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About Larry Parsley

Husband, father, Texan, and a Baptist pastor of all things. Works at vrbc.net and blogs at lonesomepulpit.com. Enjoys long walks on the sidewalk and dinners by fluorescent light.

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Author Archive
    
    Shame as a Motivational Technique

    Shame as a Motivational Technique

    In Tom Verducci’s entertaining book, The Cub’s Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, he describes an incident very early in skipper Joe Maddon’s career. In 1986, Maddon was managing the Double-A Midland Angels in Texas. They were a bad team who had just suffered another bad loss. Maddon was apoplectic. He found a newspaper stand, purchased a variety of papers, and began cutting out the classified ads. Later, he taped up these “Help Wanted” advertisements all over the clubhouse, including on the backs of bathroom stalls. The message was clear: “If you’re…

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    How to Draw a Crowd on the Playground

    How to Draw a Crowd on the Playground

    On Fridays I mentor a fifth-grade boy at a local elementary school. The hour we spend together begins in a classroom where he eats his lunch and we work jigsaw puzzles, play board games, and build race cars out of Legos. But when lunch is over, this boy cannot wait to go outside.

    You can learn a lot on an elementary school playground. Your hand-eye coordination improves as you learn to dodge the four-to-five basketballs that are always flying. I’ve discovered that the number one kind of football catch that every fifth-grade boy wants to make is the backwards, flying, three-finger catch immortalized…

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    The Promethean Appeal of #Vanlife

    The Promethean Appeal of #Vanlife

    If you created a spectrum, and put freewheeling adventurers on one side, I, sadly, would fall on the opposite end. Still, even my cautious heart stirred a bit when I read a recent New Yorker article by Rachel Monroe about a hashtag called #vanlife.  The article focused on a couple – Emily King and Corey Smith – who, in the winter of 2013, purchased a Volkswagen van, left New England in a snowstorm, and headed south. Soon, the couple’s popular Instagram “Where’s My Office Now?” had drawn enough interest to gain them corporate sponsorships (including GoWesty – a company that services…

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    "Ken M" and the Wisdom of Trolls

    “Ken M” and the Wisdom of Trolls

    It must have been Mockingbird that first introduced me to the “genius of Ken M.” Since then I’ve grown addicted to his commentary. Ken M (aka Kenneth McCarthy) is a 30something comedy writer masquerading as an opinionated 70something, dropping random comments on the internet. Flood Magazine called him “the world’s preeminent Internet troll,” only Ken M manages to use his superpowers for good. His comments, at times haughty-conservative, or faux-intellectual, or grumpy-everyman (but always ridiculous), are designed to draw the ire of fellow commenters.

    When, for example, the Associated Press produces an article about “space junk” littering the orbit, Ken M responds:…

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    "Say Yes" - Tobias Wolff's Parable of Faith

    “Say Yes” – Tobias Wolff’s Parable of Faith

    In Tobias Wolff’s 1985 short story, “Say Yes,” a husband and wife are washing and drying the dishes. He is clearly proud of himself for what a considerate husband he is to help with household chores. But whatever goodwill he has earned evaporates when, in casual conversation, he expresses his opposition to interracial marriage. When she challenges his regressive views, he immediately declaims on his long and positive association with blacks. When she presses him for reasons, he claims that “a person from their culture and a person from our culture could never really know each other.” She responds:…

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    “You Impute Me”: Thoughts on Rude Patients and Kind Teachers

    “You Impute Me”: Thoughts on Rude Patients and Kind Teachers

    I’m still reflecting on Sarah Condon’s excellent talk at Mockingbird Tyler last week, particularly her discussion of imputation. Once you see imputation in action, it is hard not to notice its presence and absence all over the place.

    Take my newsfeed this week. The New York Times ran an article called, “What Happens When Parents are Rude in the Hospital.” A researcher at Tel Aviv University investigated simulated crisis scenarios in a neonatal ICU. Actors, posing as parents of tiny patients, gave a variety of feedback to the medical staff. For example, one rude “mother” in the study emoted…

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    On "Omniscient" Narrators: W.C. Heinz's "Death of a Racehorse"

    On “Omniscient” Narrators: W.C. Heinz’s “Death of a Racehorse”

    Sportswriters are not generally awarded the prestigious seats at writer’s guild meetings. But when the Library of America brings out a collection of your sportswriting, as they did for W.C. Heinz, the guild must make an exception. Imagine what Heinz’s reportorial eyes witnessed —  the right crosses of Rocky Marciano, the mercurial shouts of Vince Lombardi, and the sweet swing of Stan Musial (not to mention the Battle of the Bulge). Writing his best work at mid-20th century, Heinz bridged the golden era of sportswriters like Grantland Rice with the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe. His boxing novel (“The…

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    The Pastor in the Batter's Box

    The Pastor in the Batter’s Box

    Get your elbows up! Watch the ball! Bend your knees! Be a hitter! Keep your elbows down! Choke up on the bat! Jump on that fastball! Wait for your pitch!

    I remember standing in that little league batter’s box, with coaches and random parents and teammates all yelling their well-meaning directives to me at the same time. And I wanted to please them all. I wanted with all my 9 year old body to actualize all their shouted instructions simultaneously — even when they contradicted one another. But most of the time, I felt practically paralyzed by their imperatives. The…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Colossians Chapter Two Verse Fourteen

    Hopelessly Devoted: Colossians Chapter Two Verse Fourteen

    I love the doctrine of justification, but to be honest, I don’t always feel it. I am sure part of the reason is my lack of easy familiarity with the dense theological terms which buttress it. And so, while I sit in the loan officer’s office, experts works out all the details (using jargon like expiation or propitiation or imputation and other such terms that don’t exactly roll off the tongue). I believe it all, to be sure. Just show me where to sign and initial and I will enthusiastically do so. But at times, my deep soul engagement…

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    The Cruelty of Age in "The Crown"

    The Cruelty of Age in “The Crown”

    Carrie Willard’s recent assessment is dead-on — “The Crown” deserves to be savored instead of binged. In the ninth episode, one of the more interesting subplots had the artist Graham Sutherland being commissioned to paint Winston Churchill’s portrait for his 80th birthday [spoilers follow]. Churchill (John Lithgow) is anything but a willing subject, nor is he excited about the unveiling of the finished product before an audience at Westminster Abbey. And while the audience applauds politely at the unveiling, Churchill’s initial disgust is barely masked by a forced smile. “A fine patriotic piece of modern art,” he manages.

    After hearing that Churchill has…

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    A Gift Discarded in Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums"

    A Gift Discarded in Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums”

    Somehow, all these years later, that “dark speck” has stuck with me.

    I first spotted it over 30 years ago, when I discovered John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” (available online here) in a short story class in college. I knew then that there was much more much going on in that beautiful story than I would  ever be able to divine. But I did know that I would not easily move past that “dark speck.”

    Elisa Allen lives in the beautiful but cloistered Salinas Valley. As the story opens, she wears a man’s black hat pulled down low and her…

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    The Unbearable Rightness of Forgiveness

    The Unbearable Rightness of Forgiveness

    I have a shelf filled with books on the art of writing — it is a great distraction from actually writing. But seriously, if you share my vice, you may want to check out Ann Patchett’s “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.”

    Patchett was blessed with accomplished writing mentors at Sarah Lawrence College, including the poet Jane Cooper, novelists Allan Gurganus and Russell Banks, and short story virtuoso Grace Paley. Then, it was off to the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop. But upon leaving, her budding career took a detour, as she left her husband and her newly…

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