New Here?
     
Suffering

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,…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >