The Beast Without

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“Isaac’s being a jerk,” my seven year-old, Isaiah, says about his older brother. They have been sledding over new-fallen snow.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because he keeps knocking me off my sled.”

“Why do you think he does that?” I ask. I’ve been trying to help my children consider how sometimes they incite one another.

“Because he’s evil.”

Well, then.

“My sisters pregnant I can’t wait to find out if im gonna be an aunt or uncle,” is what the girl tweeted. By the time I saw a screenshot of her words, they had traveled pretty widely. What an idiot, people said. Glad I’m not that stupid. I thought the same things. [Read more...]

Let Me Die Like This

redWhen I die, Lord, let me go in a plane crash, spiraling down, earthward, earthward, apportioned enough time to pray but not nearly enough to forget what we’re all prone to forget: that the end comes, it rushes up to greet us, every one in flight.

What I’d pray in my downfall is: forgive, sweet Christ, forgive, and this: let me see. Let me see myself in your mirror so I may know, before the end, if I am known.

They say it’s easier to conjure faith in desperation, but I suspect the opposite is true, that all we hold in our trembling hands, when the earth charges up to embrace us for the last time, is what’s really there, what we really believe, what we really love, be it God or ourselves or our children or our comforts, or likely some combination of these, with salvation turning perhaps not on a choice so much as on the algorithm, on our hammered-out parameters of love. [Read more...]

I Come Not to Praise the Megachurch

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The church may have begun as a non-spiritual entity, a business of some sort that was judged insufficiently profitable. Maybe it was one of those sprawling climate-controlled storage facilities, for example, the kind assembled from pre-fab insulated concrete forms, crafted not for enlivening souls but for storing up the treasures that have no place elsewhere.

But likely it was intended as a church from the beginning, a box, yes, but a box whose utilitarianism is a testimony befitting the Horatio Alger genesis tale of the modern American church: We began in a warehouse; we began in a living room; we began in a movie theater. In the beginning we sat on borrowed semi-circled folding chairs and read the Word from our soft well-worn leather-bound Bibles and the Word was with us and the Word was us. [Read more...]

Downturned Face, Upturned Eyes

16031088392_2eed4d7889_zThere is no writing more precious and self-indulgent than the essay about the difficulty of writing, so I will not write an essay about that. The truth is that writing is easy if you have a little talent. A little talent affords some writers a fine living, in fact. The only real pain comes not from the act of writing, but from a voice hovering in your ear, which may be your conscience or your mother but most likely is the devil, whispering: They’re not going to like it.

What does the devil get for his trouble? A cheapening of words. Another breezy, bullshitty essay, or another snarky, hopeless one: It makes little difference; the devil edits them all.

(See how he’s angling for your sympathy, with his poor-tortured-truthful-soul-in-a-sea-of-mendacity shtick?) [Read more...]

A Boy, a Wren, and the Kingdom

7006957796_5f0915be8b_zThe little boy moves amongst his creation in the sand: a montage drawn with a stick, with fingers, with his heel dragged before him as he hobbles backwards. Amidst its various pictures are small mosaics of driftwood and shell, all of it held together by whatever artistic vision fires the imagination of a seven-year-old. He stands slick-bellied in afternoon light streaming through gathered clouds to strike the gunmetal sea. The boy is oblivious to the light, to the sea, to the beachcombers who must adopt increasingly expansive detours to avoid his creation.

The boy stands hands-on-hips, head turned sideways now, trying to assay what’s missing. The boy is single-minded in a manner that is rare among children these days, so successfully have we embedded them in digital distraction. There are no televisions here, no hand-sized rectangles that bind wrists and haul necks downward as effectively as any manacle. Only the sand and the sea and what the sea has cast upon the sand. The boy is free to be single-minded about something, and he is still able. He stoops, he gouges a circle in the sand, and within this a smaller circle, and so on. [Read more...]


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