Sunday’s Best: Visibility

Getting a quirky comic strip based on the fog is rare, so I’m glad that Jef Mallett made the most of his attempt both visually and verbally.  A good strip for Frazz today.

Frazz Visibility(image from

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Sunday’s Best: Kazam!

Bill Watterson created so many wonderful, beautiful moments and panels in Calvin and Hobbes that either come to mind often or hit again a soft-spot when you see them again.  Today’s classic Calvin and Hobbes takes a simple, childhood-specific gag and turns it melancholy and beautiful.  I’ve always been a fan of this strips final panel.  Wonderfully rendered.

Calvin Kazam(image from

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“Punting Angels”

This recently re-posted classic Calvin and Hobbes strip is just perfectly worded.  The imagery evoked in the third panel is both beyond human comprehension and yet totally, in a way, imaginable.  Horrible theology, brilliant storytelling.

Calvin Punting Angels(image from

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The Ash Wednesday Confrontation

This piece by Richard Beck is the best thing I read today about the observance of Ash Wednesday.  It’s an interesting snapshot of a modern approach to an ancient tradition.

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February Peanuts

I feel like Peanuts was one of the non-adventure strips to really utilize day-to-day storytelling (that’s true, at least for me).  What’s fun is that the characters and their quirks work on the day-to-day level of dramatic build as well as in the one-offs that tie into the strip has a whole.  Here are three from last week that really  stand out.  First, a Charlie Brown freakout:

Peanuts February 1Next, some report card humor that rings true decades later (when grades are less and less a thing in many schools):

Peanuts February 2And then finally, a Lucy and Schroeder piece that captures their dynamic perfectly:

Peanuts February 3(images from

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“A Universe with Stakes” or “The Right Way to Experience the World”

Back in early January, I attempted a short series of reflections on the hot-button of the turn of the year: the Christian faith and a “therapeutic gospel.”  This piece by Brad East of Abilene Christian University was going to be the through line, and it would have run for five or six posts.  I got through two before promising an excursion into the thoughts of Charles Taylor.  I actually wrote that post, but didn’t feel it was ready to post.  And then the rest of January happened . . . and now most of February, too.

I like East’s post because it covers important ground about preaching in a way that sums things up quite nicely.  He provides a framework for thinking about what preaching should be since it out not be therapeutic.  The framework includes things that ought to go without saying as advice because they should always be said.  But life on the ground, preaching or speaking on a regular basis, can lead you to lose sight of such things.  That and a few of repetition or of preaching two sermons in one (one part exegetical, one part invitation that doesn’t really connect with the first sermon).

Perhaps the thing I like most about East’s post was the final point.  After talking about God and salvation and sin and heaven, East asserts that “one test for preaching that seeks to avoid reducing the gospel to therapy is whether it mentions the Devil, demons, and evil spiritual forces.”  Why? Well:

Show me a church that talks about Satan, and I’ll wager it also talks about sin, salvation, heaven, and God. Show me a church that never talks about Satan, and I’ll wager that next Sunday’s sermon won’t mention sin or heaven. Such a church is on its way to disenchantment, secularism, a therapeutic gospel, and functional atheism. The point isn’t that talk of devils is spooky, though it is. It’s that talk of devils presupposes and projects a universe with stakes.

Not much gets said about Satan, it seems.  Perhaps when technical issues or health conditions are bad, but not as part-and-parcel of proclamation.  But it makes sense to include it in the big picture, and as more than just a nod to Lewis’s Screwtape Letters.  East writes:

For ordinary believers, this cashes out in how they understand their daily lives. Are they living in enemy territory? Are they constantly under assault by the Enemy? You don’t have to be charismatic to think or talk like this. But preaching makes evident whether this is the right way to experience the world.

Here’s the fundamental question: Is following Christ like living in wartime or in peacetime? The flavor of a sermon tells you all you need to know. And if, as I began this post, therapeutic preaching finally serves to reassure disenchanted professionals in the upper-middle-class that God affirms them as they are—that a well-adjusted life is attainable, though ennui on the path is to be expected—then we have our answer: there are no demons; there is no war on; we are living in peacetime.

