Children
The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Finds a Place in First Grade

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Finds a Place in First Grade

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbcher Goes to School (by Laurie Halse Anderson) is a children’s picture book about a young girl who has  untamable red hair with a mind of its own. Zoe loves her hair, her parents love her hair, and last year, her free-spirited kindergarten teacher loved Zoe’s hair since it helped around the classroom, picking up trash, erasing the chalkboard, setting the snack table, and comforting the children during nap time. But things change this year when Zoe goes to first grade. “School has rules,” her new teacher, Ms. Trisk, likes to say. “No wild hair in…

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Eminem Writes the Textbook on Reconciliation… Sort Of

Eminem Writes the Textbook on Reconciliation… Sort Of

When I teach students about reconciliation, I start with an unexpected source: Eminem. Believe it or not, his new track, “Headlights,” serves not only as a musical olive branch to his mother but as a beautiful example of human reconciliation. At the same time, the rapper demonstrates an interesting deviation from this approach when he considers divine reconciliation.

Eminem describes his tense, explosive arguments with his mother as “atomic bombs” and the climate of his house growing up as “Vietnam.” He suggests that his mother struggled with alcoholism to such a degree that the state ultimately seized his younger brother, Nate,…

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Another Week Ends: Normcore, Eterni.me, Colbert’s Late Show Prospects, Post-Grad Advice, and “I Love You, Buts”

Another Week Ends: Normcore, Eterni.me, Colbert’s Late Show Prospects, Post-Grad Advice, and “I Love You, Buts”

Real quick before we get going: Conference recordings should be up early next week! Videos will roll out gradually after that. Also, we’ve pulled Eden and Afterward to make some final changes. Look for a release announcement in the next ten days.

1) Even getting out of the game is part of the game, now. In fact, it is the game de rigueur. If you thought you weren’t in a fashion trend, if you didn’t know a group existed for people who were actually dressed just like most people, now there is, and you are, and it is the innest…

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How the Pout-Pout fish Becomes the Kiss-Kiss Fish

How the Pout-Pout fish Becomes the Kiss-Kiss Fish

In my perennial search for great children’s books written by people other than the beloved Sally Lloyd-Jones (there are few), I recently came across the clearest illustration of the law (demand) and grace (love) paradigm in storybook form: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. The story is about sad Mr. Fish, and all the other fish of the sea, who each in their own special way tell him to smile and cheer up. You know, what’s wrong with you? Mr. Fish’s constant refrain to these well-intended yet naive advice givers goes like this:

I’m a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face. So I spread the…

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Another Week Ends: Robots, Children, Busybodies, Grocery Store Flowcharts, Self-Hating Memories, Money-Burning Radio, Noah Dissent and Eight-Year-Old Guitar

Another Week Ends: Robots, Children, Busybodies, Grocery Store Flowcharts, Self-Hating Memories, Money-Burning Radio, Noah Dissent and Eight-Year-Old Guitar

 A quick update: we had some trouble with the Kindle version of The Mockingbird Devotional, but it’s now available here. It’s been tested with Kindle Fire and should work for older Kindles, too – Paperwhite compatibility is a little dubious (if there are problems, let us know so we can gripe to Amazon) – and it should work for iPad/iPhone and Android, too. 

1. The robots are coming: it’s a major upheaval we’ll see in the next few years, and one that’s flown relatively under the radar. So many avenues for exploring how we’ll relate to them, how they’ll change things – surrogate…

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A Cure for Our Self-Knowledge: Why We’ll Always Want Our Milk in the Same Sippy Cup

A Cure for Our Self-Knowledge: Why We’ll Always Want Our Milk in the Same Sippy Cup

The Paris Review’s (stunning) most recent issue features interviews with quite the coupling: Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and our favorite psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips. Both men talk about the art of writing, Phillips using a lot of the dialectic idioms you seem him using on paper all the time. Things like, “Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge.” Or, “Analysis should be the need not to know yourself.”

That being said, Phillips covers a lot of ground, including his own childhood, the books that formed him, the initial interests that brought him to the analysands’ chair. But mainly the conversation covers the breadth…

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Frederick Buechner on the Annunciation

For today, the Feast of the Annunciation, from his 1966 Classic, The Magnificent Defeat:

rembrandt167[1]Here at the end let me tell a story which seems to me to be a kind of parable of the lives of all of us. It is a peculiarly twentieth-century story, and it is almost too awful to tell: about a boy of twelve or thirteen who, in a fit of crazy anger and depression, got hold of a gun somewhere and fired it at his father, who died not right away but soon afterward. When the authorities asked the boy why he had done it, he said that it was because he could not stand his father, because his father demanded too much of him, because he hated his father. And then later on, after he had been placed in a house of detention somewhere, a guard was walking down the corridor late one night when he heard sounds from the boy’s room, and he stopped to listen. The words that he heard from the boy sobbing out in the darkness were, “I want my father, I want my father.”

Our father. We have killed him, and we will kill him again, and our world will kill him. And yet he is there. It is he who listens at the door. It is he who is coming. It is our father who is about to be born. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

NYC Preview: What’s My Faction? (Teen) Angst in Dystopian Young Adult Fiction and Film

NYC Preview: What’s My Faction? (Teen) Angst in Dystopian Young Adult Fiction and Film

This comes from Rev. Deborah Leighton. To view the other conference breakout titles, or to register, click here.

“The more things change the more they stay the same.”  How many of us have reflected on our internal challenges as adults only to realize that they derive from the same root as the anxieties that possessed us at age 13?

