New Here?
     
Literature


The Top Theology Books of 2019

Farewell 2019! Lots to love about the books that came out this past year. Several of these are instant classics I’ll be paging through for years to come! As always, feel free to let me know in the comments if I’ve missed a deserving book! I’m always on the hunt for a good read… In […]

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.

Cautiously Postmodern White Trash: The Resurrection of Larry Brown

The canon of Southern literature is sprawling and intimidating. Larry Brown was aware. A fireman and lifelong Mississippian, Brown is probably best-known for his determination to become a writer; following that, his success at it. Though the road was “long and rough,” he published many stories, novels, and one memoir, until his untimely death at […]

Mockingbird’s Favorite Books (2010-2019)

When I set out to assemble a Mockingbird-themed end-of-decade books list, some guiding measures came into focus. We decided to stay away from books that came from our own imprint — of which many made a good splash this decade. Notably, ten years is a long time — so this is a long list! But […]

“First Coming”, by Madeleine L’Engle

From The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle:

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he cameto a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Grace at SantaLand: Why David Sedaris Is My Favorite Advent Reading

This one was written by Jonathan Sanchez. It’s a bit of a weird choice for an Advent meditation, I’ll admit–the last entry of “SantaLand Diaries” by David Sedaris. Honestly, though, I’ve read those two pages so many times, I know them by heart. In the great Christmas stories, there’s a lot of dark stuff. Scrooge […]

Cast Away the Works of Darkness

A little sample from our latest publication, Faith Once Delivered, a collection of sermons from longtime contributor Paul N. Walker. This sermon was originally delivered at Christ Church in Charlottesville, November 28, 2010, for the First Sunday of Advent. William Golding’s 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies, remains a piercing and, I believe, accurate judgment […]

C. S. Lewis: Evangelist of the Burning Heart

November 22nd is an exciting day for me and for many others as it marks the commemoration of the blessed Clive Staples Lewis in the church calendar. Lewis (“Jack,” as he was affectionately known to friends and family) needs little in the way of introduction: defender of the faith, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, […]

The Hardest Thing for Anyone

According to author Zadie Smith, that is. She spills the beans in the closing mic-drop of her remarkable recent interview with The Toronto Star, ht SMZ:

“I think the hardest thing for anyone is accepting that other people are real as you are. That’s it. Not using them as tools, not using them as examples or things to make yourself feel better or things to get over or under. Just accepting that they are absolutely as real as you are and have all the same expectations and demands. And it’s so difficult that basically the only person that ever did it was Christ. The rest of us are very, very far behind.”

Thank God for Philip Pullman: A Religious Reader’s Guide to His Dark Materials

Spoilers below. Halfway through His Dark Materials, I heard rumors. By the books’ end, people were saying, the characters would kill God. But I was a kid, and like all kids, I wanted to be good. I wasn’t interested in killing God. The extent to which I had been harmed by the Church was a […]

“Like a Blaze of Summer Lightning”: Margery Lawrence, Heaven’s Reluctant Guide

She was being called out in The Sunday Express. The British novelist and poet, Margery Lawrence had been identified as a leading contributor to society’s ills, in print. Being a feminist critical of marriage in 1920s England marked you as a troublemaker. Take Lawrence’s novel, which was quickly turned into the film Madonna of the […]

Another Week Ends: Time-Wasting Projects, Serotonin, Destination Funerals, the Hope of Children, the Languages of Love, and Jesus is King

1. Ear Hustle is a podcast about incarceration. It shares stories about life in San Quentin prison and the reintegration into life that follows a sentence there. The final episode of the recent fourth season is a hard story of reconciliation between a police officer and the man who shot him and went to jail […]