‘No Divorce’ Pacts and the Benefits of a Recession

‘No Divorce’ Pacts and the Benefits of a Recession

A touching installment of Modern Love appeared in this past Sunday’s NY Times, entitled “We Pledge Allegiance…”, in which Debby Greene traces how the “no divorce” pact she made with her husband has played out in her marriage, thirty years down the line. Clearly the survival of any relationship is...

2014 Fall Conference in Houston TX (10/17-18) – Pre-Registration Now Open!

2014 Fall Conference in Houston TX (10/17-18) – Pre-Registration Now Open!

Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free. – Robert Capon

The grace of God does not play it safe. It is imprudent, risky, foolish. It cannot be contained by the walls we build and masks we wear. It moves beyond deserving,...

Love Lessons from Fungus: Married at First Sight

Love Lessons from Fungus: Married at First Sight

In case you haven’t heard, the Biography Channel ain’t your Dad’s late night insomnia cure any longer. Over the past few months they have relaunched as “fyi,” (yes, the weird comma is in the logo). And they are turning out some really wild programming.

Married at First Sight (Tuesdays at 9ET/10PT) is...

Red Knight Triumphant?

Red Knight Triumphant?

One final post before we give the depression talk a rest, and only because the source material is so remarkable. I’m referring to Andrew Solomon’s reflection on you know who for The New Yorker, which appeared late last week. With trademark compassion, he put his finger on a big part...

Agnetha Faltskog Is God? (Mbird Find of the Century)

Agnetha Faltskog Is God? (Mbird Find of the Century)

As a music fan, every once and a while you have one of those “there-is-a-god moments” that makes all the digging worthwhile. You find something, usually by accident, that seems tailormade for YOU, a piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly, that you didn’t know you were missing. It sounds...

What Is the Distinction Between the Law and the Gospel?

What Is the Distinction Between the Law and the Gospel?

People often ask us what we mean when we talk about “the distinction between the Law and the Gospel” – and we talk about it a lot! It sounds fancy, I know, but does it actually have any grounding in the Bible? Or is it simply something we/otherpeople have latched...

“My Fall My Stay”: Addiction and Low Anthropology

“My Fall My Stay”: Addiction and Low Anthropology

Some more highlights from John Z's remarkable Grace in Addiction: "The only person lacking desperation is the one who does not know herself very well. Usually a few examples of typical, universal human difficulty are enough to 'raise the bottom' to the point where the idea of powerlessness will connect with...
When Forgiveness Also Says “I Never Want to See You or Speak to You Again”

When Forgiveness Also Says “I Never Want to See You or Speak to You Again”

Here in Atlanta, pastor Andy Stanley often tells the story of a couple in his church whose newborn baby was dropped on its head by their obstetrician who was drunk when he delivered the baby. Several years later, the child has severe and permanent brain damage, but the couple has...

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch (and Vote For) The Cosmopolitans

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch (and Vote For) The Cosmopolitans

The day has finally arrived. The pilot of Whit Stillman’s first ever TV series The Cosmopolitans is now available to be watched on Amazon Prime! But here’s the deal. The series itself won’t get picked up unless it receives enough votes. In other words, it’s time to rally the troops....

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PZ’s Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

PZ’s Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

Episode 172: Phony Wars

This purports to be an attack of reality in the midst of “phony wars”.

I am always struck by the truth of pop songs. Not all of them, but some of them. Such as “Waterloo” by ABBA. (Mary and I were there, as it were, when ABBA hit, stuck at a “Saturday Dance” (Geoff Goddard) during the spring of 1974 in the parish hall of Holy Trinity, Hounslow. As soon as we heard the song, and watched the girls line-dancing to ABBA, we knew we weren’t stuck any more. We got up ourselves, tho’ I’m no Diamond.)

