• Carson McCullers at 104

    Carson McCullers at 104

    “Mick is perhaps the most outstanding character in the book.” Carson McCullers is describing a central character in her remarkable debut novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  “At the beginning of the second part of the work she steps out boldly—and from then on, up until the last section, she commands more space and […]

  • Why Trees Make Terrible Writers

    Why Trees Make Terrible Writers

    Trees are beautiful things, but they are terrible writers. The problem is they have no sense of timing that a human can relate to. 500 years is nothing to a great tree. But try pacing a potboiler to that timescale. The problems of arboreal authorship become apparent halfway in to Richard Powers’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 […]

  • The Bible and the News: A FaithLink Retrospective

    The Bible and the News: A FaithLink Retrospective

    We always thought we were ahead of the times, but the times caught up with us. Two weeks ago we got the news that FaithLink was no more. I may have been the longest-serving writer still in the stable. Twenty years ago, when I began writing for this curriculum piece “connecting faith and life as […]

  • The Politics of Accountability

    The Politics of Accountability

    FaithLink, the faith and currents event curriculum of the United Methodist Publishing House, just published its final issue. I’ll have more reflections on the loss of this venerable resource in a later post, but here’s a link to the essay from that last issue, which was picked up by Ministry Matters. After 20-some years writing […]

  • Giving Hopkins a Chance to Name the World

    Giving Hopkins a Chance to Name the World

    When I read a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem to a group, I generally start by saying, “Don’t worry about getting it all on first hearing. Just let the words flow over you and see how you feel.” That’s how I started on him, though tremendously helped by a book in the Augsburg Fortress 40 Day […]

  • Returning to Dakota

    Returning to Dakota

    “As when I was a child, I want to remain in the open, becoming something other than human under the sky. (178)” –Kathleen Norris, Dakota Returning to Kathleen Norris’s Dakota: A Spiritual Geography almost three decades after it was written, I tried to decide what made it so powerful for me when I was a […]

  • Going West With Wiman

    Going West With Wiman

    A few more words for Christian Wiman. As if my words for Joy, (an edited collection of poems), and He Held Radical Light, (a memoir), and Survival is a Style, (a personal collection of poems), have not been enough to convince you that he’s a writer worth savoring. Seeking more I went back to his […]

  • “Everything That Seems Empty is Full of Angels”: Remembering the Great Plains

    “Everything That Seems Empty is Full of Angels”: Remembering the Great Plains

    As it turns out, the Plains have been essential not only for my own growth as a writer, they have formed me spiritually. I would even say they have made me a human being. —Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (11) Kathleen Norris’s now-classic Dakota became a touchstone for me when I read it 25 […]

  • Finding the Music of the World

    Finding the Music of the World

    “Take away the words to the song and hope will take up humming;” I’m not sure how the Rev. Paul Escamilla wrote those words on his manuscript before delivering them in a sermon some some weeks ago. There’s usually a little poetry in sermons, even if you’re not aiming for that old sermon structure of […]

  • Dispatch from the Age of Idolatry

    Dispatch from the Age of Idolatry

    We live in the Age of Idolatry. If you want the bill of particulars, I’ve got it, but it does no good to rehearse the many ways that we have discovered gods who are not God since few of us will own up to such heresy. Idolators are always the other guys. And if I […]

  • Spare Me the Anvil: Tempered Resilience in a Time of Adaptive Change

    Spare Me the Anvil: Tempered Resilience in a Time of Adaptive Change

    If a writer finds a compelling analogy that propels large numbers of pastors to rethink their practice in helpful and creative ways once in their career, I imagine it must be gratifying and sufficient. To do it twice is well-nigh unthinkable. Tod Bolisinger is still on analogy number 1. Bolsinger’s last book, Canoeing the Mountains: […]

  • #1 and a Recap: The Heartlands Best Reads of 2020

    #1 and a Recap: The Heartlands Best Reads of 2020

    Topping this year’s list of Best Reads is Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom. It’s a book about race, the South, the immigrant experience, science, family, and faith. It captures a lot of the interests of this web site and it’s flat great writing. You can read the full review by clicking the link but […]