Thursday, January 31, 2008

Becoming Human

You know how I go off on these rants on "those" people who tick me off? (just scroll down a couple of posts). Well, they're all still wrong, and they all still tick me off, but I will concede that the reason that I get riled up is that something is going on internally and I'm trying to process it and my first instinct is to point out the speck in my neighbor's eye. Fair enough.

I've been thinking and discussing with friends lately about my lack of patience with theoretical theological discourse and trying to figure out where that comes from because it used to be something I was really into. Part of it is certainly a life stage difference, because I was in seminary and we would read Tillich, and Barth, and Volf, and Moltmann, and all these important thinkers and discuss them ad nauseam until the worlds problems were solved and we could sleep peacefully knowing we had it all figured out. Or not. But at least we read the books and talked about them.

Nowadays, if someone wants to start up that kind of conversation, it's hard for me to orient myself to what planet they might be on and I pretty much just want to throw things at them. I was with a group of folks at a wine bar an one dude busted out with, "So, do you think Moltmann is a Universalist?" WTF? Anyway, what I'm saying is not that these thinkers and their thoughts are unimportant, but that they are not part of my journey right now.

My journey is taking a decidedly foreign direction that most of you out there call "feelings." I can only describe what's going on now as an integration of my cognitive and emotional selves, which have long been separate. I've worked on this for years, and now it's starting to really happen. Periodically, there is this wet, salty discharge that spews from my eyes - does anyone know what that's about? Kidding. Sort of.

I think when I express my frustration with the theoretical and speak in favor of the actual, is that I'm realizing that for me now is the time to get out of the books and deal with the people. I want to hear there stories now, not that I didn't before, but that I'd rather hear them now than do other things, which isn't the norm for me, Queen Introvert. While I'm swinging way the opposite of where I've always been, I think it will lead me to a more balanced approach in the end.

How about a hug?

Ode to the King Cake

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my thighs can reach!

I love the King Cake. For some reason, we keep getting them sent to our office. I know the seasonal reason, I just don't know the personal reason. No one in our office is particularly Cajun, but whatever. We have King Cakes. We've had 3 sent to us in the last two weeks from here and here. Wow. They are just amazing. I've had them before, but they're better this time. Perhaps it's b/c I'm on WW and have to control myself. I haven't gotten the baby, don't want the baby, just want the cake. Mmmm....cake.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What I Need

What I think I need to do:
  • build furniture
  • organize
  • plan
  • work
  • eat ice cream
  • do
  • move
What I actually need to do:
  • pray
  • breathe
  • be still
  • eat ice cream
  • feel
  • learn

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I have fabulous friends. I get to hang out with people I've known for a while and some whom I've not known long and get to talk about life and stories and where they are and how they process information and it's just fascinating. I had one such conversation today with AZ. She's an absolutely brilliant, luminous person and she's pursuing a Master's Degree in poetry. Or something like that. I just call it Poetry School. She's doing great at it and is really exploring who she is through this experience and I am in awe of her bravery. Today we hung out for a while and got to talking about church and theology stuff and we are feeling the same way when it comes to sitting around and bandying about theoreticals. We really prefer real life to make-believe these days. Part of our conversation in particular dealt with the phenomenon of formation and transformation.

I have become more of a primitivist as time has gone on. I'm sure that will change, but that's where I am right now. I feel like the best way to be spiritually formed, as individuals and as communities is to function the most Trinitarian way possible, as Jesus modeled. We listen to God the Father (or Creator, as you prefer), and carry out God's will by the power of the Holy Spirit as we live lives of incarnational presence. We can learn how to do that from studying scripture. Kind of sums it up for me. Gathering with people of like mind is encouraging, but doesn't accomplish anything with regard transformation. We are transformed, according to Jung, by encountering the other. If our churches continue to be shrines to homogeneaity, then no one will be changed, they'll just feel warm and fuzzy inside. We have to work to go outside of what is comfortable in our communities and in ourselves and really see what God sees and do what Jesus did.

I'm preparing a sermon on Jesus as the Learning Teacher, so you can imagine my surprise and delight when I came across this quote from The Gospel of Jesus at Yearning for God:

"Jesus came to grips with the basic intentions of people. He addressed them personally, as to what kind of people they were. He called on them--he did not just teach them ideas. When we take his sayings and distill from them our doctrines, what we have really done is manipulate his sayings for our own purposes, first of all, for the purpose of avoiding his personal address to us. Without realizing it, we reclassify his sayings as objective teachings to which we can give intellectual assent, rather than letting them strike home as the personal challenge he intended them to be. The issue is not what we think about them, but rather what we do about them" (xiv).