There was…

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Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

1. First off, grab the kleenbox box because here’s a beautiful instance of grace in practice. It comes to us from little league coach Dave Belisle, whose Cumberland American team (Rhode Island) lost the Little League World Series championship game to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West this past week. In their moment of defeat, Coach Belisle gave the following speech:

2. Looking through our archive this past month, clearly two subjects have been occupying the (hive-)mind: education and suicide. The Atlantic ran an interview this week with lead Ivy League critic William Deresiewicz about his new book Excellent Sheep, and if he’s…

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When Forgiveness Also Says “I Never Want to See You or Speak to You Again”

When Forgiveness Also Says “I Never Want to See You or Speak to You Again”

Here in Atlanta, pastor Andy Stanley often tells the story of a couple in his church whose newborn baby was dropped on its head by their obstetrician who was drunk when he delivered the baby. Several years later, the child has severe and permanent brain damage, but the couple has very publicly forgiven the doctor and reconciled with him. It really is quite a testament to the “absorption”  that is necessary to move forward in some semblance of a friendship with someone who has wronged you horribly. To forgive like this is to take the emotions of anger, horror, incredulity,…

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A Quick Peanuts

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From the Magazine: The Hidden Spirituality of Teach For America

From the Magazine: The Hidden Spirituality of Teach For America

A throwback from the first issue! Ethan Richardson’s long-form treatise on the promise and perils of America’s great education reform movement.

And let this be a reminder: the first issue is on sale on the magazine webpage for $10. And we’re not far from the release of the Fall Relationships Issue. Click here to subscribe.

My two-year career as a teacher began much as my Evangelical education did—in a single summer in the Arizona desert, far and away from where my training would be put to use. Teach For America placed me in the Greater New Orleans region to teach middle school…

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Mining Netflix:  Hook, And a (Final) Farewell to Robin Williams

Mining Netflix: Hook, And a (Final) Farewell to Robin Williams

As suggested in previous articles, I’d encourage you to pull up the film’s soundtrack on Spotify and listen while you read. Listen especially to the song entitled Remembering Childhood. It’s okay to cry.

There is a temptation, encased in sincere sentiment, to claim the work of Robin Williams for the sake of my generation. The kid film portfolio of the 1990’s, a ray of sunshine in film history that Williams often basked in, mentored me, and taught me that it was not only possible but probable for comedy and drama and pain and suffering to gracefully coexist (I wrote about this…

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“My Fall My Stay”: Addiction and Low Anthropology

Some more highlights from John Z.’s remarkable Grace in Addiction:

“The only person lacking desperation is the one who does not know herself very well. Usually a few examples of typical, universal human difficulty are enough to ‘raise the bottom’ to the point where the idea of powerlessness will connect with any layperson. Let’s explore some of these…

Like Swiss cheese, people are full of holes. The Twelve Step approach is quick to draw attention to those holes, rather than try to dodge, cover, or counterbalance them. So which weaknesses tend to be present universally? The Big Book provides its own list:

“We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn’t apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view. We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people…” (52)

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I have yet to meet the person who cannot identify with a least one of the items on that list. Who, for example, is a stranger to fear? Jesus offered a similar list in his famous Sermon on the Mount, but his list also included anger, lust, and anxiety. These are the “classics”, and they account for much of the content of the day-to-day experience of being human.

Using similar logic, AA would liken sin to sickness. R. C. Sproul voiced this sentiment when he wrote, “We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” We would happily extrapolate along those same lines: “we are not alcoholics because we drink uncontrollably; we drink uncontrollably because we are alcoholics.” Have you ever thought of misdoing as a kind of illness? Like an allergy or a virus, self-centeredness cannot easily be mastered or controlled. The good news is that our negative attributes can become a bedrock upon which effective spirituality can be built. Without them, there is no hope for spiritual rejuvenation; in the place of health, there is apparently no need for recovery.

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The realization of our own weakness is so counterintuitive to human nature that the revelation can be rightly ascribed to the divine. A Christian would ascribe this work to the Holy Spirit. The old-fashioned word for it is repentance.

And so it is with the entire progression of AA’s Twelve Steps. As the ego is deflated and self-confidence is discouraged at every turn, something called “faith”, or “God-confidence” miraculously begins to take its place – although it doesn’t appear that way to the subject at first. In Step 12, AA refers to the fruit of this faith as “a spiritual awakening.”

We close this section on Step 1 with an incisive quote from the sixteenth-century English theologian Richard Hooker:

My eager protestations, made in the glory of my ghostly strength, I am ashamed of; but those crystal tears, wherewith my sin and weakness was bewailed, have procured my endless joy; my strength hath been my ruin, and my fall my stay.

