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Preview: Homemaking Through the Church Year

Jessica Snell's blog

- where I talk about faith, family, and fiction -

Updated: 2018-03-14T16:32:31.449-07:00


"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

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.Recommended.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.) frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=1631464639&asins=1631464639&linkId=afb5f86c8806a47fd4411aa7101360d0&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> [...]



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

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 SnellThis 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.)[...]

Keeping Track of What You're Already Doing


This is the third in a series about my experience of writing a Rule of Life. You can read the first two posts in the series here.  Before actually sitting down and writing my Rule of Life, I had to do one thing: I had to figure out what I was already doing with my time. What was the structure of my days currently? How did I spend my hours and weeks now? In other words, I had to know where I was starting before I could figure out where I was going. Because the truth is: we all already have a Rule of Life. We just don’t call it that. But we are all living our lives, which means that we are already making decisions about how we use our time and our other resources. Just because you haven’t consciously decided how you’re going to make your decisions doesn’t mean you’re not making decisions. Of course you are—you have to.You’re just not necessarily making the decisions you want to be making. So I started tracking my hours. And here’s where I admit that I cheated. See, I had an advantage when it came to figuring out how to do all this: I know someone who actually teaches about this stuff at a seminary. So I told her what I was doing, and she cheerfully loaded me down with things to read. Here’s where I have to admit something else. I don’t know if you always read the forwards or dedications or afterwords in the books you pick up, but I do. And there I’ll invariably find a few lines like this: Thank you to George Eightarms of the Cephalopod Institute for his insights on the mating habits of the octopus. If my undersea zombie apocalypse romance gets anything right, it’s because of his help. However, all mistakes are my own.  My friend was kind enough to point me towards the starting line. However, she is an expert and I am not. As I pointed out at the beginning of this blog series: This is just an accounting of my own experience. I’m just a layperson here. I’m writing this series both for the selfish reason that I find it interesting and also for the more charitable reason that I hope my experience might help or encourage someone else. But…all the mistakes herein are my own. Anyway. One of the things my friend has her students do is to track their hours for a while. I used a chart she gave me, but I also went online and found this version, which I used to chart out some theoretical weeks, as I was thinking through the changes I wanted to make. (It’s from Laura Vanderkam’s site. I read a couple of her books this last year. She’s done a ton of original research on how successful women spend their time; it was really quite interesting.)  I took a couple of copies of the charts, and set to work. I assigned a color to each kind of activity I did throughout my week: things like housework/childcare, writing, editing, devotional stuff, etc.  I also had categories for rest, differentiated between (for lack of better terms) good rest and bad rest—mostly because I wanted to see how much time I was throwing away on TV and social media (versus actually restorative stuff like reading for pleasure). Here's one of my theoretical weeks. The real thing ended up being much messier. The point here wasn’t to change anything right away—although I’m sure the mere act of observation did change things—but simply to gather information. After two weeks, I had a lot of good data about how I was spending my days. The various colored sections really do jump out at you. Now I had what I needed in order to go on my short, one-day retreat, and to pray through how I was spending my time. I had a record of what I was already doing, and I had a bunch of notes in my journal, and I had the questions that had prompted me to start this process of self-examination. I also reread sections of Holly Pierlot’s book, in order to fill in any gaps I might be forgetting to notice—to remind myself of other areas of my life that I ought to prayerfully examine. And I also had a place to retreat to[...]

Advent Project Devotion up today!


I'm happy to have a devotion up at Biola's Advent Project today: Our Trudging is a Triumph. The Advent Project is a wonderful devotional Advent calendar (actually, more than Advent--it goes all the way through the 12 days of Christmas!) that includes a scripture reading, a poem, a piece of visual art, a piece of music, and a devotion that ties them all together, every day.  I got to write today's devotion. Here's a snippet:There was no way through death until He burst death open from the inside. Death swallowed Him, but it was like swallowing the sun: He was a burning light that could not stay obscured. Not even by the darkest thing we know.Head on over to The Advent Project to read the rest! And, if you are looking for simple ways to bring the seasons of Advent and Christmas into your home, pick up a copy of Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home:  There's even a slim little volume that includes just Advent and Christmas: I hope you all are enjoying a peaceful and good start to the Advent season!Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.)[...]