Yeah...what he said.

Writer's Strike Alternative - Tyranny Episode 2

Writer's Strike Alternative - Tyranny Episode 1

I went to high school with the writer/director. Insanely hot and an interesting film maker. Well done, JBH!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why Bruce Reyes-Chow should be the PC(USA) Moderator

I apologize for being late to the endorsing party, but please know that my tardiness does not diminish the importance of his campaign. I don't know any of the other folks whose hats are in the rings, so this is not a statement against their candidacies, but merely for Bruce's.

I work with Bruce currently on the staff at Mission Bay Community Church and I can say without hesitation that is the most positive church staff experience I have had to date. We are a motley crew, to be sure, but we are a team of Jesus-followers, living life together in San Francisco. I have to say, I don't know much about the PC(USA) polity or process, as this is where I have currently landed on my whistle stop tour of Protestant denominations. I don't know that I will leave or that I will stay, but I do know that the PC(USA) will be better for having Bruce as their Moderator.

First, Bruce is a person of great integrity. I don't just mean that in a I-chopped-down-the-cherry-tree kind of way, but that when he says he wants something for our community, it happens. And if it doesn't, there is an explanation as to why. He is that rare combination of being a idea person and an implementing person. I've been in other church settings where there will be a phase of lofty vision casting and then six months later, everyone wonders what happened to all that. There is creative thinking, vision, practical application, and follow-up. Who doesn't need that in their life?

Second, Bruce LOVES this denomination. He believes in it and is committed to his belief that the larger organization has the power to effect real positive change and to make a difference in the world. He not only loves it, but he respects it. He adheres respectfully to the structure and organization and challenges interpretations appropriately while always respecting its history and value. I believe he has the right perspective to carry the PC(USA) into the future.

Finally, Bruce LOVES the Gospel. He is a Christ-follower to the core. This doesn't mean he's dogmatic and legalistic. Rather, he is always striving to communicate the message of Christ in the Spirit of Christ. He does things in a way that is relevant to our context without diluting the veracity of the message. It's a fine line to walk, and I think he does it brilliantly.

So there it is, all you PC(USA)ers. Come this summer in San Jose, Bruce is your guy. I hope you vote him in as Moderator because he is exactly what is needed in this time and place.

Branding Church (TM)

If I may, for a moment, speak a word about how I'm feeling about the current leadership of various movements, with the disclaimer that these are merely my opinions, and nothing more.

I think that the whole "emergent" thing, as far as a movement or a call to change or whatever is pretty much done as far as being interesting and is now merely just a way to go. I identify with it the most of anything else out there, especially when I see people like Mark Driscoll - egads. (I only mentioned his name here because that way this post will show up when he Googles himself every morning, because by the look and sound of him, trust me - he does).

Basically, I'm sick of the conversations that are merely ideological pissing contests. I think there's a place for theological discourse - absolutely - but only insofar as it has practical application. The world's situation is far too urgent. I have a personal theology, probably even in the form of an actual statement that I had to write in seminary, and it informs everything I do. It's always expanding and developing, but my need to sit around and talk about it is diminishing. I don't care what books you're reading or who you can quote. It's a little like when Rick Warren bragged about how many millionaires he'd show The Passion of the Christ in the name of being "culturally relevant." Who bloody cares?*

The thing that has probably soured me most is the industry that all of this God-talk has become. There's a 3-day conference in Pasadena that Mosaic Alliance is doing (because Mosaic Church is now a brand). It's called Awaken2008 and it promises to be more than a conference. For a $349 early bird registration fee, I hope it's a conference, a floor wax, AND a dessert topping. It features the brightest stars the current constellation of leadership, all promising to allow us to journey into their imaginations. For $349. Early bird. And wouldn't you know it if they didn't have books to sell also. Huh. I feel the same way about Emergent. Sorry guys - and it is mostly guys - but you've become the people you warned us about. Your lives are about schilling your latest product and putting arses in seats at your latest events. Might be a slightly different message than your predecessors but the result is the same.

I get it. You have to keep your name out there, your product out there, appear in the right places, get the right endorsements, comment on the right blogs, etc., because you have to generate income. It's also quite an ego boost to be on that ride, I'm sure. For me, your stock goes down when self-promotion becomes the hamster wheel in which you breathlessly run. At that point, you're no different than Paris Hilton (or Perez Hilton, for that matter) or anyone else who is trying to turn their very identity into a brand.

