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Death

It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

If you’ve caught any trailers for It Comes at Night, you know it’s a scary one. I went to see it the other day, and, preparing for the worst, I took a seat near the back and nestled in behind my popcorn. Sensing a particularly horrific part coming, I fixed my eyes at a corner of the screen. Alas the scares came too suddenly for me to look away, but for the most part, I didn’t want to. In Trey Edward Shults’ second feature, not all was as it seemed. It Comes at Night promised something sinister lurking outside the red…

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Heaven Side Encouragement for Earth Side Ministry: A Remembrance of Ed Salmon

Heaven Side Encouragement for Earth Side Ministry: A Remembrance of Ed Salmon

The first time I met the Rev. Ed Salmon, he was ordaining a friend of mine at All Saints, Chevy Chase. I was immediately struck by just how much he felt like a bishop. He was open-hearted, generous, and incredibly Southern.

Later I came to realize that he had either worked with or had a major impact on many of the Episcopal clergy who I know and love. Years ago, when one of my friends came into the Diocese of South Carolina as a newly ordained priest, Bishop Salmon told him, “In the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Five Verse Four

This morning’s devotion was written by Mary Zahl. 

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
(Matthew 5:4, ASV)

Again and again, I have been struck by Christians using the language of faith to ward off the presence of pain. It’s understandable—pain is painful. All of us want to avoid it as much as possible, and when we can’t avoid it, we try what we can to minimize its side effects. As Christians, we get nervous admitting the depth of our pain, because what if it is a sign of a lack of trust in the goodness of God, a lack of faith?

I was listening to a friend tell me about her life in recent months. She had moved across the country after living happily in the South for many years. As I listened to her, it was clear to me that she was on the verge of tears from the change, but every time the tears came to the surface, she would say, “but I know I have so much to be thankful for, and I know God loves me, and that is all that matters.” No tears allowed.

I don’t believe in telling people what to do, but if I did, I would have said to my sad, exhausted friend, “What you need is a good cry. You have lost so much. Of course, there are also good things about your move, but you will not be able to see those clearly until you mourn the losses. Cry until you cannot cry any more. And, for God’s sake, don’t think your tears are a sign of faithlessness or ingratitude. Did not Jesus himself say, ‘Blessed are they that mourn?’”

When pain is denied or kept at bay, the sufferer misses out on the opportunity that comes with facing pain honestly, which is feeling the weight and powerlessness of it. Counterintuitively, the experience of going into the pain generally brings out compassion, peace, and even joy on the other side.

Like the day we call Good Friday, our deaths (no matter how small) can be transformed—resurrected—such that we might even call them good. Conversely, when we hold onto words of “Christian hope” almost as if they were magic, we miss out on the joy and hope that come when the resurrection power is given rather than grasped.

The Raising of the Crucified One ~ Fleming Rutledge

The speaker from the talk below received a standing ovation at our 10th Anniversary conference in NYC. Her book, The Crucifixion, has gone as viral as a 700-page theological magnum opus can. She’s Fleming Rutledge, speaking this time about the resurrection.

The Raising of the Crucified One ~ Fleming Rutledge from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

PS. Expect an excellent interview with Fleming in the upcoming Love & Death Issue of The Mockingbird. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here!

On Being Fat (and Life's Other Unavoidable Criteria)

On Being Fat (and Life’s Other Unavoidable Criteria)

I have always been fat.

From earliest memory, my mother took me to De Pinna’s “husky section” to buy fat kids’ clothing. When I was playing at 189 and 10% body fat, my BMI was close to “morbid” — and I have not been below 200 in 37 years. When I lost a third of myself 10 years ago, I was, and am, still fat.

Weight is the most obvious criterion of my life. It was once grades. It’s also money — not the love of family, God, or being “saved.” No, I prefer numbers — especially the hard ones — but my weight…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Six Verses Twenty-Five Through Twenty-Seven and Thirty-Four

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Six Verses Twenty-Five Through Twenty-Seven and Thirty-Four

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own….

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Transhumanism: No More Death

Transhumanism: No More Death

“Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.”
 – T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland.

In an excellent essay for n+1, Meghan O’Gieblyn connects transhumanism’s striving take on human perfectibility with Christian eschatology. “Ghost in the Cloud: Transhumanism’s Simulation Theology” draws on the writer’s personal history to provide a well-considered take on what an increasing reverence for technology might mean for our spirituality.

O’Gieblyn describes her first encounter with Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines after a co-worker lent her a…

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And the Rough Places Plain

And the Rough Places Plain

I’m not unfamiliar with the general decay of the human body. My dad was a priest and a hospice chaplain, and my family didn’t shy away from having elderly or sick relatives stay with us as they reached the end of their lives. I was born with only two grandparents, my mother’s parents having died when she was a girl. I was named for an aunt who died about a month before I was born. She died in the church parking lot after volunteering there one morning. By the time I was a teenager, I was on a first-name basis with all…

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All the Grief We Can’t Relieve: A Meditation on Pearl Jam and Holy Saturday

All the Grief We Can’t Relieve: A Meditation on Pearl Jam and Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday may have come and gone, but its meaning and importance remain ever with us. This moving piece was written by John Alexander.

My friend Dave died in a car accident in 2007. The ten-year anniversary of his death roughly coincides with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction of Pearl Jam, a band that is inseparable from Dave’s life and times. Their debut album Ten recently turned 25 years old (the Hall of Fame’s minimum age requirement for a band’s nomination), which was Dave’s age when he died. Their induction ceremony was held in Brooklyn last weekend, on…

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The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

In the Gospel reading appointed for Good Friday, Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” He seems to really want to know. He seems to be searching for an answer to explain this bruised and beaten Jew standing before him and the chaotic scene outside in his courtyard. And the truth is what we come to church seeking each Good Friday. With Pilate we ask, “What is truth?” We show up before God on the day commemorating Christ’s death for us, asking such questions as, Why was this necessary? Why did God have to die for us? Why would God die for…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Ezekiel Thirty-Seven Verses Four Through Six

Hopelessly Devoted: Ezekiel Thirty-Seven Verses Four Through Six

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord’” (Ezekiel 37:4-6, NIV)

This is one of the most famous passages in Ezekiel, and what a wild scene! The throwback King James English calls this…

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The Struggle of Dying

The Struggle of Dying

This meditation on Lent and healing prayer comes to us from our friend Laurel Marr. 

In his book, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane tells the story of Henry Fleming, a young soldier who enlists in the army in hopes of fulfilling his dream for glory. But, a long time goes by before his regiment is called forward to battle and the fear of dying begins to set in his mind. Henry wonders if he is really brave enough for battle. Then, upon seeing the enemy for the first time, Henry’s courage fails and he flees the battlefield.

Thank you, Stephen Crane…

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