The powers that be have given YA author Veronica Roth a bad rap for writing a dystopian trilogy that rides the coattails of The Hunger Games without measuring up to its complexity and wider market appeal.  Indeed, time and money are much better…

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Another Week Ends: Overprotected Kids (and their Legos), Disney Therapy, Katims Gold, Malaysian Obsessions, Performance Reviews and Symmetrical Wes

Another Week Ends: Overprotected Kids (and their Legos), Disney Therapy, Katims Gold, Malaysian Obsessions, Performance Reviews and Symmetrical Wes

1. I had every intention of giving the subject of parenting a rest. Really, I did. But then The Atlantic put Hanna Rosin’s “The Overprotected Kid” on their cover this month and what can you do. Rosin touches on many of the same points that Heather Havrilesky raised in her polemic on ‘scripted play’, tracing the adverse effect that the decrease in unsupervised, unstructured time is having on our nation’s children, and the mounting tyranny of control (some would say paranoia) among parents. As Rosin notes, “failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent”. And yet,…

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Play to Order and the Gamification of Parenting

Play to Order and the Gamification of Parenting

One of the most difficult and awkward things about being a youth minister was billing the events we would organize. We would tell kids about how much fun or profound something would be, hoping they would come, and we wouldn’t be lying. We knew the retreat/camp/outing would be a great time; they always were. But the second those words escaped your mouth (“the most fun you’ll ever have! the trip of a lifetime!”), they rang hollow. You could see it in the looks on the faces of whomever you were addressing. How fun could something be if you had to…

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On Blessed Messes and the New Law of Mothering Ineptitude

On Blessed Messes and the New Law of Mothering Ineptitude

Over the past few years I’ve noticed a trend in popular women’s theology (ie “mom blogs” and playground conversations) that goes something like this: My life is such a mess. Isn’t it great that I own that?

The trend isn’t just out there. I was taken aback recently when I found myself chastising a lawyer friend of mine for posting photos of the homemade valentines she crafted for her 4 year old son’s class. I wrote something along the lines of, “Can’t you keep the standards low for working mothers? Come on!” I can be easily overwhelmed by the charge of being…

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Grace In Everyday Life: Parents and Children; Law and Freedom

A young man’s mother refuses, then allows, him go to see a show with an actress he’s always wanted to see – simple enough, right? Maybe not – from Within a Budding Grove, by Marcel Proust.

1448[W]ith my eyes fixed upon that inconceivable image [of the actress], I strove from morning to night to overcome the barriers which my family were putting in my way. But when those had at last fallen, when my mother… had said to me, ‘Very well, we don’t wish for you to be unhappy; – if you think that you will enjoy it so very much, you must go; that’s all;’ when this day of theatre-going, hitherto forbidden and unattainable, depended no only upon myself, then for the first time, being no longer troubled by the wish that it might cease to be impossible, I asked myself if it were desirable, if there were no other reason than my parents’ prohibition which should make me abandon my design. In the first place, whereas I had been detesting them for their cruelty, their consent made them now so dear to me that the thought of causing them pain stabbed me also with a pain through which the purpose of life shewed itself as the pursuit not of truth but of loving-kindness, and life itself seemed good or evil only as my parents were happy or sad.

-Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, trans C.K. Scott Moncrieff

For a student of the complex human interior like Proust, forces of conscience andcommand are always at work. The parent here has authority, and the parent must guide the child into what’s best for him. This guidance may look like arbitrary command, which inspires resistance, but in the command’s absence, the narrator realizes his parents love him, and therefore he begins to approach the situation based not on a simplistic assertion of his freedom and desire, but instead gratitude sharpens his vision; he begins to see his parents not as authoritarians, but as those who have his best interests at heart. A new good and evil emerges, one in which loving-kindness is prime and their happiness of sadness calibrates what is best for him, too.

He ends up disappointed by the play, which isn’t surprising: this situation is partial and fleeting, serving more to illustrate a small corner of our relation to law, and nothing more. But it is also true-to-life, and it points to a transition from command to freedom which must take place before we can properly see the law for what it is. For now, it’s through a glass darkly, but sometimes a glimpse of a hand, a face, the traces of a gesture barely seen on the other side – a gesture of love – can give the slightest hint as to what’s beyond the smudged surface, and those rare occasions when it happens can be remarkable.

 

Baby Names and Family Secrets

Baby Names and Family Secrets

Perhaps it’s just because I’m 30 weeks pregnant, but there seem to be articles about choosing the right baby name everywhere. Wait But Why’s exhaustive “How to Name a Baby” made the rounds recently, for example, inspiring anxiety in people who named their daughter Sophia and/or hitting all the wrong buttons for those whose parents had made the unknown mistep of naming them Jennifer in the 1970s. And then there was this gem, which, as the title suggests, is a personal account of “How Not to Name Your Baby.” The author, Tania Lombrozo, offers her story of using crowd-sourcing (no,…

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Another Week Ends: Negatively Positive Thinking, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Love and Friendship, Fun Families, Facebook Sociology and Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories

Another Week Ends: Negatively Positive Thinking, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, Love and Friendship, Fun Families, Facebook Sociology and Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories

1. Think positive! The New Yorker this week pushes back against the “think I can” trend, famously espoused by Thomas the Train – and even in adult media, too. While it’s certain that confidence often sometimes helps (Seahawks defensiveback Richard Sherman self-imputed the title “best cornerback in the league” and subsequently grew into it), it tends to break down in the long run, ht TB:

According to a great deal of research, positive fantasies may lessen your chances of succeeding. In one experiment, the social psychologists Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer asked eighty-three German students to rate the extent to which they “experienced positive thoughts, images,…

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Hopelessly Devoted (to Tony): No Longer an Orphan

Hopelessly Devoted (to Tony): No Longer an Orphan

Recently, while serving in Kampala, Uganda with one of my favorite ministries, Sixty Feet, I was reminded of a story I once heard from my friend, Jim Gash. The story is called Starfish and goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was a man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of…

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