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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
    
    Do Not Pass Go

    Do Not Pass Go

    Last week my parents visited a childhood acquaintance of mine named Russell. Russell and I are close in age, and his late mom and my mom were great friends. But that’s where most of our similarities end. Russell is disabled and has lived his whole life in a wheelchair. As a kid, I remember that Russell’s forearms were prodigious, and he could easily crack the knuckles of my puny hand when he shook it. Yet his world was so much smaller than mine, and his temper could sometimes get the best of him, and I was not the most…

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    A Welcomed Interrogation

    A Welcomed Interrogation

    John le Carré knows spy craft. A master of espionage fiction, he also once served as an intelligence officer in Britain’s MI5. In a recent interview with Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” while promoting “A Legacy of Spies,” le Carré discussed the art of interrogation. He expressed his firm conviction that the “rough stuff” we hear about today (say, waterboarding and torture) is “quite useless,” not to mention immoral. Why? People under such pressure and pain will basically say anything to make the pain stop.

    “I’ve found that trying to understand people, trying to befriend them, trying to indicate that…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Two Verses One Through Ten

    Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Two Verses One Through Ten

    I live over 250 miles away from the path of Hurricane Harvey, but the stories have hit close to home. In the hours leading up to Harvey’s arrival as a Category 4 just north of Corpus Christi (my hometown), I did a lot of anxious calling and texting with members of my immediate family who had decided to ride out the storm. Thankfully they all avoided serious damage and harm, but not so their neighbors just to the north as Harvey plowed through Rockport and Houston and beyond. So many of us have been wrecked by the photographs – water…

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    The Bible in One Hand, the Novel in the Other

    The Bible in One Hand, the Novel in the Other

    Call it a nerd’s dream-come-true. A few months before I attended their three week summer seminar called “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching,” Calvin College mailed me a rather large box filled with all manner of books — novels, poetry, short stories, journalism, biography, and children’s literature. Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was bunking next to Gilead, which was sleeping atop a Robert Frost anthology of poems. I did my best to read as many of the books as I could before my family and I trekked to Grand Rapids for a sabbatical. My fellow seminar participants and I then spent…

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    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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