strangers in a strange land

Caesar’s imperial census compelled Mary and Joseph to the pilgrims’ path, far from home for their son’s birth to a world brimful of heartache and cruelty. King Herod’s murderous edict set the young family fleeing to Egypt where they lived several years as refugees. The sword, foretold by the prophet to pierce Mary’s very soul, would first cut countless others’ to the quick. 
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.” 
Few carols lament the empty-armed mothers of Bethlehem, but their grief bore witness to ruthless political expedience and state violence long before that dark day in Golgotha. Or a tear-filled August in Ferguson.

Follow me over to A Deeper Story to read the rest of this advent meditation.


with the sound the carols drowned

As advent begins amid swelling protest and lamentation, the poem-turned-song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, echoes in my ears.

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said

The meditative timbre of advent never fails to resonate with me. Its melancholic, hopeful longing jars against the flashy lights and blur of the Christmas [shopping] season, mirroring the tensions and promise of the now-and-not-yet-fully-realized Kingdom of God.

We wait, and we watch. We cultivate hope, awaiting the coming of Emmanuel, already present and at work among us and within us. We take heart, pushing together against hate and trusting in the peace on earth that is come and shall come at last.


those without a horse

Label, lie, vilify
simplify, Other. Brother,
"Can't we all just get along?"

Those without a horse
dismiss the race with record speed.
Whose stories have we snuffed with severed
cries to settle down?

Prophetic voices rise 
above the fray from muted margins;
shalom whispers the heat of conflict, too.

We practice resurrection: calm, storm, 
work and wonder. Rooted and built up,
rebuilding in love, we'll blaze a most excellent way.


because being on the same side is overrated

I wrote a wee poem for A Deeper Story today about community rooted in something other than checking the same boxes. It has an accompanying soundtrack in one of my very favorite Bob Dylan songs: an acquired taste, decidedly, but I suppose the same could be said for many of us.

Happy Thursday, friends.


and the trees are stripped bare

GUESS WHO PUT IN A WOOD STOVE?? There's still a bit of masonry yet to finish, but our farmhouse is fired up. The winter of my discontent shall be a good bit toastier. Take that, polar vortex.

We threw a party: venison chili, mulled cider, and a fire for a crowd of thirty-odd friends and neighbors. Such a nice night. My brother and his girlfriend drove out from Philly to spend the weekend with us, too, which was great. We went out together to a quirky Northern Chinese restaurant ten miles further into the the middle of nowhere, PA, that everyone was thoroughly charmed by. Dumplings forever. Delegating pumpkin carving to Uncle Josh? Priceless.

James turned five, and we celebrated with blue key lime buttercream. My older sister visited with a crew of friends for a little team-building retreat involving jumping off telephone poles. My parents were around for a bit. They bought a little second home here a few years back and venture out every few weeks, to the great delight of Dylan and James.

Jim's been in Milwaukee putting on a big four thousand runner stadium race with his buddy, like you do. That meant nearly a week of solo parenting, but we hung in there, we did. Quite happily, all things considered, fitting in trick-or-treat, a living room camp-out, a movie night, and scrambled eggs for dinner twice. Jim is back, and he brought with him Wisconsin cheese, because all the best men do.


50 Women Every Christian Should Know Michelle DeRusha's collection of mini biographies is worthy of a read. She's got mystics, martyrs, missionaries, activists, artists, and all sorts of diverse women spanning Church history. Definitely a good introduction to inspire further reading.

My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within More an autobiography than a proper memoir, I had a difficult time with this one, but I trust it would resonate with those who share similar stories.

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World This title from Nish Weiseth, my editor at A Deeper Story, is about the role of storytelling in creating community and forging understanding. Her writing is interspersed with posts from the multi-contributor website, (including the first one I ever published with them. In print!). Like Nish, I've seen stories change minds and heal hearts, and writing in that community has been a tremendous pleasure.

