I was woefully unprepared to become a father. The youngest of four boys, nurturing didn’t come natural to me. My daughter’s entrance into the world five years ago was dramatic and powerfully enduring. She was a fussy baby. My wife and I were always jealous of parents who could leave their child in the car seat for hours on end. Our nightly routine included three hours of bouncing and singing in a tireless rotation until the crescendo of crying finally dropped off and we all fell in the bed exhausted. Everyday we’d try new methods of soothing our little one, but nothing seemed to work consistently. As I became less embarrassed about my lack of parenting skills and my daughter’s screaming, I began to strap her in the baby carrier and stroll to a park in the neighborhood, baby sirens blaring. It was then that I noticed a pattern. Almost always, soon after we stepped outside, the crying would stop.
She was mesmerized.Read More
St. Augustine once wrote that he carried a “question” with him at all times: “My question was the attention I gave to the world, and its reply was its beauty.”
Beauty—no matter our taste—demands our attention.
This past summer I began looking again at my new surroundings: the city of Nashville. In hopes of recording some beautiful “answers” with my paintbrush, I’d get up early and catch the morning light as it woke up the world. One such morning I sat down on a curb across the street from a hilariously pink Mexican grocery, and began to paint. That hot pink screamed for my attention!
Following my habit I started working quickly to capture the essence of the scene, when steadily—one by one—construction workers began setting up on the street not five feet in front of me. Workers. Cones. A truck. Another truck. Boom! Construction blocked!
“I can’t go anywhere in this town without running into construction,” I huffed, packing up my supplies. That’s when the lightning bolt struck:
Construction is everywhere.
From roads to skyscrapers and traffic cones to tower cranes, the multicolored landscape of construction had one thing in common: my attention.
But could it be beautiful?Read More
“All I ever get for Christmas is blue.”
—Over the Rhine
This past year, my dear wife and a number of my friends spent extended time away from social media due to the surplus of vitriol surrounding the election. It simply grew to be too much for some folks. Alas, for business reasons, I could not leave Facebook. I wanted to. I found myself desiring social media abstinence even more leading up to Christmas.
I confess, I abhor the onslaught of all those picture-perfect, iPhone-filtered snapshots of families doing Christmas-y things: sitting down to a feast, having a party, opening gifts, ice skating, decorating trees, decorating houses, decorating pets. You might call me a Scrooge, but I promise, it’s not that. My daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year. Amongst a couple ideas of things I could actually use (a new keyboard rig would be nice, but it’s not going to happen yet), I realized what I really wanted was to be able to spend the time focusing on Christ and his coming. I wanted Advent at the forefront of our thoughts. If we as a family arrived at Christmas Day and found ourselves regretting ill-spent time pondering things other than the miraculous, time-shattering coming of Jesus, then I would be faced only with the relative vapidity of everything without Christ. Gifts, decorations, food—all things pale in light of the mystery of what C. S. Lewis called the One True Myth, the great mystery of Jesus’ coming.
Now, before you flush this little confession from your mind like so much kitsch, hear me out.Read More
Chad Sparks, Teaching Pastor of Providence Church in Knoxville, TN, takes a poetic look at the night before Christmas, but from God’s side of the curtain.
From Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to Jesus Christ Superstar and The Cotton Patch Gospel, stage writers and musicians alike seem to enjoy the challenge of re-imagining Bible stories. It’s quite a task to bring new depth and color to a familiar narrative without taking any meaning away from the original story, and The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby achieves this goal with great success.
My father’s mother was not ashamed of revealing her favoritism when it came to her children or grandchildren. Different though we were, neither my father nor I were among her favorites. My mom supposed that was because we didn’t need her as much as the other siblings or grandchildren.Read More