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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.

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Author Archive
    
    Wendell Berry's Plea for Grace

    Wendell Berry’s Plea for Grace

    Have you ever seen your dog or cat suddenly turn its head, tense up, and stare intently into an unoccupied space? It’s quite unnerving. They obviously see something we can’t, and if the more instinctual part of our brain trusts their superior senses enough, we tense up as well. It’s an interesting cross-species bit of performance art that happens, and we, of course, have learned to harness those senses for our benefit and protection.

    There are certain people throughout history that fill those roles in our own species. Martin Luther, and his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr., are obvious examples of…

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    Let's Not Talk About Money (With PZ)

    Let’s Not Talk About Money (With PZ)

    I’ve got stories, good ones, I mean, good ones. Working behind the scenes in church ministry for over a decade, even as a layperson, you build up a huge archive of unbelievable things you’ve seen. I’ve often thought they would make for a good book. Here are a few sample chapter titles:

    I’m 99% sure the tech volunteer is in the witness relocation program.

    Household idol trafficking in the church parking lot.

    At this point, fewer guns in the sanctuary would be a win.

    And many, many more. The thing is — I can’t tell these stories, because, honestly, I don’t want to tell…

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    Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

    Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

    If you write, you’ve probably read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She is the shy, neurotic, wise, funny, dread-locked, recovering alcoholic, who is a font of sanity and encouragement for many of us engaged in the compulsion of writing. Anne grew up in a family of atheists, but came to faith and got sober — in that order, as that sobriety wasn’t instantaneous. Her descriptions of the struggles and joys of parenting, the messiness of life, and the wonders of being part of a church family are alternately hilarious and weepingly beautiful.

    There aren’t many interviews with her, but when…

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    Do You Need a Receipt to Return a Christmas Miracle?

    Do You Need a Receipt to Return a Christmas Miracle?

    I’m quickly coming up to the two year anniversary of when I nearly, nearly, shouted a four letter word in a crowded auditorium. And it wasn’t fire. I was at a Christmas concert, and the organizers had thoughtfully placed magnets with handwritten Bible verses underneath all of our seats. At a certain point in the evening, they asked us to reach under and collect them. I did. That’s the moment I wanted to shout…um…not-fire.

    The verse was for me, for that very moment. The Lord answers prayers. This particular evening, I really didn’t want him to. Like, at all. It meant…

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    "I hate you Dad! Oh, I mean Reverend!"

    “I hate you Dad! Oh, I mean Reverend!”

    An old girlfriend of mine—let’s call her the Girl from Ipanema…no, on second thought, we better not—had a type when it came to men: blond hair and blue eyes. That worked out well for me—for awhile. Then a ghost showed up—taking the form of an ill-fated previous relationship with a man who looked remarkably like me. That, children, was when I was introduced to the wonderful world of transference.

    Frank Lake describes transference in his book, Clinical Theology:

    The displacement of feeling from one object or person to another, and particularly the process by which the patient shifts feelings and attitudes primarily…

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    I Still Believe: The Lost Boys’ 30th Anniversary Spectacular

    I Still Believe: The Lost Boys’ 30th Anniversary Spectacular

    If Georges de La Tour was a movie director, his films would probably look a lot like Joel Schumacher’s. Well, maybe…minus the nipples on the suits in Batman and Robin. I think my assertion, knowing Matt Milliner is lurking around here somewhere, holds up particularly well with Schumacher’s 1987 film, The Lost Boys, or as I like to put it, The Two Coreys’ (Haim and Feldman) Showcase.

    My slightly sketchy comparison to a famous French Baroque painter aside, I’ve been reflecting on what I think about the movie, now, 30 years on. The surprising thing is that a couple of scenes…

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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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    Welcome to Night Vale, Governor Ventura. Limetown next exit, and now for the weather…

    Welcome to Night Vale, Governor Ventura. Limetown next exit, and now for the weather…

    When my mother bought a new Oldsmobile Intrigue, I was very happy, more happy than I should have been over an Oldsmobile. Why? Because it was The X-Files car from their 1998 big screen debut, that’s why! You remember, the scene where Mulder and Scully are following the train to the cornfield with the glowing bee domes? They were driving an Intrigue.

    I loved The X-files. I loved Chris Carter’s other series, Millennium, the Lance Henriksen creased forehead vehicle. Heck, I even loved The Lone Gunmen. Add the metaphysical and abstruse to even the most mundane of procedural shows, and I’m…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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,…

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