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Religious


Back in the Habit: Creedal Faith and “Sister Act”

In my denomination, there is an official checklist of things you are supposed to say when people ask why you feel called to ordained ministry. You need a solid story about feeling a call when you were serving the poor. Or, maybe it was when you were receiving the Eucharist. I have these stories. And […]

I’ll Go With You

This one comes to us from Juliette Alvey. Moving through life can feel like a series of battles. You get through one just to face another. You win some, you lose some. We use battle language with all sorts of issues: cancer, depression, or just getting the kids dressed and in the car. Some battles last […]

Anhedonia and Men Without Chests: The Timeless Grace of Good Memories

It has now been over 23 years since Wallace penned the inimitable words: “Sentiment equals naïveté on this continent [and] cynicism and naïveté are mutually exclusive.” He explained, “What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as conceptualized) […]

What I Stand On: Wendell Berry’s Collected Catechisms

The closer he got to Henry County, Kentucky, the more nervous he became. He had been invited by Wendell Berry to visit his home — the Wendell Berry. When his rental car pulled up outside their house, the late Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, thought, “This man is too good for me, and it’s going […]

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 […]

I Love You, But Jesus Loves You the Best

It’s summer camp season! For the first year, my husband and I have sent both of our kids to church camp, leaving us with an empty-ish nest for a few weeks. (“Empty-ish” because we have three giant dogs to keep us company and smell up the place.) Sending my kids to summer camp brings out […]

An Ode to the Mockingbird Calling Outside My Window at 2AM

This spring, for weeks at a time, a mockingbird has sat in a birch tree outside our bedroom window, calling out for hours on end in the middle of the night, well before dawn. Blaring his latest remix of car alarms, ring tones and other birds from the neighborhood, he relentlessly calls out into the […]

Stop Blaming the Devil: You Can Do Bad All By Yourself

The first time I heard someone blame Satan I had just graduated from college. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and my parish priest and I were standing in an elderly woman’s backyard helping her clean out a freezer. There were crawfish. She had not had power for weeks. It was August in Mississippi. You […]

Rest, Delight, and Community: An Interview with Kendall Vanderslice, Author of We Will Feast

Grateful for this interview conducted by Aarik Danielsen, with Kendall Vanderslice: Men and women cannot live by bread alone but, in its breaking, we recognize the one who gives us life. We bring nothing to the table of Jesus, yet he graciously offers us all the abundance he shares with the Father and Spirit. Called […]

Bo Giertz Sees the Gospel With New Eyes

In the wake of a 1931 trip to Palestine, PhD hopeful Bo Giertz’s experience of scripture reached new depths. A physical encounter with the biblical context freed Giertz to “read his Bible with completely new eyes. It smelled of earth and daily life. It reflected a reality that one could still see with their own […]

A Little Ditty ’Bout Jack and the Desert Monks

In the gallows humor of this thing called Life, it’s usually in the afterglow of fulfilling our ultimate dreams that we wake up and ask, “What in the hell was I thinking?” Was it worth delaying marriage, foregoing children, neglecting aging parents and ignoring friendships, to find myself in my late-40s with a career fat […]

Confession of a Dieting Supremacist (*in June)

A short, timely excerpt from Seculosity, which turned two months old over the weekend! Scroll down for info about the final dates in the book tour. This is taken from chapter 7:

When I was in middle school, my grandmother sat me down and told me that unlike my two brothers, I would have to watch what I ate as I got older. I don’t know what tipped her off, whether it was my husky build or awful snacking habits, but she wanted me to know that if I didn’t pay attention to what I ate, I could develop a problem, the one known as–[whispering]–fatness.

She was frank, but she was right. The truth is, I’ve always looked to food for comfort, especially during times of stress. Ben and Jerry’s, not Budweiser, is my preferred method of self-medication.

And so, every June of adulthood, I’ve undertaken a month-long “reduction” in which I cut out desserts and carbs and late-night nibbles. For men my age, the pounds fall off with relatively little effort and old pants soon begin to fit again. Affirmation starts to flow my way in the form of unsolicited comments (which my inner lawyer immediately flips into condemnation, i.e., “had I really gotten so heavy?”). I start to feel a bit better, both physiologically and emotionally. Your body thanks you, as they say. The social rewards can be pretty noticeable, too, even for a guy. No more pizza-neck!

Yet the downsides are not negligible. For thirty days it’s tunnel vision all the way, as I place my needs and plans above those of my wife, kids, and coworkers. I can’t seem to do it any other way. All to avoid the accusation of F-A-T, aka the worst F-word in the English language.

The self-centeredness pales in comparison to the self-righteousness. The moment I step on the scale and it registers less is the moment I reproach both my past self for being lazy and others for their failure to be as disciplined as I am. I become what journalist Joyce Wadler calls a “Dieting Supremacist” or we might call a Food Pharisee, forgetting the many factors that contributed to my weight loss, as well as the inconvenient fact that I gained it all back the last time. Instead I craft a narrative about self-determination and effort and performance. A testimony, if you will.

The swiftness of this change in attitude, and the size of the feelings involved, reveals just how much I lean on my relationship to food (and by extension, body image) for self-esteem and justification. Still, given the choice between being a self-aggrandizing performancist who can fit into his clothes and a self-loathing performancist who can’t, I choose the former. Neither is what we might call spiritually healthy, but the latter at least reinforces need rather than self-sufficiency.

Last leg of the Seculosity Tour kicks off later this month! Those dates, plus a couple Fall add-ons, are:

  • June 19, 2019: Jacksonville, FL (Church of our Savior @ 6pm) – This is a ticketed event, with dinner provided. Click here to reserve your spot today!
  • June 20, 2019: Winter Park, FL (Winter Park Country Club, WP 9 @ 6:30pm)
  • June 21, 2019: Orange County, CA (WeWork 200 Spectrum Center Drive, Suite 200, Irvine CA @ 6:30-9pm) – This is a ticketed event. Click here to reserve your spot today!
  • June 22, 2019: Los Angeles, CA (The Zank’s 1101 Hartzell St, Pacific Palisades CA 90272 @ 3:30-5:30pm) – totally free, but please rsvp to info@mbird.com
  • August 28, 2019: Wenowah, NJ (Holy Trinity Episcopal Church @ TBA)
  • October 13, 2019: Charlotte, NC (Christ Church Charlotte @ TBA)

p.s. If you haven’t posted a review on Amazon yet (even a single line!), gosh it would be appreciated. Thanks!