*This is pre-AIDS/poverty awareness Warren. His stock has gone up since then - this was just a colossally stupid thing that he said in Christianity Today that will haunt him b/c he's a public figure. Sorry, Rick.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Winter Friday Five

Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions.

1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?

I think it was in the 40s but raining non-stop for days

2. Snow—love it or hate it?

It's ok to visit it but I don't like to live in it.

3. What is winter like where you are?

It's pretty much like the rest of the year. Only a little cooler. I'm in San Francisco.

4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?

Not so much. I have skied three times, but each time has gotten progressively worse. I do not do so well with the physical coordination. The last time was 15 years ago and I rolled down the side of the hill and looked something like a Bugs Bunny cartoon where you roll down a hill and the snow accumulates in a big ball. Yeah. That was me. These days I still a little closer to the hot cocoa.

5. What is your favorite season, and why?

Autumn. I love the colors, the foods, football and Thanksgiving.

Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever.

My year-round pick-up solution is a spa day.

Is "behindedness" a word?

Well, it is now. I'm feeling completely overwhelmed by my own global behindedness. Here's the deal: I have this. I don't really like to talk about it, nor do I really need a "take care of yourself" speech. It's fine, I live with it, but sometimes it makes me just have to lie down and I really don't have a choice in the matter. Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had to lie down. I lost two days and all I accomplished was developing an addiction to Lost, which I'd never watched before, but now all three seasons are streaming on, so I got into it. All that to say, I'm behind.

I looked at the preaching calendar on Thursday - hi there. I'm preaching on February 10th. That's in two weeks. I know, I know - I was at the meeting. But I knew I was preaching on the first Sunday of something, I just thought it was "March." Turns out, it was "Lent." Yikes. Next weekend is our worship team retreat, but fortunately, that's a lot of conversation and not a lot of prep is necessary.

Work is crazy. Not bad, just a lot. The office move is next week and we're all getting ready, but the work hasn't stopped and so it's non-stop. Losing two days of course doesn't help.

My house also needs some serious attention. I have un-built Ikea furniture, paperwork that needs to be filed, a ballot to fill out, cleaning to do and episodes of Lost to watch. This weekend will be all about the recuperating, cleaning, nesting and organizing. I'll be fine.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How privileged were you?

I found this over at Yearning for God.

From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

Bold the true statements.

1. Father went to college.

2. Father finished college.

3. Mother went to college.

4. Mother finished college.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.

9. Were read children's books by a parent.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.

16. Went to a private high school.

17. Went to summer camp.

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child [kid's work is original!]

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.

25. You had your own room as a child.

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.

31. Went on a cruise with your family.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Friday Five - Read Any Good Books Lately?

1. What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?

I've read a lot of books in the last 6 months, fiction and non, and the ones that have stayed with me the most are A Thousand Splendid Suns and Last Night at the Lobster. I was moved, horrified and exulted at Suns depiction of pre-, mid- and post-Taliban Afghanistan. I loved The Kite Runner, but I loved this book more, probably because it was from the women's point of view. The conditions under which these women subsisted is astonishing and that it went on so long without intervention is something for which we can all feel ashamed. It does have a compassionately triumphant conclusion that made me believe in the power of the individual to make a difference despite insurmountable obstacles.

Last Night at the Lobster is the latest of Stewart O'Nan's novels about the lives of a crew of employees at a New England Red Lobster that is being closed down. The story, told from the point of view of Manny, the conscientious manager, is a character-driven yarn spun out over the last night the restaurant is open, a Friday in December 2005. It's well-written, touching and real.

2. What is one of your favorite childhood books?

The Phantom Tollbooth, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Little House Books, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Nancy Drew books, Chronicles of Narnia (I was a big reader then, too)

3. Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!

I like James because of the frankness, The Gospel of Matthew because of the Sermon on the Mount, and Ruth because of the picture of redemption.

4. What is one book you could read again and again?

Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster

5. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?

I'd say anything on spiritual practices is good for Lent, because it's a time of preparation, and spiritual practices are all about training, rather than trying. Anything by Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, St. Teresa of Avila, Eugene Peterson or Emilie Griffin would be perfect (said the girl raised SBC and who knows little about Lent).

And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?

I've always said that if I were to write a book it would be called Christians Are Socially Handicapped, the subtitle being "If we can't convert you or marry you, we don't know how to act," because I'm all about the subtlety.

The jacket cover blurb would have to be written by my boss, since he's a closet reader of my blog and thinks I'm brilliant :-)

Palm Reading

For the first time ever, I had my palms read. Please don't write to me about how evil and demonic it is. It was for entertainment purposes and curiosity.

