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Everything Happens for a Reason ... And Other Lies I've Loved

Everything Happens for a Reason … And Other Lies I’ve Loved

My mom has a very useful phrase that, because she’s our mom, my siblings and I use to mock her mercilessly: “Gently but firmly.”

“Gently but firmly” works for closing the microwave door, breaking up with a bad boyfriend, and asking for a raise. It doesn’t work for everything — sometimes a person has to be more firm than gentle, or vice versa, but it works for a surprising number of situations. It works so well in Kate Bowler‘s new memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Bowler is an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School, a graduate…

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Snatching Defeat from the Esophagus of Victory

Snatching Defeat from the Esophagus of Victory

I.

Y’all, I’m going to be real with you: last Thursday night, I experienced something that made me feel more intensely depressed than I have felt in a really, really long time. What happened, you ask? Did someone I love pass away? Did I lose my job or break up with my girlfriend? Did I watch a documentary about the Syrian Civil War? Nope, nope, nope.

I watched a basketball game. I watched what has been my favorite team in all of sports since I was an infant—the currently unranked Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team—lose to the #1 ranked Virginia…

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Sting and Linger

Sting and Linger

This one was written by Andrew Taylor-Troutman.

From the backseat, our four-year-old firstborn asked why the road sign said 100. An unusual formulation of the question, I thought, and continued to drive, while his mom explained from the passenger’s seat. She spoke of how a number can also be a name and then the child’s mind fluttered to other things. But I reversed to five years ago when that slick Mazda flew past the stop sign and stung our old Volkswagen’s right front bumper, spinning us into the median and the previous Route 100 sign.

Our firstborn’s favorite question is, you guessed…

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Befriending Our Nightmares: How to Move When We Feel Stuck

Befriending Our Nightmares: How to Move When We Feel Stuck

At some point in your life whether as an adult or a kid, you’ve probably had someone tell you that the monsters and scary things in your nightmares aren’t real. But considering that roughly one third of your life is spent in the dreamscape (and if you daydream like me then two thirds), they are actually very real.

In my child and adolescent therapy class last week, we learned how to help kids who are stuck in the same dream night after night make a “nightmare book.” The idea behind this approach is that if you give a child a sense…

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Mixtapes from Anyone Who is Not Your Husband: Sounds of Earth and Heaven

Mixtapes from Anyone Who is Not Your Husband: Sounds of Earth and Heaven

There are facts about my story that will never change this side of heaven, barring total tragedy in some cases. And forgive me for saying so, but while the permanence of many things in this life is blessed, that same permanence can also be awful.

FACT: I will always have my two children. Praise Jesus, and also holy hell. Until the day I die, I will always be worried about them, responsible for them, and expected to put their needs before my own. The full weight of this appointment as “parent” is overwhelming. And again, excluding some unspeakable event, this will…

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On Anxiety Attacks and the Fiction of Scientific "Reality"

On Anxiety Attacks and the Fiction of Scientific “Reality”

This one, from our archives, remains every bit as relevant (and comforting!) as when Ethan wrote it in 2013.

A typical description of an anxiety attack or a panic attack goes something like this: a routine behavior suddenly and emphatically goes rogue. You are driving, you are eating an orange slice, taking a test, conversing at a party, and the moment becomes obstructed by an impossible–not just mental but also physical–and inimical weight. You suddenly feel you cannot breathe, that your chest is closing like one of those cavern doors in the Temple of Doom. Or maybe you feel like your…

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Turns Out Sex Is Still a Big Deal

Turns Out Sex Is Still a Big Deal

Like many people, for the past few days I have wrestled with what to make of the (too) well documented evening that a woman had with actor/comedian/writer Aziz Ansari. If you are living under a rock, a woman called “Grace” (hell of a pseudonym), had what she called the worst night of her life with Ansari. 

Needless to say, “Grace” has received a massive wave of critique. People are demanding to know why she stayed when she was uncomfortable and how she could possibly classify the evening as sexual assault. Perhaps the most upsetting critique is that everyone wants…

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If Only In My Dreams

If Only In My Dreams

I love Christmas music. I say that fully aware of the considerable aesthetic shortcomings that this love means I must endure, and yet every year as dusk falls upon Thanksgiving Day, I tune in like a character in a Lou Reed song waiting for their man. I find it easy to overlook the saccharine sweetness that under most other circumstances would be a disincentive, to say the absolute least: at no other point in time would I ever even consider sitting through an entire Barry Manilow song. But if it’s “Jingle Bells” with Expose then you bet your duff I’m…

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20 Years Later: Reflecting on the Ageless Imputation of Good Will Hunting

20 Years Later: Reflecting on the Ageless Imputation of Good Will Hunting

This timely reminder of the (timeless) emotional punch packed by Good Will Hunting comes to us from Sam Guthrie, twenty years after the film’s release.

Twenty years ago, a few no-name actors from New England wrote a screenplay about a math prodigy from South Boston. With the help of stars like Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgård and the vision of director Gus Van Zant, Good Will Hunting became a hit and kickstarted the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (as well as his brother Casey) who in time would all become household names.

Out of the numerous gems in the treasure chest of Good…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Five Verses Twenty-One to Forty-Three

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Five Verses Twenty-One to Forty-Three

In an undergraduate class on the short story, James Joyce’s Dubliners in hand, I learned how to hunt for epiphanies. In Joyce’s Araby, for example, a young boy is infatuated with his friend Mangan’s sister. She is to him a chaste goddess — “Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.” In her presence, he was the harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires. Yeah, the boy’s got it bad.

One day she casually asks him if he planned to go to an exotic-sounding…

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The Humanity of Harassment

The Humanity of Harassment

I’ve been trying to find a way in to writing about the rash of Hollywood headlines, and sexual harassment more generally, and may have finally found one. Don’t think I wasn’t tempted to take Sarah Silverman up on her question–the key question, as far as I can tell, but also too important of one to broach in haste, or before we’ve all had a little longer to absorb the gravity and breadth of the situation.

That is, it feels like any pronouncements at this point, theological or otherwise, would be premature if not insensitive, possibly even a way of avoiding the…

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Suitcases of Evil

Suitcases of Evil

Editor’s note: the following post touches on disturbing topics such as child abuse and should be read with discretion. It is a follow-up to Richard’s recent piece, “Praying Twice.”