When I was in fifth grade, my class at Miller Elementary became pen-pals with a class of fifth-graders in Minnesota (or possibly Wisconsin). From what I remember, we mostly told them what the weather was like in Georgia, and they told us what the weather was like in Minnesota (Wisconsin?). That might sound like innocuous stuff, but the Northerners thought we were pulling their legs with our stories of February afternoons with temperatures in the mid-sixties, and we were pretty sure they were exaggerating with their stories of snowdrifts and frozen lakes, probably in an effort to give us the impression that they lived in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. Also, they claimed to live near the Mississippi River. While none of us claimed to be Geography Bee champions, we at least had sense enough to know that Minnesota (or Wisconsin) was a long way from Mississippi.
It’s the season for writing Christmas letters. This week on The Habit Podcast, I speak with letter-writer and Habit-member Reagan Dregge.
We discuss the art of physical letter-writing, the personal attention it involves from sender to recipient, and the inherent embodiment that comes with putting pen to paper.
I just got back from the Behold the Lamb of God show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, and my heart is still full of it. If you’re not familiar with Behold the Lamb of God, it’s a twelve-song concept album by Andrew Peterson that tells the story of the Incarnation through a wide lens, starting with the Passover in Exodus and running through the whole Old Testament to the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. Every Advent for the last twenty-one years, Andrew and his musician friends take Behold the Lamb on the road as a stage performance. The Ryman show has been a Christmas tradition for my wife Lou Alice and me for many years.
This week on The Habit Podcast, I talk with Randall Goodgame, songwriter, TV show host, and leader of the Slugs & Bugs universe. He has a brand new Slugs & Bugs Christmas Special: Make Ready for Christmas.
We discuss the essential role of collaboration in all of Randall’s work, the importance of writing out of freedom and not out of condemnation, and the irrepressibility of childlike joy.
Last week a reader named Ferzeen wrote to ask if I would provide some tips for improving vocabulary. “I need to have the right words to be more articulate and to speak and write with substance,” she wrote.
This week on The Habit Podcast, I talk with Christiana Peterson, author of Awakened by Death: Live-Giving Lessons from the Mystics.
We discuss the link between mysticism and mortality, our culture’s lack of rituals for confronting death, the writer’s role in engaging with mortality as an antidote for self-absorption, and death as a teacher of compassion.
One of the most familiar complaints of the surly teenager also happens to be one of the most fundamental of theological truths: I didn’t ask to be born. None of us asked to be born, and yet here we all are, waking up every day in a world we didn’t make.
It’s Thanksgiving Week here in the United States—a good time to reflect on the givenness of things.
In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’ve been re-reading Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song. The book ends with a “Last Prayer,” which Doyle wrote shortly before he died of cancer, at the age of sixty. He prayed,
I could complain a little here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago.
In the foreword of the same book, Doyle’s friend David James Duncan writes, “Brian Doyle lived in the pleasure of bearing daily witness to quiet glories hidden in people places, and creatures of little or no size, renown, or commercial value.”Read More
We discuss the challenging art of graceful endings, the perils of absolute accessibility, and what sets the Advent season apart from merely a “happy clappy countdown to Christmas.”
When I teach creative writing, I often challenge fiction writers to try writing as if they were screenwriters, using only the tools that screenwriters have at their disposal. To put it another way, I challenge fiction writers to stay on the surface—to bring the inner lives of their characters out where the reader can get a good look at them, though dialogue, action, posture, physical appearance, personal effects, etc.
In real life, you don’t have direct access to anybody’s inner life besides your own. No matter how close you are to another person, you know what she is thinking only insofar as you can judge from what she says, what she does, the expression on her face, maybe what she’s carrying (is she approaching you with a birthday cake or with a baseball bat?). Long experience with this person may make you a better judge of the clues (though this isn’t always the case)…but in any case, you’re judging from clues.Read More
Crystal Downing is the co-director of Wheaton College’s Marion Wade Center and an expert on the Inklings and Inkling-adjacent authors. This week on The Habit podcast, I speak with Dr. Downing, about her new book, Subversive: Christ, Culture, and the Shocking Dorothy L. Sayers.
We discuss the dangers of Christian celebrity, the strategy of shock in Dorothy Sayers’ work, and the subversion at the very heart of the Christian faith.