Month: March 2019

  • How a Mississippi Man’s Struggles with Weight Tell the Truth about America

    How a Mississippi Man’s Struggles with Weight Tell the Truth about America

    “America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men.”  —Ta-Nehasi Coates, Between the World and Me I confess that I picked up Heavy, Kiese Laymon’s staggering memoir about growing up bright and black in Mississippi, with more than a little curiosity about the obesity […]

  • Why You Should Not Underestimate Mary Oliver

    Mary Oliver gave me a great gift, though it only came after her death in January. I had often heard her name in sermons and with hushed awe among my tribe at the Festival of Faith and Writing. But I always thought her a bit too tame. She wrote a book on dogs! How domestic! […]

  • Another Southern Writer Finds Love in the Ruins: A Review of Kevin Powers’ Latest

    Another Southern Writer Finds Love in the Ruins: A Review of Kevin Powers’ Latest

    The opening paragraph of Kevin Powers’ new novel, A Shout in the Ruins, is perhaps the finest beginning to a book I’ve read since Flannery O’Conner blew open the universe in the first paragraph of The Violent Bear It Away. Like that gem, Powers’ opener is all mood and tantalizing hooks that spark a thousand […]

  • What You Need to Know to Care for Your Clergyperson (Even if That’s You)

    What You Need to Know to Care for Your Clergyperson (Even if That’s You)

    Some of the advice that Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Jason Byassee have for clergy is very straightforward. “If you’re really tired and wondering whether you should work more or go to bed, don’t wonder—just go to bed!” (157) Excellent tip. Back from my nap now, I’ll go on to say that other advice in Faithful […]

  • Call It Forever: Poetry

    Call It Forever: Poetry

    ‘Every day has something in it whose name is Forever.’ —Mary Oliver, ‘Everything That Was Broken’   Poets are not being imprecise when they finger God with other names. It’s just that they’re gobsmacked at the plenitude of Her appearances. In a lover or a creature or a wind-sparked memory or a laden scent, She […]

  • Joy Comes In the Morning: A Review of Christian Wiman’s Poetry Collection

    Joy Comes In the Morning: A Review of Christian Wiman’s Poetry Collection

    “Joy: that durable, inexhaustible, essential, inadequate word. That something in the soul that makes one able to claim again the word ‘soul.’” (xxxvii) Last year two books from Christian Wiman made their way to my reading stand. If nothing else had happened in the literary world in 2018, those two works would have been enough. […]

  • Long Arcs and Stumbling Blocks: A Break Down (Because) of General Conference 2019

    Long Arcs and Stumbling Blocks: A Break Down (Because) of General Conference 2019

    It took two weeks of explaining before I broke down trying to get through one more rundown of what happened in St. Louis.* Of course, I felt the pain of it even while I was at the General Conference. The Tuesday night it ended I stayed up late writing notes to former seminary classmates and […]

  • In Praise of Feral Felines – Poetry

    In Praise of Feral Felines – Poetry

    A plumb line drops (I know not where) by which feral cats are judged and marked ‘outside the bounds.’ I always saw their resistance to compassion as a noble trait along with their intemperate hisses at attempts to conquest.   Feral, yes, but less skulky than the shark with its fin erect and its teeth […]