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Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

When I was a kid attending Sunday School in a very traditional Baptist church in the Midwest, we learned Bible stories… I became familiar with the regular cast of characters like Adam and Eve, Noah, David, Moses, etc. I could tell you that Moses parted the Red Sea; Adam and Eve ate an apple; David slew a giant (thanks to a relative who gifted me one Christmas with 12-inch David and Goliath action figures!). As a teen, I would learn that the book of Leviticus was all about how family members in the same house should not undress in the…

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BYOTissues: This Is Us is Back

BYOTissues: This Is Us is Back

Obligatory *spoiler alert!*

On Tuesday night, the Emmy Award winning drama This Is Us returned to NBC, and it did not disappoint. I absolutely anticipate that I will be reduced to a puddle of tears every #TissueTuesday—yes, that’s a thing—this fall as the storyline repeatedly rips my heart out.

Our reunion with the Pearson triplets began with their thirty-seventh birthdays, harkening back to the season one premiere, and a lot has happened since we last saw them. Kevin and Kate have moved to LA to pursue their acting and music careers, respectively, and Kate is still engaged to Toby. Randall remains on…

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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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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

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?…

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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

1

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!

I’d…

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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)

Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

Another glimpse into the Love & Death Issue, our interview with pediatric palliative care oncologist, Ray Barfield. Ray also teaches philosophical theology at Duke Divinity School. Tissues at the ready…

When you think of modern healthcare, what comes to mind? White hallways, beeping monitors, lots of nervous energy, little laughter? Whether or not you’ve had positive experiences there, it’s hard to deny that the hospital often feels far from home. Part of this is unavoidable—CAT scans and physical exams will always be intrusive. But, as Atul Gawande noted in his groundbreaking bestseller, Being Mortal, much of what makes medicine scary is…

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“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

It was the closest thing to hell I’ve ever experienced: my whole body hurt. A dull buzz with epicenters at the soles of my feet, knees, and head: a red-hot pain emanating outward, into my neck, arms, down my back, through those muscles that I don’t know the name of that run from my shoulder blades to my bum…whatever those are, they hurt. I sat down. I stood up. I walked in aimless circles, drank water. Nothing helped. After running along the James River that day, 26.2 throbbing miles along that winding golden ribbon, the only thing I remember about…

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A Consolation You Could Believe In

Via the introduction to Francis Spufford’s wonderful Unapologetic, pg 13-14:

A consolation you could believe in would be one that didn’t have to be kept apart from awkward areas of reality. One that didn’t depend on some more or less tacky fantasy about ourselves, and therefore one that wasn’t in danger of popping like a soap bubble upon contact with the ordinary truths about us, whatever they turned out to be, good and bad and indifferent. A consolation you could trust would be one that acknowledged the difficult stuff rather than being in flight from it, and then found you grounds for hope in spite of it, or even because of it, with your fingers firmly out of your ears, and all the sounds of the complicated world rushing in, undenied.

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death

Freud, Kierkegaard, and the drug lord Heisenberg…A free peek into the Love & Death Issue, which people continue to tell us is their favorite issue thus far. Here is Ethan’s piece on the classic, Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. If you subscribe to the magazine, and add the code JESSEPINKMAN in the notes section of your order, we’ll send a free copy to a friend of your choosing.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone…

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