Suffering

Reflections on a Notched Gun from Selma

Reflections on a Notched Gun from Selma

Over the summer, my father gave me an old, Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 revolver. His father, who received it as a gift from his best friend, gave it to him. Family lore has it that my grandfather’s friend took it from someone else in an apparent altercation. What makes this interesting is the revolver itself and the historical context in which it existed. On the wooden handle, there are five notches… four parallel notches with a fifth crossing them out. Now, that could mean anything… squirrels, rats… but the heyday of this revolver came in the mid-20th Century…

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Sinner and Saint Vincent

Sinner and Saint Vincent

St. Vincent arrived in theaters just in time for All Saints’ Sunday, the day the church recognizes and remembers those in the parish community who have died, and all the other “saints” that went before them. It is not a coincidence; first-time director Ted Melfi must have known what was on the church calendar in some regard, given the assignment that’s handed out by Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd), to his middle school class. The assignment is this: to find out about and present on a living saint in the community—not Athanasius, not Mother Teresa, not even Pope Francis—but a “saint…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Philippians Chapter Three Verse Twenty

This morning’s devotion comes from Kate Norris.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20, ESV)

a_560x375When I was an infant, my mother tells me, I suffered regularly from ear infections. A particularly painful infection reduced me to a fit, and my mother, who tells me she was completely undone by my screams, took me to the doctor in panic. New decibel levels ricocheted against the linoleum floor and the high gloss wall-paint in the examination room. Frazzled, she couldn’t help the doctor; I obviously couldn’t either. The doctor took me in his arms and laid me down on the table. Gently he held me securely down and stilled my head with one large hand, and with the other he examined my ear.

We enter the world like this, as babies raging against the world, and we live our lives in much the same way onward—though perhaps sometimes a bit more socialized. And yet sometimes, the more we rage against our various illnesses, the worse things seem to get.

As Delirious sings, “Love will find a way to break through.” This is the hope of the Christian faith. God broke through as this Love in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus forgave all those who raged against God; he made the sick well. His promise is that we will realize the full scope of what he did for us when he comes again; he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. He has the power to overcome our worst tantrums and even our death. Perhaps today something is hanging over us: a fear, a regret, a loss, an addiction. He knows our problem more than we do, and he will subject that thing—even the big thing in our lives—to himself for healing.

When the Grief Index Backfires

When the Grief Index Backfires

The church I attend is trying to reboot their “pastoral care ministry”, which is one of those amorphous seminary terms for something that could (and maybe should) mean more than it intends. Isn’t the job of a pastor to care? I got a little worried when I heard ours needed rebooting! I haven’t gone to seminary, but it doesn’t take long in a tour of church websites to see what is generally meant by pastoral care: hospital visits, home visits, prayer shawls, marriage counseling, baptisms, funerals. In other words, pastoral care has a lot to do with the church sharing…

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Even Batman Had a Great Grandmother: The Historical Backdrop of Gotham

Even Batman Had a Great Grandmother: The Historical Backdrop of Gotham

Of all the shows in this season’s fall lineup, the last one I expected to love was Gotham. But I do. I love it. And not because I am a Batman fan. And not because Jada Pinkett Smith is incredible. But because I think Gotham points us beyond the everyday superhero story to something about ourselves.

If you are not familiar, Gotham is basically the back story of BruceWayne/Batman. In the first episode we meet the child Bruce Wayne at the moment he witnesses his parents being killed. It is as tragic and painful as it sounds. In all of these…

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Failure in a Society that Celebrates Triumphalism

HONY

If you don’t know Humans of New York, it’s one of the few creative things worth following on Facebook. It is curated by a guy named Brandon who simply collects quotes and photos of the people he meets (mostly in New York City), posting them on his blog and social media. He has a huge following. I was struck by a recent post. It’s a down-to-earth presentation of a theology of the Cross versus one of glory:

“I’ve written so many stories and novellas that nobody will look at, plays that I can’t get produced, screenplays that will never be made. Everything is so branded these days in the art world, it’s so hard for an outsider to get work.”

“In what way would you consider yourself an ‘outsider?’”

I’m interested in failure, so those are the themes that I like to explore. But we live in a society that celebrates triumphalism. A society wants art that reaffirms itself. We want to read about characters that win.

“What was your lowest moment as an artist?”

“I worked on a screenplay for two years, and it had just been turned down by the fifth theater in a month, and I remember walking down 5th avenue in the middle of winter, tossing the pages one by one into the slush, vowing never to do it again. It was just a few blocks from here, actually.”

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

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Ebola, “Friends” and the Reasons We Give

Ebola, “Friends” and the Reasons We Give

Tim Keller has said that a Christian is someone who knows that they need to repent not only for the wrong things they do, but for the reasons they do the right things. That is to say, whatever we do, no matter how seemingly altruistic, almost always has some sort of selfish motivation mixed in – as Joey points out to Phoebe in “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS” (or so my wife tells me). Who would’ve thought that Joey Tribbiani would subscribe to what Calvin (following Sts. Augustine and Paul) called “total depravity”?

Further illustrating this point was a recent…

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The Apple Isn’t the Only Biblical Reference: 50 Years of The Giving Tree

The Apple Isn’t the Only Biblical Reference: 50 Years of The Giving Tree

Did you read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child? Do you remember how it made you feel? The children’s book turns 50 this year, so theoretically, a few generations have had their chance to soak in the bittersweet melancholy of Silverstein’s prose. Acknowledging the anniversary, The Giving Tree was featured in this week’s Bookends column of The New York Times, which invited two contributors to reflect on the book’s history and meaning [ht DJ via Twitter]. That’s no surprise, of course–the book is well loved and continues to be a children’s classic. But what I was shocked to discover (maybe…

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Losing Is Winning When You Are a Cubs Fan

Losing Is Winning When You Are a Cubs Fan

This comes to us from Thomas Deatsch. 

“Continual loss” defines my feeling every baseball season. It’s my fault. I choose to follow the Chicago Cubs. No one forces me at gunpoint to root for these loveable losers. Every fall, when the season is waning, the Cubbies not only fail to reach the World Series, but more often than not, they do not even make the playoffs. I now believe it is a “merciful impasse.” The phrases “continual loss” and “merciful impasse” not only help me understand baseball, but how life, with its many cul-de-sacs and dead-ends, can have hope and meaning.

Being…

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Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Are you not entertained? All signs point to “No, I’m not entertained”, per David Puddy and the cheesy 8-ball jacket (thank you, Seinfeld fans). Rather, we’re disgusted.  I’ve read it in comments here. I’ve seen it on Facebook and Twitter – we’re fed up. I get it, really, I do. It’s an awful thing. However, I have to admit my two (polarized) reactions to all of this.

On one hand, I really don’t want to write about this crap two weeks in a row. This week though, we have four more (count them, four – Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer,…

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The Power of Negative Thinking

The Power of Negative Thinking

The 8am service on the Sunday before Labor Day was not well attended, and the rain didn’t help. Honestly, I was only there because I am paid to be. Then came the first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah:

“I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.”

Great. Thanks Jerry. That’s super-helpful. Just what I need for a little…

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