A woman at work, R, is from India and her family has read palms for generations. Her grandfather made a lot of money off the British colonials telling them the stories in their hands. She only does it for fun and doesn't expect anyone to take it too seriously. She and I really don't know each other very well b/c we don't work together so anything she says will be purely from my hands.

The first thing she said was that family is very important to me, but that it wasn't always. There was a time I didn't care, but now I do, very much. That was dead on. She saw that I live some distance from them, but we're still close. She saw that I will do a lot of traveling, that I've done some, but I'll do a lot more. She also saw that I will have a lot of career success and good health until I'm about 60 or 65 but then I'll have some health issues. I told her she could tell me the bad stuff, but she said she only says what she sees and she doesn't see anything bad.

The best, however, was my "other half." I had no idea what she was talking about. She said the man in my life is very intelligent, very spiritual and we are extremely compatible and have great chemistry. I said, "What man?" She said it was clear there was someone in my life like that, and I assured here there is not. Well, then you'll meet him very soon, she says. She said she also sees 2 children. I asked if that was my niece and nephew and she said no, they are definitely mine. I asked her what she thinks the time table is, and she said I should be married with the two children by the time I'm 32. Whoops.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Yoga Elf

This past Sunday evening, I received a welcome last-minute invitation to a restorative yoga class. Since I am on a quest to be more devotional about my schedule, I thought that would be a great way to ease out of the weekend and in to the upcoming week, so I went. Overall, it was pleasant and relaxing and accomplished its purpose, but we all know that nothing passes by me without a little commentary, so here it is.

The gentleman leading the class was diminuative. Now, when I say that, please understand that I say that as a person who is 5'2", and always the shortest person in the group, and I towered over this dude. He was a sinewy little hairless creature who moved across the pergo floor with soundless, darting motions. I was stationed near the source of music, which was basically chanting with a sort of barbershop quality, ending with a do-sol-mi-do finish down to the basement, a la the Sha-Na-Na guy.

At one point during a reclining backbend, I sensed a presence and rightly assumed that Yoga Elf was standing over me, sort of straddling my head. Faced with the option of opening my eyes and confirming or not, I chose not, as to avoid possibly catching a glimpse of Yoga Elf's special place. He bent down and rubbed my temples with what I believe was eucalyptus oil, which was fine, but this was my first time there and he didn't ask. There is no unauthorized touching.

At the end of the class there was some "Om"ing and then came the wish for the "freedom and happiness" of all living beings. Now, I can't think of a more shallow, bothersome pair of circumstances to wish on anyone. It took me completely out of my relaxation mode and it took all of my efforts to not invite him into a semantic conversation. But, he was there to stretch my body and not my brain, which is where I spend too much time anyway, so I'll just stick to the breathing and leave Yoga Elf alone.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Still Heart Huckabee?

Here's a scary as hell article from the editor of the Arkansas Times about Huckabee's tenure as Arkansas govenor. Yikes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cracking Myself Up

Tonight we had our staff meeting to talk sermon series and preaching schedules. We are a pretty hilarious bunch and we crack each other and ourselves up on a regular basis. However, I crack myself up more than most. After we'd set the schedule, we noted that I am preaching on May 11th, which is not only Mother's Day, but also Pentecost. My proposed title: Your Mother is on Fire. I am hilarious.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I miss yoga

Today I went to both pilates and yoga classes, and I have to say that I miss yoga more than I imagined possible. I love pilates as exercise and it has a focused element that I enjoy, but today my yoga class was exactly what I needed.

I entered the class and sat down and as I closed my eyes and started breathing a mantra sprang from my heart and into my head and I began repeating in my head, "Jesus Christ be present in my heart." It wasn't anything I tried to think of or chose carefully - it insinuated itself into my consciousness and I kept repeating it. I was very present and focused in the class and by the time we got to Shavasana I was completely relaxed and centered.

I realize now that if I'm going to work toward being more contemplative with my schedule I'm going to need to incorporate a regular yoga practice. Since this class is at work and I'm moving offices next month, I only have 3 classes left. I must figure something out that won't break my budget. Please help.

Voice of the Day

Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, "Do you love me?" Jesus sends us out to be shephers, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people.

- Henri Nouwen
In the Name of Jesus

Monday, January 07, 2008

My Prayer for the New Year

This year it is truly my desire to be entirely devotional with my schedule. With that I pray comes a generosity that will prevent me from greedily gobbling at all new opportunities in favor of graciously allowing those who are more gifted than I to serve.