A Links Post! (and a small update)


Hi folks!  Below, you can find a regular links post (I usually call them weekly links, but let's be honest: they're more like biweekly links).  But quickly, before getting to that, I just wanted to apologize about not having another entry in my blog series on writing a rule of life, The Rhythm of Our Days.  The truth about having a rule of life is that it gives me guidance about what to say "yes" to each day, but it also gives me boundaries for my work. It tells me, "Do this first and then, if you have time, do that." Everyone knows that there isn't enough time in a day to do everything. My rule just helps me to be honest about that. It tells me when to work, and when to stop working. And this last week, there was time to do a lot, but there wasn't time to work on this series. I hope there will be time this week (there might be), but if not this week, there will almost certainly be time next week, during Thanksgiving break. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I work on this! Now, onto the links! -This looks like an excellent writing contest. (Free entry, and a great prize!) -I don't know about you, but there are a lot of people in my life right now going through loss. Here's something helpful: Grieving Like God. -If you are a Hamilton fan, you'll probably enjoy this collection of excellent fan-art--one drawing for each song of the musical. -Ah, a properly admiring article about a book series I love. More people should read Lee and Miller. (Their books are kinda like Georgette Heyer in space.) -Tim Keller on the book of Proverbs. I loved this quotation in particular:Just as the Book of Psalms is the Lord’s Prayer applied practically to every possible situation and condition of our hearts, so the Book of Proverbs is the Ten Commandments applied to every possible situation in our daily lives.-Sex in Movies. Was John Piper Right All Along? -And, finally, an appreciation of an excellent actor, who played a vital role in one of my favorite TV series ever: When Robert Guillaume Played Aaron Sorkin's First Great Leader.I hope you have a great week, folks!Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.)[...]

Discerning the Need for a Rule of Life


I wrote my first Rule of Life about a year ago, but my journey towards a Rule really began long before that.* In preparation for this blog series, I’ve been going back over my journal entries from 2016. And I’m finding that my path toward writing a Rule was even more rocky and twisty than I remember it being—and I remember it being a pretty rocky and twisty path!Like many big changes, this one was prompted by what initially seem like negative things. Things like: dissatisfactiona lack of peacean inability to get everything doneBut, as I started paying attention to what I was doing each day and how I was doing it and—maybe most importantly—why I was doing it, it became clear that what was really driving me was my desire for good things. Things like:time with the Lord everyday (both quality and quantity)time with my husband and kids everyday (both quality and quantity)a desire to write good things (i.e., fulfill my vocation)a desire for a peaceful homea desire for health (mental and physical)I don’t think the “dissatisfaction” would have felt so much like starter’s pistol if I’d felt it several years earlier. In fact, I know I felt it several years earlier, and it didn’t have the same jump-starting result back then.But several years ago, I was in the middle of a “survival” season. I had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots (okay, maybe not that many—but still LOTS) of little kids, and I was their full-time caregiver. Yeah, there were things in my life that made me dissatisfied, but I knew I didn’t have room to arrange them in any super-ideal fashion. (Not that that stopped me from trying.)And then we went through some family health crises—one of them mine—that took up almost all our extra time and energy and attention. I just did not have the wherewhithal to make any big changes.But then the kids got olderThe kids eventually all grew up to be school-aged children. Their needs changed. Other things changed. Various energy-sucking situations changed and resolved. And now, I did have room to make some changes. I did have the time. I did have the physical energy. There were ongoing things to be dealt with, sure. But the crises were over, at least for a bit. It was time to figure out how to handle this glorious, energy-rich, potential-full time of life called middle-age.**This was a new time of life. And I wasn’t living it well.And I really, really wanted to.So I started experimenting.Next week’s blog post will be about those first few experiments, and about the way they prompted me to start keeping track of my days. (Because eventually I learned that, if I wanted to change my life, I first had to have an accurate idea of what my life was. That is, I needed data. That is, I needed to observe and record.)But before I finish off this blog post, I need to be honest, and share the one realization that really, really started me on this journey. It's particular to me, and if you take a similar journey, your final straw will probably be a different one.But here's mine. I found myself writing these few paragraphs (edited for clarity), right after I reread my journal entries from the time when the children were all still babies and toddlers:…I'm realizing that back then, I just longed for an hour or two to write, and it was absolutely life-giving it was when I was given those hours. Now, it feels like I long for just an hour or two to write, but other, lesser things stop me.I think this means I’ve made a mistake, somewhere.It was that last bit that finally started me on my journey: the realization that I could now—if I really wanted to—do the things I’d been telling myself for years that I wanted to do.There are lots of times in life where you can't do what you want. I know that. I've lived that. I'm sure I'll live it again.But, writing out those journal paragrap[...]

