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If Jesus Were a Dietitian

If Jesus Were a Dietitian

“I was my sickest and loneliest when I appeared my healthiest.” How’s that for an admission? Yet it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jessica Knoll’s recent op-ed for The NY Times, the provocatively titled “Smash the Wellness Industry.” She describes a somewhat harrowing relationship with...
For Walt So Loved the World

For Walt So Loved the World

In honor of WW’s 200th birthday, here’s this. I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (1-3) Whitman is my favorite narcissist. His poetry overflows with ego, but instead of being stuffy, his poetic...
Sobriety Broke Me to Pour Me Out

Sobriety Broke Me to Pour Me Out

Grateful for this one, by Erin Jean Warde. Months ago, I decided to quit drinking. I have chronic migraines and sometimes face depression. I wondered if maybe something that gives me headaches wasn’t the best for chronic headaches. I wondered if maybe a depressant wasn’t the best beverage for depression....
What (Not) to Do When There Is a War on Everything

What (Not) to Do When There Is a War on Everything

Of all the noble feelings which fill the human heart in the exciting tumult of battle, none, we must admit, are so powerful and constant as the soul’s thirst for honor and renown. – Carl von Clausewitz In addition to the trade war and the culture wars and the war...
Stop Blaming the Devil: You Can Do Bad All By Yourself

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...
If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I'll Be Happy

If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I’ll Be Happy

The latest ‘gimme’ from the world of social science has, er, arrived. I’m referring to the Arrival Fallacy, “the illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.” Earlier this week The NY Times devoted a whole column to...
Notes on Beauty

Notes on Beauty

I am getting older. If you believe in science, which I do, then I guess we’re all getting older. The aging process for me has been underway for 35 years now, but I’ve only really become aware of it recently. My hands are starting to look like my mom’s. Things...
Latest entries

Miriam Toews Has Something to Say

Miriam Toews Has Something to Say

Miriam Toews (pronounced “taves”) first came to my attention in 2015 with her book All My Puny Sorrows, a moving novelization of her sister’s suicide. Her newest book, Women Talking, is a response to the real-life story of mass sexual assault in a remote Mennonite colony; its cover art (see below) is both elegant and […]

Dead to Me: A Dark Comedy of Forgiveness

Dead to Me: A Dark Comedy of Forgiveness

This one was written by Sam Guthrie. In the Netflix original series, Dead to Me, Judy (Linda Cardellini) helps Jen (Christina Applegate) cope with the sudden loss of her husband, Ted. The two form an unlikely friendship tracking down Jen’s husband’s killer in the pristine landscape of Malibu. Thanks to Liz Feldman, the creator of […]

A Gift on Father’s Day

A Gift on Father’s Day

From Andrew Taylor-Troutman: This Father’s Day, my three children gifted me a bird feeder in the shape of a log cabin. Now, as they joyfully run amok in the playroom, I am reflecting on the gifts of fatherhood itself. Fatherhood has taught me that children are actually verbs. Also, that Legos multiply through their own […]

Devotion #1 - Larry Parsley

From our recent gathering in New York City, here is the first devotion by conference chaplain (and author) Larry Parsley. Here Larry discusses the gospel of Mark, Veggie Tales, and a nerve-racking playground confrontation. For your daily dosage of fast-but-authentic gospel, press play.

Devotion #1 – Larry Parsley from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Happy Father's Day: Try Not to Kill Dad

Happy Father's Day: Try Not to Kill Dad

Here we are, the week before Father’s Day, and I decided to make a shopping trip for my husband to my favorite local gift shop. It is the kind of place that I could walk into and find five pairs of earrings I can’t live without and a tray for my work desk that says, […]

Another Week Ends: Unfunded Mandates, Orthosomnia, One-Star Yelp Reviews, Lancaster Love, the Creation of Forky, and the Fastest Growing Religion in America

Another Week Ends: Unfunded Mandates, Orthosomnia, One-Star Yelp Reviews, Lancaster Love, the Creation of Forky, and the Fastest Growing Religion in America

1. Fresh off the press from this morning, The Atlantic gives us new language to describe the law: “The Unfunded Mandate.” When the federal government requires states to abide by certain rules without providing the funding needed to support that rule, it’s called an Unfunded Mandate. Stay tuned, though — in the same way that […]

For the Love of Money: The Metronome to Human Life

For the Love of Money: The Metronome to Human Life

Money money money money, money Money money money money, money Money money money money, money Money money money money, money Money money money money, money Money money money money, money Some people got to have it, yeah, some people really need it Listen to me y’all, do things, do things, do things, bad things with […]

From The Onion: New Parenting Trend Involves Just Handing Children Bulleted List Of Things To Accomplish By 30

An inspiring new report from America’s Finest News Source. Visit here to read the entire thing…

NEW YORK—Several family experts confirmed Friday that the latest parenting trend involves just handing children a bulleted list of things they need to accomplish by the age of 30. “An increasing number of moms and dads are taking a more direct style of parenting that involves simply printing out a list of life achievements, handing it to their child, and telling them to get it all done before they turn 30 years old,” said Parents magazine editor Mallory Schneider, adding that the new technique encourages independence and has a built-in flexibility, as parents can customize their lists according to whatever specific expectations they have for their child. “These lists often span multiple pages and contain a variety of personal and career benchmarks… It really puts the power in the hands of the child—typically around the age of 10 or 11, when they receive the list—by allowing them to figure out how to achieve all the goals in the allotted time.” Experts also confirmed that many parents are giving their children a supplementary list of less-preferred, but still suitable, backup plans should they fail to complete the original set of accomplishments.