As one who is equally appreciative of a well-reasoned argument (and believes that storytelling, like anything, can have a dark side), I wasn't completely sold on her story-is-king premise, but it's certainly a hopeful one, and Christians could all do with a bit more listening and not despising the days of small things.

Gone Girl Whoa. This thriller had me going. I don't want to spoil anything, but I definitely want to see the movie.

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry Worth it alone for Anglo-Saxon Protestant Heterosexual Men. Berry is a national treasure.


The Bletchley Circle: These BBC feminist period piece mysteries about a crew of smart and nerdy code-breakers are the BEST and altogether too few. The series/seasons are just three episodes a piece. The first is on Netflix, and the second I tracked down in the library system.

Scandal and Parenthood remain my faves. I'm also rather charmed by the freshman romantic comedies A to Z (NBC) and Manhattan Love Story (ABC).

Pretty sure I saw zero movies last month.


Bill Murray mumble-singing one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs forever and ever amen. Anyone seen this movie yet?

If Ruth Baby Ginsburg doesn't make you smile, you are dead inside.

All right, that's me. What have you been doing, seeing, loving of late?


take up a different story

Sabbath keeping is contrary to so many popular myths, the greatest, perhaps, that we are the sum of all we produce or own. Rest embraces God’s grace and provision over performance or consumerist striving. “To insist on Sabbath is to give testimony to the subversive knowledge that God’s bias is in favor of freedom.” Sabbath reconnects us with Life beyond the exacting grind or madding crowd, honoring the One for Whom and with Whom we labor all those other days.

I have a post up at Deeper Story this week, and I nearly forgot to link you to it on this end. If you don't mind, I'd love to hear what Sabbath looks like in your own practice or community.


violence in the snowy fields

The cover of the October issue of Harper's belongs to Rebecca Solnit's Silencing Women. (Her popular essay, Men Explain Things To Me, appears in a forthcoming book of the same name.) The article is behind a paywall, so I read it at the library and then drove two towns over to get my own copy like the responsible literary citizen I can be.

The piece, about how women's testimony and voices are discredited, will be achingly familiar to many. It's worth a trip to the newsstand or library to read in full. Here's an excerpt:

Still, even now, when a woman says something uncomfortable about male misconduct, she is routinely portrayed as delusional, a malicious conspirator, a pathological liar, a whiner who doesn't recognize it's all in fun, or all of the above. The overkill of these responses recalls Freud's deployment of the joke about the broken kettle. A man accused by his neighbor of having returned a borrowed kettle damaged replies that he had returned it undamaged, it was already damaged when he borrowed it, and he had never borrowed it anyway. When a woman accuses a man and he or his defenders protest that much, she becomes that broken kettle. 
So many broken kettles. 

The story is always timely, but it seemed especially so to me having just read a thread over at David Hayward's Naked Pastor where a number of women spoke out about just that kind of treatment at the hands of leaders in the Emergent/emerging/progressive church movement. Nearly one month and eight hundred eighty-six one thousand seven comments later, that thread is still live, but I've not read much external commentary on it. A lot of people probably wish it would go away. It's unseemly, distracting. When such conflicts arise, it's worth examining who assumes the role of arbiter of What We Should Be Focusing On Instead and who are considered to be indecorous, un-Christlike troublemakers and unreliable narrators.

Of course, women are not alone in the experience of having their witness discredited or personhood diminished. Historically, it's even more common for people of color, (and women of color get it on multiple axes). Queer people and abuse survivors of all genders can similarly find their perspectives cast as untrustworthy against those who, across lines of power, are deemed less emotional and more objective, rational, and deserving of the benefit of the doubt by default.