the rhythms of our days - announcing a new series


a fascinating book brought by an attendee!This last Saturday, I got to give a talk to a local church group about celebrating the Christian year at home. It was lovely, and one of the wonderful people who came brought along the recipe book up in the header, A Continual Feast. I looked through it with her before the talk started, and it's now definitely on my list of things to buy. It's full of seasonal recipes, interspersed with lots of commentary on actually celebrating the church year. Once I get it, I see many new delicious traditions in my future...Anyway, the talk itself was really fun. The group was interested, and asked great questions, and talking with them reminded (again, some more) just how much I love this stuff.I love the rhythm of the church year. I love ordering my life around the church's annual retelling of the life of Christ. I love ordering my smaller story around that bigger, truer, better story. I love the reminder that, as one of God's people, my small story is a part of that big, true, good story.Orderly Days: on Writing a Rule of LifeFollowing the Christian calendar reminds me that time is part of God's good creation. And during this past year, I've been concentrating pretty hard on the order of my days. Almost exactly a year ago, after months of preparation, I took a one-day retreat in order to pray through a Rule of Life for myself. And so now I've had almost a whole year of practicing my Rule. Which means that I'm just about ready to start blogging about it.So, coming up on this blog, starting next week (I hope!), you'll find a new series about writing (and keeping, and living) a Rule of Life. I'll talk about how I'm ordering my days so that I have space for all the good things. And also about how adding in good things helps to crowd out the bad.I'll talk about searching for a peaceful rhythm, and what that looks like, and how to make it work.And also I'll talk about what to do when it doesn't.I hope you'll come back and join me next week!Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.) frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=0898703840&asins=0898703840&linkId=99dd0833d7b9ec86c3c2c6627ecfd5c7&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> [...]

Weekly Links!


~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~-When Masculinity Turns Toxic. -I love this: Why You Should Say Bad Things About My Books.-Yes! It can be worth consuming stories with worldviews you disagree with--but you should always do it with discernment, and without expecting them to be perfect: The Doctor Doesn't Believe in the Devil. -Both this article and the article after it I found thanks to Tim Motte, so my thanks to him: Tolkien's Map. -And: This excellent twin review comparing Rothfuss and Tolkien. -Sometimes it's just nice to read someone say good things about a good thing you already love: "The Princess Bride" at 30.-For those of you with high-schoolers: did you know your kid can apply to be an intern at NASA? -Pilgrimage to the National Parks: Awe, Wonder, and What's Missing. -Helpful: Homemade Halloween Hacks for Parents in a Hurry.I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

Weekly Links!


photo credit: Betsy Barber.~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~-I remember reading this in Touchstone years ago, but it was good to reread this fascinating theory about the Chronicles of Narnia: Narnia's Secret. -A good reminder for my fellow writers: The Folly of Self-Rejection.-This blog post is full of such lovely food ideas: Lifestyle Lessons.-Good stuff from Wesley Hill: An Impatience with Biblical Exegesis.-More helpful advice for writers, on what to do when you get The Call from an agent: All About Author Etiquette.  -I already wanted to read this book, because I already knew I like the author, but this post made me really want to read this book: The Big Idea: David Walton.-So, as Anne Kennedy always says, "struggling" is the Christian word for failure.  Here, Russell Moore gets even more incisive about our common attitude towards "struggling" with sin: Are You "Struggling" With Sin?-This sermon on divine omniscience, by Dr. Fred Sanders, is really good. I particularly appreciated his explanation of what Ps. 139 would mean in the mouth of Adam, vs. what it would mean in the mouth of Jesus, and then what being completely known by God means for us, whose life is hid in Christ: Divine Omniscience.I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

