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Grace in Practice

PZ's Podcast: The Spider and the Fly

PZ’s Podcast: The Spider and the Fly

EPISODE 251

Benjamin Britten’s ‘Spider and the Fly’ number from his Suite for “Johnson over Jordan”, by J.B. Priestley, takes you by surprise. It sounds like Gershwin at the start, then becomes a kind of danse, and is ultimately sinister. The composer meant it like that, for he was drawn to Priestley’s play because it concerns life after death; and Britten was interested in life after death during this period of his career.

Priestley broke an English taboo, you might say — but it’s a taboo in our country, also, in practice — in his 1939 reflection on purgatory, and salvation, which…

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Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – Ethan Richardson

This packed-out session from MockingbirdNYC was all about the nitty-gritties of forgiveness in real life, the psychology of it, the messiness…and the risk. From editor-in-chief of The Mockingbird, and featuring clips from Three Billboards and This is 40 — you’ll laugh and cry:

Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Still in Diapers at Thirty

Still in Diapers at Thirty

We started potty-training Annie last weekend, and while it was certainly all-encompassing for a few days, it wasn’t as tortuous as the image I had built up in my mind. It began as most parents’ toilet training experiences do.

On Saturday morning, we very ceremoniously threw away Annie’s diapers, saying “bye bye” as I bagged up the extras and dropped them by the garbage can in the garage; she then donned her carefully selected Moana big-girl panties from Target. Then, we hunkered down. I offered juice. Lots of juice. And every twenty minutes, whether she felt like she needed to or…

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If Your Church Doesn’t Preach the Gospel

If Your Church Doesn’t Preach the Gospel

This past week brought yet another wave of critique for tired preachers everywhere. Across my newsfeed was the imperative: If your pastor does not preach about these immigrant children, then you should leave your church.

Well, here’s a suggestion:

If your pastor does not preach the Gospel this week, then you should leave your church. But don’t leave until after the service is over. And then definitely come back the next week. Because I am going to assume that with all of the voices in this sin-sick, weary, demanding world, your preacher is doing his or her best. I am imagining that…

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PZ's Podcast: Bells Are Ringing

PZ’s Podcast: Bells Are Ringing

EPISODE 251

This is a short riposte to the politicization of basically everything just now; but not in the way of taking sides, but rather in the way of digging deeper. I mean, digging deeper to the best and true interests of human beings.

The best and true interest of human beings, the necessary condition for our welfare, exists in the direction of connection with another person; and, most typically (tho’ not absolutely always), a romantic connection. The best interest of us does not consist in political concerns and goals. As Sting sang it, in “Spirits in the Material World” (1981), “There…

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The Gift of Profanity 

The Gift of Profanity 

Chris Pratt is as cute as a button, and I thought about as deep. He was in Parks and Rec, lead roles in every cheesy commercially killer movie you can think of from Guardians of the Galaxy to Jurassic World. He married a similarly “perfect” starlet, Anna Faris who spoke openly of her devout feminism and total coolness of her implants.

But I found out last night Chris Pratt is a human.

On Saturday he was awarded the “Generation Award” (what?) on this year’s MTV Awards amid hundreds of screaming teens in the audience. He could have done the hip glib troll of…

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J.B. Roane and the Case of the Reluctant Granny

J.B. Roane and the Case of the Reluctant Granny

When my new cellphone rang for the first time, I tried not to act surprised. “J.B. Roane.” My heart raced, but I kept my voice steady, just a tick above bored.

“Umm, is this the Preacher?” That’s what most Texans call pastors. Technically, yes, I thought. I’d spent three years in seminary, largely learning how to preach. Up until the end of last month, preaching was the biggest part of my job as pastor of a slightly-bigger-than-small Baptist church. But when my wife left me on a Monday, the deacons invited me to a specially called meeting on a Tuesday, and…

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Walking Away from a Murder

Walking Away from a Murder

His girlfriend had recently got back together with him. He’d have been better off without her. But tell that to an eighteen year old who’s in love. She was all he had, and all he wanted. So when he lost her, he thought he lost everything. And when he got her back, he thought he regained everything.

Loneliness creates vacuums in the souls of men that they often fill with women who make them even lonelier.

But Tom, drunk on misplaced hopes, only felt the intoxication of happiness. Finally, after years of “family life” where there was little family and no life,…

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The Revolutionary Message of Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The Revolutionary Message of Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Grateful for this write-up on the new Fred Rogers documentary, opening in theaters this month! By our friend Mike Cosper:

One of the achievements of Morgan Neville’s new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, is the profound contrast he’s able to demonstrate between the world of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and the rest of children’s entertainment.

We’re shown clowns being pounded in the face with pies, gun-wielding Transformers and grenade-throwing GI Joes, and (perhaps the most serious offenders) Ren and Stimpy committing various acts of violence upon one another. Then we see Fred Rogers, speaking gently and slowly into the camera, entertaining with…

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There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

My husband is the rector, or head pastor, of a church in Houston, and we live in a rectory, which is a house owned and maintained by the church. You might know it as a parsonage or a manse. In our fifteen years of marriage, we’ve lived in four different houses, but this is our first stint in a rectory. We chose to live in this house for a variety of reasons: we’d been burned on some harsh real estate transactions in the couple of years prior to the move, and we knew we couldn’t otherwise afford to live in…

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Sharing Hospital Joy and Misery

Sharing Hospital Joy and Misery

This one comes to us from Bryant Trinh.

I often find myself in the humor and satire section of The New Yorker. I absolutely love a good laugh and am usually labelled as the troll in one of my circles of friends. However, as I was perusing, I ran across a piece that was delivered as a commencement address earlier this month at UCLA’s Medical School by Atul Gawande — a surgeon, public-health researcher, and author of the best-seller Being Mortal.

Growing up in an Asian-American household, it isn’t surprising that at one point or another I was aspiring to…

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A Terrifying Act of Clemency

A Terrifying Act of Clemency

A certain sometimes-Presbyterian WWE enthusiast and former game-show host from Queens, preternatural in the ancient American art of getting attention, has commanded the usual furor of late — but for reasons that, even by his own standard, count as unusual. While the handshake in Singapore with Kim the 3rd is startling enough (for good, we can yet hope), I don’t mean that. Instead, the President has made a bit of a show of his Constitutionally granted pardon power, and displeased more than a few people in the process.

Whenever the concept of “pardon” is discussed in public, we should take note…

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