Smoke and Mirrors and Romans 8

Smoke and Mirrors and Romans 8

This one comes to us from Emily Price: I recently started working for my husband.

This may not be the wisest career or marriage move, but it was borne of necessity. My husband just opened his own law firm. Rather than hire an associate to help, he looked across the breakfast table...

Lonely Ladies and Distracted Dudes: A Few Thoughts on Romantic (and Sexual) Illusion

Lonely Ladies and Distracted Dudes: A Few Thoughts on Romantic (and Sexual) Illusion

There’s a line toward the beginning of Whit Stillman’s Barcelona (above – 2:15 mark) where the protagonist, Ted Boynton, admits to having “a real romantic illusion problem”. He is frustrated that he seems to fall for women based almost exclusively on physical appearance, when what he really wants is “to see the...

Unredeemable Art and Wise Words From Madeleine L’Engle

Unredeemable Art and Wise Words From Madeleine L’Engle

When it comes to favorite art, I have an ever-growing list of guilty pleasures, a term which usually refers to some kind of light-hearted or even redeemable creation: Unfortunately, here, I’m not going to write about redemption in Taylor Swift’s new album (“It’s fun though…”). I’m more interested in the...

Attitudes of Gratitude and the Most Psychologically Correct Holiday

Attitudes of Gratitude and the Most Psychologically Correct Holiday

John Tierney, co-author of Willpower, published a column in The NY Times, which begins with the declaration that the most “psychologically correct holiday is upon us.” As much as I love Christmas, and as much as the spiritual/religious significance of Easter dwarves all its cousins, I can’t help but agree...

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash: A Parable of Stifling Perfection

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash: A Parable of Stifling Perfection

[Mild spoilers follow.] As a writer, I’ve found, you’re always searching for material. A friend’s talking to you about a bad breakup, years of religious doubt and self-recrimination for doubting, a car wreck, DUI, or lost job. Suddenly, once an insight seems to hit you – or even a situation with...

Midlife Crises and Expectation Gaps

Midlife Crises and Expectation Gaps

As suspected, the cover story for November’s Atlantic Monthly, Jonathan Rauch’s “The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis”, contains more than a handful of relevant tidbits. The article is concerned less with the particulars of sports cars and second marriages and more with the “U-Curve of Happiness”–the phenomenon reported across countries, cultures...

2014 Fall Conference Recordings: The Risk of Grace

2014 Fall Conference Recordings: The Risk of Grace

An enormously heartfelt thank-you to everyone who helped put on our Fall Conference in Houston, TX: our friends at St. Thomas Episcopal Church for hosting, The Magills for playing such fantastic music (click here to check out their stuff on iTunes), Mark and David Babikow for being such lifesavers on...

The Trivial Pursuits of Lena Dunham

The Trivial Pursuits of Lena Dunham

In one of the final chapters of Lena Dunham’s new memoir Not That Kind of Girl, entitled “Therapy & Me”, Lena describes her first anxiety-ridden experience of sitting down as a germophobic, obsessive-compulsive nine-year-old with a prospective shrink. It is a “quirky, self-destructive Lena” moment, like so many moments in...

Issue 3 of The Mockingbird Out Now!

Issue 3 of The Mockingbird Out Now!

The Relationship Issue (No. 3) is here! Let it be known: you will not be disappointed. Interviews with Modern Love editor Daniel Jones, and the Oscar-winning team behind Undefeated. Essays on marriage, parenthood, relationships with bandmates, relationships with God. A short story from Welcome Wagoner Vito Aiuto, brand new poems by Brad Davis....

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PZ’s Podcast: Ere The Winter Storms and Metropolitan Life

PZ’s Podcast: Ere The Winter Storms and Metropolitan Life

Episode 179: Ere the Winter Storms

I wonder as I wander: How come people are changed so little by the roadblocks of life? Sure, they make short-term adaptations, and “take emergency measures” in order to survive. But lasting change? Change of heart, change of character?

A telling example of this comes in the Broadway play and later movie entitled “I Never Sang for My Father”. Robert Anderson wrote the play, and also the screenplay for the 1970 Hollywood version, which turned out to be extremely good — the word is “shattering”. “I Never Sang for my Father” concerns the relationship of a…

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Another Week Ends: Life in Psychiatric Records, Faith as Ambiguous Blessing, Evangelical Women, Relentlessly Positive Millennials, Flawed In-Laws, and Friends of Sinners

Another Week Ends: Life in Psychiatric Records, Faith as Ambiguous Blessing, Evangelical Women, Relentlessly Positive Millennials, Flawed In-Laws, and Friends of Sinners

1. If anyone thought that medical records couldn’t be riveting and deeply touching, you’re not alone. But George Scialabba, an acclaimed thinker, writer, and book reviewer, voluntarily posted his psychiatric medical history in the current issue of The Baffler. Apart from the courage and vulnerability  such a move shows, as well as the compassion for fellow sufferers which presumably undergirds his release, Scialabba’s post offers a curious mixture of elements as a reader: self-reproach for such intimate voyeurism combined with a feeling that you’re really seeing yourself; wonder at how far short even highly accomplished people can fall far short of…

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Clayton Kershaw Shares the Love & Madison Bumgarner Embodies the Mystery of “Clutch”

Clayton Kershaw Shares the Love & Madison Bumgarner Embodies the Mystery of “Clutch”

As an insanely devoted San Francisco Giants’ fan, it’s tough for me to give kudos to anything “LA Dodgerish”. I have fellow Giant fan friends who will chastise me for even writing this. However, I’ve got to give some kudos to Clayton Kershaw – the LA Dodger pitcher who (yesterday) became the first National League pitcher (since Bob Gibson in 1968) to win both the NL Cy Young Award and the NL MVP (for the 2014 season). The kudos aren’t for those accomplishments – any on field success achieved by someone wearing Dodger blue is truly nauseating.

