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Wheels of Worry, Everyday Trauma, and the First Day of School

Wheels of Worry, Everyday Trauma, and the First Day of School

“Trauma is not just the result of major disasters. It does not happen to only some people. An undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence. I like to say that if we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we...

Sometimes We Do Dance: The Light in London Grammar

Sometimes We Do Dance: The Light in London Grammar

In the past, I’ve sneakily slipped London Grammar music videos into various posts on this site for little reason other than that I just really enjoy them, and I’ve written about their music once before, several years ago. Much of it is slow—a lot of silence accompanied by sparse, echoey...

Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

The Miami Herald called it the love story that defied death, the dark romance that hit the front page of the paper in 1940. It all started when Carl Tanzler, or Count Carl von Cosel as he preferred to be called, spotted the beautiful but dying tuberculosis patient Elena Hoyos...

Option B: A Primer for When Life Falls Apart

Option B: A Primer for When Life Falls Apart

When Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In debuted, I was in seminary with a newborn baby and an hour and a half commute. People in my life who did not have children at home were telling me to read her book right and left. “Its so insightful!” the empty nesters told...

Now Available: The Love & Death Issue!

Now Available: The Love & Death Issue!

Ladies and gentlemen, lovers and leavers, killers and killed, the time has arrived: The Love & Death Issue is at the printers and death is lovelier than ever. You are going to love it to death! If you want to order a copy for yourself and all the people you love, go...
Time to Pre-Register!

Time to Pre-Register!

We're overjoyed to announce that, over Reformation Weekend (Oct 27-28), we'll be celebrating in Washington, D.C. with a 24-hour mini-conference. Hosted by our friends at All Saints Chevy Chase, we would love for you to come join us. Talks will be (of course) Reformation-themed, and as always,...

One Day At A Time Is No Way To Live: Love, Death, and Parenting Teenagers

One Day At A Time Is No Way To Live: Love, Death, and Parenting Teenagers

A first sneak peek into the Love & Death Issue, which you can order here. It comes from the one and only Emily Skelding. Remember, subscribers/monthly givers get a discount on the upcoming D.C. Conference!

I relish long-term planning and list-making. During this academic year, I planned to write a book,...

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(Belated) August Playlist

First order of post-sabbatical business–other than resisting the (alarmingly strong) temptation to fend off the full range of human emotions re: Saturday–is to thank our amazing team for all their hard work these past three months. The Love and Death issue turned out so top-notch that I’m not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed… Same with The Very Persistent Pirate! Sheesh. (That book is now available on Amazon, btw – those who’ve experienced its charms are warmly invited to contribute a review over there, as it aids the book’s visibility). If it’s a mercy to be reminded of one’s dispensability, I’ve been mightily blessed.

That said, when it comes to crafting monthly playlists, my colleagues may still have something to learn. To wit:

P.S. Check out the reduced prices for the DC Conference! (Yours truly could not be more pumped).

The Power of the Personal Essay

The Power of the Personal Essay

In her piece for newyorker.com, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over,” Jia Tolentino laments the death of a genre of writing that was, for a spell, ubiquitous. “A genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared,” she writes. The Toast, Hairpin, Gawker, and other sites showcasing the noble attempts of young writers to mine their experiences and explore what they had to say have since disbanded or stopped receiving first-person pitches. The audience has shrunk for these essays, and Tolentino is sad to see them go.

The online personal essay has its faults. The form’s popularity contributed…

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Malfunctioning Lovers (and Christ in a Ciabatta Roll)

A scathing narrator lowers her anthropology in this compelling passage from White Teeth by Zadie Smith:

What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll—then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greetings cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.

Millat didn’t love Irie, and Irie was sure there must be somebody she could blame for that.

Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part Three

Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part Three

One of the comments from this recent article in the New York Times Magazine on diet culture in America says:

As humans I think we are all seeking something more. We all want to be better, and to be different. Some days we love ourselves. Some days we don’t. This Feature went way beyond weight for me, it spoke about the common constant striving of humanity and about shared desires and secrets….of our anxieties, our struggles, our sadness, and our love and hopes.

