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Holidaze and the Prime Directive

Holidaze and the Prime Directive

‘Tis the season. The crush to sell-sell-sell for Thanksgiving starts the swirl of marketing that’s a buzz kill for many, if not most of us.

I look at the Starbucks cup on Nov. 1 and I cringe.

The essence of our humanity is distorted when it’s objectified in order to market product. The new Starbucks cup is simply lame. It only gets worse for many of us. It’s a boring cliche to moan about the WalMartization commodifying the Holidays, but assumptive pandering to our base instincts to sell this year’s Pet Rock is depressing.

Perhaps it’s because our tender parts are grotesqued by…

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Volunteering to Love My Kids and to Eat Donuts

Volunteering to Love My Kids and to Eat Donuts

This is the time of year when my email inbox becomes full of “invitations” for me to volunteer. We have our children in two different schools, with different ways of doing things. And there is a steady stream of electronic missives with subjects lines like: Fall Festival, Donuts with Dad, and Pep Rally. Which has got me thinking, aren’t women in my neighborhood thin enough? Why can’t we have donuts too?

It also has me wondering if I am the only mother completely overwhelmed by the onslaught of participation asks. It can feel that way. Is everyone signing up to bring…

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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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The Cold Predictability of Law and the Utter Loving Chaos of Grace

The Cold Predictability of Law and the Utter Loving Chaos of Grace

In this week’s episode of Bad Theology and Good Intentions, a podcast/film/concept album I have no intention of actually creating, I read a friend’s post on social media in which she admitted grappling with her short temper around her kids. She cited having a newborn and a young toddler and not getting any sleep as contributing reasons for her blown fuse and confessed to yelling at her children and feeling horrible guilt about it. The flood of responses that followed were wholly supportive–but with an undercurrent of law. I saw verbal nudges to take a rest wrapped up by barely…

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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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Singing Down

Singing Down

There is a tendency to portray the bedtime of small children as something idyllic: warm milk, brief books read aloud from memory, the tucking in, the easy descent to slumber, the uninterrupted rest following, the sweet dreams. And there is without doubt a specific holiness in the quiet of a room where a child sleeps—once the child of a certain age is truly asleep and no longer occupied by fear-of-missing-out should she close her eyes.

I have come to know this time of night in toddlerhood as the managed period during which a myriad of things happen: the brushing of teeth,…

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Dirty Pump Parts: A Mama's Muck and Mire

Dirty Pump Parts: A Mama’s Muck and Mire

I wonder if there will ever again be a time when my sleep cycles extend beyond three hours at a time. Having weathered this newborn season once before with Baby #1, I of course realize that this too (really) shall pass, but I nevertheless lament the lack of a full eight-hour-sleep these days. Each night I cross my fingers, say a prayer, and kiss my eight-week-old daughter goodnight, hoping for a bit of a longer stretch than the night before. At present, Katherine King (we’ve been calling her KK) lies swaddled and asleep in her crib across her darkened nursery….

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"Bring Your Baby to Hospice Day," by Sarah Condon

“Bring Your Baby to Hospice Day,” by Sarah Condon

The following is an excerpt from one of Mockingbird’s best-selling books, Churchy: The Real Life Adventures of a Wife, Mom, and Priest, by Sarah Condon. If you haven’t bought your copy yet…what are you waiting for?! Now available on Kindle and in paperback.

Parents today are raising a bunch of ice monsters. At least, that’s what the endless stream of articles explaining how to “teach” compassion seems to suggest. We are told to talk to our kids at eye level or to let them speak at great length about their feelings. We worry that we must train them to be emotionally…

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Recovery – Czeslaw Milosz

As Milosz’s biographer, Andrzej Franaszek, says:

“In the spring of 1943, [Czeslaw Milosz] wrote a cycle of twenty short poems entitled The World: Naive Poems . . . a sequence of little cameos from childhood, images which would not be out of place if hung above a tiny bed, showing a guardian angel watching over a child and its night-time journeying. . . . Here we have the world, discovered with the eyes of a child and, at the same time, as it ought to be, given to human beings to live in – a world filled with sacred order, as if the poet raised a building of sense in spite of the nightmare surrounding him [ in occupied Poland], setting existence against nothingness.”

Here’s one from those twenty, entitled “Recovery” (ht KW).

“Here I am–why this senseless fear?
The night is over, the day will soon arise.
You hear. The shepherds’ horns already sound,
And stars grow pale over the rosy glow.

“The path is straight. We are at the edge.
Down in the village the little bell chimes.
Roosters on the fences greet the light
And the earth steams, fertile and happy.

“Here it is still dark. Fog like a river flood
Swaddles the black clumps of bilberries.
But the dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore
And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.”

(Young) Woman at the Well

(Young) Woman at the Well

In the narthex of my parish church there is a beautiful monument of American religious art: two ceiling-high wooden tablets, both with gold lettering on a black background. One carries the text of the Ten Commandments. The Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are on the other.

The Law, the Gospel, and the Church’s simplest roadmap of belief are contained here in little space and in one field of vision.

J. Kirk Richards

This is a frequent element of protestant Anglican church adornment, usually fixed on the eastern wall where all can see it: text-based, instructive, non-debatable, leveling of cleric and squire…

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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Motherhood Cure

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Motherhood Cure

I’ve recently started reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books to my 6-year-old. I picked them up because I remembered reading them when I was in elementary school, and because we could all use a little bit of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in our lives. If you’re not familiar with the books, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was created in the 1940s by Betty MacDonald. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house, she might have pirate treasure buried in her back yard, and she loves children. She soon acquires a reputation in the neighborhood for being able to “cure” common childhood “ailments”: not flu…

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Gregory Boyle’s Touchstone Image of God

Another great excerpt from Gregory Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart, about the Jesuit priest’s twenty years as director of Homeboy Industries in LA. Seriously, if we wouldn’t get in trouble for copying the entire book on the site, we’d do it.

God can get tiny, if we’re not careful. I’m certain we all have an image of God that becomes the touchstone, the controlling principle, to which we return when we stray.

My touchstone image of God comes by way of my friend and spiritual director, Bill Cain, S.J. Years ago, he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer. His father had become a frail man, dependent on Bill to do everything for him. Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively. In the role reversal common to adult children who care for their dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and then read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood. Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling. Bill was exhausted from the day’s care and work and would plead with his dad, “Look, here’s the idea. I read to you. You fall asleep.” Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes. But this wouldn’t last long. Soon enough, Bill’s father would pop one eye open and smile at his son. Bill would catch him and whine, “Now, come on.” The father would, again, oblige, until he couldn’t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his son. This went on and on, and after his father’s death, Bill that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid. How much more so God? Anthony De Mello writes, “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”…What’s true of Jesus is true for us, and so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us. “You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.” There is not much “tiny” in that.

“Behold the One beholding you and smiling.” It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.