It's exhausting. So many of the supposed "bad guys" and "good guys" behave in identical manners, which shouldn't surprise: no camp, theology, or political bent is immune from protected power, boys' clubs, gaslighting, mean girls, misogyny, bullying, or systemic violence. Across the board, celebrity emperors have no clothes, but few even bat an eye.
It’s not just bros and jocks and finance dudes and yuppies and Christians and Republicans who are shitty to women. Being part of a counter-cultural or progressive community does not give you a free pass to be shitty to women without being called out on it. We need to hold our own communities to an even higher standard than we hold those in the opposition, we need to welcome criticism, and we to realize that the ones who call out shitty behavior in these communities are not the threat, but that those who protect it and shield it from criticism are. (On sexism, sexual assault and the threat of the ‘non-bro’) (h/t Dianna Anderson)
Left-leaning Christians can't just point fingers at abuses at Mars Hill or Sovereign Grace and ignore the same destructive power dynamics repeated in our own relationships and communities. The sun still hasn't set on empire. It's hardly endemic to the right, and it's decidedly not a vague metaphor for meanness or whichever critics we don't appreciate. Empire is present in every system privileging the powerful at the expense of "the least of these." Followers of the One who esteemed outcasts and undesirables, whose own inner circle offered nothing in the way of legitimacy or prestige, and who was ultimately executed by the literal empire colluding with religious authority should know better than to water down this most potent theological concept and critique of abusive, violent power.

We can do so much better, friends. Eyes to see. Ears to hear. Hands to heal.

Feet to move: first to last, last to first.


goldenrod and the 4-H stone

Our lawn is already blanketed in orange leaves. Jim grew a little pumpkin patch that he and the kids are wholly smitten with, and summer is decidedly over, which is something of a relief for this camp family. Dylan's in first grade, James started up at a new pre-school in the afternoons, and it good to be back into fall rhythms again.

The end of the month means linking up with Leigh Kramer, whom I got to spend one delicious afternoon with in Nashville this summer. I've barely written here much at all lately, but I figured this was as good a time as any to dip my toes back in these waters again.


Preston Yancey's Tables In The Wilderness releases today. I'm gonna go ahead and admit that I was a little nervous to read Preston's book. He's a talented writer, as blog readers surely know, but he's young, and I just wasn't sure what to expect from this memoir, which largely covers his time in college.

I needn't have worried. What it is is an honest, warmly told coming-of-age story about growing into one's faith and finding the kinds of friends who help us to become our best selves. Preston's book writing is humble, and I appreciated the way he navigated finding a home in the Anglican tradition while honoring his roots. His is also the first and perhaps only evangelical book I've read to make a noticeable, concerted effort not to use masculine pronouns for God, which was a happy surprise.

I've got one hard copy of Preston's book to pass along. Just leave a comment below and I'll get it in the mail to one reader shortly.

Amy Turn Sharp's sexy little book of poetry is glorious.

Wendell Berry's A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997. Beauty.

I read this back in the summer, but Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark is so thoughtful I might have to get my own copy and read it again. She reclaims literal and metaphorical darkness as inspiration for personal and spiritual growth, and it's haunted me in the best way ever since.

James and I read Joyce Sidman's and Pamela Zagarenski's Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors and were so charmed we requested everything else the library system had, and we've now got two more books of poems on deck. Our little library is a gem, and life finds us there two or three times a week.


I think Scandal and Parenthood are all I'm really watching, besides old episodes of Lie to Me on Netflix. I watched Mixology during a massive re-organization of the kids' rooms. I don't know really know anything about the new fall season.

Movies: Wish I Was Here, Divergent, That Awkward MomentThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Those are the only ones I can even remember seeing/liking, and that was definitely in August. Hashtag old.


Lots and lots of Bill Deasy and Gathering Field.


September has been something of a recovery month. Everything sort of gets away from us during summer camp, and in September we wrestle it back: family dinners, the house, the yard. Camp celebrated its centennial, and we got to see a bunch of old friends. Jim and I got dressed up and attended one of those schmancy fundraisers that people must invite us to because they perceive we need a night out (true), because it's surely not our deep pockets.

I finished a few writing projects. Started doing yoga again. We're trying to get a wood burning stove installed. (What's a farm house without one?) It's mostly been a month of quiet and ordinary work. Well, that and the lice. Parenting, man. Not for the faint of heart.

What are you reading, doing, cooking, listening to, raving about of late? Tell me something good.

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