There is so much awareness in the words above. We all spend so much time and energy to be…

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When You Can't Get the S-Town Off of You

When You Can’t Get the S-Town Off of You

There are these golden moments in interviews where everything before and after becomes fuzzy, and the clarity of what is happening between those two people gets thrust into sharp contrast, like an audio pull-quote. Recently I had just that experience.

I felt an urge to relisten to S-Town just a few weeks ago. It was even more moving the second time, hearing Brian Reed tell the story of the eccentric genius John B. McLemore and the equally colorful supporting cast of characters that were his family and neighbors. It was like listening to a real-life Flannery O’Connor story; Southern Gothic meets…

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Multiple Marriages to the Same Spouse ~ Debbie and Ellis Brazeal

From our recent conference in NYC, here is a wonderful talk about the dance of marriage:

Multiple Marriages to the Same Spouse ~ Debbie and Ellis Brazeal from Mockingbird on Vimeo

Jesus Comes Aboard the Ship of Fools: A Sermon for Charlottesville

Jesus Comes Aboard the Ship of Fools: A Sermon for Charlottesville

The following incredibly powerful and comforting sermon was delivered yesterday by Paul Walker, Rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville (next door to the rallies from this past weekend).

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the…

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When We Were Young: A Story of America

When We Were Young: A Story of America

Back in the summer of 2004, roughly fifteen months after the United States invaded Iraq, I sat in the United States House of Representatives, high in the balcony on to the right of the lectern for he who stood at it, and listened to Colin Powell speak to a chamber full of congressional interns. It was a hard time for the United States. The Bush presidency and the invasion of Iraq had led to a sense of national division as great as we had experienced in my lifetime, and certainly since the Vietnam War. I tried to remain aloof and…

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Another Week Ends: Self-Citation, GoT Fatigue, Pros and Cons of Moral Lit, Wonder in Children's Books (and Movies), Millennial GENESI$, and Funeral Etiquette

Another Week Ends: Self-Citation, GoT Fatigue, Pros and Cons of Moral Lit, Wonder in Children’s Books (and Movies), Millennial GENESI$, and Funeral Etiquette

1. In the academic world this week, a new study looks at self-citations among academics. One had 7,000 citations, which is pretty good–but more than 1400 of those came from his own (later) work. There’s some ‘bootstrapping’ for you. The study also found that men over the last couple hundred years have cited to themselves 56% more than women, with 70% more from 1991 to 2011.

In a footnote, the paper’s authors — three women and two men — dryly note that the pattern holds among themselves as well: “The men authors of this paper cite themselves at nearly three times the average…

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Top Hat Meets Obelisk

Top Hat Meets Obelisk

A great one from Richard Mammana.

For about a century, proud and dead Americans imagined themselves to be Egyptians. Throwing away the simple, hopeful crosses of common grave-marking, and setting aside the robust traditions of soaring angels and death’s heads of Puritan or German decoration, we erected obelisks in our own memory. It doesn’t seem to have ever extended to mummification and canopic jars, but it was a fad of fads that grew up following the Napoleonic spoliation of Egypt—and the sudden appearance of Cleopatra’s needles in Paris, Rome, London, and New York. It ended as abruptly as it began. But…

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From the Archives: God Is Not The Archives

From the Archives: God Is Not The Archives

A throwback from Adam Morton. 

One great benefit of regularly preaching and teaching from the Bible in exchange for money, aside from the money itself (fine, not spectacular), is that it forces me into confrontation with portions of scripture that would otherwise escape notice. My spiritual discipline is inadequate to compel this in any other way. Take that under advisement as you read. By the call of God I have a certain limited authority, and by sheer divine grace expressed through good genes I have fair powers of recall–nevertheless, my knowledge of chapter and verse would not impress anyone who has long made…

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A Botched Eucharist and a Campesino's Pocketful of Flowers

A Botched Eucharist and a Campesino’s Pocketful of Flowers

Another story of grace from Gregory Boyle’s litany of grace stories, Tattoos on the Heart. In this one, Boyle describes being a priest in Cochabamba, Bolivia, just after having been ordained. Having had little Spanish education at the time, he is able to get through the Eucharist okay, but not without reading directly from the missal. Boyle recalls being asked to perform Mass for an indigenous community known as the Quechua, who had not seen a priest in over a decade. The Quechua people are a poor mountain community that make a living harvesting flowers, and carrying the flowers in…

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