Monday, September 3, 2018

Links for Labor Day!

Here are links to some good reading and listening, for what's left of your weekend:

-"The Strange Truth About the Pill" - this article from the BBC has been making the rounds, and it's well-worth the read.

-"I Don't Want a Celebration of Life, I Want a Burial Service" - a friend from our parish posted this to his Facebook page, and I really liked it.

-"What Should We Make of the Sign Gifts?" - I loved this--so sensible, and Biblically-grounded. (And neither hard cessationist nor extreme charismatic. Very thoughtful, and worth listening to, whichever side of the debate you're on.) 

-And here is a very, very good sermon on wisdom, discernment, and growing in maturity.

-"On Wildness, Cracked Worlds, Monsters, and the Odd Nature of the Short Story" - this one is for my fellow writers out there, though I think the vibrancy of it will appeal to any reader. Also, this part seems like good advice for...many, many things:
“Here’s my theory on trail maintenance,” he said to us over and over again. “You take the worst stretch of trail, and you turn it into the best.” It was good advice, as it turns out.

(And for more links than I ever manage to post here on the blog, follow me on Twitter!)

That's it for this week! I hope you had a good Labor Day weekend!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, August 31, 2018

7 Quick Takes on kids using the internet

Not a cesspool.

One of my children is a teenager, and the rest of them will be soon, and so we've started dealing with introducing our kids to the email, social media, and all the rest of the internet.

But...only one of my children is a teenager, I've raised a grand total of ZERO children to adulthood, so I can't point to any success stories here--not yet, anyway.

So this blog post is very much in the vein of Some Thoughts On the Subject, and emphatically NOT in the great writerly tradition of Do As I Have Successfully Done.

Here my thoughts:

1) Proper online behavior/use of the internet IS a skill we have to teach our children. 

I have to start here because, well...this is a parenting task I really don't want to do! But the internet is a technology my kids are going to have to use--actually, are already required to use for school. I'm old enough that my parents didn't have to teach me about this stuff when I was a kid--I didn't even get my first email address until I was in college. So I don't have a model to look at.

But I do have to teach my kids about this stuff. They're going to have to use it, and would I rather have them learn about it from me or from the world? Yeah.

2) Given that you have to teach them to use it, it's worth thinking through how you're going to teach them to use it well. 

This is likely going to look a bit different from family to family, given different personalities and resources. But, you've got to look at your kids and think, If you're going to use this, how can we help you learn to use this well?  if this is something you HAVE to do...  who do you need to be in order to do it virtuously? how can we help you become that person?

3) Rules are necessary. 

I mean...there might be a sewer near your house, but you don't let your kid swim in it, right? Likewise, there are cesspools out there on the internet (and cesspools within those cesspools , and cesspools that pretend to be swimming pools, and cesspools that pride themselves in being the STINKIEST CESSPOOL EVER HAVE YOU SEEN OUR CESSPOOL PICTURES JUST CLICK HERE).

So, no. I don't think you hand your kid a computer and say, "Good luck, champ." You don't abandon them in the middle of the internet any more than you'd abandon them in the middle of a freeway.

On the other hand, they're going to be adults soon, and then they WILL have to navigate online spaces on their own, so you want them to learn good habits now. (They will eventually be driving on those freeways. Which is good. That's what freeways are for.) The end-game of parenting is adulthood. You want to protect your kids while they're kids, but you don't want to protect them from growing up. You want to help them become good grown-ups.

And while our kids will be able to make all their own choices as adults, and it's not unlikely that they'll fall into bad habits and choices somewhere along the way, I think they've got much better chances of finally settling into good habits and good choices if they've already got a baseline of what good habits and good choices feel like. Of what it's like to live virtuously--of the joy and the light and the peace that good habits and good choices can bring.

So, I want to help them practice good habits now, while I can enforce them. Not because I think that guarantees that they'll be perfect adults. But because I think experiencing goodness is one of the best ways to learn to love goodness--and, when you've fallen away from goodness, you still have that memory, that experience, that will help keep you from denying that goodness is possible.

4) Teach it like you'd teach anything else: thoughtful introduction, plenty of practice, growing freedom, and keeping the end in mind. 

Again, this will look a bit different for each family, and maybe even for each kid. But help them learn how to use email, search engines, social media, etc., just like you'll help them learn how to balance a checkbook. Have their passwords, not because you want to impinge on their privacy, but because they're kids, and knowing Mom and Dad are gonna do random checks to make sure everything looks okay will prompt better choices. (And because, frankly, you're still legally responsible for them, so it's just prudent.) Realize you can't police everything, but don't abandon them.

