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Death

Jesus Came to Save (Even) Leslie Charping

Jesus Came to Save (Even) Leslie Charping

Here’s something of a revised obituary, brought to us by Ben Maddison.

There is a train that goes past my house at 12:30 AM every night, which gives me a lot of opportunities to sleepily scroll through late-night Facebook: a weird and generally silent beast, driven by algorithms and insomnia. Tucked away in that late-night scroll fest—past the photos from yesterday and the hot new clickbait—was this Washington Post article on the obituary of a man named Leslie Charping.

I’m not sure if it falls under the “weird news” category or the “fluff at the end of the broadcast,” but it stopped me…

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Letter from a Hospice Chaplain in Las Vegas

Letter from a Hospice Chaplain in Las Vegas

Here’s one from Matthew Metevelis:

I work as a chaplain for a non-profit hospice in Las Vegas. Anyone who has served as a chaplain will tell you that the work can be routine but it is never dull. The problems and situations that you find yourself working through with people in hospice run the gamut from the touching to the tragic to the hilarious (“hospice humor” is a thing – next time you meet a hospice worker, ask). But one thing has never come up in seven years. Nobody has ever asked me if they’ve gotten their politics correct. I’ve never…

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Mary Oliver’s Scrambled Turtle Eggs

Mary Oliver’s Scrambled Turtle Eggs

Living in the country, there are some beautiful things you get to experience that you simply don’t experience elsewhere. Without sounding too much like a Kubota tractor ad, I will say that nothing quite beats an early morning walk down to the river with a hot thermos of coffee, except perhaps doing that and bringing your swimsuit. Or the thick racket of peepers and bullfrogs and cicadas in the night.

But it’s not all joy and romance. Sometimes I’ll step out into the night air and look up at the stars, do some deep breathing, hope to “have a moment,” appreciating…

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The Post-Millenials, or Generation X at the End of the World

The Post-Millenials, or Generation X at the End of the World

I do not read Revelation regularly. I’m scared of it. Not of the actual text, mind you — I’m scared of being overwhelmed by half-remembered theological positions and theories about eschatology. I’m skeptical that anything in the text is meant to be a prediction — thief in the night, etc. — but I’m neither biblically sophisticated nor spiritually courageous enough to actually read and contemplate what “the end of all things” does or should mean to me. Essentially, I’m stuck in a state of indecision and irony (i.e., my position is I don’t have one). My prophet clearing the way in…

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Humbled on the High Horse

Humbled on the High Horse

For our jail bible study this past week, we decided to do Sunday’s gospel reading, which just so happened to be the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), the litany of blessings that Jesus bestows on the weak, the discouraged, the sad, and the lonely. I thought, in the jail of all places, that people would really be able to understand the pertinence of Jesus’ upside-down view of things. I thought, well, if anyone understands this passage…

The guys were definitely appreciative of the good news in those lines. The meek inheriting the earth? Comfort for those who weep? They said it sounded like…

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On “Omniscient” Narrators: W.C. Heinz’s “Death of a Racehorse”

On “Omniscient” Narrators: W.C. Heinz’s “Death of a Racehorse”

Sportswriters are not generally awarded the prestigious seats at writer’s guild meetings. But when the Library of America brings out a collection of your sportswriting, as they did for W.C. Heinz, the guild must make an exception. Imagine what Heinz’s reportorial eyes witnessed —  the right crosses of Rocky Marciano, the mercurial shouts of Vince Lombardi, and the sweet swing of Stan Musial (not to mention the Battle of the Bulge). Writing his best work at mid-20th century, Heinz bridged the golden era of sportswriters like Grantland Rice with the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe. His boxing novel (“The…

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Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson’s Fences

My mother and father always attempted to instill into me and my brothers an appreciation for culture. Mom was and remains extremely well-read in classic literature, hailing Steinbeck as her favorite; she enjoyed foreign cinema and took me (while in the womb) to an Ingmar Bergman film festival; she could reference renowned plays and decided to middle-name me after Neil Simon; and her record collection lined the living room perimeter containing everything from Funkadelic to Simon & Garfunkel, Temptations, Barbara Streisand, The Police, Rick James, etc…

But I think the most significant (though at the time not fully appreciated) exposure came…

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Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

Trying to Curb Your Own Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m on the tail end of a nasty cold that has as one of its side effects existential nihilism. To add insult to injury, this particular bug coincided with an anniversary date of the loss of a parent. Reflecting over the 15 years since that event, a lot more bad stuff has happened. In other words, I’m getting ready to channel Richard Lewis, Curb Your Enthusiasm-style:

Richard Lewis: First of all, I’m getting old, I have that irregular heart thing and this is not a good thing, I’m a recovering alcoholic, this is all very bad for me.
Larry David: What, we’re…

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In This Hope We Rebel: Rogue One, An Advent Story

In This Hope We Rebel: Rogue One, An Advent Story

Everybody!!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers magnificently on the promise Star Wars fans have known still lurked within the franchise but struggled to manifest over the last seventeen years of films. Yes, I’m hyperventilating a little–but so will you. Rogue One is so excellent it would be easy to drown the internet in superlatives praising it but part of the excitement that accompanies it is the sheer wonder of witnessing a story that celebrates heroism and hope without resorting to the stale devices that characterize so many blockbusters. Gareth Edwards has composed an elegy to broken human beings consecrated to…

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Hopelessly Devoted: First Corinthians Fifteen Verses Fifty Six and Fifty Seven

Hopelessly Devoted: First Corinthians Fifteen Verses Fifty Six and Fifty Seven

At the end of Hamilton, Philip, Hamilton’s oldest son, is shot and killed in a duel. Hamilton and his wife, Eliza, attempt to put their lives back together, moving uptown, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. “It’s Quiet Uptown,” arguably the most haunting song of the entire musical, describes their pain as they continue through life, unable to articulate or comprehend what has happened to them. Hamilton, whose career was built on words, finds himself in a situation where words have lost all meaning. Two lines near the end of the song ring painfully true: “There are moments…

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Manchester By the Sea: Notes on the Best Film of the Year

Manchester By the Sea: Notes on the Best Film of the Year

I’m pretty sure my wife and I would’ve gotten together without Kenneth Lonergan’s help, but you never know. It was the summer of 2002, and she was the first person I’d ever heard mention his film You Can Count On Me in casual conversation. A deceptively smart mixture of pathos and heart (and great acting), she counted it among her favorites as well. I’ve told the story elsewhere–let’s just say the episode doesn’t reflect particularly well on yours truly. But it should give you a sense of what the man’s work means to me.

When Lonergan’s long-delayed follow-up Margaret finally appeared…

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Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

I was on duty for the 7am chapel service at my church this morning and wasn’t quite sure what to say, especially since the Gospel reading contained Jesus’ famously opaque words about “salt of the earth” (Mt 5.13). I had a copy of Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment on my desk, and looked to see what wisdom he might offer. As usual, RFC was enormously helpful, both for those of us who are feeling like “winners” and “losers” today, who feel “dead” and “alive.”

Consider the imagery. Salt seasons and salt preserves, but in any significant quantity, it is not of itself edible, nourishing,…

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