Weekly Links: Growing, Eating, Praying, and more!


some very cool baby shower decorations~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~-For all of us who aren't kids, but are still working hard on becoming really cool adults: Quick Thoughts on Comparison, and the Angst of Growing Up Slowly.  -This sounds like an awesome diet plan: I Ate Hundreds of Bowls of Queso and Somehow Lost 10 Pounds.-And...I really want to go and work here for a few days! If you're in France, maybe you can go and volunteer and tell me how it was...? For 20 Years the French Have Been Building a Medieval Castle Using Medieval Techniques, and the Result Is Incredible.-And it'd hardly be a links post without hearing from Anne...but, seriously, guys, go hear from Anne (and add her dad to your prayers): It's Okay if You Can't Pray.  (ETA: I've been corresponding with my grandma, a great woman of prayer, about this post. I think it is always good to pray. I think what comforts me about Anne's post is the reminder that God will still do His good work, even when we fail to ask Him for it. But "help, Lord," is always a good prayer--even if we're not capable of anything more. So, I'm grateful for Anne's reminder that God does not depend on us, and I'm also grateful for my grandma's reminder that it's good to pray anyway.)-I really like where this guy ended up in his last line: VidAngel Let Me Remove the Sex from Game of Thrones, So Why Do I Still Feel Like a Pervert?-Yes, this is about working from home, but for me the most interesting part was the section about how hard it was for the scientist to find a group to study that met his requirements: Why Working From Home Should Be Standard Practice.I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

on Liturgy, and on Saying True Things


I am thinking about church, again.

I'm thinking again about how one of the good things about the liturgy is that, at least once a week, for a little over an hour, I get to say only true things.

Things like:

Most merciful Father, we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed.

Things like:

Have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Things like:

Glory be to God on high!
And on earth peace, goodwill towards men.

I say so many dumb things throughout the week. So many sinful things.

And so, it is so good to have one hour, once a week, where all the things coming out of my mouth are right, and righteous.

Someday, when we see Him as He is, we will be like Him.

And all that we say will be good.

Come soon, Lord Jesus! 

Weekly Links: the Hobbit, Medieval Beers, and more!


In our part of the country, the pomegranates are getting ripe.~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~ -This article, on summer and Sabbath and liturgy and good books, is just such a lovely read: Our Beloved Stories of Summer. -From Anne Kennedy, another good read: Joy Deferred. -For the anniversary of The Hobbit, here's a link to C.S. Lewis' original review.  -Sobering: The Tricky Path to Employment is Trickier When You're Autistic. -An interesting take on the history of beer from the Met: Celebrating Oktoberfest with Medieval Brews.I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

Book Notes: All Shall Be Well, by Deborah Crombie


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All Shall Be Well, by Deborah Crombie, is the second in her Kincaid and James mystery series (you can read my review of the first book here).

In this book, Inspector Kincaid has the sad task of investigating the death of his neighbor--a neighbor it turns out he didn't know nearly as well as he thought he did.

As with the first book in the series, I enjoyed this book mostly for the sheer pleasure of its prose and the way Crombie describes many disparate people with the same detached, intelligent kindness. It's just a world that's rather nice to spend time in--even though there are a few awful people in it. (There have to be in a murder mystery!)

Though there was one particular character in this one--an emotionally abusive boyfriend--who soured a bit of the book for me. He wasn't in a lot of it, but everything about him was unpleasant. Not to totally contradict my last paragraph, but it was like he was the one character the author had no pity for (understandably), and so it just wasn't fun whenever he turned up on the page. I'm curious to see if having a character who is the "one exception that proves the rule" ends up being a pattern in the series.