And don't be an idiot--"screens stay in the public areas of the house" is probably the oldest parenting rule in this new online world, but it's still one of the smartest.

5) Talk to them about porn, privacy, and predators. 

There are plenty of people who've given good advice on these things, so I won't elaborate much here--just enough to say: teaching kids basic common sense about these things is a good idea. Being a parent who they can talk with openly about these things might be an even better one.

6) Don't be a hypocrite. 

Use the internet wisely and virtuously yourself.

7) Slowly give more freedom. 

This has to come as the capstone on building good habits.

Alright, so, that's about as far as I've gotten on this one. We're still definitely in the trial-and-error stage. You have to have a plan, if only so you have a place to start. The good thing about plans is that they can be adjusted as you go--most robust systems go through multiple iterations. That's fine.

But it's good to think about things like this--good to start somewhere.

Check out more and better Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*Note: If a technology is such that it can't be used virtuously, of course you don't teach your kids how to use it. And I'd probably argue some such technologies exist. But I'd also argue that the internet is more like the printing press--using books and computers (i.e., creating a certain sort of literate/connected society) is going to be formative in a certain way, but they're still both technologies capable of being used for both good and for evil.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

spreading out the bad news (Hezekiah and prayer)

I love the Old Testament. Partly because it has such great stories about prayer. 

Here's one that struck me lately, in Isaiah 37.* Jerusalem is under threat from the Assyrians, who've been striking down their enemies right and left. Destroying everyone. Winning every battle. Terrifying their enemies.

And then Hezekiah, the king in Jerusalem, receives a letter from the Assyrians, talking about all the people they've destroyed, and about how Jerusalem is next, and so don't think your God can save you.

Hezekiah, true son of David that he is, knows that the enemies of God are especially in trouble when they defy God (think Goliath). And so this is what he does:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.
He takes the bad news, and he spreads it out in front of God.

I love that.

Hezekiah also (again, true son of David that he is), pleads for God to help for God's own great name's sake.

Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.
You and I are not Hezekiah. But we do follow the even greater, even truer Son of David. And I think that when we get bad news, Hezekiah's example is not a bad one to follow. 

We are also not God, and so we don't know which outcomes will most glorify His great name--maybe what we ask for isn't what He wants. (To quote another good example, "But if not..."

But we are God's people, and so when we get bad news, we can spread it before Him, and beg Him for His help.

And we can trust in Him who alone can save us.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*The story is also recorded in 2 Kings 19.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

linky-linky links!

Here are links to some good reading and watching, for what's left of your weekend:

-God always pouring himself out: "Well-Spring of Salvation." 

-I really enjoyed this video on "A Biblical Theology of the Household."

-Likewise, I enjoyed this article by a man who "eavesdropped on a saint"--i.e., learned about prayer from one of the little old ladies in his church: "Lessons from a Prayer Warrior."

-Nifty! "5 Hacks That Make Flowers Look More Expensive." 

-Um, so I truly want to put at least half of these hacks into practice in my own kitchen: "Here's How Hidden Cabinet Hacks Dramatically Increased My Cabinet Storage"

-Mmmm...sleeeeeeeeeep.... "How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Actually Need?"

(And for more links than I ever manage to post here on the blog, follow me on Twitter!)

That's it for this week! I hope you have a restful Sunday.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"The Newest Love"--a new short story at Spark magazine

Hi folks!

I'm happy to announce that I have a story in the latest issue of Spark magazine! It's a flash fiction romance piece titled "The Newest Love," and it's set in a NICU. (Hey, love can happen in the stressful places as well as the relaxing places!)

And, I have to admit, as a writer, I am more than a tiny bit thrilled to see that not only did my story make the cover (!), but it also is the very first story in the magazine (!!!).

Hope you'll check it out; these days, a collection of short, cheerful love stories might be just what the doctor called for--an antidote to all the grim headlines.

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. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

a few recent publications: "The Miracle of Love" and "The Life-Changing Magic of Volunteering at Church"

Hi folks! I haven't been around here much lately (though I've been posting a fair bit on Twitter), but I wanted to stop by and let you know about a few things I've written lately.

The first is a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul's new book, The Miracle of Love. story is also the first story in the book! It was a thrill to get my author copies, open up the book, and see my name on the first page!

The second is a blog post: a little while ago, I got to guest-blog for the lovely and talented Anne Kennedy. You can read my essay, The Life-Changing Magic of Volunteering at Church, over at her blog Preventing Grace. Here's a small snippet, to whet your appetite:
Volunteering at church will change your life, but I’m not writing this as a how-to article. I am writing it as a testimony. What I have found in these last five years of service is precious, and I want to share it with other Christians who might be looking for what I was looking for: a way to really feel at home in the church, a way to really get to know their fellow believers. A way to belong.
I'm busy with a few other things I'm hoping to post here soon, including the continuation of my series on writing a Rule of Life. (The truth is: my own Rule has dictated that my time be spent places other than this blog for the past few months. But that looks to be changing soon!)

