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About Larry Parsley

Husband, father, Texan, and a Baptist pastor of all things. Works at vrbc.net and blogs at lonesomepulpit.com. Enjoys long walks on the sidewalk and dinners by fluorescent light.

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    Long Distance Churching

    “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit…” (Colossians 2:5, RSV)

    You are still my Dearly Beloved.
    Gone are the proximate days we took for granted,
    the friction of shoulders
    mingling of voices
    intimate meals of bread and wine.

    Now we lay our hands
    upon our screens
    and pass the peace
    by pressing Send.

    We fear the rumors of loves
    sundered by separation
    and renew our vows
    by keeping our distance:

    Where you go I will not go
    Where you lodge I will not lodge.
    Your pixelated people are still my people
    And your God my God.

    Reasonable Access

    I shared a version of these words at the inaugural Mockingbird Dallas event on March 7, 2020. Major thanks to all who came and helped pull it off. Have you ever played the children’s card game “Concentration”? You have all these facedown cards randomly distributed, and you turn over two at a time looking for […]

    Gravy: A Prayer for You at Year’s End

    I preached a funeral for a friend a few weeks back — ironically, a day before Thanksgiving. I was under strict instructions not to speak the name of the disease that had ended her earthly life (hint: it starts with “c”; a six-letter word that acts more like a four-letter word). I couldn’t ignore that word’s presence altogether, since it had surely been a contributing writer on the screenplay of her life. But I never uttered the word and did my best to give Jesus top billing.

    Raymond Carver managed to accomplish something similar in one of his final poems, “Gravy.” He looked back over the last sober decade – the love he experienced from Tess Gallagher, the vital work of writing and teaching and living. It is a mere 125 words. And not to nag you like your 10th grade English teacher or anything, but I do believe it would reward the time you spend reading it:

    “Gravy” by Raymond Carver

    No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
    Gravy.
    Gravy, these past ten years.
    Alive, sober, working, loving, and
    being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
    ago he was told he had six months to live
    at the rate he was going. And he was going
    nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
    somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
    After that it was all gravy, every minute
    of it, up to and including when he was told about,
    well, some things that were breaking down and
    building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
    he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
    I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
    expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.

    May I pray this prayer for us?

    Lord Jesus, another year is gone, and only you know what awaits us. For those things we fear are “building up” and “breaking down,” we pray for healing and endurance in the days to come. And as we reflect on 2019, Lord, focus our minds on the gravy — the moments we weren’t promised, the work that kept us “alive,” the remarkable disasters we mysteriously avoided, and most importantly, the grace that raised us up when we were “going nowhere but down.”

    Gravy. Pure gravy. Please pass the gravy. Amen.

    Marriage Tips from SeaWorld

    I’ll admit it — my first read of this article caused me to conjure up a pretty unattractive picture of myself. I, the seal, clapping my fins together, while my wife stands at the edge of the pool, poised to drop a fish in my mouth. But when I read a second time Amy Sutherland’s […]

    The Improbable Persistence of Calling

    In one of his final stories for The New Yorker, “The Long Black Line,” former Jesuit John L’Heureux offers a funny and heart-rending tale of a Jesuit novice who leaves the order. [If you have the time, check out a beautiful reading and commentary on the story by one of his former students, and don’t […]

    Sixty to Zero

    In Lyndal Roper’s Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet, the author narrates the moment when Martin, a newly minted Augustinian monk, participated in his first mass as priest (1507). What made this moment especially charged was that his father Hans was present. Hans, you may remember, sacrificed to send his boy to college so that Martin […]

    One Year Later: Still Processing the Willow Creek Crash

    The first time I went to Willow Creek Community Church, circa 1994, I didn’t want to be there. My new pastor and boss was a fan of Pastor Bill Hybels, and our church staff flew to Chicago to attend a conference together. I feared that any church that large must be suspect. Still, as I […]

    Grace Knows the Back Story

    Big Ellis, a young farmer in Wendell Berry’s short story, “Down in the Valley Where the Green Grass Grows,” literally struggles to keep his pants up, due to his awkwardly proportioned body. His social graces are a little off as well, and this complicates his romantic exploits in the town of Port William. He did […]

    You Can “Go Your Own Way” (And Surely Will)

    I’ve listened to this podcast about Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” from Song Exploder a half dozen times already, and I know I’m not done with it. If you’re not familiar, Song Exploder is a podcast “where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.” To […]

    Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Seven Verses Thirty-One to Thirty-Six

    Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put […]

    The Preacher’s Understudy

    In the 1990s, I served on staff at a church in a large metropolitan city in the South. For several years, we hosted an interdenominational worship service for young single adults. Close to a thousand singles would pack out our church’s sanctuary, with some people standing at the back of the balcony. Some college students […]

    “Mercy Goes First”: An Address to Seminary Graduates

    [What follows is an edited version of remarks I delivered to Truett Seminary’s Fall 2017 Graduates. My talk was heavily influenced by Mockingbird, and with gratitude I post this here.] It has been about 30 years ago now that I waited to hold my seminary diploma in my hands, and I was saddened this week […]

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