Because, of course, I'm totally reading the next one.

Content warning for the usual things, but nothing egregious.

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.)

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Book Notes: "Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals," edited by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel


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Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics, edited by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, is, as the title says, a guide for evangelicals. It starts by explaining what the spiritual classics are and then, helpfully, gives instruction on how to read them, how to avoid the dangers in reading them, and shows why they're worth reading. Then it goes into a chronological overview, introducing and giving context to works from the church fathers to the Puritans.

Full disclosure: I know at least five of the contributors to this book. But I didn't just read the sections of the folks I know--I read the whole thing, and enjoyed both being reminded of works I've loved, and being introduced to new-to-me classics.

To close, I really love this paragraph by Betsy Barber:

Due to the historical strangeness of many of these writings, it is beneficial to practice hospitality as we read: to entertain these ideas as guests. As with guests, you may not appreciate or benefit from all they say, but give them prayerful space and consideration for a time. Listen to the common family-of-God dialect in their words. 

You could do worse than just taking this book and reading through all of the works the contributors talk about, taking their chapters as a map to unfamiliar territory. I'm grateful for the work these contributors did in providing such a helpful "field guide" to modern evangelicals who want to read these primacy sources in church history.

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.)

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Book Notes: "Clean" (Mindspace Investigations #1), by Alex Hughes


Clean, by Alex Hughes, is a sci-fi detective novel set in a futuristic Georgia. Our hero is a disgraced telepath, fighting to stay clean after kicking a drug addiction. He contracts out his services to the local police department.Usually, he spends his days in the interview room of the police station, trying to get confessions out of the assortment of thugs and petty criminals that the cops drag in. But then some strange murders start happening, and he gets caught up in the hunt for a serial killer.There were two things I really enjoyed about this book. The first is that it gave me what I like to call "good book hangover." That's when you're going throughout your day, and this taste floats through the back of your mind. It feels kind of like the tune of a song you've forgotten, but liked. It's just an atmospheric sort of an emotion, but a good one, and you think, "What is that? What does that remind me of?" and you realize, "Oh, it's the way that book I was reading made me feel."I liked this book because it gave me Good Book Hangover. The emotions of it came into my mind when I was away from it, and it was a pleasant reminder. (Which is weird, because serial killers are not pleasant, right? But any story can be told well.) It wasn't OH MY GOODNESS I AM RUINED FOR OTHER STORIES book hangover, but "Clean" definitely resonated with me in a good way, and there are plenty of well-told stories that never manage to do that.The other thing I really liked about this book was the way that Hughes was always juggling about three different plot threads: the murders, the hero's fight against his addiction, and the hero's relationship with his cop partner.  All three of these threads were always weaving in and out around each other, and in ways that made interesting patterns. Hughes never dropped any of them, or forgot about any of them, but juggled them gracefully, and in ways where each thread made the other ones more interesting because of how they interacted. (And they all came together nicely in the climax of the story.)If you don't like sci-fi or mysteries, you might not like this. But if you like both, you probably will. Recommended.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.) frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=0451464753&asins=0451464753&linkId=9cf8b1bc0ac348a20826f56d88866734&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> [...]

Weekly Links!


illustration credit: Seth T. Hahne~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~-My latest article for Christ and Pop Culture is out from behind the paywall: "American Ninja Warrior: Villains Need Not Apply."  I loved writing this. I got to get nerdy about spiritual formation and Dallas Willard and television and story structure and editing. And all in the same article! It was paradise. Go read it!-Useful for the novelists out there: "Act 2 Plotting in 5 Easy Questions."-"Finding the Living Cave: What I Learned From Odysseus." This is just a good read.-And this one is just funny: "Two Cow Denominations."-And this one is terrifying (but it has a happy ending): "That Time When I Plagiarized. Accidentally."-And I found out that my friend Ann Dominguez (author of medical mysteries and also one of the contributers to Let Use Keep the Feast), has a book blog!  Check it out here. I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.)[...]

