Encounter: Robert Farrar Capon

“Let me pause for a moment and speak a word to those starting over after some kind of death.

The world, oddly enough, does not take kindly to resurrections. The risen dead are tolerated only as long as they are careful not to look too obviously raised. The trouble with Lazarus had to have been that he refused to be discreet about being alive. Had he gone to just one or two small dinner parties and done a respectable revived-corpse act, [the authorities] might have put up with him. But no. Instead, he dined regularly six nights a week, ate like Diamond Jim Brady, drank Calvados til two in the morning, and laughed all night at his own dialect jokes.

You will be asked, sometimes politely but always firmly, not to look too alive: Lazarus at a dinner confuses the troops. And yet, what is there to do? Act as if you were still in the grave? Carry a little flacon of eau de tombeau in your purse? Of course not. You have been given a new life: flaunt it. Sadness and guilt are facts; but forgiveness must always be the largest fact. Embarrassment at the riches of your own existence is a loser.

Life itself is resurrection, or else it isn’t life. There is no way of being raised that doesn’t involve acting risen.”



candles“Beside us sit all the loves we’ve lost, by our own devices or those of others. It’s why we sit a space or two apart from one another, the open cushions spelling our SOS to whomever might watch from above. I have arrived here without a single idea what love is.”

Learning to sing with Mary in this advent’s Ruminate post.

Pursuing the Intersections: How to Be Published; How to Be Real.


“Part of the trouble with real is there’s no authenticity without contact with shit. Think of farming or gardening: No fruit without compost. In many creative endeavors we recognize the authentic practitioners by the marks the work leaves on their bodies. So what’s the stigmata of writing?”

Exploring the intersections of the public and the real in this month’s Ruminate post.

Release & Reviews, and Sipping in Pews

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Thanks to everyone who attended the release party last month! Local guitarist Nick Hall provided the “food of love,” my mom and her sisters (the “Iowa Aunts”) managed the scrumptious bites, and my sister Mindy and brother-in-law Brady kept glasses full. Turns out if you let folks sip beer and wine in pews they listen closely and clap at the end. (Maybe churches should try it.)

My son Soren was a particular star for his delivery of the French lines I could write but can’t pronounce, and Kelsey tirelessly womaned the book table while so many of you generously bought copies.

If you’re now a (hopefully proud) owner of Triptych, you can help promote the book by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Be honest! This entire endeavor is based on the belief our honest words are the living ones. I’d love to hear how your story intersects with Triptych and what the work made you re-see, experience, and question.

Some of my favorite conversations at the party were with former and (possibly) future students. One of the highest honors of having a book out in the world is hearing you respond with the stories of your own matches (puzzles, flames, fights) of faith.

The night of the party I met Hannah Toutge, a young writer who attended with her mother and grandmother. That night she shared part of her story in God Tonight. She says, “I wasn’t expecting to find God in that place. In those words. In that woman I barely knew,” then describes the experience and God as “Unexpected. Authentic. Beautiful.”

I only hope that is the good work Triptych can continue to do in the world.



Chewing on Faith & Art: Facing embarrassment to display love

Ruminate is like your grandmother: willing to face embarrassment to display love.

In an issue on pilgrimage, Ruminate shared my piece on visiting the ecumenical monastery Taizé— one of the most formative experiences of my spiritual life. That piece became key in the narrative of Triptych largely because it’s everything my usual spiritual experience is not: tender, emotional, childlike.

While I appreciate Ruminate’s willingness to look unblinkingly at struggle, they are also willing to print the most scandalous words. Words like Jesus, please, and love.

You can read the original Taize piece here.



Chewing on Faith & Art: Experiments in light

Ruminate is an experiment in light. The work they publish asks if we can wince without blinking, if we can gaze without squinting, how the terror of lightening and warmth of dawn can meet in the soul.

Ruminate was the first journal to publish work that became part of Triptych, and they have continued to share my words on their blog and in print. Now, the book has arrived and Ruminate is celebrating a tenth anniversary. This week, we’ll celebrate both with parallel serial blog posts. I’ll share work from the book that began as work for Ruminate, and they’ll spotlight portraits from Triptych that show people in everyday life speckled with sparks of faith.

The first piece Ruminate accepted from me proved their willingness to look hard at struggle. “40 Days” ran in their issue on confession and stares point-blank at the temptations, deserts, and floods in marriage.

Revisiting the piece now brings its own struggle. And also proves it’s worth looking hard at temptations, deserts and floods. They persist. They sometimes overtake us. Maybe we keep writing and reading to make way for the light– taking the risk it may arrive in storm or sunrise– believing, somehow, it exists in both.

Release Party & Triptych Events

Release month is here! Join us as we honor the power of story, searching, and creativity. And spread the word– particularly for the release party, Saturday, April 23, 7-9 pm at Art House North. (More details below.)

Save the dates:

Art Between: Magic and Failure in Creative Collaboration

Tuesday, April 5th at 10:20-11:00 am
Bethel University Library, Fireside Lounge

April, Kelsey, and the cover designers, Emily Swanberg and Heidi Kao, present on the magic of collaboration and the place of failure in the creative process followed by a time for Q&A. Refreshments provided.

Festival of Faith and Writing

April 14-16th
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Look for us around the Festival of Faith & Writing— certainly wherever Makoto Fujimura, George Saunders, Scott Cairns, Zadie Smith, and Nadia Bolz-Weber happen to be.

We’re collaborating with Ruminate for an off-site event (details to be announced), and Triptych will be available for purchase at the Wipf & Stock table and elsewhere. We’re excited to be part of this gathering of the faith-ful and literary (and to maybe see some tulips).


Thursday, April 21, 10:20-11:00 am
Bethel University Library, Fireside Lounge

April will read from Triptych and take questions. Students and non-students welcome. Refreshments provided.

Release Party!

Saturday, April 23rd, 7-9 pm
Art House North, 793 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102

Music, food and drinks, art-making, and a reading at 7:30. Books will be available for purchase (of course), and all are invited to contemplate, commune and create. Come raise a glass to the written word, the fight for beauty in the world, and the formative power of tenacious questions. Join us– bring a friend; meet some kindred spirits.

Updates and reminders for all events on Twitter (@TriptychMemoir).


Via Dolorosa

Header-Ruminate-Logo“If you know no other prayer this year, know this one: Sunlight in a place you never meant to live. Contents of the safe deposit box stacked on the castoff table, red files in plastic bags, knowing the names of none of your neighbors, the mailbox empty each day—nothing forwarded—because you don’t know how long you’ll stay: the prayer of Where does one go next, anyway?

Walking along the way of suffering with Jesus, Nina Simone, D.H. Lawrence, Karl Barth, C.S. Lewis, Joy Davidman, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the dark day before Easter.