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Seeing Tares

Seeing Tares

Grateful for this one by Jay Wamsted.

I could hear the trouble outside through my door. I taught ninth graders that year—a challenge even on the best day—and I should have been posted up in the hallway before my students returned from lunch, should have been using their inertia to usher them straight into class. Instead I was just a little late crossing the room from my desk, panicking as I unlocked the door. Though I was able to watch the tail end of an argument between two of my students—they were squared off in the shadow of my doorway, foot…

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Another Week Ends: Stories of Forgiveness, Electric Jesus, Selfish Marriages, Bad Vicars, Exhausted Chefs, and Discount Books

Another Week Ends: Stories of Forgiveness, Electric Jesus, Selfish Marriages, Bad Vicars, Exhausted Chefs, and Discount Books

1. Let’s start this round-up with a beautiful story from an unlikely source. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an incredible exposition on forgiveness, “The Challenge of Jewish Repentance,” by Jonathan Sacks. Beginning with the Old Testament, with Genesis, Sacks describes how Jewish history has always revolved around the general wheel of transgression and forgiveness, disobedience and mercy.

With Rosh Hashanah having begun Wednesday evening, Sacks explains how, during the Ten Days of Repentance, Jews are put “on trial for [their] lives.” Focused on the confession of sins, it marks a time to marvel at the God “whose property is always…

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The Preacher Goes to Fashion Week: Jim Carrey's Gospel Madness

The Preacher Goes to Fashion Week: Jim Carrey’s Gospel Madness

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

God, in his mercy, sends preachers. Some are well-educated and institutionally-approved folk serving the faithful in fine old churches, but in these last days we should take no alarm that the same Lord who spoke through Balaam’s ass might again choose an eccentric instrument. His preachers are not necessarily welcomed even under ordinary circumstances – indeed, the urgency of the need and the warmth of the reception seem often enough to have an inverse relationship. Again, this should not surprise, because the preacher’s first word is a word of law,…

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Another Week Ends: Apple's Future; the Problem with Present-ism; Rick, Morty, Jim Carrey, and JAZ; Denis Johnson's Darkness; Bergman's Light; and HGTV-Fights

Another Week Ends: Apple’s Future; the Problem with Present-ism; Rick, Morty, Jim Carrey, and JAZ; Denis Johnson’s Darkness; Bergman’s Light; and HGTV-Fights

1. At Apple’s Keynote on Tuesday, Tim Cook – in classic Jobs style – gave a short history of television. The first stage was black and white, and the second was color. A third was HD. Now, he assured his audience, we’re at another “inflection point” in television history: Apple TV 4K.

In hindsight, the original iPhone really did present such an inflection point: it dramatically changed the way we live our lives. People that attended that original keynote were, in a sense, present for the making of history. I’m not sure how well that holds up, actually–if one of my…

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A Fatal Attraction: The Law As Means of Control

A Fatal Attraction: The Law As Means of Control

One of passages from our Law & Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints) that we hear about most often:

If no one fulfills the law, the question naturally arises: Why should we care about it? If it accuses and condemns us—two things that no one likes—why do we pay it such mind? Why does it keep coming back?

Perhaps because the law [of God] is a true and good thing. Just because we are not able to live up to God’s standard does not somehow invalidate it. That is, we may find it impossible to stop worrying about the future, but…

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Seven Tips for Winning an Argument with Your Spouse

The subtitle in the Love & Death Issue is, naturally, “How to Bring Hell into Your Household.”  

1. Ignore initial pesky feeling that you might be wrong.

If you are thinking to yourself that this is the moment to apologize, forget about it. You started this riot in the street and you are damn well going to finish it. Double down on your argument by 1000% Even if (especially if) you no longer believe it.

2. Ask questions you already know the answer to.

Did you even read that book I suggested? How many drinks have you had? Are we ever going on a vacation again?

3. Blurt out expletives you typically reserve for car accidents.

Most people exist on a sliding scale of what is considered really bad language. But we’ve all got those few words we reserve for life’s most precious moments: car accidents, iPhones dropped in toilets, and fights with our spouse. This is your chance! Because you are mad as hell and fresh out of ducks!

4. Tell them they look just like their mother.

Or father. Just choose whichever parent they have the most contentious relationship with. If you say this enough then you will start to believe it yourself. And then you might imagine you are kissing your mother in law. This one is the gift that you give yourself.

5. Bring up your honeymoon.

Surely, they did something that you hated. If you are among the .002 percent of Americans who had a bucolic honeymoon, then there’s always Christmases past, the birth of children, or that time you spent $5K at Disney World.

(Bonus Pro Tip: Even soiling happy memories can be great fuel for the fire.)

6. Repeat whatever they say back to them in an antagonistic voice.

Especially if they’ve just said something kind and genuine. It looks like this, “Babe, can we just talk about this?” You respond, “OH, WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS.” The possibilities are endless. Try to imagine yourself as a perched squawky bird.