Guest Post: Some Favorite Family Read-Alouds


Today I'm happy to welcome my friend, author Alicia Brummeler, to the blog. Alicia's put together a great post about her favorite books to read aloud to children! Some of my fondest memories of my children’s childhood involve books and reading together. Often we read before bed as part of our nighttime routine. During our homeschooling years, we also read during the day. On more than one occasion, I returned to the house after running errands and saw my husband on the couch with two children nestled on either side as they listened to a book (one of the many highlights of Brad’s graduate-student years). Not only have I enjoyed reading aloud to my family, but also, as an English teacher, I have enjoyed reading aloud to my students. Whether you are a veteran or a novice when it comes to reading aloud as a family, I hope this post will provide you with some new titles or inspire you to try reading together as a family. Nothing beats sharing the wonder and power of good literature. Some books seem particularly suited as read alouds. The beauty of the written word becomes even more elevated when spoken. The books I recommend below are those kind of reads. Also, my recommendations are best suited for elementary-aged children, with the exception of the last book. For this one, I recommend it for upper elementary-aged children. However, you know your child(ren). Use that knowledge to guide you. ________________________ My family was introduced to Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher through Sonlight, the homeschooling curriculum we used for a number of years. Set in the 1900s, this is the story of nine-year-old Elizabeth Ann. Betsy, the name her New England relatives call her when she comes to live with them, has much to learn about herself and the broader world. At the beginning of the novel, she lives with her two elderly aunts; however, when they can no longer care for her, she goes to live with her cousins, the Putneys. The beauty of this story is watching Betsy’s character transformation. She’s fearful, timid, and anxious at the beginning. Gradually, she comes to see that she is capable of much more than she ever imagined. As a reader and parent, I appreciated the way in which Fisher does this. She doesn’t moralize or try to “teach” her readers independence or resourcefulness. Instead, she uses real life and believable characters to craft a story that both instructs and delights. At the end of the novel, Betsy must make an important decision. As readers, we enter her struggle as she considers the pros and cons, causing us to feel the weight too. While I can’t remember the specifics of our conversations about this book, I do recall both of my children processing and discussing this story as it unfolded. Conversations like these are golden! ________________________As a child, my husband read The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald. Once he was a father, he was especially eager to share the books with his own children. The book is set in Adenville, UT, in 1896. Eight-year-old John D. narrates. Using his “great brain,” J.D. entices his friends to pay him money for his various schemes. Think Tom Sawyer, charging his friends to whitewash a picket fence. Perhaps the most compelling parts of the book are some of the side stories that unfold. Issues such as discrimination, fairness, and bullying emerge. Discovering what true friendship looks like is also explored. Readers who enjoy this first book will be glad that there are more in the series. A couple of years ago, when the flu hit our house, my daughter asked[...]

Weekly Links!


~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING and listening, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~-So, if you read any of these things, read this one: Even the Wind and the Waves Obey Him. -This was fascinating: The Last Surviving Sea Silk Seamstress. -A worthy book review: How to Think, by Alan Jacobs.-So helpful: Rereading Ephesians. -Theologian Alastair Roberts is doing a sort of AMA over at "Curious Cat," a new-to-me site/app. Good stuff: Zugzwanged at Curious Cat. -Mere Fidelity is back! In their first podcast of the new season, they discuss the Nashville statement (two of the podcasters signed and two didn't). Edifying and interesting, as always.I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

New article (on American Ninja Warrior!) over at Christ and Pop Culture


illustration by Seth T. Hahne

I'm a little late on announcing this here (though if you follow me on Twitter, you'll have already heard), but I'm delighted to say that I've got an article in the new issue of Christ and Pop Culture.

Here's a snippet:

There’s a different kind of reality show, though, and that’s the kind that invites us to admire virtue rather than to wallow deliciously in vice. This kind of show includes hits like Top Chef and Project Runway. Though contestant fights and foibles are still a part of the plot, the real joy of these shows comes from the simple delight of watching people who are good at something do the something they are good at.

