Monday, July 06, 2020

Book Review: For All Who Hunger by Emily MD Scott

My latest book review is up at The Englewood Review of Books. This time I reviewed For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World by Emily M.D. Scott. An excerpt:

Planting a church isn’t easy. Anyone who has attempted to do so will surely tell you that. The reasons behind that difficulty are numerous: finances, convincing people that joining a new venture will be worthwhile, finding the space to meet, being comfortable with failure. But perhaps most importantly, keeping the fire under your vision when one or more of these things fall apart or take longer to develop than imagined is the trickiest act of all.

Emily M.D. Scott writes of the ups and downs of planting a church in New York City known as St. Lydia’s. It is notable by many other churches for its pioneering of a movement known best as “dinner church,” in which a faith community centers its worship life around the creation and sharing of a meal. The church may hold a certain place of esteem in many circles now, but For All Who Hunger pulls back the curtain on just how difficult establishing this imaginative expression actually was.

Read the rest at The Englewood Review of Books.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Pancakes and Inspiration

I've been working my way through Theft By Finding by David Sedaris the past few days, which is a collection of his diary entries from 1977 to 2002. Most of them are very short, and mostly stories and concrete observations rather than expressions or explorations of feelings. Even the most mundane things that he writes down are interesting snippets of a life, with a surprising amount of drugs, violence, and traveling.

He also writes a lot about hanging out at IHOP. At one point, he refers to a story he's working on and having to go over his "IHOP notes" in order to figure out what to do with it next. He clearly finds it to be a place where he likes to think and write. He also shares quite a bit of stories about fellow customers and the staff, whom he gets to know quite well. When he moves to a new city, he writes about the importance of finding another IHOP to hang out at.

There's something about the general concept of artists who hang out at diners or chain restaurants or fast food places to tinker with their work or find inspiration. A lot of creative types may prefer more trendy places like coffeehouses--I admit to having a favorite spot that I'd frequent every Friday morning before it was a bad idea to gather in crowded places.

But I also like the idea of places like IHOP and Taco Bell and Big Boy being hubs of creativity. Places don't have to have an overtly hipster vibe to them in order to find inspiration.

Author and creator Austin Kleon writes about this concept quite a bit. At one point, he shares, "One of my favorite things ever is to sit in a diner with a cup of coffee and a notebook and record whatever comes into my head." At another point, he says, "I rarely work in coffee shops, but I love sitting in diner booths — there’s something about being tucked in on 3 sides that makes me really want to just sit and work."

I've done a fair amount of my writing in Panera over the years. And not just one Panera, there have been several. I've consumed quite a lot of coffee and bowls of soup while working on my books.

When this pandemic is over, I'll make it back to my coffeehouse. But I'd certainly be open to finding a Denny's or even a McDonald's to write in, too. As I say in Coffeehouse Contemplative, you can be inspired anywhere.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Type Is Set

The typeset manuscript for The Doctor and the Apostle arrived in my inbox the other day.

I have a few weeks to check it over for typos and other corrections.

Not too long after that, it will be time for the final product to be fully born into the world.

I love the journey of writing a book. It's not all pleasant or easy by any means, but the exploration of the subject to figuring out how best to say what you want to say to revising is a creative process that I relish, even in the hard moments. 

I can't wait for you to read it.

While you wait, you can tide yourself over with my other books.

Monday, June 22, 2020


We're not being told to keep our distance from others as much any more. 

For months, distance was part of the key to keeping ourselves and each other safe. There's less chance of spreading a potentially fatal virus if we keep one another at several arms' length.

But lots of states are relaxing those guidelines. Restaurants and gyms and lots of other places are allowing more and more people to come back.

To be clear, though, the virus is still out there:

There is no coronavirus vaccine. There is no COVID-19 cure. The only tools we have at our disposal are the same ones everybody is fed up with. Staying at home. Hand-washing. Social distancing. Face covering. If we abandon those, it’s going to get worse.

The past few months have felt like eons. But the truly terrifying thing is that if we continue on this path toward pretending the pandemic is over, the nightmare will last even longer. Is that really what we want?

To answer the question, I don't think anyone wants this to last longer than it has to. But distance is so hard, and the longer this goes, the craving for more interaction, for physical touch, for in-person conversation, becomes stronger.

The other day, my Facebook memories featured a lot of summer activities from years' past that I won't get to do this year thanks to the need to distance myself from others. Seeing those reminders was painful and made me sad.

We have permission to lament the need for distance. We have permission to express our sadness and frustration about all the people and activities we miss. 

Even if our prayer is simply, "God, this sucks," that is still enough.