Closer to the Passage

The folks at FOX just released a new trailer for the January-dropping, small-screen rendition of Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  The big question in my head, as a fan of the trilogy, is how in the world they can translate the entirety of the story to serialized television.  Could they do three distinct seasons, one for each of the books in the series?  Or will they do their best to make a series centered on The Passage without taking the leaps that the total series embraces?  Perhaps.  Either way, this trailer looks good.  Really good.

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Company Under the Unpredictable Plant

The PastorI don’t remember how I found the works of Eugene Peterson, but I’m glad I did.  Peterson joined Tozer, Bonhoeffer, and Buechner in what I would call the first reading trajectory that took me beyond what was popular at the area Family Christian story.  I remember two of his books in particular: The Contemplative Pastor and Subversive Spirituality.  It was Peterson who introduced me to the idea of “spiritual direction,” something I still consider vital (and too infrequent) today.  His ideas of “subversiveness” and the “apocalyptic” really helped open my eyes to an itch I was feeling about church work that was good to have scratched.

I also found great comfort and challenge in his first set of pastoral books: Working the Angles, Five Smooth Stones, and Under the Unpredictable Plant.  His approach to Scripture was creative but healthy, his view of the pastoral role something that was serious and appealing in a way that I didn’t often get in my various experiences in Christian institutions.  His second set of pastoral books, which started with Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places and crescendoed for me in Eat This Book challenged me to think more deeply and more broadly about the interaction between Scripture, Spirit, and believer.  Eat This Book gave me a real appreciation for The Message, even though I had long sense moved on from it as a regular read.

And while I’ve read most of his other works (with a few exceptions, but at least that leaves me something more to read as time goes on), there are three that have really stuck with me in some way or another.  First, Take and Read really opened up a broader world of Christian thinking for me.  It read kind of like a “Who’s Who in the Christian Theological Universe” for me when I was younger.  It took something potentially impersonal and utterly dense and humanized it in a way that appealed to heart and mind.  Second, his commentary on the book of Revelation was a wonderful attempt at seeing how John’s great vision summed up all of the biblical story.  I look forward to revisiting Reversed Thunder often.  But it’s Peterson’s commentary on 1st and 2nd Samuel  for the Westminster Bible Companion that I think I might appreciate the most.  It’s somewhat uncharacteristic of his overall body of work, I think.  More scholarly while still not approaching unapproachability.  At least twice now he has helped guide me through the messy life of David.  If every I teach a class on the poet-king’s life, Peterson’s guide will definitely be included.

I was sad to hear of Peterson’s move to hospice care last week.  While I knew he was feeling the effects of old age, I had not realized that things were that far along.  I found out about his death through Instagram, from one of the artists I follow who had greatly impacted by Peterson’s work.  I’m thankful that I have books like The Pastor and Tell It Slant to revisit, just like I’m glad I have books like As Kingfishers Catch Fire to carry with me as I travel farther down life’s road.

Truly: I don’t remember how I found the works of Eugene Peterson, but I’m glad I did.

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Sunday’s Best: Not Quite Bending over Backwards

This Sunday’s Nancy comic reminds us that autumn is here and that Halloween is just around the corner.   It’s also a subtle reminder of of the links we can go to in order to compensate for things sometimes.

bending over backwards(image from

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“In Pleasant Places”

This week the Daily Office has had readings from the Book of Sirach, which is a little beyond the usual for me.  So I’ve been doing the reading from the book of Psalms instead.  Reading Psalm 16, which I hadn’t come across in a while, was really a blessing.  From the ESV:

16 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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Jeremy Bearimy, Indeed

The Good Place on NBC went to a great place with this week’s episode.  So great that I would show the entire episode in one of my classes next quarter if it didn’t give away almost every twist of the entire series.  One clip, though, can be shared without giving away too much . . . the clip about Jeremy Bearimy.  Genius scene, particularly the bit about the letter i.  Check it out if you don’t mind some spoilers.

