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Patton Oswalt's Good Grief

Patton Oswalt’s Good Grief

This one was written by Aarik Danielsen.

“You gotta laugh to keep from crying.”

This is what passes for conventional emotional wisdom in 2017. And not without reason. Our moment feels, politically, psychically, and spiritually, like a stage play complete with buffoonish characters, bizarre stage directions and metaphors willing to do tasteful nudity. If we didn’t turn to the audience and wink at the absurdity of it all, we would never open the curtain.

And yet this logic is no logic at all. Love is patient and kind; it is not rude or self-seeking. Grief makes no such promises. It will not be…

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Praying Twice

Praying Twice

Editor’s note: the following post touches on sensitive topics such as child abuse and should be read with discretion.

I am a member of one of the very smallest of American fraternities: the tiny and shrinking group of men who grew through early adolescence singing in Anglican boychoirs. Because I could and can sing, I was given in loco parentis when I was ten years old to an institution that trained boys to sing in an ancient English tradition of choral worship. We wore red or black cassocks and white surplices with ruffs loaned by the local Episcopal parish. The pictures were…

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When Kiss Means Kill: Reflections on the Apocalypse of Language

When Kiss Means Kill: Reflections on the Apocalypse of Language

“As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, firstly slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt the misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened by soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free… Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought….

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He Descended Into Horror

He Descended Into Horror

The approach of Halloween and Reformation Day begs an interesting question for the modern Tertullian: what hath Halloween to do with Jerusalem? As a rhetorical move, the implied answer is: nothing at all. In the eyes of many a pious Protestant, it is some rough beast that slouches off towards Halloween while soldiers of the five solas parade to the fanfare of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” “Trick or treat!” and “Here I stand” seem poles apart, incommensurately opposite. But what if the convergence of the two in one day presents an apposite moment for reflecting upon solus Christus…

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The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

I spent the better part of my 20s working with teenagers in one form or another. Whether as a youth minister, a creative writing teacher, or a photography TA, one dazzling thread remained the same: Gaga. I spent time with kids who didn’t just adore her music, they worshiped her. They felt freed in some way by who she allowed them to be; she allowed them to be themselves (or whatever version of themselves they wanted to be) in all their average weirdness. In Gaga: Five Foot Two (a documentary released last month on Netflix), one of Lady Gaga’s fans…

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The Preacher Goes to Fashion Week: Jim Carrey's Gospel Madness

The Preacher Goes to Fashion Week: Jim Carrey’s Gospel Madness

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

God, in his mercy, sends preachers. Some are well-educated and institutionally-approved folk serving the faithful in fine old churches, but in these last days we should take no alarm that the same Lord who spoke through Balaam’s ass might again choose an eccentric instrument. His preachers are not necessarily welcomed even under ordinary circumstances – indeed, the urgency of the need and the warmth of the reception seem often enough to have an inverse relationship. Again, this should not surprise, because the preacher’s first word is a word of law,…

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Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

“There are self-help books written for seemingly every aberration of human experience: for alcoholics and opiate abusers; for widows, rape victims, gambling addicts, and anorexics; for the parents of children with disabilities; for sufferers of acne and shopping compulsions; for cancer survivors, asexuals, and people who just aren’t that happy and don’t know why. But there are no self-help books for anyone who has accidentally killed another person. An exhaustive search yielded no research on such people, and nothing in the way of therapeutic protocols, publicly listed support groups, or therapists who specialize in their treatment…”

Thus opens the second section…

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Memo From Houston: What Harvey Taught Me

Memo From Houston: What Harvey Taught Me

One week you will be doing ballet barre classes and drinking self-righteousness smoothies and the next week you will be hunkered down on a couch in your native Mississippi, crying into your 6am Jimmy Dean pancake on a stick, while endlessly watching the Weather Channel.
When your husband sends you and your kids away from Houston, you will not see him again for two weeks. You will have brought enough clothing for two days. You will stay with the most generous people you know until you and your family have officially worn out your loudass welcome. And then you will need…

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“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

“It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

It was the closest thing to hell I’ve ever experienced: my whole body hurt. A dull buzz with epicenters at the soles of my feet, knees, and head: a red-hot pain emanating outward, into my neck, arms, down my back, through those muscles that I don’t know the name of that run from my shoulder blades to my bum…whatever those are, they hurt. I sat down. I stood up. I walked in aimless circles, drank water. Nothing helped. After running along the James River that day, 26.2 throbbing miles along that winding golden ribbon, the only thing I remember about…

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"Mark Yourself as Safe"

“Mark Yourself as Safe”

Greetings from the heart of Houston, and the heart of Hurricane Harvey. For the past few mornings, I’ve woken up, glanced at my phone and the multiple flash flood warnings that came through overnight, and scrolled through a few dozen pictures of whatever fresh hell visited my city the night before. Then, I write some post for family and friends from all over the country who are worried about us: “Checking in as safe, dry and grateful in Houston this morning.” We have been spared the worst of the devastation in our little pocket of Houston. Our house has not…

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PZ’s Podcast: I Live on a Battlefield

He’s back!! Sincerest apologies to all the faithful PZP listeners who noticed that the cast had disappeared from iTunes this summer. We’ve had some technical issues which have now been resolved, ptL. Older episodes (pre-210) should be back on iTunes soon. For now, though, we have a brand new one for you:

EPISODE 229: I Live on a Battlefield

A penetrating comment recently from a friend set up a chain reaction inside me that’s resulted in this new cast. After a long hiatus and with the support of Mockingbird, I’m starting back up and hope these new episodes may speak.

My friend, who is about my age, observed that everyone we know, without exception — that’s the “hard” part of the saying — has suffered some arresting impasse or insuperable loss, some decisive disappointment or unconquerable conflict, which they simply cannot get over.

I agree with my friend.

Moreover, people in situations of undeniable blockage often turn to God, or whatever/wherever they think God may be. And it is there, at this conscious point of need, that churches “come out” as being out of their depth and shockingly irrelevant to human suffering. Sadly, I know — Mary and I know.

In points of distress since 2007 we have tried so many parishes and churches. We have crawled on our knees to hoped-for altars of comfort and hope, and received… nothing. I mean, nothing! There are exceptions, such as All Saints, Winter Park (FL) and Calvary/St. George in New York City. And there are others. But for the most part, you abase yourself in search of a word of hope and grace, and you get a junior-choir awards ceremony; or a sermon consisting wholly of platitudes without a single illustration; or an exhausting summons to a social cause; or a public baptism of perfect strangers who are actually strangers to the parish but can fill up some pews on a given Sunday. “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from goin’ under” (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1982)

So I’m talking today about the universal in-reach of pain, and some of the resources I have found in recent months to stanch it. And I promise you, this is “Only the Beginning” (Chicago, 1969)…

A Message from Christ Church in Charlottesville

A Message from Christ Church in Charlottesville

As a follow-up to his recent sermon, here is the message Rector Paul Walker sent to his parishioners at Christ Church in Charlottesville—relevant for all of us left shocked and dismayed by the events of last Saturday.

Dear Friends,

Evil is not a word to be used lightly. But it is a word that is squarely within the canons of Christian scripture, theology, and tradition. If you have participated in one of the many baptisms at Christ Church, you will have heard  the minister ask the following question to the parents and godparents of the baptismal candidate. “Do you renounce the evil…

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