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The Short-Term Memory of God: The Gospel According to Finding Dory

The Short-Term Memory of God: The Gospel According to Finding Dory

Finding Dory–Pixar’s latest box office smash–picks up where Finding Nemo left off, a year after that rebellious little clownfish was found and rescued from the dentist’s tank in Sydney, Australia. Nemo’s friend, Dory, a ‘natural blue’ who suffers from short-term memory loss, isn’t adjusting well to daily life in the Great Barrier Reef–she repeatedly stings herself swimming into the sea anemone and regularly disrupts Nemo’s class, and although she has found a place to call home, her memory loss continues to affect her and everyone around her, every moment. In some ways, it consumes her identity so completely that it becomes her.

The…

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PZ’s Podcast: What’s Going On

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EPISODE 218

Just how “effective” are collective expressions of grief? Do they work?

Every time I see a vast concourse of people gathered at the site of a massacre, I honestly “feel with” the grief; and yet remain a little skeptical. It’s one thing if you yourself lost someone you love as a result of the crime; or if you know someone that lost someone. It’s another thing if you are grieving by association or in relation to a category or collective identity.

Do you think you’ll be thinking about instances of collective loss that took place in your life, when you are dying? I wonder. I know you’ll be thinking about instances of personal loss that you suffered.

This podcast asks you to consider “exiting from history” (Milan Kundera) in order, well, to really live. Focus on the individual instance — on you, in other words! I cite the novels of Rider Haggard in this connection, who understood as well as almost anyone the persistence of the eternal in the life of the individual. There’s the rub, and there’s why Haggard’s “Zulu” novels are a kind of summit of racial reconciliation in English literature. These novels understand human beings as one, due to shared suffering, shared loss, and the shared aspiration to love and be loved. I wish Haggard were here today to write about Orlando.

Oh, and listen closely, if you can, to Dave Loggins at the end. Loggins said that after he wrote the song — in one night — he realized he hadn’t written it. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew it didn’t come from him.

Richard Rohr on Why We Kiss the Cross

Richard Rohr on Why We Kiss the Cross

The “performance principle” is a guiding mythology that, according to Richard Rohr, guides the first half of our religious lives. It is the mythology that suggests we are defined, more or less, by our achievement. It is also a mythology that is rooted in and propelled by fear: the expectation of punishment. Our achievements are meant to secure for us a way out of this punishment. In short, we live to prove. I don’t know a better summation of the Law.

What must happen, then, is death. Our first self must die. Thankfully, as Rohr’s meditation illustrates, this is the nature of the cross…

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The Love That Will Not Let Us Go

The Love That Will Not Let Us Go

A few weeks ago, there was a shooting in our quiet Houston neighborhood. It was random and terrible. I hurried our kids inside and made them sit in the room that seemed safest. I had to explain to the five-year-old what was happening because he was unwilling to come inside just because I had told him to. So I blurted out, “There is a man outside with a gun. And he is shooting people.”

Thus began several hours of questions about who and why the bad guys exist. Our son kept asking me, “Why is this happening? Why haven’t they caught…

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The Ubiquity of Grief (and How I Tried to Climb the Ladder)

The Ubiquity of Grief (and How I Tried to Climb the Ladder)

Another powerful one from our friend Connor Gwin. 

Last year I wrote a piece for Mockingbird about grief and Sufjan Stevens. I wrote about the cathartic experience I had at a Sufjan Stevens concert featuring his newest album (Carrie & Lowell) which centered on the death of his mother.

It has now been two years since my father died and I am still grieving. Do you know how frustrating that is for me? I believed the cultural maxim that eventually things would return to “normal” and I would “move on”. I believed that if I allowed myself to feel my feelings in the…

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“We Just Have to Find a Way to…(Sigh)”: Wallander and the Memory of God

“We Just Have to Find a Way to…(Sigh)”: Wallander and the Memory of God

Kurt Wallander: It’s just moments, now, Dad. Everything. Just moments now. They don’t join up.

Povel Wallander: What don’t?

Kurt: My memories. My life doesn’t join up. Can’t remember.

Povel: Someone else will remember. Someone will remember for you.