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

Well, this is pretty amusing. Writing for The Atlantic, James Carmichael explored our precarious relationship with self-knowledge via the awkwardness of Google Now. I’m almost surprised he didn’t quote Eliot’s line about humankind not being able to bear much reality (or law). I mean, some of us can’t even handle looking at our most-played in iTunes, I’d hate to think what kind of revelations a ‘smart’ tracking device might hold (e.g. “it’s 10:45pm! – Time to secretly gorge on your kids’ snack food”, “Beep beep beep! It has now been eighty seconds since you last checked your web stats”, etc)….

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Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Over the next few weeks, many kids will be starting school for the very first time. Cue collective family panic. It is an unwieldy process. Notebooks have to be purchased and lunches packed. Everyone has to wake up earlier. Much earlier. If you are like our family, you have the challenge of convincing a three year old that he does in fact have to wear a uniform on the daily. It is the opposite of fun.

But of course, the practical panic inducing tasks pale in comparison to the emotional anxiety that takes hold. We worry about our kids. Will they…

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The Vices of Leisure by the Virtue of Speed

The Vices of Leisure by the Virtue of Speed

Another missive from the busy trap. This one comes from Brigid Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. In the age of humblebragging, about the achievements you’ve undergone, the vacations you’ve eye-rollingly sped through, the go-gurt you’ve got jammed in the glove compartment, Schulte reminds us that this talk is all about the righteousness of purpose which, in the modern parlance, is held up by the metric of time. And, she notes, it’s not just for the frenzied East Coast corporate lawyer–people in North Dakota are crunched, too. She takes a trip to Fargo…

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From The New Yorker

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Red Knight Triumphant?

Red Knight Triumphant?

One final post before we give the depression talk a rest, and only because the source material is so remarkable. I’m referring to Andrew Solomon’s reflection on you know who for The New Yorker, which appeared late last week. With trademark compassion, he put his finger on a big part of what makes Robin Williams’ death so shocking:

When the mass media report suicide stories, they almost always provide a “reason,” which seems to bring logic to the illogic of self-termination. Such rationalization is particularly common when it comes to the suicides of celebrities, because the idea that someone could be…

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The Light That Burns Brighter

The Light That Burns Brighter

A few months ago, I wrote here about our society’s inclination toward hero-worship, especially when it comes to celebrities. A fine line exists between admiration and deification these days, and nowhere is that line more apparent than in the countless acknowledgments this past week of Robin Williams’ death. For my part, I can admit that it hit me like a ton of bricks when I read the news on Twitter: RIP, Robin WIlliams, in black and white and fewer than 140 characters. I think I even shook my head, standing there alone, and called out to my husband as I…

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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Four Verses Thirteen through Twenty Six

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Four Verses Thirteen through Twenty Six

This morning’s edition in The Mockingbird Devotional comes from Ethan Richardson.

“…Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life…” (John 4:13-26, ESV)

Jesus is saying here that he doesn’t buy into all the things we pretend to be. These are all portions of the same shallow water—the human propensity to “be okay.” We all posture in this way—sometimes we forget we’re even doing it…

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Another Week Ends: Cosmopolitans, Accepting Feedback, Instagram Envy, Ideology Trumping Art, Hawaii Sucks, Muggles, and Mudbloods

Another Week Ends: Cosmopolitans, Accepting Feedback, Instagram Envy, Ideology Trumping Art, Hawaii Sucks, Muggles, and Mudbloods

1. While we try to stay away from plugging anything too exuberantly, and Lord knows TV/movie recs can make one less likely to watch, not more, still – writer/director Whit Stillman is coming out with a new show on Amazon, Cosmopolitans, which sounds like a not-so-veiled reference to his acclaimed feature debut about young WASP life in NYC. Vanity Fair this week got a preview of the pilot, and TV snobs will be heartened to know that Stillman cited Everybody Loves Raymond and Desperate Housewives as favorites. Cautiously optimistic, Stillman said that even if the show doesn’t get picked up, he’s happy to have just a pilot: “I really feel that…

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