A list of things that I, D.L., humbly recommend.
This documentary shattered me. It's about a pastor in small-town North Dakota who lets men (who are looking for work in the new and booming oil field) sleep on the floor. The tension between the "normal" parishioners and the men (called "the overnighters") is real, and raises questions of how hard it is to love ALL of our neighbors. It also got me ruminating on what it means to be in contact/relationship/ministry with the most broken of our world, the men that so many of us would just disappear off of the face of the earth. In the end, a secret about the pastor is revealed, and the film ends abruptly. But for me, the humanity showcased in the last 5 minutes didn't negate the rest of the film but rather infused it with meaning. After all, I believe in a God who uses broken people to love other broken people. Look for my review coming soon for Christ and Pop culture--and in the meantime, go watch it on Netflix.
Pregnancy craving number one, man. I have slowly weaned myself off of the Lucky Charms and try and be content with Honey Bunches of Oats and Barbara's chocolate and peanut butter puffins but man. Is there anything better than a bowl of sweet, crunchy goodness mixed with a splash of cold milk? I think not. Except if it is . . .
Ice Cold Lemonade
My other preggo craving. In -22 degree temperatures. Go figure. I will drink this until the heartburn becomes unbearable.
I feel a bit sheepish admitting this here, but give me Anne Lamott over Annie Dillard any day. Meaning: I know it is rather uncouth to love Ms. Lamott but I do. I have seen her speak in person and agree that her "schtick" can get rather old (and I am very sensitive as a woman author myself at being labelled as being "emotional" or "over-the-top"--two things I hear Anne called often). But over Christmas I found myself in a little beach town on the Oregon coast and wandered into a bookstore. I took her newest book "Stitches" off the shelf and sat down to read for a minute. The next thing I know, I am sobbing in the corner of a strange place, facing my own mortality, believing in a God who sees it all and loves me anyway. That was when I decided to come back to Anne, and I have been reading all of her recent essay collections. I highly recommend it.
Ok I am only sort of recommending this. The last episode I watched got terribly violent and I might have to quite this one! But for what it is worth, this is a superhero television show about a kick-ass woman. I like that it started off being much more about emotional/intellectual intrigue, and that the sexism of the time is a major plot point/twist. In fact, one of the reasons she is such a successful spy is because no one pays any attention to women. I also love the costumes of the time period (the 50s, I think). Time will have to tell if I keep this one on my list, however.
Parks and Rec ended this past week and I am sad to see it go. Leslie was the best--so earnest, so unashamed--and the sweetness to be found in all of the surprising relationships (one of my all-time favorite things in the world) made this show great. My only (2) complaints: it focuses a bit too much on career-oriented drama, and Leslie as a mother was not fleshed out even one iota. Ah well, you can't have it all.
Oh my word I love this show. It's a PBS Masterpiece Mystery series about an English vicar who solves murders. But actually it is way better than that! I love that this show actually does talk about God sometimes (when usually, vicars just mosey about and wear their collars blandly) and Sydney, the main guy, is a very complicated fellow who has complicated relationships with just about everyone--including God. All that to say, this show manages to be very pleasing and relaxing while still stirring up deep questions and feelings. Go watch it now!
Essay Collections or, the poor person's MFA
I have been thinking a bit about MFA's and how they so aren't a reality for me right now--but I have been very influenced by the work of people who have gone on to get this kind of specialized learning. So for all of us poor/busy/parental types, I have found the easiest temporary solution: in whatever genre you want to write, spend a lot of time reading excellent work in that category. Presto! For me, that has meant burrowing into both the Best American Non-Required Reading and the Best American Essay collections from 2014. I don't love everything, but I make a note about what stands out to me, and think about how I want to push myself forwards.
It's just so great. I just have so much to learn in this respect. I just receive so much from so many people in my life. My heart is full.
Winning Something in a Raffle When You Are A Child
When I was young and living in Wyoming my dad took my sisters and I to a raffle that the local rotary club was sponsoring and we each got to get our name picked and go up on stage and choose a brand-new toy to take home. I remember being astonished at my good luck (I believe I chose a child's plastic camera). A few weeks ago the same thing happened to my daughter--we were at a community meal and she won a Jasmine doll (as is the norm in our community, the raffle numbers had to be rattled off in 3 different languages, so everything took much longer than it did in central Wyoming). I don't think she will ever forget it either.
Woodland Hills Podcast
For those times when you just need a good sermon, look no further than Mr. Greg Boyd and his pals at Woodland Hills. We have snuck off to his church a time or two and always enjoy it immensely.
So much food. So many casseroles. These are my new favorites.
Gang Pastors turned Writers
I have already written a bit about Wanted by Chris Hoke (and my review should be out in Books and Culture any day now) but I will say it again: read this delicious, well-written, heartbreaking (in the good and sad sense) book. Then, do what I did and go on a gang-pastor reading bender: Reading the Bible with the Damned by Bob Eckblad is a wonderfully practical theology of how to read the Bible with the oppressed (srsly, it should be required reading in Seminaries) and Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle is like reading your jolly grandfather's take on some very hard stuff. The joy and pain that suffuses these works will stay with me for a long, long time.
They just seem so awesome. A little anti-establishment, a little prophetic, a little comedic--the perfect blend of humor and pathos. Also, it turns out my great-uncle was a Jesuit who lived a very extraordinary life (sadly, I never got to meet him, but my mother is currently researching his life and I can't wait for the details).
Going to see plays before you are 50
We live in a theater town, or at least there are people in our city who sometimes go to the theater (supposedly it is second only to New York City). Some of these big prestigious places have programs to woo in the young, giving steep discounts. For valentines day the husband and I went to see a big 80s-tastic musical production of a Midsummer Night's Dream and it was so great. I think the rest of my life I will have a commitment to nosing out the cheapest seats at all the high art places.
I am having a bit of a renaissance love affair with the music of Daniel Smith (solidified after listening to a recent podcast, where he was so refreshingly casual about his faith--neither agonizing about it nor apologizing) and I was reminded of this most excellent article detailing what it actually means to be a Christian artist (from the Believer, circa 2005).
Aaand, that's it for this volume. As always, feel free to tell me what you are recommending these days!