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Reflections on Ritual

Image 98Yesterday professor and author James K. A. Smith announced his move from Comment Magazine to Image Journal.  Smith was a big draw to Comment for me, so his loss there is significant.  At the same time, I’m curious to see what he does at Image, which “was founded in 1989 to demonstrate the continued vitality and diversity of contemporary art and literature that engage with the religious traditions of Western culture.”  It should be a good fit for Smith, particularly as it seems like a number of other new faces are joining the journal.

Because of the move, a few people have been re-upping links to a book review that Smith wrote for the journal’s current issue.  The review dealt with two collections of short stories and a topic near-and-dear to Smith: rituals and practices.  The article allowed him to ruminate again on those topics, particularly as they are understood by people of faith. A couple of gems:

Believing is something that you do, and it’s something that you do with your body.


Recovering religion as ritual is not just another way to domesticate it or explain it away. Rather, the point is to appreciate the enchantment of our rhythms, the incarnation of devotion, the way rituals are a last tether to sacramentality that tell us something about ourselves. Even if a secular age is increasingly willing to throw overboard an array of beliefs and norms we associate with religion—precisely because we associate them with religion—we are a long way from giving up on ritual. It’s not that we’re a-religious; we just inhabit different liturgies. Our penchant for finding grooves for our longings and hopes is a backhanded witness to our enduring nature as worshipers. Homo religiosis is fundamentally homo liturgicus.

and my favorite:

Rituals are not solutions. They don’t fix things. They are how we live with what we can’t fix, channels for facing up to our finitude, the way we try to navigate this vale of tears in the meantime. But precisely for that reason they can also be conduits of hope and rhythms of covenant.

As with anything, potential pitfalls exists for ritual and routine.  But in a world, but religious and not, where such things keep passing away, it is good to be reminded of the place that such things can play in our lives . . . and how they affect us even when we don’t see them or know that they are at work.

You can read the entire book review here.  I’m sure I’ll post more about what is up with Mr. Smith when new things get posted and shared.

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Education as Starvation Diet

Empty ClassroomAs with many other areas of life, education tends to be a perpetual victim of trends and fads.  Unmoored from any deep-rooted principle or practice, the contemporary classroom and campus now finds itself blown here and there by whatever assertions are made by “the powers that be” in the world of books and best practices.

One of the long-running hold-overs of this approach to learning has been critical thinking.  In a recent First Things article, Josh Mayo asserts that we should think critically about critical thinking.  He’s not alone: look at the supportive quotes by various authors and thinkers.  Mayo asserts:

The culture of critical thinking often assumes a hazardous anthropology that divorces our cognitive selves from our affective selves, erecting a Berlin Wall between rationality and feeling. Such is the case, it seems, with one professor’s recent call for “dispassionate” inquiry: “Emotions are, by definition,” Rob Jenkins writes, “not based on reason and, therefore, form a poor, shaky foundation for decision-making.”

The article hinges on a question that actual made me chuckle a bit:

Do we really believe that the problem with most students is a superabundance of zeal in the classroom?

A certain kind of thinking, one that is generative and constructive, can be difficult to find in today’s classroom (particularly when it comes to something beyond math or science, I think).

Near the end of the article, Mayo asserts:

Students are hungry for values and norms, but are we feeding them? “What educator among you, if his student asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?” Maybe the teacher who doesn’t know what true food is—the stuff that will actually feed souls. Critical inquiry alone can’t sustain a student, for in Patrick Deneen’s words, when we swear off all intellectual ties, we “deprive ourselves of the capacity to think truly critically.” A lethargy will pervade the classroom, a sleepy consciousness “that is neither capable of true criticism nor of any real independent thought.” Critical thinking will cease to be thinking.

I would like to think that “students are hungry for values and norms,” but I’m not quite convinced of it.  Part of that is because they’ve been in “critical thinking classrooms” so long that anything beyond the value or norm of the self is almost unimaginable.  I would like to be proven wrong.  And I’d like to get to a place to have this important conversation with more people.  Such a conversation is vital to the future that I hope many of us would like to be a part of.

You can (and should) read the entire article here.

(image from

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