If Jesus Were a Dietitian

If Jesus Were a Dietitian

“I was my sickest and loneliest when I appeared my healthiest.” How’s that for an admission? Yet it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jessica Knoll’s recent op-ed for The NY Times, the provocatively titled “Smash the Wellness Industry.” She describes a somewhat harrowing relationship with food and body that sounds […]

When Everything Came Alive for Leo Tolstoy

The new episode of The Mockingcast dropped yesterday (“Pelagian Privilege”), in which Sarah shared the following entry from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. The Arrival Fallacy strikes again:

[Leo Tolstoy] was 52 years old, and his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), were behind him. He had found himself in a crisis—he was famous, had a family and land and money, but it all seemed empty. He was unable to write, had trouble sleeping, contemplated suicide. He read the great philosophers, but found holes in all of their arguments. He was amazed that the majority of ordinary Russians managed to keep themselves going every day, and he finally decided that it must be their faith. From there, it was a short time until Tolstoy took a walk in the woods and found God. He wrote: “At the thought of God, happy waves of life welled up inside me. Everything came alive, took on meaning. The moment I thought I knew God, I lived. But the moment I forgot him, the moment I stopped believing, I also stopped living.”

His wife Sophia was not so thrilled with his conversion. He renounced meat, sex, alcohol, fiction, tobacco, and the temptations of a family. He dressed like a peasant. He wanted to give all of his money away, but Sophia wanted to live what she considered a normal life, not to mention raise their 10 children.

Tolstoy made his first visit to [the Optina-Pustyn monastery] in 1877, a visit in which he apparently exhausted the chief starets—or community elder—with his questions. On this day [June 10th] in 1881 he set off on a second visit, and this time he decided that to be more like the common people, he would walk all the way there, dressed in his peasant coat and wearing shoes made out of bark. He was pleased with his spiritual guidance, but he wasn’t used to walking in bark shoes, so by the time he made it to Optina his feet were so covered in blisters that he had to take the train back home.

For the next chapter in Tolstoy’s eccentric spiritual journey, look no further. You can also check out our Tolstoy archive here. And for more on where he landed on monasticism be sure to track down his masterpiece of a novella, Father Sergius.

Parenting Is Impossible

A little snippet from Nick Lannon’s incisive new book, Life Is Impossible: And That’s Good News:

I think I first became aware of the impossible in my life—at least aware enough that it kicked off a sort of mini existential crisis—when my wife and I were approaching the birth of our first child. I realized, as the date came closer and closer, that I was becoming more and more nervous and agitated. I’d never been a father before, and I wasn’t sure I could be a good one. In fact, I wasn’t sure what to do at all! The choices seemed endless: cloth diapers or disposable? Jarred food or blend-your-own? Breast milk or formula? Spanking or not? Harvard or Yale?

In all seriousness, though, the decision tree that spread out before me was tremendous—never-ending, actually—and it was stressing me out. It wasn’t until later that I realized what was actually going on. It turned out that I was subconsciously convinced—in a way that I never would have admitted consciously—that if I made all the right choices along that infinite parenting decision tree, that my child would grow up to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the next Oprah Winfrey. You’ll say, of course, that such a thought is ridiculous…and of course you’re right. But we all think this way, all the time. Most of the stress in our lives comes from the fact that we’ve convinced ourselves—often only subconsciously—that the sum of our decision-making will determine how well things turn out for us. Who wouldn’t feel stressed? In that scheme, your happy future depends on every minute-by-minute choice that you make!

What finally gave me some peace, and the ability to approach the birth of our daughter with some mental stability, was the realization that making all the right decisions along the parenting decision tree was impossible. Not difficult, impossible. It wasn’t something that I could buckle down on, or something I could solve with parenting books or daddy blogs…there was no way to make my way through unscathed. No, I had to acknowledge from the very beginning that failure was my sure destination. “Success,” as I had subconsciously defined it, was impossible. Ironically and counterintuitively, it was in admitting failure that I found peace.

What (Not) to Do When There Is a War on Everything

What (Not) to Do When There Is a War on Everything

Of all the noble feelings which fill the human heart in the exciting tumult of battle, none, we must admit, are so powerful and constant as the soul’s thirst for honor and renown. – Carl von Clausewitz In addition to the trade war and the culture wars and the war on drugs, you may have […]