtaposed with the loss of innocence—Mary and Joseph thrust into the adult world of danger and intrigue. Soon, someone powerful and ruthless will seek to kill their beautiful baby. Their “Yes” to God’s call brings unforeseen complications. 

Likely, ours will too. But the alternative is remaining in darkness and snuffing out that empowering expectancy that haunts us: expectancy about the future, about what we might do, about what God might do in and with us ... we pay a price if we deny light’s strong call. 

It took decades for me to dare to bloom as a writer. My experience parallels the atmosphere of Advent—desiring something deeply, yet hesitating out of fear. But on the other side, having shared my writing with the world, I wonder how I could have waited so long. 

Help us, Lord, to mimic the faith of Mary and Joseph. Give us courage, at whatever our stage of life, to seek your guidance and honor the light You give us. 

Gail Kittleson taught college expository writing and ESL. Now she writes women’s fiction and facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats. Her World War II series, Women of the Heartland is going strong, with In Times Like These published in April, 2016 and With Each New Dawn releasing with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in February, 2017. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; 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, December 14, 2016

"Blood and Milk": Devotion at Biola University's ADVENT PROJECT

I have a devotion up at Biola University's Advent Project today. It's about what Mary, the mother of God, has in common with a king-slayer from the Old Testament. Here's a snippet:

There isn’t any reason to doubt the virtue of [these women], but it’s not their virtue that the scripture brings to our attention. Rather, it is the great virtue, strength, and goodness of God that these women’s lives display. They are the stained glass, but they are not the light that shines through it and makes it beautiful.

Please head on over to The Advent Project site to read the rest!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Last-minute Christmas shopping

Not that it's quite the last minute. But I feel like everyone got their shopping done a few weeks ago, and I'm the slacker with a list full of items I still need to check off.

But I can't be the only one, so I thought I'd offer my list of Christmas gift ideas. And if you don't find what you're looking for here, may I suggest the lists posted by Ginny, by Erin, and by Simcha? (And if you know of more good ones, please post them in the comments!)

For Young Kids

-The Biggest Story. The text in this book is good (it was one of our read-alouds this year), and the illustrations are just gorgeous.

-Play-doh. You can always use more.

-The Seven Silly Eaters. I love reading this book out loud.

-Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies. I can't even begin to count how many times we've listened to this. It's a lot.

-Personalized jewelry. I bought custom necklaces from this shop for our twins, back when they were in kindergarten. The necklaces were very cute, and the shop owner gave me great customer service. (Note: this would be for small children who are past the eating-things-that-are-not-food stage. So... no babies or toddlers, please.)

For Older Kids

-Nerf guns. For household warfare. (Fair warning: some of the kids' items might work for the adults, too...)

-Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians - The first book in a snarky series my 12-year-old really enjoyed.

-Plastic playing cards. Because sometimes you want cards that will actually last through children playing with them and things spilling and children learning to shuffle and ...

-Thing Explainer. Such a fascinating book.

-Not All Who Wander Are Lost backpack patch. If you have a young Tolkien nerd in your household.

-DIY Giant Dinosaur Heads. I have seen the finished products in real life, and they are stunning. (Stunningly weird and surprisingly cool-looking. Just as weird and cool as they look in the pictures.)

For Adults

-Instamorph, moldable plastic. A very cool, craft-y thing. I think my husband actually cackled when he discovered this.

-Chocolate. Always a good go-to.

-Watercolor markers. Draw with these, then turn them into paint by brushing over them with water. Very cool.

-Brush pen. Goes well with the above, and works for drawing or calligraphy.

-Fine-point Sharpie. And one writing implement--a stocking stuffer, maybe?--for the crowd who love pens. (There are a lot of them in my family.)

-An olive-wood rosary. I have family members who really like to wear these as reminders to pray throughout the day.

-Nailed It: 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn-Out People. C'mon, I had to mention this one. Besides, haven't you always wanted a devotional that actually has a picture of Jael and her bloody tent-peg on the cover? I know I have.

Seriously, though, this is the perfect antidote to every sappy devotional you've ever read.

-Dear Committee Members. Funny and poignant; a great gift for anyone you know who works in or around higher education.

-Roll for the Galaxy Board Game. For the serious gamers in your life.

-Tree of Gondor coffee mug. I didn't buy this mug, but I bought a Tree of Gondor mousepad from this shop, and it was lovely. I think the mug looks nice, too!

-Layering necklaces. I was given a set of layering necklaces from this shop and they're beautiful. I wear them a lot.

-Sharon Schock's Etsy shop. I ran across her shop several years ago, and since then I've bought postcards, magnets, and one small original painting from her. I've loved them all.

-Bark River Knives. These are just the best. Beautiful, beautiful handmade knives.

Happy shopping!
-Jessica Snell

P.S. Many of these links are affiliate links, and you can see a full disclosure about that on the sidebar of my blog. Basically, if you shop using my links, I get a small percentage of the purchase price. But I'm only linking to things I have bought, have received, or, in a few cases, just really want to buy or receive. :)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Weekly Links!

SOME INTERESTING LINKS FOR YOUR Monday Morning--and usually I set these in the categories of faith, family, and fiction, but this week it's just faith (because that's what I found this week!)

First off, I have to link to Anne Kennedy's book "Nailed It: 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn-Out People." It released about a week ago, and has already been showing up places like Christianity Today.

It's so good. If you're looking for a book that will lead you through the Bible with wit, wisdom, and a wry sense of humor, this is the book you want.

(It's also a book I've been involved with for just over two years now, as an editor--and actually getting to finally hold it in my hands is so delightful!)

Okay, on to the articles!

-"Why I Don't Flow with Richard Rohr": I don't think I've ever read a book review quite like this. It's bitingly funny, but I'm pretty sure the bite is there because the reviewer really, really cares about the subject at hand. And he's right in that. Which means you can enjoy the cleverness without any guilt at all.

Advent isn’t supposed to soothe us.

-"'I'm Actually a Better Follower of Jesus Than Most Christians...'": Oh, it's so nice to hear someone take this one on.

-"Children, Safety, and the Sixth Commandment": I don't agree with everything here, but the author's thought process is insightful and worth following.

...laws against theft don’t stop all theft, and laws against drunk driving don’t stop all drunk driving, and laws against murder don’t stop all murder. But because those things are wrong, and the state has a vested interest in some level of moral standards for the peace and comfort of its citizenry, it goes ahead and doesn’t allow those ways of life even though people do them. 

-"It's Time to Take Your Medicine": An account of an enlightening little exercise.

-"Is Faith Without Works Dead, or Just Sleepy?": One part of a larger conversation on the relationship of sexual ethics to salvation. It's worth following up on the whole thing, if you're interested, and besides being worthy in and of itself, this article contains the links that will let you follow up on the whole conversation.

I hope you have a great week!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; 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.)