No, rather, I give…

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From Issue Three: An Interview with Modern Love’s Daniel Jones

From Issue Three: An Interview with Modern Love’s Daniel Jones

Now that the Relationship Issue is out the door, we couldn’t wait to give a little sampling of the amazing conversation we had with NYT Modern Love Editor, Daniel Jones. The full interview can, of course, be read by ordering the magazine, here, but why stop there? A subscription sounds more like it! And, while the pocketbook’s out, check out Daniel Jones’ new book, Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject with the Help of 50,000 Strangers. You shan’t not be disappointed.

Existential Modesty and the Death of Brittany Maynard

Existential Modesty and the Death of Brittany Maynard

A striking editorial by Lisa Miller appeared in New York Magazine last week about the recent death of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old who had elected (and advocated for the right) to commit suicide after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Miller is less interested in the ethics of Maynard’s decision and more interested in the unprecedented outpouring of adulation it has garnered. Miller tells us, “in the days since she died, [Maynard] has quickly become something more, especially in the ethereal space of social media, where she has risen to the status of a martyr-saint.” Strong words, and Miller…

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Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt 40)

photo-saved-by-Jesus.2

 

Where can I go from your Spirit?
     Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
     if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
     your right hand will hold me fast.

-Psalm 139, verses 7-10

“I Wanna Get Better”—Self-Propulsion, Self-Reproach, and the Big Picture

“I Wanna Get Better”—Self-Propulsion, Self-Reproach, and the Big Picture

This reflection comes from our friend Mimi Montgomery:

And I miss the days of a life still permanent / Mourn the years before I got carried away / So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself, / ’Hey, I wanna get better!’

I didn’t know I was broken ‘till I wanted to change / I wanna get better, better, better, better, / I wanna get better

-Bleachers, “I Wanna Get Better”

I have a compulsive need to continuously have some sort of background noise going on while I drive my car—NPR, the radio, my iPod, calling my mom so I can listen while…

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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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What Shall We Be? (According to Gerhard Forde)

It’s been a while since we posted one of Gerhard Forde’s inspired rants. This one comes from his essay “Radical Lutheranism”, which you can read here. The identity crisis to which he refers is that of confessional Lutherans in the late 1980s America, but the insights apply more widely:

radical“What shall we be? Let us be radicals: not conservatives or liberals, fundagelicals or charismatics (or whatever other brand of something-less-than gospel entices), but radicals: radical preachers and practitioners of the gospel by justification by faith without the deeds of the law. We should pursue it to the radical depths already plumbed by St. Paul, especially in Romans and Galatians, when he saw that justification by faith without the deeds of the law really involves and announces the death of the old being and the calling forth of the new in hope. We stand at a crossroads. Either we must become more radical about the gospel, or we would be better off to forget it altogether.

We should realize first of all that what is at stake on the current scene is certainly not Lutheranism as such. Lutheranism has no particular claim or right to existence. Rather, what is at stake is the radical gospel, radical grace, the eschatological nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen as put in its most uncompromising and unconditional form by St. Paul. We need to take stock of the fact that while such radical Paulinism is in itself open to both church and world (because it announces a Christ who is the end of the law, the end of all earthly particularities and hegemonies), it is, no doubt for that very reason, always homeless in this age, always suspect, always under attack, always pressured to compromise and sell its birthright for a mess of worldly pottage…

We must realize there is not just external reason for our identity crisis but deep theological and, for want of a better word, existential reason. It lies simply in Lutheranism’s fateful attachment to the Pauline gospel in a world whose entire reason for being is opposed to it. All who adopt such a stance will find themselves constantly on the defensive not only before the world but especially before the religious enterprises, not to say the churches, of the world…

If we are to probe to the root, the radix, of our identity crisis, however, we must dig beneath even the world’s general disapproval. Theological anthropology, the understanding of human existence itself before God, is perhaps the place where the crisis becomes most apparent. The fact is that the radical Pauline gospel of justification by faith without the deeds of the law calls for a fundamentally different anthropology and with it a different theological ‘‘system’’ (if there be such!) from that to which the world is necessarily committed. The radical gospel of justification by faith alone simply does not fit, cannot be accepted by, and will not work with an anthropology which sees the human being as a continuously existing subject possessing ‘‘free choice of will’’ over against God and/or other religious goals. The radical gospel is the end of that being and the beginning of a new being in faith and hope.”

From Czeslaw Milosz’s “The Separate Notebooks”

You talked but after your talking all the rest remains.
After your talking—poets, philosophers,
contrivers of romances—everything else,
All the rest deduced inside the flesh
Which lives & knows not just what is permitted.
I am a woman held fast now in a great silence.
Not all creatures have your need for words.
Birds you killed, fish you tossed into your boat,
In what words will they find rest & in what heaven?
You received gifts from me; they were accepted.
But you don’t understand how to think about the dead.
The smell of winter apples, of hoarfrost, and of linen.
There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor Earth.

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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The Hospitality Sting: We Are All the Least of These

The Hospitality Sting: We Are All the Least of These

In yet another one my “live your best life” moments, I started a new scripture study on hospitality last week. As a Mississippian, I was raised to smile broadly at people I find tiresome and to entertain with the latest Jr. League Cookbook. You know, life skills. So, I thought it would be good to study the Good Book in the hopes of making my hospitality mean something. As so often happens, God had other plans.

I casually mentioned this hospitality scripture study to one of my closest friends, “You should totally do it,” I told her. Only retrospectively am I…

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