7. For the Ladies Only: Birth Stories

Gloriously claim victory over any domestic chores argument by bringing up childbirth. “How great that you unloaded the dishwasher? I MADE BABIES!” This is especially effective if you do it in front of the babies you are talking about. Then, everyone will know you are a champion.

Order Love & Death Here!

Why We Eat (and Think About Eating) Too Much

Another excerpt from Mark Greif’s intimidatingly excellent essay collection Against Everything, this time as an excuse for posting the accompanying de Botton video almost as much as the quote itself:

It will be objected that the care for food is a fascination only of the rich; this is false. Stretching from high to low, the commands to lose weight, to undertake every sort of diet for the purposes of health, to enjoy food as entertainment, to privatize food care as a category of inner, personal life (beyond the shared decisions of cooking and the family dinner), have communicated new thought and work concerning food to the vast middle and working classes of the rich Western countries, too.

I think there is something wrong with all this. Underlying my opposition is a presumption that our destiny could be something other than grooming–something other than monitoring and stroking our biological lives. Many readers will disagree. I respect their disagreement if they are prepared to stand up for the fundamental principle that seems to underlie their behavior: that what our freedom and leisure were made for, in our highest state, really is bodily perfection and the extension of life.

One of the main features of our moment in history, in anything that affects the state of the body (though, importantly, not the life of the mind), is that we prefer optimization to simplicity. We are afraid of dying, and reluctant to miss any physical improvement. I don’t want to die, either. But I am caught between that negative desire and the wish for freedom from control. I think we barely notice how much these tricks of care take up our thinking, and what domination they exert. (pgs 38-39)

Memo From Houston: What Harvey Taught Me

Memo From Houston: What Harvey Taught Me

One week you will be doing ballet barre classes and drinking self-righteousness smoothies and the next week you will be hunkered down on a couch in your native Mississippi, crying into your 6am Jimmy Dean pancake on a stick, while endlessly watching the Weather Channel.
When your husband sends you and your kids away from Houston, you will not see him again for two weeks. You will have brought enough clothing for two days. You will stay with the most generous people you know until you and your family have officially worn out your loudass welcome. And then you will need…

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Another Week Ends: Lonely Campuses, Unvisited Tombs, Cajun Navies, Misguided Minds, Big Ideas, and Low High Schools

Another Week Ends: Lonely Campuses, Unvisited Tombs, Cajun Navies, Misguided Minds, Big Ideas, and Low High Schools

1. With Labor Day behind us and Fall semester officially begun, it’s no wonder that higher education is back in the national spotlight. If only the news were a bit lighter… Alas, the atmosphere out there is one of concern bordering on alarm, and while the explanations vary, there seems to be widespread agreement that we’re experiencing something of breakdown in our nation’s universities, not just along ideological lines (predominantly left vs far left) but generational ones as well (students vs faculty, faculty vs administrators).

Writing in The NY Times, however, Frank Bruni claims the “real campus scourge” is not censoriousness…

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Still Learning

Still Learning

Grateful for this piece—11 vignettes of 100 words each—by Andrew Taylor-Troutman.

“It is a hard time to be human. / We know too much / and too little.” Ellen Bass


Newly minted with my Masters of Divinity degree, I stepped into a pulpit before a dozen black faces. After reading from Romans, I launched into my six-page lecture sprinkled more liberally with Shelley and Keats than the Apostle Paul, and I’d not hit even the third sentence when an elderly woman, small and dark like a raisin, sounded out from the back pew like ringing a bell:

—Lord, hep him! Hep him, Jesus!


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Villains, Saints, and Queens of the Stone Age

Villains, Saints, and Queens of the Stone Age

This one comes to us from Caleb Stallings.

“Oh villain! Thou art condemned into everlasting redemption.”
William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

My friends always laugh whenever I say, “That’s it! I’m quitting Twitter. I’m quitting social media. I’m quitting smartphones. I’m quitting it all!” I’ve melodramatically announced this countless times in the past few years, and I’ve followed through with it just a few. And, of course, I always end up coming back. It all starts as a desperate measure: the weight of the hoi polloi becomes unbearable, and so I look to cast off the fetters of our moral-outrage-of-the-week culture. The…

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An Impossible Position (and a Minor Aspect)

Here’s one from Stephen Marche’s (fantastic) recent book, The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth About Men and Women in the 21st Century:

To be a mammal and to be a human being is an impossible position, it should be pointed out. No gender politics, no politics of any kind, is going to solve the problem of being a body that wants to be more. No mere philosophy will ever solve the confusion of biology and aspiration and desire that is the massive human mess. Maybe at some point, though I don’t see how, we’ll reconcile being animals with the desire to be something more.

We pretend that family life is achievement and negotiation, a logic puzzle from an aptitude test. We fantasize that life is something built by the person living it, so that we may pretend that our fate is in our hands and that others are to blame for their failures. Control is, at best, a minor aspect of the human condition. Love is something into which we fall. The problem of work-life balance divides life into negotiable responsibilities, but there is no real balance, or rather the balance is a pose that is hard to hold. There is only falling down and getting up. There is loss and gift. (pg 50-51)