Had my wife and I been born a hundred years ago, our lot might have been quite different. Our family has a history of bipolar disorder, you see. Mental illness was looked upon with even greater stigma in days of yore than today. The canon of schoolchild literature hailing from 1850 through the 1970s is littered with characters subject to one stripe of insanity or another. Mr. Rochester’s first wife in Jane Eyre, Conrad’s demigod Kurtz, Boo Radley, Robert Cormier’s Adam Farmer in I Am the Cheese, Mr. Hyde, and the tragic cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all come to mind.
Have you ever felt confused by someone’s inability, or refusal, to listen to the viewpoint of another?
One episode of this that plays in my mind was grad school days at Notre Dame: I was a teaching assistant for one of the theology professors. He assigned an essay by Leo Tolstoy to his class. It was one of Tolstoy’s classic scathing essays of social critique. When the prof opened the class up for discussion on the reading, the first student to make a comment said: “I did not know Tolstoy was a heretic.”
[The Molehill, Vol. 5 will be officially released on July 9th, but because Chris Thiessen, our intrepid manager of sales, is on the ball, books are already shipping out to readers. Here’s a little taste of what’s inside. This essay of Lanier’s was the first of hers I ever read, and it remains as good now as it was when I first encountered it nearly a decade ago. Enjoy. –Pete Peterson] Read More ›
I think I made the wrong move. At least that’s how it feels.
A few weeks ago I resigned from my job as the teaching pastor at a church, a role I’ve held for the last two years. In the days immediately following the decision and announcement, I met with several people to explain my decision further. One meeting was particularly probing, a concerned acquaintance who was intense in his queries, almost investigative.
When I was going through a particularly hard time a few years ago, a friend encouraged me with a story from Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. As a child, Corrie was having a difficult time dealing with the fact that her father would die one day. She and her father had this dialogue:
Janie said it could be the beginning scene of the indie movie about my life that, if you ask me, will probably never be made. On my first day of therapy three summers ago, I walked into the front room, confused by the lack of official-looking-person who was to tell me what to do. Couches. Doors. A vase of flowers. Peaceful noisemakers drowning out the sounds of tears and sorrow (I couldn’t imagine then that laughter might be an option). But there was no front desk, no greeting. I sat down on the couch. I stood up. I walked down the hall, but the rooms with open doors were empty and the ones with closed doors? There was no way I was going there.
[With the release of the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (which you should all go see immediately!) we thought we’d repost this excellent article from Jason Gray.]
“L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (What is essential is invisible to the eyes – from Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince)
These are the words on a plaque that hung in the office of my new hero. Who might that be you may wonder? Kierkegard? Billy Graham? Bono?
Would you be surprised if I told you it was…Mister Rogers? Read More ›
There I stood, in front of the fireplace with my guitar strapped on and dozens of lyric sheets in my hands with songs like “This Is My Father’s World” and “Be Thou My Vision.” I turned to my left and gave the nearest student that familiar instruction to “take one and pass them back,” watching the sheets of paper make their way around the circle we had formed along the perimeter of the room. On this Wednesday morning, chapel was held not at school, but at our neighboring nursing home. In the middle of the room, couches were filled with residents, some smiling pleasantly, others vacantly, and still others giving the appearance of being annoyed at the general state of things. The smell of artificial maple syrup wafted through the air.
At the beginning of my twenty-ninth year, I got this crazy idea: to write a song from every book of the Bible before I turned thirty. But what began as a fun goal, perhaps just a way to end my twenties with a bang, changed the trajectory of my life.
As it turned out, I absolutely loved writing songs from the Bible: delving into a passage, putting myself in each character’s shoes, trying to understand how this one small story connects with the whole, then coming up with a way to communicate that story with melody and rhythm and lyric. The songs from that year of writing eventually turned into the Blood + the Breath, an album that traces the theme of redemption from creation to the second coming of Christ (a la Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb but with an emphasis on Easter rather than Christmas).
My two youngest children sit together on the floor in a bedroom. They spend their days playing beside each other with a myriad of toys, co-imagining worlds filled with talking construction equipment, neon-hued horses, and plot lines that range from pedestrian to strange and violent, often within seconds. It’s fun to stand around the corner and listen to them, but invariably, I have to intervene and referee a dispute.
Kind words, and kind hands, I say. We share our things.
I’ve spent my whole life trying to find words to describe what nothing looks like.
People always ask, “So what do you see? Is it black? Blurry?”
No, it’s just nothing. Sort of like when your arm goes numb, and for a minute, you can’t feel anything. My brain just doesn’t communicate with my eyes about colors or light.
The first time I heard the band Frightened Rabbit was eight years ago, on a cruise ship in the gulf of Mexico. My husband and I had joined another couple on a five day Carnival cruise. We spent one day on the beach in Cozumel, and another visiting ancient Mayan ruins in Progresso, but the rest of the time we were on the ship. The main attraction for most cruisers is the ocean view, but for those who aren’t interested in wild seascapes, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had inside. And from the casino, to the dining hall, to the nightly shows, there are always drinks to be had. But on this particular trip I was the only one who hadn’t committed to abstain from alcohol, so we never ordered any. Until the last night after dinner when we were walking around looking at the ocean (again) and I decided to treat myself. I got a pina colada and walked to the bow of the ship to drink it by myself. My husband gave me his iPod and earbuds, with the perfect song cued up for me, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land.”