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Religion


You Smell Like Sheep

We live in a divided world. The latest convention is almost always a catalyst for taking sides. Android versus iPhone. Taylor Swift verse Beyoncé. LeBron versus Jordan. The Last Jedi versus all the other Star Wars. Liberal versus conservative. Humanity’s thirst to belong thrives across industrial realms. And it’s this quest for belonging that has […]

Where Is the Gospel in Adoption?

Grateful for this anonymous piece: I became an orphan 37 years ago, somewhere in South Korea. I can’t be more specific — I don’t know when I was left, who left me, or even where. My orphanage paperwork only says that sometime that summer, “By request of [the police], we intook the child to be […]

Among the Other Gods: A Christian Air Force Chaplain’s Weird Work

Thankful for this distinct perspective from Clifton Hanson. At the beginning of Advent, I found myself leading a tree lighting ceremony. I’ve been part of tree lighting ceremonies before—this was no ordinary one. Sure, we did the usual stuff: important people addressed the crowd, we read the Christmas story from St. Luke’s Gospel, and of […]

I Am Not a Morning Person

This one comes to us from Kate Campbell. It’s no secret to basically anyone who knows me that I am not a morning person. No matter how many different schemes or habits or alarm clocks I have tried, I have never successfully established a morning routine. I am 100% a night owl — that’s when […]

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.

Reconciling Sorrow with Grace in Noname’s ‘Telefone’

When I remember memories don’t last forever When I deny my empty with an open letter Who gon remember me? My satellite, my empathy The wheels be chrome, chrome spiffy, the Lord with me My halo said goodbye and the floor hit me Fill the lining in the pine box, my granny fill the time […]

Jenny Slate Went to Midnight Mass and Experienced the Gospel

Jenny Slate first came into my life in 2010, though at the time I didn’t know her as such. I knew her as Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, a tiny seashell with one googley eye who said things like, “Guess what I use to tie my skis to my car? A hair.” Marcel was […]

“A Word That Would Light Up The Night”: Listening to Nick Cave’s Ghosteen in Advent

This one comes to us from our friend Robbie Sapunarich. As a relative newcomer to Anglicanism, I’ve found Advent, while not totally unfamiliar, has been welcome and refreshing. I also deeply appreciate a phrase I read in various places that seems popular in Anglican circles: “All may, some should, none must.” It’s a principle that, […]

Let Heaven and Nature Sing: The Inspired Stories of Christmas Carols

Each December, my church hosts a carol sing in which the wider community participates. About a hundred people gather — families, college students, older folks, Christians and non-Christians — to sing through the wide Christmas canon, everything from “The Grinch” to “Silent Night.” After we run through a few songs, we descend onto the downtown […]

The Weight of Advent: Speak What You Feel, Not What You Ought to Say

As Black Friday reaches further back in time each year, so as to even colonize the twilight hours of Thanksgiving Day, we in North America are no strangers to the porousness of time. Commercial interests can collapse chronology such that two times can overlap in a way purely linear calendar time can’t countenance; we can […]

Who Killed God? (Christians, with the Ethics, in the Renaissance)

Currently reading and enjoying Alec Ryrie’s Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt. For anyone who likes the work of John Gray or Francis Spufford, this could be natural next steps, fitting snugly between those two, in terms of friendliness/approachability. Cleverly, Ryrie introduces his concept as a whodunnit. If, as Nietzsche argued, God is dead, then […]

A Grave Hope

And if life is a miraculous opening, why cannot death be a miraculous opening also? — Brian Doyle 1 In Acts 7:16, readers are told that the bodies of Jacob and his twelve sons were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the […]