New Here?
     
About Josh Retterer

Originally from Ohio, Josh lived on the island of Maui for 10 glorious years. Inexplicably, he moved back to Ohio. Josh is ministry adjacent, with few qualifications, and fewer prospects. And ladies, yes, he is single! Pulled from obscurity by Scott Jones, Josh now writes for a place that understands unqualified grace. His sense of relief is palpable. Aspirationally Anglican, Josh attends an Evangelical Friends Church. Josh also enjoys long walks and liminal space.

Contact

Author Archive
    
    Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

    Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

    The training wheels came off at the cemetery.

    That sounds incredibly macabre,  like a snippet from an Edward Gorey book, but the reality is much more prosaic. With the cemetery a couple houses down from where I grew up on a busy state route, it was the safest place to learn to ride.

    My great-grandfather, grandfather, most of my great-uncles, as well as my father and his siblings all helped take care of the cemetery at some point in their lives. One of my first summer jobs was helping my great uncle mow around the gravestones. The cemetery wasn’t a scary place to…

    Read More > > >

    Wendell Berry's World-Ending Fire of Original Sin

    Wendell Berry’s World-Ending Fire of Original Sin

    A few days ago, I happened across the round-table discussion with Wendell Berry, Paul Kingsnorth (author of the forthcoming Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist), and economist Kate Raworth on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week hosted by Andrew Marr. The conversation, from this past May, centered around problems associated with the environmental movement, particularly issues of idealism without responsibility.

    Wendell Berry, an avid environmentalist himself, is not opposed to stirring the pot. He just released a book of essays optimistically titled The World-Ending Fire and is the subject of a documentary produced by Nick Offerman — yep, that Nick Offerman — called Look and…

    Read More > > >

    Death of a Garden That Never Existed. And Robots.

    Death of a Garden That Never Existed. And Robots.

    Garden writing is a rather unusual sub-genre, part memoir and part fantasy. You do, you dream. Gardening is all about should and ought; nature is governed by its own laws, and we are struggling to keep or subvert them. Exploring the existential effects of our ‘original profession’ has, on us mere mortals, produced some worthy and insightful reading material over the years. Karel Capek, the early 20th century Czech writer — and coiner of the word ‘robot’ — was an avid gardener who understood the struggle, or more accurately, the compulsion. To wit: “Let no one think that real gardening is…

    Read More > > >

    Fluorescent Lighting and Vampire Haberdashery: Some Thoughts on Scapegoating and Parables

    Fluorescent Lighting and Vampire Haberdashery: Some Thoughts on Scapegoating and Parables

    For me, writing about grace is like undressing in a cold changing room, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and flickering fluorescent lighting: self-flattery is an impossibility. Don’t worry, there is more nudity on the way.

    When you can no longer unsee your own low anthropology, writing about internal work feels exposing. Feelings aren’t always reality, though, and the “me too” connection that writing can bring makes it worth the, uh, exposure.

    Speaking of “me too” moments — meaning I have already done this — you know those times after you stub your toe and, instead of saying “ouch,” you yell at your dog, who did nothing wrong? Sometimes,…

    Read More > > >

    Blazes of Selfish Glory and Scary Clowns

    Blazes of Selfish Glory and Scary Clowns

    I once told a couple of friends while having a dark moment, and only half-jokingly, that my dream was to move to India, volunteer at the Sisters of Charity and die of the inevitable dysentery that would swiftly follow. I mean, my first world immune system would have all the resilience of wet tissue paper. That’d give me about, let’s say, over/under, two months of usefulness, but at least I would go out in a useful blaze of glory. It would certainly be good filler for my eulogy.

