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Malfunctioning Lovers (and Christ in a Ciabatta Roll)

A scathing narrator lowers her anthropology in this compelling passage from White Teeth by Zadie Smith:

What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll—then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greetings cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.

Millat didn’t love Irie, and Irie was sure there must be somebody she could blame for that.

Multiple Marriages to the Same Spouse ~ Debbie and Ellis Brazeal

From our recent conference in NYC, here is a wonderful talk about the dance of marriage:

Multiple Marriages to the Same Spouse ~ Debbie and Ellis Brazeal from Mockingbird on Vimeo

One Day At A Time Is No Way To Live: Love, Death, and Parenting Teenagers

One Day At A Time Is No Way To Live: Love, Death, and Parenting Teenagers

A first sneak peek into the Love & Death Issue, which you can order here. It comes from the one and only Emily Skelding. Remember, subscribers/monthly givers get a discount on the upcoming D.C. Conference!

I relish long-term planning and list-making. During this academic year, I planned to write a book, my son Sumner strategized to get into his first-choice college, and my daughter Ramona declared she wanted to take an extra math class in her free time. We broke our big goals into littler ones and scripted the things we had to do to get there. Looking ahead is my…

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Count On It – A Judd Hirsch Moment with Jim Munroe

An illustration that just may whet your appetite for the D.C. Conference

Count On It: The Essence of Mockingbird and Why Judd Hirsch is Like Jesus ~ Jim Munroe from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Right-Wing Fathers, Left-Wing Sons, and The Reason You're Alive

Right-Wing Fathers, Left-Wing Sons, and The Reason You’re Alive

Matthew Quick has a gift for telling stories around a lovable, self-destructive hero, a gift that’s made the novelist a Hollywood go-to. His first novel, Silver Linings Playbook, we all know about. But there are several more in the stable that have been optioned by producers, including the one just released this spring (and immediately optioned by Miramax), called The Reason You’re Alive.

The story is told by our crusty first-person narrator, a Vietnam veteran named David Granger, a foul-mouthed (very politically incorrect) 68-year-old American patriot recovering from a recent brain surgery. The brain tumor—which Granger attributes to too much exposure…

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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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Mining Netflix: Lion (2016)

Mining Netflix: Lion (2016)

In the Mining Netflix series, we usually post the best of the internet’s films that didn’t get a wide release, or didn’t have a big marketing budget. Not the hipster obscure films, but the good stuff that falls through the cracks, movies most folks might not have had a chance to see. To feature 2016’s Lion in this column is a bit disingenuous. The film garnered six Oscar nominations, though it failed to nab any, and made waves on the film festival circuit too. Still, it’s now on Netflix, and worth a watch for a good cathartic cry. Mild spoilers…

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Freedom's Just Another Word

Freedom’s Just Another Word

The first time I heard an Aussie ask “How are you going?” I thought he wanted me to give him directions, which is hilarious because I know how to get to, like, three places here. Then I realized I was being presented with an alternative to our American phrase “How are you doing?” And I decided that I really liked it.

There’s a chance I’m taking idioms too personally here, but my journey through faith has been like this: religion to grace. Javert to Valjean. Imperative to indicative. My early years of preoccupation with behavior—to my idea of God as the…

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The Real (Suppressed) You

An amazing little passage from Frank Lake’s book on pastoral care. This could be filed away under “what not to do” in moments of great suffering. Lake discusses the human need to have negative feelings, that therealities of rage, anxiety, loneliness or grief should not be kept hidden or suppressed. In the realm of church groups, though, or really any other kind of group, Lake notes that these negative feelings are often seen as problematic and unattractive, even unacceptable. They are often, in these circles, evidence of a lack of faith, a lack of self-esteem, a lack of personal grit. When we are this person, the suffering one in need of a listening ear, we are aware that this is a risk, putting ourselves out there like this. Lake, like Brené Brown, argues that it is a huge act of bravery to be vulnerable about these unseemly emotions.

Sometimes, though, the pain is too great and we just have to share. And instead of finding friends who have faced the same demons, we find strangers who seem not to know what we’re talking about. There are awkward silences, darting glances, pained faces, a quick change of the subject. Someone in the group gets the group “back on track,” and our negative feelings–the thing that derailed the conversation–are cast aside as if they were never spoken to begin with. Here’s Lake:

The effect of this put-down on the anxious sharer is devastating. They feel the group life they have come to depend on and their acceptance in it are tottering on the brink of disintegration. They have shared the worst that they fear to be true of themselves and the group quite plainly did not want to know.

Next week there is a crisis: do I go again or do I stay away? If I do go, who is it that goes? The chastened/corrected John or Mary, resolved never again to risk being disgraced, resolved to act the cheerful charismatic cover-up to the evident satisfaction of all? But that is not the essence of renewal but of the old religion. However skillfully last week’s well-shamed sharer contrives…there will be anger hidden.

Isn’t this, after all, the defining character trait of “religion,” why it so often carries connotations of phoniness, grandiosity, and abstraction? And isn’t this what Jesus came to save us from, from our contrived sense of personal wellbeing? Throughout the gospels, Jesus seems to ask the question of the wounded ones he encounters (and, by extension, of us): where is the real you, not the corrected you? Where is the wound? Everything that is hidden will be brought to light, and released, made new.

The Essential Shift: Moving from Orphan to Beloved Son

A terrific talk from the 2017 Coming Back Stronger Conference in Birmingham, AL. Tray Lovvorn, one of the hosts of Undone Redone, talks about the different ways we understand our relationship to God:

Riding Shotgun: On Being the Clergy-Adjacent

Riding Shotgun: On Being the Clergy-Adjacent

I was hauling a giant luggage container, the kind that attaches to a car roof, across my driveway with the woman who bought it from me on craigslist. It wasn’t heavy, but it was awkward and large, and we were having a bit of a hard time maneuvering it. It was dark outside, and we couldn’t really see what we were doing.

“Oh my god, this is like hauling a dead body by dark of night.”

I said it, and then I immediately wished I hadn’t said it. “I’m sorry—I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just that my husband is clergy, and…

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Party of Five and the God of Party Poopers

Party of Five and the God of Party Poopers

When life gets tough, I like to watch other people’s lives get tougher. In Germany or Avenue Q, this is called shadenfreude; in America, this is called haphazardly engaging in political discourse on social media, or watching just about any popular TV drama. Forgoing the Covfefe hoo-ha, I recently committed instead to a teen soap opera — a precious genre rife with death and tragedy and youth pregnancy scares.

Several episodes deep into a show like Party of Five (1994-2000) and my day-to-day seems pretty alright. The walls begin to lean blessedly outward instead of in. I can breathe, and I…

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