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All is Lost and Yet, All is Not Lost

All is Lost and Yet, All is Not Lost

I finally caught up with the nearly dialogue-free Robert Redford film All is Lost (written and directed by J.C. Chandor, writer/director of Margin Call). Redford stars as “Our Man”, an aging-but-capable mariner who finds himself lost at sea. Apart from a bit of opening narration (Redford reading what amounts to a giving-up-on-life note, telling loved ones that he tried, and that he’s sorry) and a screamed expletive when he realizes that all might indeed be lost, the only lines in the film are Redford calling out to a couple of passing ships for help.

The ships don’t stop. All is lost.

And…

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After Confession: From the Church, the Couch, and Civilized Life

After Confession: From the Church, the Couch, and Civilized Life

This post comes to us from Geoff Holsclaw, who was featured on the Mockingcast last week. Geoff is Affiliate Professor of Theology at Northern Seminary, and just published Transcending Subjects: Augustine, Hegel, and Theology. He is also co-host of his own podcast, Theology on Mission. 

From the confessional at church, to the therapists couch, and now in every public setting, we confess ourselves. It is the civilized thing to do.

Of course we bear our hearts without understanding them. We offer our souls without having grasped them. We confess our selves without really knowing them.

Truly I say, confession has become our new creed, and…

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Misunderstanding, Misunderstood: The Sylvia Plath Who Wrote For Children

Misunderstanding, Misunderstood: The Sylvia Plath Who Wrote For Children

At 17, I read The Bell Jar. After grimacing through the suicide attempts, the shock therapy sessions, the nervous breakdowns, and the general darkness, I closed the book, appreciated the work, and then thought, “Damn. This woman was crazy.”

At 21, I thought my life had become The Bell Jar. I felt the same suffocating dread Plath expressed in her characters’ fears of “settling.” I wallowed in my failures, was crippled by indecision, felt misunderstood, tired, and nervous. About everything. Plath was my female masthead, unapologetically vocalizing every one of my rite-of-passage fears with poetic authenticity.

Then, just last week, my English major survey…

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You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual)

You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual)

For magic to come through in the performance of a tightrope dancer, he or she requires some amount of tension in their rope, and then to step out off the platform.

Tension is defined as: the act of stretching or straining.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing, and I was struck by this statement she made:

So many of us are tormented by the distance between our ideal self and our actual self.”

Like a tightrope dancer, we stand at one end of the rope, palms sweating and knees buckled at the hopes…

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From the Archives: Rock Bottom Rescue in Merle Haggard’s “How Did You Find Me Here?”

From the Archives: Rock Bottom Rescue in Merle Haggard’s “How Did You Find Me Here?”

Timely one from our “Songs of the Outlaw” series. Rest in peace, Hag. 

As we’ve said before, we’ll say again, if anyone knows about compulsive meandering, if anyone characterizes the triumphs and tribulations of going it on your own, it’s the American outlaw. It’s a unique approach to rebellion, one that’s openly translated freedom as independence, the open range the sanctuary, the “Big City” that won’t “turn me loose and set me free.” This thus leads the cattle-calling rambler anywhere and, anywhere, nowhere. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that all of the Outlaw songs–from Johnny to Willie–are…

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So You Have Your Doubts…

So You Have Your Doubts…

Last week, William Irwin wrote an op-ed for the New York Times’ philosophy forum, The Stone, called “God Is a Question, Not an Answer.” Despite the nauseating title, and the ever more nauseating 2,000-plus comments that have come in the week since it has been published, the article asks a lot of tough questions about the nature of faith in an era that loves expressing itself in the semantics of certainty.

What’s so compelling about Irwin’s article is that he sees the same dedication to certainty on both sides of the “faith” question. In other words, to Irwin, those who staunchly…

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An Artful Hell: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

An Artful Hell: Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa

Hope for forgiveness and the Kingdom of Heaven beyond our human moral bankruptcy has been replaced by progressive Utopian visions where well-adjusted inhabitants are provided for in an earthly paradise. But the knowledge of who we really are and the true state of our predicament surfaces regularly in our cultural history, if we are paying attention. The visual arts especially will occasionally provide a map of the darkness we travel through. It hardly matters where or when we look, but the dark side of 19th century Romanticism is a good place to start, since a current runs from there through…

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Stranded Between Ocean and Army

Stranded Between Ocean and Army

The Lord will make a way for you where no foot has been before. That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be like a highway for your escape.” – Charles Spurgeon

My husband is nearing the end of his graduate program in building sciences. Time and again over the last year he has taken one singular, dogged stance when it comes to his future career: “I’ll go anywhere but California or New York.”

He’s almost exclusively been gunning for a job in Birmingham, my home town. In fact, we’ve been so confident in his placement there, we’ve told everyone…

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On Being Southern, and Human

On Being Southern, and Human

Pat Conroy died a couple of weeks ago. If you aren’t familiar with the name, then you’ve probably heard of at least one of his novels–most likely The Prince of Tides, which was made into a movie in 1991, starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand. (Three other books of his were also made movies, but to less fanfare and star wattage.) As far as celebrity deaths go–literary celebrity deaths, at least–this one hit me pretty hard.

I was a fan of Conroy’s from the time I stole my mom’s copy of Beach Music. I was probably…

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Sickness, Millennials, and Stunning Nuptial Tethering

Sickness, Millennials, and Stunning Nuptial Tethering

This post comes to us from Chattanoogan essayist, Eric Youngblood.

Poor millennials.

Ain’t nobody love ‘em.

18-34 year-old narcissists. Self-absorbed. Motivated by excessive self-regard.

Lacking in motivation. Devoid of commitment. Absent of toughness. Unconcerned with institutional loyalty, unaware of others….an entire sociological tribe characterized by its deficits.

They got too many trophies for no good reason. They played in too many “everyone’s a winner” soccer games. They didn’t realize there was such a thing as a B in school. A whole generation of the image of God, spoiled, ruined and contaminated by grade-inflation, over-active-affirmation, and excessive-protection.

Whether NPR news reports, Youtube parodies, the Wall Street Journal, or…

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From the Archives: What Kind of Anxious Are You?

From the Archives: What Kind of Anxious Are You?

“To some people, I may seem calm. But if you could peer beneath the surface, you would see that I’m like a duck—paddling, paddling, paddling…” – Scott Stossel

You don’t have to have a therapist on speed-dial to relate. You don’t need a prescription to Xanax or Ativan, or a shelf full of ‘how to reduce stress’ books to know what he’s talking about. You don’t even need to be interested in mental health. All you need is a pulse, and possibly an Internet connection, to know that the ducks are multiplying.

Indeed, the level of anxiety in America is skyrocketing. Every…

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On Suicide: Love to the Loveless Shown

On Suicide: Love to the Loveless Shown

Last week one of our very dearest and oldest friends killed himself. And so we are going through all of the motions that such an event brings on. We’ve spent most nights in the kitchen weeping and talking. We’ve made gin and tonics. I’ve watched sad internet videos and cried more. We have prayed.

My favorite memory of our friend is from years ago. He was running an auction at my husband’s first church. And there were some very expensive pearls on the block. My husband, then boyfriend, was bidding against a parishioner, and our friend stopped the parishioner and said,…

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