    What’s that about? Simply, my desire to control my own narrative. We feel…

    Read More > > >

    A Rabbi and a Psychiatrist Walk into a…

    A Rabbi and a Psychiatrist Walk into a…

    My love language is books. If you know me for any length of time and I like you, there will probably be books arriving. I might even send you books if I don’t like you. Two that will be among the first to arrive are The Prophets and The Sabbath, both written by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. There is much to be said of Heschel, but for my money, all you need to know about the author is communicated by the tears running down this brother’s face:

    Today I was thinking, rather randomly, about something Rabbi Heschel said in…

    Read More > > >

    The Ugly Kid Joe of Discipleship

    The Ugly Kid Joe of Discipleship

    “I wish I had never met you.”

    A person never wants to hear that from a friend. But I heard that on more than one occasion from two separate friends. Not only were these two guys my friends, but I was also discipling them — after a fashion. I’m sorry, I can’t say ‘discipling’ or ‘mentoring’ without squirming a bit. One reason is that I am only a few years older than these guys, and second, the amount of spiritual abuse and patriarchy that is loaded into those terms makes them difficult for me to use.

    I was discipling two guys who felt…

    Read More > > >

    Living in Denial in Victory

    Living in Denial in Victory

    If you read enough popular Christian books, listen to enough Christian sermons, radio shows, or podcasts, you could reasonably get the idea that Christians are like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. With cries of, “I’m invincible!” the Knight continues to fight, even after King Arthur has relieved him of all of his limbs.

    I hear versions of this all the time in Christian media, and in conversations with Christian brothers and sisters: something awful has happened to them, and with a strained look and a hard swallow, the mask goes on, and they say, “But everything’s great!”…

    Read More > > >

    Sit and Watch as Tears Go By

    Sit and Watch as Tears Go By

    Mockingbird has several shibboleths; one is the word, “abreaction.” Type that into the search on this website, and you will come up with a slew of great articles about it or containing the term. Go ahead, do it, I’ll wait.

    See, I told you.

    In the abridged version of Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology, Lake defines abreaction this way:

    “A technique employed in psychoanalytic therapy by which repressed emotions, which belong to earlier and usually painful situations, are relived vividly and with feeling, thus lessening the emotional tension caused by inner conflict and its repression. “

    My version of that would go something like this. You know when you hear…

    Read More > > >

    Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

    Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

    I’m on the tail end of a nasty cold that has as one of its side effects existential nihilism. To add insult to injury, this particular bug coincided with an anniversary date of the loss of a parent. Reflecting over the 15 years since that event, a lot more bad stuff has happened. In other words, I’m getting ready to channel Richard Lewis, Curb Your Enthusiasm-style:

    Richard Lewis: First of all, I’m getting old, I have that irregular heart thing and this is not a good thing, I’m a recovering alcoholic, this is all very bad for me.
    Larry David: What, we’re…

    Read More > > >

    PZ's Cure for Existential Beastliness

    PZ’s Cure for Existential Beastliness

    The other day I was suffering from the normal post-holiday, first-of-the-year, what-has-happened-to-my-life, dear-God-help-me blues. We’ve all been there, right? Right? I was scanning my bookshelf, as you do, desperate for some encouragement, and my eyes lit on PZ’s Panopticon.

    I have quite a few of Paul Zahl’s books and have given away Grace in Practice, specifically, more times than I care to count. I even own Comfortable Words, edited by J.D. Koch Jr. and Todd Brewer, the festschrift (isn’t that a great word–literally means “celebration writing”) devoted to his life and work. Suffice it to say, I am a fan. There is…

    Read More > > >

    Humility in the Face of Lettuce

    Humility in the Face of Lettuce

    Rural Midwesterners like myself tend to have vegetable gardens. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like vegetables–you grow them because that’s what you do. I’ll refrain from going full Garrison Keillor on you, extolling the virtues of the first tomato of the year, but it’s a thing, really.

    Starting with Thanksgiving, through Christmas and New Years, my holiday season is marked by the steady arrival of seed catalogs. The garden might be covered with snow, but for me, the growing season starts before the year ends. Dark days pouring over colorful catalogs filled with promises of huge, blemish-free fruit in overflowing…

    Read More > > >