My Political Candidate Match for 2008

91% John Edwards
89% Barack Obama
88% Hillary Clinton
88% Chris Dodd
79% Joe Biden
77% Bill Richardson
70% Dennis Kucinich
66% Mike Gravel
53% John McCain
52% Rudy Giuliani
38% Mike Huckabee
36% Mitt Romney
32% Tom Tancredo
25% Fred Thompson
17% Ron Paul

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

Saturday, January 05, 2008

It's over the ocean to Scranton, Pennsylvania?

I have managed to score a rare classic on the DVR and that is the original 1980 film The In-Laws with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. I will not even discuss the recent re-make - there is no reason for it. The original film is one of the funniest of all time and one that my parents and I still quote with great regularity. It is completely politically incorrect, dry and absurd, but so, so fabulous. I give you the clip below that only barely captures some of its wittiness. Enjoy.

On Audiobooks

I enjoy listening to a good book. I can lie back, close my eyes, and envelope myself in setting and make friends with the characters. I particularly like the audio book for the road trip or commute. In that situation there is less eye-closing and more mental engagement that makes the minutes sitting on 280 just fly by.

On my recent holiday road trip I listened to Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. I thought I'd loved The Kite Runner. Wow. I liked this one better, I think, but they're both brilliant. I love listening to this story unravel as the miles flew by. After that, I started Ian McEwan's Atonement. It's a completely different story, but has a similar theme of a character being at the mercy of their cultural and political surroundings. It's been made into a film and is currently in theaters. I wanted to read it before I saw the film, and I have to say that there is a LOT there and it will be interesting to see how they pull that off.

When I'm in these phases of listening to the books, I become a little like Will Farrell's character in Stranger than Fiction. I hear narration in my head as I go about my day. I describe surroundings, use metaphor, imagine back stories of strangers, etc. The voice is female and has a British accent - a posh London one, specifically. I'm not saying it's normal - I'm saying it's what happens.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Easing into 2008

One of the things I've noticed about myself is that I am abrupt, in the sense that I don't tend to make smooth transitions. This is in conversation, in work, in relationships, in seasons. I function as though one thing stops and another thing picks up and starts with no overlap. I think this is due to a few factors, namely that my brain moves fairly quickly and I'm trying to catch up, that I'm an introvert and in my head a lot so it's always a jarring realization that I'm the only one in there and other people don't get where I'm going. It's as though I metaphorically walk with my head down, watching my feet, and am not fully engaged with the outside world.

An interesting thing is occurring in me, however, as time marches on (and, as Dolly Parton says, marches across my face) and things are relaxing and smoothing out for me. The brain is probably slowing down. I am working at looking up more. As I described to my Spiritual Director in our last meeting, I'm learning about the external component of spiritual formation as lived out in a very community-oriented church.

One of the things I noticed this year is that I was not so abrupt with my celebration of Christmas. Usually, the Christmas music doesn't come on until 2 days after Thanksgiving (b/c of our family observance on Friday) and it goes off on December 26th. This year, I could not stop listening to it. I'm sure it's partly because I have impeccable taste in music, and I have a great mix on the (new - Merry Christmas to me!) iPod. I listened to it all the way through the New Year, and it didn't feel wrong at all. I wanted to draw it out and relax into the new season.

I've also been tolerant of other people's prolonged observance. Tolerant, I am not. This is not one of my words in the "Describe Me" application on Facebook. The "demure" word is a joke. In fact, I get really annoyed with the whole "how were your holidays" and "happy new year" that we're socially obligated to roll out when you see someone for the first time the whole month of January. Get over it. Move on. Do your taxes. Not so this year. I'm sure a great deal of it has to do with the presence of the babies - they make the holidays so delightful and make you want to draw it out for a while longer. That, and I just want to know more about people's lives. Seriously. This must be that "caring" I've heard so much about. Kidding.

One of the things I've only sort of "resolved" about this new year is to be more contemplative and devotional about my schedule. I feel a bit like I careened out of 2007 and slammed into 2008 in a way reminiscent of the scene in the first Mission Impossible movie with Tom Cruise flying off the top of that exploding train. Of course, at the onset of the New Year I was immediately presented with an extremely tempting ministerial educational opportunity, but chose to decline it because I would much rather devote my energy to doing my current activities well rather than doing more things poorly.

All that to say, here's to a calmer, more relaxed and compassionate (especially to myself) New Year. 2008 is here, people - let's take a nap!

Obama Wins in Iowa

picture courtesy of The Atlantic