New Here?
     
Forgiveness

Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm One Hundred Three Verse Fourteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm One Hundred Three Verse Fourteen

If you imagine God looking at you, what expression does he have on his face?

This question was posed by a Bible study curriculum I did in college, and it has always stuck with me, convicting me of my inaccurate perception of my heavenly Father.

If I’m honest with myself, my default answer would be that God looks at me with frustration or disappointment, wondering why I can’t get my act together, why I can’t get a grip on that sin that just won’t go away. My perception of God is tied so closely to how well I think I’m fulfilling the…

Read More > > >

In Praise of Excess: The Beauty of Babette's Feast

In Praise of Excess: The Beauty of Babette’s Feast

Another sneak peek into the Food & Drink Issue, which will be on sale at the conference this weekend! Ethan’s essay is all about grace in the 1987 Danish film (and Oscar winner) Babette’s Feast.

Last winter, my wife Hannah found out she has celiac disease, the rare autoimmune disorder that means you can’t eat gluten. Contrary to the many gluten-free fads that have taken the nation by storm, people with celiac suffer a gluten intolerance that is microscopically comprehensive. The smallest gluten part per million—a dust particle in a vat of soup—can wreak havoc on her stomach.

The fact that we’re in…

Read More > > >

20th Century Women and Guilty Filmmakers

20th Century Women and Guilty Filmmakers

If I need another reminder of my overwhelming guilt and shame, I can always turn to the movies. It’s perverse, but I definitely derive some libidinal satisfaction in recognizing guilt on screen. Over the years we’ve seen various heroes or, more appropriately, antiheroes of this ilk. Martin Scorsese’s developed an impressive oeuvre on the subject. Manchester by the Sea overtly depicted a man dealing with it. You don’t have to look far. Movies like this do well to highlight the fact that we mess up. The gap between who we aspire to be and who we really are is significant….

Read More > > >

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

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…

Read More > > >

Hopelessly Devoted: Colossians Chapter Two Verse Fourteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Colossians Chapter Two Verse Fourteen

I love the doctrine of justification, but to be honest, I don’t always feel it. I am sure part of the reason is my lack of easy familiarity with the dense theological terms which buttress it. And so, while I sit in the loan officer’s office, experts works out all the details (using jargon like expiation or propitiation or imputation and other such terms that don’t exactly roll off the tongue). I believe it all, to be sure. Just show me where to sign and initial and I will enthusiastically do so. But at times, my deep soul engagement…

Read More > > >

The Unbearable Rightness of Forgiveness

The Unbearable Rightness of Forgiveness

I have a shelf filled with books on the art of writing — it is a great distraction from actually writing. But seriously, if you share my vice, you may want to check out Ann Patchett’s “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life.”

Patchett was blessed with accomplished writing mentors at Sarah Lawrence College, including the poet Jane Cooper, novelists Allan Gurganus and Russell Banks, and short story virtuoso Grace Paley. Then, it was off to the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop. But upon leaving, her budding career took a detour, as she left her husband and her newly…

Read More > > >

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Two Verses One Through Twelve

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Two Verses One Through Twelve

Another stellar devotion coming to us from Mockingtern, Margaret Pope. 

When I was ten years old, I wrote in an email to my grandparents an analogy that I came up with. The email read something like this (copied directly from the original because of course they saved it):

The other day I thought of an analogy related to God’s love. I thought you might like it: Our hearts are like sponges. When God enters our life, we soak up his love like a sponge soaks up water. When the Devil enters your life, he rings out the sponge. Like he takes over…

Read More > > >

The Benefit of Treating Your Spouse Like A Small Child

From a talk he gave on love this summer, Alain de Botton here gives us permission to view our significant others as the small children they actually are. Relying on a searingly low anthropology, de Botton argues that pessimism is, in fact, the key to a successful relationship. He says, “Pessimism is often seen as the enemy of good things, and indeed it is in many ventures. But when you embark on the journey of love, pessimism, in fact, is the most generous and kindly emotion you can direct towards yourself and your partner.” One of the ways we do this, he figures, is to disentangle one another from the “adult” expectations we have for one another. (The entire 20 minute talk, below, is well worth the listen. This comes in the last couple minutes.)