While watching episode two of Wallander, series four, I began to see the writing on the wall for one of my favorite detectives. A stove left on, nearly burning down the house; a gun left on the seat at a restaurant, endangering a small girl who picks it up. The “writing” on this wall wasn’t written in words, however, but in the slow, crumbling decay of…

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From the Archives: The Saddest Epidemic of All

From the Archives: The Saddest Epidemic of All

Had every intention of re-running this last week, in observance of national Mental Health Awareness month. Apologies!

I was shocked by something a couple of years ago. At our Fall conference in Charlottesville (Sept 2012), RJ Heijmen showed a clip of a father telling the story of his son’s suicide and the emotional and spiritual agony it caused. The man’s words could not have possibly been heavier, and I almost questioned whether we had crossed a line. But that wasn’t what shocked me. What shocked me was the number of people who approached me afterward to share a similar story. Nearly…

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on after a play in the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Thy Jilted Lover Shall Rejoice?…May It Be So

Don’t look now but Loserville–the “mistake on the lake” that is Cleveland Ohio–is about to improbably get their NBA championship. The stars are aligning around the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s really pretty incredible. We had anointed the Golden State Warriors repeat NBA champions back in February, while they were on their way to the best NBA regular season of all-time. Stephen Curry had supplanted Lebron as the best player on the planet….and Lebron had begun to hint that this might be his last season in Cleveland. The Cleveland sports fan–the lover more jilted than any other for the past 5o+ years–looked…

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Dark Side of the (Honey) Moon

Dark Side of the (Honey) Moon

Four long years ago my husband and I spent our honeymoon in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania (I know, I know, why is everyone honeymooning in Jim Thorpe these days? NOTE: SARCASM. You’ve never heard of this town). Our honeymoon goals were simple: go somewhere chilly, relax in our bathrobes by a crackling fire, and watch Christmas movies. We ultimately selected our destination due to lack of finances, met by very poor advice from a local newspaper article celebrating small towns in America. The article called Jim Thorpe “The Switzerland of America.”

All the mojo of Europe but without the bill? BINGO!

The town,…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Joel Chapter Two Verses Twenty Five through Twenty Seven

This morning’s devotion comes from the preacher himself, Paul N. Walker. 

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25-27, ESV)

Everything, ultimately, comes from the hand of God: the good, the bad, and the ugly. God is sovereign, which means that He is in control of everything. The bad things in your life have not escaped God’s notice, nor do they fall outside of His sphere of influence. This means that hurt and disease and disaster and death are all under His command and authority.

ewMost of us want to shy away from this biblical view of God. We are loath to attribute anything bad to our good God. We are more likely to say that bad things happen because of sin and the devil. God then swoops into the mess to make things right. It is true that the devil is real and threatens to undo us. It is also true that we reap our own misery because of our sin.

God, however, is not a God on the sidelines, watching our lives unfold and rushing in to help fix what is broken. If God is omnipotent, as we say He is, then He could stop our hands from sinning and save us from our own misery. Satan, like everything and everyone else, is subject to His command. Affirming God’s sovereignty means concluding that God wields both healing and woe for His own good, yet often inscrutable, purpose.

God’s sovereignty is clear to Joel. God refers to the devastating plague of locusts as His “great army which I sent among you.” The destroyers did real and severe damage in Israel, His chosen people; they brought years of loss built on more years of sorrow. Perhaps you have experienced what feels like years wasted in loss or sickness or suffering, or years spent idly or in vain—years you wish you could have back. The good and comforting news is that those years, and all years, come from the hand of God. And the better news is that God does not waste time—neither His time nor yours.

He doesn’t always provide an explanation of why He does what He does. The bad in the world will remain a mystery until the end of the world as we know it. But He does give us a promise we can trust: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.” It is His goodness and love that allows us to say in both the triumphs and trials of our lives that God “has dealt wondrously with me” and to thank Him for everything that comes from His hand.

Call Me Aaron Burr, Sir

Call Me Aaron Burr, Sir

During a 1995 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Pat Conroy related a story about his father, Don, that epitomized the patriarch’s delusional view of identity. The two men were discussing why Pat’s mother left Don when the elder Conroy broke down sobbing. Thinking that Don had finally realized the error of the ways, Pat quoted the ensuing conversation to Gross: “‘Dad, do you understand what you did wrong?’ And Dad said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘What is it, Dad? What did you do wrong?’ And my father said, ‘I was too good. I didn’t crack down hard enough. I was…

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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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