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Secret Mercies

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my mother and other strangers still

Ours is a confessional age, a time in which telling all is not only customarily practiced but also routinely lauded. To do less than unbosom oneself in the most candid of ways is both to endanger one’s mental and emotional health (a distinction I’ve never been quite clear on) and to frustrate the kind of…

From Sophocles to Twin Peaks: What Killed Laura Palmer?

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This post originally appeared at Good Letters on June 1, 2012. One of the toughest and most important jobs I have as an English professor at a small, women’s liberal arts college, is teaching students to write well. I would love to hold forth on Flannery O’Connor—my lifelong literary crush—but getting students to care about…

The Spirit’s Indwelling

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Beside me this morning is a child at the breakfast table vigorously chewing a Fuji apple and explaining to me the mutative abilities of a small vehicle based on the particular placement of a certain Lego brick. Sometimes the vehicle is a plow, sometimes a combine, depending on whether that brick is before it, behind…

Parenting by Politics

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The moment is freeze-framed in my mind: My eldest, Milo, red-faced with anger, his eyes hard but wild, a look I know means he feels both out of control and desperate to re-exert it. The yellow light of the floor lamps casts dark shadows over the couch and his face. Shoot it in black and…

Poetry Friday: “Medieval Miniatures: Entry into Jerusalem”

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close up detail of an ornately painted page from The Book of Hours depicting the crucifixion, alongside texts, and a border of different colors in swirls, flowers, and greenery.

Dan Murphy has written a series of poems inspired by medieval miniatures: those marvelously detailed paintings crammed full with colorful life. In this poem, Murphy uses the miniature of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem to multiply images for our human need to reach for the beyond. I love the variety of these images: someone climbing a…

Why I’m Writing a Death Penalty Book for Teens

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1. I was standing in the kitchen of a rental house in the middle of forty acres of woods deep in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, when I told my agent I wanted to write about the death penalty, a topic that had chased me for over a decade. I’d only recently sold my first…

There is Only This Present Moment

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­I’m trying to trust in God. My husband has had chronic fatigue and chest pain for the five years since his quadruple bypass open-heart surgery. Sometimes less discomfort, sometimes more, but always there. His various doctors have tried everything to relieve his distress…but nothing works. He is suffering, and it naturally pains me to see…

American Fool: The Theology of Denis Johnson

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Denis Johnson died this past summer at the age of sixty-seven. Many have said that he was the single greatest writer of his generation, and the praise is warranted. Johnson, in a class with Kafka, Babel, Hamsun, and Lowry, wrote impossible novels: a dream-writer whose vision blended plain-prose with the arabesque, comedy with violence, death…

Remembering 9/11 in Washington D.C.

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For Scott Simon, and for Bill Craven September 11, 2001 has been one of two signal public events of my adulthood. The other was the inauguration day of President Obama. The minutes and hours of each were suffused with a sense of historical moment: on one, I was a thirtyish new bride; on the other, I…

Poetry Friday: “Russian Bell”

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In this stirring poem by Anya Silver, the bell becomes a blueprint. First, the bell shape is transposed on her own body dangling freely in the “arc and blur” of a rope swing. Then, it becomes her open mouth and uvula. And, finally, we see the heart as a shattered peony (“unpeeling, pealing”) dropping petals…

Image’s Daily Blog

For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.

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