 The issue is currently behind a pay-wall and available only to subscribers, because CaPC is one of those wonderful venues that actually believes in paying their writers. But you can become a subscriber for only $5, so if the contents look interesting to you, go ahead and treat yourself to some good reading! I don't think you'll regret it.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Weekly Links!


The hibiscus on my patio is gorgeous right now.~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~-This is funny: "Unrealistic Things in YA Books, Pt. 2"-So is this: "Celebrating the Many Doubtful Looks of Princess Anne"-This is long, but it kept my attention the entire time: "'Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God," by Brian Zahnd (Long Review)"-Interesting: "Chemists Say You Should Add a Little Water to Your Whisky. Here's Why."-This podcast from Writing Excuses was really helpful: "Structuring a Short Piece"-Finally: "What Brands Are Actually Behind Trader Joe's Snacks?" I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

Sabbath Books


Today I'm guest-posting over at Alicia Brummeler's lovely blog, Always Orange, about Sabbath books. Here's an excerpt:I found that I was reading more and more, and getting more and more discouraged. My heart was worn. The world kept looking uglier and uglier. And reading was…well, reading was becoming work. And, actually, it was okay with me that reading was work! Some things are good to know, but hard to read about. Most of the books in the world that are worth reading still have hard parts, or ugly parts, or even downright disagreeable parts. You read them anyway, because it’s worth doing the work of panning away the sand in order to get to those flakes of gold. But, friends, I had forgotten: Six days shall you labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest. I needed to read books that were pure rest.Please head over to Alicia's place to read the rest!Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]

Book Notes: "Quintessence," by David Walton


"Quintessence," by David Walton, is, as the back-cover copy says, set in "an alternate Age of Exploration" where "alchemy is a true science."And that, right there, was just about all it took to sell me on this book. I'm fascinated by the Elizabethan age, and the metaphysical poets, and Shakespeare, and...and, and, and. In that time period, alchemy and science were sometimes pursued by very similar means, and the only difference between the two is that science ended up working and alchemy didn't.So positing a world where that turned out differently is interesting from the start. And Walton followed it up with a nicely-paced plot and great description.This is definitely a book where the setting is the strongest part of the story (and there were a couple of nice shout-outs to Lewis' Dawn Treader, if you keep your eyes open for them), but the characters worked, too. I especially liked that he had religious characters whose beliefs felt real, and integral to their personalities. They didn't all agree--you had Protestants, Catholics, and atheists, just for a start--but it felt like the author was determined to give them each their own best arguments, and not just throw up straw men for his heroes to knock back down.(One possible exception is the Inquisitor character--but, granted, it's hard to make someone from the Spanish Inquisition sympathetic.)I enjoyed this one. Walton gave me a new world, with fascinating new creatures, and a plot that kept me wondering what was going to happen next. Recommended if you enjoy the time period, or just like well-written speculative fiction.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica SnellThis 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.) frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=0765330911&asins=0765330911&linkId=760815a00cb6eb6c09e17ceeeb5f9679&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">[...]

Weekly Links - MLMs, costume design, hard work, late manuscripts, and more!


~ LINKS TO SOME INTERESTING READING, FOR WHAT'S LEFT OF YOUR WEEKEND ~It's been a few weeks since I put a links post together, so this one is LONG. It is also in no particular order. Enjoy! -MLMs are bad news. We knew that, right? -However late you've been with a manuscript, I bet this guy was later. -An interesting philosophical explanation of how miracles can be.  -On God and Charlottesville. -A take on why anthology editors reject the stories that they do. -This article on smartphones might have a click-baity title, but the content is well-researched and fascinating. -This article on the work it takes to become an author is an oldie, but it was new to me, and I enjoyed it. -Here is a little gem  of a story about some seminarians and their local pub. -And here's an analysis of why Belle's dress in the recent Disney live-action remake was so disappointing (from a costume design perspective). -And finally, why having rules for yourself is a good idea.I hope what's left of your Sunday is peaceful and restful.Peace of Christ to you,Jessica Snell[...]