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The Power of the Personal Essay

The Power of the Personal Essay

In her piece for newyorker.com, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over,” Jia Tolentino laments the death of a genre of writing that was, for a spell, ubiquitous. “A genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared,” she writes. The Toast, Hairpin, Gawker, and other sites showcasing the noble attempts of young writers to mine their experiences and explore what they had to say have since disbanded or stopped receiving first-person pitches. The audience has shrunk for these essays, and Tolentino is sad to see them go.

The online personal essay has its faults. The form’s popularity contributed…

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Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part Three

Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part Three

One of the comments from this recent article in the New York Times Magazine on diet culture in America says:

As humans I think we are all seeking something more. We all want to be better, and to be different. Some days we love ourselves. Some days we don’t. This Feature went way beyond weight for me, it spoke about the common constant striving of humanity and about shared desires and secrets….of our anxieties, our struggles, our sadness, and our love and hopes.

There is so much awareness in the words above. We all spend so much time and energy to be…

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When You Can't Get the S-Town Off of You

When You Can’t Get the S-Town Off of You

There are these golden moments in interviews where everything before and after becomes fuzzy, and the clarity of what is happening between those two people gets thrust into sharp contrast, like an audio pull-quote. Recently I had just that experience.

I felt an urge to relisten to S-Town just a few weeks ago. It was even more moving the second time, hearing Brian Reed tell the story of the eccentric genius John B. McLemore and the equally colorful supporting cast of characters that were his family and neighbors. It was like listening to a real-life Flannery O’Connor story; Southern Gothic meets…

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Top Hat Meets Obelisk

Top Hat Meets Obelisk

A great one from Richard Mammana.

For about a century, proud and dead Americans imagined themselves to be Egyptians. Throwing away the simple, hopeful crosses of common grave-marking, and setting aside the robust traditions of soaring angels and death’s heads of Puritan or German decoration, we erected obelisks in our own memory. It doesn’t seem to have ever extended to mummification and canopic jars, but it was a fad of fads that grew up following the Napoleonic spoliation of Egypt—and the sudden appearance of Cleopatra’s needles in Paris, Rome, London, and New York. It ended as abruptly as it began. But…

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From the Onion: Picture Most Closely Resembling Actual Self Immediately Deleted

CORVALLIS, OR—Instantly repulsed by the startling image, local woman Monica Arquette immediately deleted a picture that, above all others ever taken of her, most closely resembled her actual self, sources reported Monday. “God, I hate this one,” said Arquette, promptly wiping from her phone’s memory the most authentic photo of her currently in existence, both in representing her physical form and in capturing her overall essence as a person. “I look so weird. Not a chance I’m showing this hideous thing to anyone.” At press time, Arquette was thrilled with a picture that vaguely approximated her actual self if squinted at long enough.

Hopelessly Devoted: First John Chapter Four Verse Nineteen

Hopelessly Devoted: First John Chapter Four Verse Nineteen

Another great find from Luke Mackinnon, reading Steve Brown’s newest book, Hidden Agendas.

Steve Brown’s Hidden Agendas is a summer deep cleanse for the soul. He invites his readers to rip off their masks to “discover how God’s love propels us into the real relationships we thought we’d never have,” that we genuinely accept God’s acceptance and grace only when we face him and others unmasked–no matter how raw, vulnerable, or scary that may feel. This excerpt is pulled from the chapter tilted “Halloween Horror” and highlights God’s immense love and grace despite the constant efforts of masking our sinfulness.

We hurt…

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I am Bartman

I am Bartman

I’m not sure what else there is to say about this. When I heard about Steve Bartman getting a 2016 World Series ring from the Chicago Cubs yesterday, I got a little choked up, and I wasn’t sure why. I’m not a Cubs fan. In fact, I rooted pretty hard against them last season. Where was my emotional reaction coming from? (This actually happens all of the time, but it always comes from left field.) I then thought about that little self-description that I once put in my Twitter profile years ago: “self-deceived, loved, shunned, cherished, left for dead, rescued,…

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Theology Lessons from a Ghetto Star

Theology Lessons from a Ghetto Star

Another amazing one from our friend Chad Bird. 

When the phone rang at his friend’s house, Tommy Shakur Ross picked up the receiver. And into his ears fell razor-sharp words that would keep falling and falling, shredding his insides in their violent descent…

Tommy—who goes by Shakur—was a member of the L.A. gang, the Eight Trays. Raised by a minister father and church-going mother, Shakur discovered within the gang a new identity, a new culture, new aspirations. He even received a new name; he became Joker.

But despite his moniker, Joker was dead serious. He was out to earn a reputation, score points,…

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This Is Really 40

This Is Really 40

My family and I recently took a trip to Fiji. (I will pause momentarily for your pity.) My husband billed the “vacation” as part of my present for my upcoming fortieth birthday, even though since (a) the kids came along, and (b) trips with kids aren’t vacations, then by deductive reasoning, (c) I did not get a vacation for my birthday. Nonetheless, it was one of many experiences we’ve been fortunate enough to have because of our move to Australia. The only other way I could see myself ever getting to the South Pacific is as a contestant on The…

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Jesus and Therapy: Subjective Comfort with Objective News ~ Ethan Richardson

Here is one of the more powerful talks from our recent conference in New York City. Ethan talks about how we see ourselves, and what happens when someone else sees us—the real us.

Jesus and Therapy: Subjective Comfort with Objective News ~ Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

People Are Dying in Texas and I Am a Lucky Schmuck

People Are Dying in Texas and I Am a Lucky Schmuck

As a Southern transplant to New York City, riding the subway during rush hour was the most jarring activity of the week. After a long day of work, people were ready to get home and order some takeout. In the summer, everyone smelled bad, me included. Train after train would pass with no room for the crowds to get on. There was always an air of chaos and immediacy that I haven’t experienced in any other setting.

After a few months of this daily trial, I begin to notice the shift that would happen in myself as I…

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The Tempest of Ancestry.com

The Tempest of Ancestry.com

I can talk to just about anyone about just about anything. Gallbladder surgery. Grandchildren’s precociousness. Train schedules. Weather patterns. But, I do have one achilles’ heel: ancestry narratives. As soon as someone starts talking about their third great-grandfather’s cousin twice removed, and how that person fought in the battle of Waterloo, my eyes glaze over and I start to sniff out the exit. I just … can’t.

I think this reluctance started when we lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, where everybody seems to have some colonial something-or-other, and I was just known as the gross Yankee that married the bachelor priest. (The…

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