I hope you have a good Saturday, and an even better Sunday, full of rest and worship!

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. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Regular Meals--at Home, and at Church

This past week, a pair of things happened that made me sit up and take notice.

They were a pair of meals: one was a family meal, and one was a meal at church.

Both meals stood out because of their delightfulness. They were both normal meals in most outward respects--normal in that they were the meals we all expected to have, with the people with whom we expected to have them.

But they both seemed to have a bit of something extra. At the family meal, everyone was just a bit happier than usual. The conversation, usually good, was even better. The food, also usually good, was amazing. The smiles and laughter, usually plentiful, seemed to overflow.

At church, it was Trinity Sunday. The sermon, usually good, seemed to strike at the heart even more deeply. The music, also usually good, was even more moving. The eucharistic meal we shared, always a fearful joy, felt even more meaningful.

The Normal and the Good
Experiencing these two very good meals, the one following closely on the other, made me think: The only way to have very good meals like this sometimes, is to have normal good meals all the time.

You can't really plan for a normal, regular meal that is better than usual--a normal meal that suddenly lifts up onto a higher plane of happiness and delight. It just happens, sometimes.

But it only really happens when you have normal, regular good meals, well...regularly.

Yes, there are things like wedding feasts--meals you expect to be extraordinary, both in fare and in delight. But...those are the exception.

In day-to-day life, the really good meals happen because the sort-of-okay meals happen. Because you faithfully show up, and prepare food, and listen to the people you love, and clean up afterwards.

Both at home, and at church.

If you want the extraordinary, you need to be there for the quotidian.

Show up.



And then see what happens.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, April 29, 2018

linky linky links

Here are links to some good reading, for what's left of your weekend:

-Starting with this one, which is ridiculous and trainwreck-y. Um, these people are nuts. Bless them, but they're nuts: We Bought a Crack House.

-And this parody of the nutty situation: We bought a $3 million bungalow full of bats and were not happy with the result.

-On a more serious note, I appreciated this take on children's literature: Welcome to Lizard Motel.

-The feast of Pentecost is coming up, and this article from Michelle Van Loon explains what it is, why it matters, and how to celebrate it!

-I continue to find Jordan Peterson--and the takes on him, pro and con--kinda fascinating. Here are two good ones from Think Theology:

    12 Rules: the Review


   12 Rules for Jordan Peterson

(And for more links than I ever manage to post here on the blog, follow me on Twitter!)

That's it for this week! I hope you have a restful Sunday.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Sunday, April 22, 2018


It's warm enough in SoCal that the hibiscuses are blooming!

Here are links to some good reading and listening, for what's left of your weekend:

-First, from Anne Kennedy, a message on The Life-Changing Magic of Not Tidying Up.

-And then, from Fred Sanders, an excellent sermon on Christ Alone.

-I'm not a huge fan of horror movies, but I like what Mike Duran has to say in this article about Why the Popularity of Horror Movies Might Encourage Christians, especially this bit:

The popularity of the horror genre may be a collective subconscious affirmation that the world is not the way it's supposed to be.

-Yes, yes, yes to all this: 7 Things I Love About Liturgical Protestant Worship.

-From Randy Alcorn: My Writing Process, Advice for Aspiring Authors, and Answers to Other Questions About Writing.

-This is deeply, truly important: Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish as Adults.

(And for more links than I ever manage to post here on the blog, follow me on Twitter!)

That's it for this week! I hope you have a restful Sunday.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Turn and Be Saved": post at Biola University's LENT PROJECT

Today I have a post up at Biola University's LENT PROJECT. Here's a snippet:

This is not abstract: Repent. No, really: repent. Examine yourself. Examine yourself even against the exacting and strict rule found in the scripture, not against the weak virtues of your neighbor. Confess your actual sins to the actual God, and ask for His mercy. Intend to forsake evil and do good. Forsake not just the individual acts, but forsake your habits of sin—that comforting sin you turn to time and again. The one you wrap yourself ‘round in like a blanket, seeking comfort from the cold. Forsake it, and turn to the Lord.

To read the rest, head over to the LENT PROJECT site!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Notes: "Moments and Days" by Michelle Van Loon

I read this book in the fall, as the year was curving up towards Advent, but it's also a good read for this time of year, with the long season of Lent lying before us.

"Moments and Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith," is about the Christian liturgical year (that's my jam!), but it's also about the Jewish liturgical year--and it's about how those two calendars do (and don't) fit together.

