Reads from the Road
While re-planted in the Midwest for most of the past nineteen years, I should say, at the risk of desecrating Bob Dylan, the country I come from is called the Southwest. Spending much of the last week in Arizona serving and sitting with my family at a hard moment means a brief pause for The (Dis)content. Consider these five not-so-easy pieces—two from my hand, and one each from three treasured voices—a dispatch from the road and reading material to tide you over till next week.
The recent death of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison at thirty-six, just a year younger than me, shattered a small place within my heart. Hutchison’s songs were containers for fragile yet foundational truths about mental illness, doubt, the sins we commit and the sins committed against us. In “Hearing Out Scott Hutchison One Last Time,” written for Think Christian, I tried to eulogize Hutchison and find common ground between believer and unbeliever.
“Frightened Rabbit owed its name to Hutchison’s mother, who called her son what she witnessed in him,” I wrote. “The cowardice, anxiety, shyness, and self-doubt Hutchison expressed was mine. I get it—I’m a small, skittish creature too.
In “Big Lessons from a Wee Little Man,” my latest for Gospel-Centered Discipleship, I try to rescue the story of Zacchaeus from children’s church and cute Christianity, seeing its hard and hopeful lessons with adult eyes. “His interaction with Jesus raises implications we might rather avoid,” I write, implications about the cost of discipleship and the way of making others whole.
I can’t get over—nor do I really want to—Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros’ recent piece for On Being, “We Survive by Telling Stories.” Stories are lifelines, Cisneros contends—prayers connecting us to God, and links in the chain between generations.
Stories “get carried in the mouths of our elders and are passed across generations, trusted to the mouths of young folks,” she writes in one of many resonant passages. “In doing so, our faith is strengthened through knowledge and obligation.”
Last week, Image Journal re-ran D. L. Mayfield’s 2015 essay “Recently Soft Hearts and Thin Skin,” an uncommonly empathetic bridge of words built from the author to her daughter. Reflecting on the quiet spiritual turbulence of some childhoods, Mayfield lets us in on a secret: it’s not always the obvious children who reveal the kingdom of God, but those who are “too sensitive for this world, just like many of us.”
Whatever other pages I turn, I keep a very small, very crucial list of writers who must be paid attention during the course of a given year. Eugene Peterson ranks among them, and I am only now reading his work from last year, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.”
A close friend and I recently discussed what it might look like to lead integrated lives, lives in which each actions and deeds aren’t random or erratic, but proceed from a thoughtful and faithful core. What a joy, then, to find Peterson hold court on that very idea within the early passages of this book:
The Christian life is the lifelong practice of attending to the details of congruence: Congruence between ends and means,
Congruence between what we do and the way we do it,
Congruence between what is written in Scripture and our living out what is written, Congruence between a ship and its prow,
Congruence between preaching and living,
Congruence between the sermon and what is lived in both preacher and congregation,
The congruence of the Word made flesh in Jesus with what is lived in our flesh.
Thanks for reading.