Teenage Graceland: Forgiving High School

Recently, something strange happened to me. I have started to like the people I went to high school with. I cannot pinpoint the moment this started to happen. All I know is my heart has softened.

In high school I managed to be just above sheer mediocrity. I did not make good grades. I hated joining clubs. At home (my favorite place to be), I had a stamp collection and watched that one season of “My So-Called Life” on repeat. My social life revolved mostly around my high school theatre program. It was the one space where I could truly be…

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As For Me and My House (We Will Break Your Arms)

This past Tuesday marked a day of several anniversaries for my family. Twelve years ago, my husband and I started dating. Nine years ago, we got engaged. One year ago, we moved into our current house.

When our realtor got back from taking over our contract to the homeowners last June, she told us that they were the nicest people with whom she’d ever negotiated a contract. They recognized our name on the contract because they attended the same church as my in-laws. They told her that they had been praying specifically for a young, Christian family to buy their house…

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#Blessed in the Storm

It may be the most ubiquitous hashtag on the internet. We use it on every platform. And, of course, it totally transcends every category. Everyone from the 16 year old with a new Lexus SUV to the wife telling the world about her 40th wedding anniversary is #blessed. Of course, for those of us who drove an old pick up truck in high school or who’s first marriage lasted just two years, #blessed cannot mean anything good. We have somehow failed. Our lives have not measured up.

Certainly there are underlying theological implications. We may worry that other people are #blessed…

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Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Maybe you’ve noticed this trend too: Lena Dunham’s Girls, despite critical acclaim, has suffered from reviewers saying it’s not racially diverse enough. Game of Thrones has been lambasted for its sexism and weak female characters. The Cosmopolitans has been written off for lacking socioeconomic variety.

Such things can be painful and troubling to watch, and sometimes it’s best not to view them, perhaps not even to screen them. But such criticisms, for me, are also strangely reminiscent of the one-dimensional cultural lenses prevalent in the Christian world. Drugs are bad, so watching media which contains drug use should be avoided. Affairs are bad, so Madame Bovary was listed…

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Rob Karlsson Will Not Make Your Life a Misery (Or Will He?)

I have a love/hate relationship with The New Yorker. Each week, the magazine arrives. First: I admire it’s glossy cover. Then, the cartoons (“Hey, honey, look at this one. We’re not like that at all.”) Next: the always funny “Shouts and Murmurs.” Then a survey of the table of contents. Another food essay. Pass. (I will never eat there anyway.) In depth political journalism? Maaaaayyybee. The obligatory high-brow look at low-brow culture? Yes, please. (Recent examples: a super-aggressive female MMA fighter and a luchador in drag.)

But then there’s the fiction piece. And I’m torn. I know it will be good….

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We’re All Creatives Now?

I can’t remember the first time I heard someone refer to another person as “a creative” but I’m pretty sure it was within the past five years. Since then, the noun has broadened considerably. It used to be only fashion designers, novelists and musicians who were “creatives”. Now advertising executives refer to themselves this way. It’s clearly an elastic term, the connotations of which are almost all flattering. The adjective itself is everywhere you look, too (I’ve certainly used it in relation to ministry). And I’d wager this is largely a good thing. Creativity is often the fruit of grace,…

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From The Onion: This Just The 30th Wake-Up Call Woman Needed

Ooof, JD:

sweetdeeLOUISVILLE, KY—According to reports, local woman Janelle Tompkins’ arrival to work an hour late and severely hungover Tuesday morning was precisely the 30th wake-up call she needed to turn her life around. “Wow, my habit of staying out and drinking all night has clearly gotten out of control. I’ve got to make some major changes ASAP,” said Tompkins, using the exact phrasing she uttered during her five previous wake-up calls this year, which have included two shattered relationships and blacking out at a friend’s bridal shower. “I suppose something had to give eventually, and now I’ve gotten the message: It’s time to make a fresh start and think about my future for once.” At press time, Tompkins had invited several close friends to celebrate her new lease on life by meeting at their local bar’s Oktoberfest celebration.

Ubuntu and the Sharpened Pencils: Welcome Back to School

Another back-to-school ode, this time from Ms. Newton.

Over the next several weeks, children will enter new classrooms across the country, sporting shiny sneakers sans skid-marks and carrying freshly sharpened pencils and blank notebook paper. And they are perhaps a bit nervous (or a lot nervous) about unearthing the answer to a question they’ve been wondering for weeks: Who did I get this year? Who will stand in front of us every day, and with whom will I spend the next nine months? Is she a Miss Honey or a Miss Trunchbull? Will she encourage me or lock me in the…

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When Smartphones Get Too Smart

Well, this is pretty amusing. Writing for The Atlantic, James Carmichael explored our precarious relationship with self-knowledge via the awkwardness of Google Now. I’m almost surprised he didn’t quote Eliot’s line about humankind not being able to bear much reality (or law). I mean, some of us can’t even handle looking at our most-played in iTunes, I’d hate to think what kind of revelations a ‘smart’ tracking device might hold (e.g. “it’s 10:45pm! – Time to secretly gorge on your kids’ snack food”, “Beep beep beep! It has now been eighty seconds since you last checked your web stats”, etc)….

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Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Over the next few weeks, many kids will be starting school for the very first time. Cue collective family panic. It is an unwieldy process. Notebooks have to be purchased and lunches packed. Everyone has to wake up earlier. Much earlier. If you are like our family, you have the challenge of convincing a three year old that he does in fact have to wear a uniform on the daily. It is the opposite of fun.

But of course, the practical panic inducing tasks pale in comparison to the emotional anxiety that takes hold. We worry about our kids. Will they…

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Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

I never considered myself much of a fisherman, so when my dad said, “Take a gaff,” I asked what that was. He held up a massive hook. “In case you get a big one,” he insisted. And I answered, “We’ve been fishing all summer and never needed a gaff.” But I took it anyways, because he said so.

My brother, Andrew, and I packed the rest of the rods into the doorless Jeep and off-roaded past the cul-de-sac into the woods, where deep in the trees a river runs. I plopped on the bank where my feet could dangle above the…

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500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

The New South aesthetic is farcical, but not irredeemably so.

Over pimento cheese fritters with bacon jam at a restaurant in South Georgia, I marveled at waiters in chambray shirts under plaid vests, distressed brick walls, and cocktail names like ‘rockin porch’. How, I wondered, had things down there come to such a pass? My companion, a Virginian who’d gone to a New England college, lightly objected to the rusty scythes and plows adorning the walls – wasn’t this a bit much?

The farm tools were almost a New South parody, the chiks comin’ home to roost. To the Georgian, it seems,…