1436848227586_the-little-rascals

The first thing we need to understand is: let’s stop treating our partners as if they were adults and let’s start treating them like small children. The reason this is so important is when a small child has done something wrong—let’s imagine you have a small child, you cook them dinner, they’re two years old, three years old, you have broccoli and some schnitzel and you put a plate down in front of them and they just swipe it off and go, “Ech!” and start screaming. Now, what do you do as a modern parent? You don’t hit them. You don’t go, “I’m so offended, I’ve had a hard day at work, and now this—you’re persecuting me!” You don’t say that. Instead, you go, “Maybe my poor child’s got a sore tooth, or maybe he’s a bit jealous of his sister being born, maybe that’s kind of weighing on him, maybe he’s a bit tired, that’s why he’s behaving like this.” In other words, we’re incredibly generous with our system of interpretation. We don’t do this with adults because we think, This person’s an adult. And, most adults look like adults, unfortunately. It would be so much more useful if we looked like children.

The thing about breaking something—like a broken arm—is that everyone can see it. “Oh, you’ve got a broken arm! I’m so sorry, let me open the door for you.” If you’ve got a broken bit of your soul, a broken bit of your psyche, everyone thinks your normal. But you want to say, “No, no, I’ve got this thing, it’s broken even though it doesn’t look broken.” We don’t look like children—but we are inside. And we’re so aware of how patronizing it is to be treated as if you are younger than you are, but we forget how generous, how kind, how truly loving it is to treat someone as if they are younger than they are. Because this is what it means to truly love someone: to be generous in one’s interpretation of another person.

Hopelessly Devoted: Lamentations Chapter Two Verses Twenty Two and Twenty Three

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Mockintern extraordinaire Margaret Pope.

As of May 14, 2016, I am an adult. Maybe more accurately a pseudo-adult because my dad still pays my cellphone bill and insurance, but nevertheless, I am no longer an undergrad. I went straight from graduation in Oxford, Mississippi, to summer camp in North Carolina to a new job in Charlottesville, Virginia, so I did not fully comprehend the reality of my newly-minted adulthood until today.  A restless weekend and an exceptionally long Monday hit me like a ton of bricks. The honeymoon phase of moving to a new city and starting a new job came to a screeching halt. Cue the tears and the hour-long phone call to mom. I explained to her that I felt as if I might crumble into a million pieces at any given moment, that life was not all sunshine and rainbows. She admitted that she had a similar day last week, confirming that, despite appearances, no one actually has it all together.

pastedgraphic-1

The world tells us that as adults, we must have our lives completely figured out with a sense of who we are, where we want to be, and how we are going to get there. When we cannot meet that standard, we feel like utter failures. Fortunately, the world’s definition of a successful, put-together adult is contrary to what God requires of us. In fact, not having it all together is the only requirement for receiving the immeasurable grace that God offers. He knew full well that we would never be able to get our acts together because of the sin that permeates every aspect of our lives. Therefore, He sent His Son to earth to live a perfect life on our behalf that would cover up our bad days, our failures, and our complete inability to get it together. And the best part is that no matter how many bad days we have, God never turns away, leaving us to fend for ourselves: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 2:22-23).

In no way do I pretend to have adulthood figured out or to live perfectly in this grace. I write this to preach to myself and to remind myself of the God who saved me, forgave me, and guided me to where I am now. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

Before even beginning this post, you probably noticed the one giant, smug asterisk that naturally attached itself to the title: *Oh goodness, that’s right. Can’t believe I forgot to tell you! I do jail ministry. NBD. I’d love to, you know, grab a beer and tell you more about it sometime…

Let me alleviate any forespoken superiority with a quick rejoinder: God did not equip me with enough confidence to throw “successful tips” out about much, and definitely not about doing jail Bible studies. I do not have tips. I am a “sensitive” guy, which does not exactly disqualify me from…

Read More > > >

Surviving Fifteen Years of Marriage

Surviving Fifteen Years of Marriage

This marital reflection comes to us from Samuel Son.

Fifteen years of marriage and I’m gonna cut to the chase — and through the rosy laces — and tell you that it has been ass-kickingly difficult: 15 years of a selfish person learning to live with another selfish person. Indeed, my wife is my Eve, my ripped-off rib.

Those fifteen years would have been more pleasant if our times together were sparse and sporadic, like those good friends you visit only when you travel and need to save hotel money. But it was nearly every day of those 15 years. I…

Read More > > >

When Life's Gappers Get Your Goats

When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

A good starting place for reading the stories of George Saunders might not be Tenth of December, but The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a fable that is as appropriate for kids as it is for adults. The story centers around the seaside town of Frip, which consists of three families: The Ronsens, a husband and wife who look exactly alike, and have two daughters who stand very still; Bea Romo, a big, angry woman with two big, angry sons, all of whom are big, angry singers; and our heroine, Capable, and her father, who live in the red house closest…

Read More > > >