About Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr is the author of four novels for young adults. Her most recent, How to Save a Life, was named a Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Los Angeles Public Library Book of the Year. It’s also been named to the American Library Association’s Top Ten Fiction for Young Adults annual list. Her first book, Story of a Girl, was a 2007 National Book Award Finalist. Sara’s work has also appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain online, and in various anthologies. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, and online at www.sarazarr.com.

Internet Jubilee: A Holy Year of Mercy

On a recent Sunday, my pastor preached on the idea of the jubilee year as outlined in Leviticus, a time when debts are settled, slaves are set free, and land is returned to families. Last month, Pope Francis declared approximately Advent 2015 through Advent 2016 a jubilee year, the Holy Year of Mercy. “Let us not forget that God pardons and God pardons always,” he said. “Let us never tire of asking for forgiveness.”

When my pastor gave the Leviticus sermon, he said something along the lines of, “Imagine if you got a notice from the government saying that your student loan was forgiven, or your bank said your credit card balance had been paid.” Yes, thanks, that would be awesome! Yet as great that would be, an even more powerful metaphor for me was to imagine if my forty-thousand tweets could be deleted in one fell swoop, and every snarky, judgy thing I ever said anywhere online could magically disappear. [Read more...]

Grace and the Incomplete Flush

oldcoolbuildingAlmost two years ago my husband and I bought a condo in a cool old building downtown. Great location, hardwood floors, exposed brick, pocket doors—charm and more charm. The trouble with cool old buildings is that they are rife with plumbing and electrical issues as ancient systems jury-rigged to keep up with modern times continually fail.

Our previous home had these same issues. The electrical never bothered me much—an ungrounded outlet here, a shorted breaker there, a little smoke wafting out of the dimmer switch of a summer evening. Life.

But the plumbing. The plumbing is another story. The primary symptom of its troubles (and all of my angst about it) coalesces around what is known in the biz as an “incomplete flush.” No matter how many times you flush the toilet, you can never quite get rid of all evidence that you had to use it.

[Read more...]

I Belong to Jesus

Today we are happy to welcome back former Good Letters blogger Sara Zarr as a regular contributor once again.

3768063540_5c7235b957_z In the church of my childhood and adolescence, we had a tradition at church retreats and evening services of forming a circle, joining hands, and singing, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” (It was the seventies, okay?)

These retreats were held in relatively remote areas, at centers with names like Mt. Hermon and The Lord’s Land, where believers would gather in A-frame buildings to learn and share.

Though my memories of being surrounded by cool adults wearing bellbottom jeans and sporting macramé guitar straps are special for me, I eventually felt a need to put distance between those days and who I am now. [Read more...]

The Work Awaits, Part Two

Almost exactly two years ago, I made my Good Letters debut with a post titled “The Work Awaits,” in which I wrote about my vocational insecurities and obstacles, and how living out my life as a writer hasn’t felt the way I expected it to.

This sequel is long in coming, and it’s my last post as a regular contributor.

The two years that have marked my tenure here happened to coincide with one of the most difficult periods of my life. I’ve used this space to work through many of the puzzles I found myself facing at midlife.

I’ve written about my father, depression, diabetes, not being a mother, Jazzercise, John Mayer, and Peanut M&Ms. Mostly I’ve wondered: Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing, in the way I’m meant to be doing it?

And also: Is this all there is? [Read more...]

Make Your Life an Altar

I recently came across a short devotional on the Abraham and Isaac story. You know the one:

God tells Abraham to take his only son up a mountain and burn him on an altar. God ultimately spares Isaac and never intended him to actually die. It’s a harrowing scene nonetheless, and one that many unbelievers cite as a reason for rejecting God.

I’m not going to attempt an apologetic here. What I want to explore has to do with the concluding thought from that devotional:

“So make your life an altar to God. Not to get what you want, not to spare something sacred, but to experience the faithfulness of God each day.”

“Make your life an altar” is easy to say and sounds so delightfully simple. But really, how do you do that? Is it an incantation? Say the words “make my life an altar, Lord” and sit back and assume it’s happening? [Read more...]