Such a message may be the best possible way to lull believers to sleep. Not literal sleep (a TED Talk can be entertaining), but spiritual sleep. Jesus commands us to be alert, to be watchful, to stay awake as we eagerly await his coming. The command, in short, presumes a wartime mentality. Peacetime is thus a myth, a lie from the Enemy. Each of us forgets this at our own peril, but preachers most of all.

I included two quotes from East as titles for this post.  “A Universe with Stakes” because it is a truth that is easy to forget.  Or we forget that “stakes” in this case applies to a number of aspects of the life of faith.  And then the second title, “The Right Way to Experience the World,” because it opens a door not just to the thoughts of Charles Taylor but also Hartmut Rosa and so many thinkers who write about how we actually interact with and move through the world.  You could even, I suppose, make a link to Lewis’s “Learning in Wartime.”

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I’ve got a few different posts ready for the rest of the week.  I really want to be regular here, but sometimes the best I can do is the Sunday post.  I’ve got some comics and some music lined up.  And hopefully I can get some more reflection and thinking down, too.

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Sunday’s Best: Calvin’s Slope of Hope

Calvin is such an interesting study in contrast.  He often bounces between extremes, especially in the areas of philosophy and ethics.  But there’s also a hopefulness that shines through (much like with Charlie Brown, really).  So when you start today’s classic strip you are hopeful (terror?) for him, but then you also feel the sigh at the end.

Calvin Slope of HopeIt’s also another example of Watterson using the panel design well.  I kind of wanted to see more of the journey down, but I suppose that’s part of the point.

(image from

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Microserfs Up!

I finally finished my re-read of Microserfs by Douglas Coupland.  I read it the first time over a decade-and-a-half ago: once I read one of Coupland’s novels, I had to read them all.  I re-read another Coupland novel, Eleanor Rigby, during and after my Thanksgiving trip to Victoria, BC.  The re-read took a little longer than usual because it became my bus-and-downtown read.  On some level, I re-read the book to rediscover one line of dialogue that I’ve thought of often over the last 15 years (and that, it turns out, I didn’t quite remember word-for-word, but I at least got the sentiment).

Wired MicroserfsThe book is set in the early 1990s, which makes it a time capsule on almost every level.  The story is told in a diary-type form and includes all kinds of nods to the pop culture that had accumulated up until that point.  The story follows Dan and his friends and family during his time at Microsoft and then at a start-up.  There are lots of lists and quirky facts and even a good amount of usage of the old font that Macintosh computers used to use.

As with many books that I read quickly, I had forgotten the ending (the same was true for Eleanor Rigby as well as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, whose identity I still have to work hard to remember).  And it really is quite the ending because it’s out of no where but also makes perfect sense.

It’s odd, having lived through the 90s but not having read so much of the literature of the time.  No complaints, of course: it would have been totally over my head.  But I’m glad to read and re-read it now, to see what was going on in the bigger world around my own and to understand those times better.  And I appreciate Coupland’s “take” on the times (something that is also true with Dave Eggers’ take, though they are different).  Humorous, optimistic, but also aware of the ephemeral and potentially cruel.

Not quite sure what’s next for my “bus-and-downtown” read.  Might be good to take a short break from Coupland.  Then again, it’s clear that there’s some much I’ve forgotten (but also so much that I obviously enjoyed).

(1994 cover of WIRED magazine from

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Charlie Brown

This week’s classic Peanuts strip had Chuck and Peppermint Patty talking under the tree, which almost always leaves one of the two frustrated.  That’s especially true for holidays, it seems.

Peanuts Valentine(image from

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Sunday’s Best: Simple Symmetry

Valentine’s Day came early to some of the Sunday funnies.  This week’s FoxTrot lands awkwardly, which I think is the point.  Because even the simplest of directions can be misunderstood . . .

FoxTrot Valentines(image from

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