I really enjoyed it. As Van Loon comments towards the beginning of the book, "By getting to know the Jewish feasts, we know our Jewish Savior better."

That's probably all the reason you need in order to want to read this book, but I'd add a few others: Van Loon is good at making connections (like the one between the Transfiguration and the Feast of Booths) and she's also just a good writer. I love passages like these:

Much of contemporary evangelicalism has been quick to "put the cookies on the bottom shelf," eschewing the church's history and traditions so that spiritual seekers would feel welcome in our midst. In the process, I wonder if we have gotten used to dining on crumbs. Crumbs may fill us for a moment, but we have been made for eternity; our calendar tells us so.

Or this:

...I learned (as we all do at some point in our lives) that mourning is a core reality of our earthly existence. We live in a world shaped by the effects of humanity's disconnection from God. That disconnection manifests itself in loss, sickness, and death. Whether it is a generalized awareness of our brokenness or a specific grief after the death of a loved one, Lent interrupts our regularly scheduled lives to reconnect us with the deepest need behind our pain: communion with God.

Thoughtful passages like that are interspersed throughout the book, but I don't want to obscure the fact that most of the book is dedicated to information: about the Jewish and Christian liturgical years, how they developed, what they are, and what they mean. It's an information-dense book, in a good way.


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. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Happy Epiphany!

It's been such a stupid long time since I've posted a links post--mostly because my December was taken up with a (good and welcome, but time-intensive) freelance editing project.

But--it's Epiphany! and so here's a links post. I hope you enjoy clicking through it, while enjoying a nice cup of tea or cider or coffee or whatever your favorite winter-time drink is.

-It's the first anniversary of Nailed It!

-It's fun to see how other people celebrate the church year. Sarah's post, "Reflecting on Our Advent," is a particularly lovely account of one family's celebration.

-A thoughtful article: "Harvey Weinstein and Sexualized Pop Culture Call for Prophetic Engagement." Here's a snippet:
Non-Christians may be rightfully outraged at the exposure of anyone’s non-consensual harassment or assault of women. Christians can righteously join them. But we must recall that our Lord, the Creator of sex, has revealed a much higher standard.

-This retrospective on Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, on the occasion of their 70th anniversary, is quite fun. Here's to long marriages!

-Also just for fun: "True Kilts: Debunking the Myths about Highlanders and Clan Tartans."

-And I'm a bit late linking to this guide for Advent and Christmas, but it also includes a bit of good stuff for Epiphany.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Notes: "No Moon To Pray To" by Jerry Guern

(Note: I first posted this review to my Goodreads account.)

TL;DR: This is Dracula in the world of Brother Cadfael. Dark and violent and not for everyone, but I liked it.

Okay, here's the longer review:

Have you ever read a book that made you feel:

1) I need to give lots of caveats before I recommend this book because, boy! it is NOT for everyone, BUT---

2) I really want to recommend this book, because there are some people who will LOVE it, and I don't want those people to miss it?

"No Moon To Pray To" is that kind of book. It's not going to be right for everyone, but I sure hope it finds the audience it's right for, because that audience is going to love it.

So, what are my caveats?
1) The theology isn't perfect. If I hadn't read a review by a reader I trusted, I would have put it down after the prologue.
2) It's violent. Like, very violent. And some of that violence involves children.

But, to counter those caveats, here are two corresponding notes:
1) I don't think the theology is perfect, but I do appreciate that it takes theology seriously. The theology MATTERS in this book, and I love that. (Also, much of the imperfect theology is seen through the eyes of clearly biased and compromised characters. So, it doesn't actually say much, if anything, about the theology of the author.)
2) The violence matters to the story, and it never feels like the author loves it or is wallowing in it. It's not voyeuristic. (I almost said it's not creepy, but...vampires are kinda necessarily creepy. "It's not TOLD creepily," might be a better and truer statement.)

So, with those caveats out of the way, who should read this? Who is that audience who shouldn't miss this book?

People who love the fantasy genre. People who want to read something that could be described as "Dracula as told in the world of Brother Cadfael." People who like something a little meatier in their speculative fiction. People who like it when novelists take Christianity (or any religion, really) seriously--that is, who think that what people believe actually makes a difference in the real world. Or, better yet, that you can tell what someone believes by what that person does. (At least sometimes. At least a little.)

People who want to read a page-turner. Because, if nothing else, "No Moon To Pray To" is definitely that.

I really liked it. I had trouble falling asleep the night I finished it because all the shadows seemed darker and scarier, true, but...I really liked it. Looking forward to seeing what Jerry Guern writes next.

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. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)