Our church recently got a new pastor, and a few weeks ago, he gave a sermon on prayer that has become pretty much my favorite thing that anyone’s ever said on the subject.

He was talking about this passage from Matthew:

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. […] These twelve Jesus sent out …

–Matthew 9:35-10:5, NRSV

I don’t remember the exact words our pastor used to explain, but it went something like this:

Jesus saw there was a lot of work to do, so he told his disciples to pray for helpers. So they go pray: “God, please send us helpers, etc.” Then Jesus says: “Hey! GREAT NEWS! We got some helpers! It’s you guys! Go out and get busy!”

This, he says, should be Christians’ approach to prayer in general.

It’s easy to see a problem and just ask God to fix it. But if you care enough to pray earnestly for something, shouldn’t you also care enough to try to solve the problem yourself? He gave Hurricane Florence as an example. Sure, by all means, pray for the people in the hurricane’s path — and then donate to relief efforts, or find some other way to help. Of course this approach doesn’t apply in every single case, but generally there’s at least something you can do about any given problem, even if it’s small or indirect.

As an agnostic, I have my own reasons for loving the DIY prayer fulfillment strategy, but I think it’s great from a Christian point of view too. “Thoughts and prayers” are fine, but both should push us to action.

And now, whenever I hear about anyone praying for a problem to be solved, I just imagine God’s voice coming down from above:



I found somebody to help!



Authors and editors sometimes refer to the first sentence of a piece of writing as the “hook,” meaning that it should hook the audience, catch their interest with something surprising or intriguing, draw them in to read the rest.

Our pediatrician gave us a sheet titled “Toilet Training: Guidelines for Parents.” The first sentence is:

Bowel and bladder control is a necessary social skill.

Well. *steeples fingers* Go onnnn …

When is your voter registration deadline?

The Vote.gov website has a breakdown by state. Nearly all states put the deadline 30 days or less before Election Day (Nov. 6), so you most likely have until October 6 or thereabouts to get registered. Some states are more lenient. In North Dakota, you don’t register at all, you just vote; but, let’s face it, you probably don’t live in North Dakota.

You can register at Vote.gov.

In not-unrelated news, I am reading a book called Why Nations Fail. The book is thick enough to stop a bullet, but the gist is pretty simple: nations succeed when the general public participates in decision-making, and they fail otherwise.

This concludes our PSA.

I dream of chyron

My dad was telling me recently that he had a dream about a strange word. (He knows his audience.) In the dream, the word seemed perfectly normal, but when he woke up, he realized it was unfamiliar, and wondered if his subconscious had invented it.

The word was chyron.

I was excited, because I actually knew that one! I said it was a real word, and it means the headline banner they show at the bottom of news shows:

Afterward I looked it up to confirm, and my memory was correct. I also learned how to say it: KYE-RON (it rhymes roughly with pylon).

This word was in the news (ha!) a year or two ago, part of the swirling clusterfudge that was the 2016 election. So maybe that’s where my dad’s subconscious picked it up.

What’s especially cool, though, is that in his dream, chyron had an entirely different definition: it was a feature on the surface of a cloud. I think that’s a much better meaning, and somehow appropriate to the aesthetic of the word.

So now I’m wondering — is there a word for the surface features of clouds? And if not, what would you call them, since chyron is already taken?

Personally, I’m thinking pufftures. But I could be swayed.

Why you need a copy editor



So it’s gonna be that kind of week

Haiku of Summer, month 3

I was planning to do a haiku per day for the whole summer. And I made pretty good progress: see month 1 and month 2. But in the third month … well, to paraphrase Alan Jackson, who was paraphrasing Eddie Cochran:

Sometimes I wonder
what I’m gonna do
’cause there ain’t no cure
for the summer haiku.

Life gets busy, time gets short, the poetry backlog gets long, and eventually you just gotta cut your losses.

Still, I completed 74 of a planned 94, which is 74 more than zero. So without further rambling ado, here’s what I wrote in the third month of summer:

#63 — 8/27/18
Concrete is cracking,
inch by inch, year by slow year.
Nature is pushing.

#64 — 8/27/18
Luminous, gibbous
globe wider than Kazakhstan
hangs in the treetop.

#65 — 8/28/18
Dawn light drips over
brick-and-vinyl horizon
and evaporates.

#66 — 8/28/18
T-shirt to be washed
lies limp on cool bathroom floor
dreaming of sunshine.

#67 — 8/28/18
Razor scrapes my skin,
once more rebuking nature’s
tiny excesses.

#68 — 8/30/18
Headlights plow darkness
like snowplows clear away snow,
piling shadows deep.

#69 — 8/30/18
Warm dusting of rain
taps out softly on my skin
messages from clouds.

#70 — 8/30/18
Old routine, routine:
worn thin, rearranged, re-trod.
Trails change; same old dirt.

#71 — 8/30/18
Lightning like anger
flashes distantly, thunders,
and gives meager light.

#72 — 9/7/18
Tonight I can see
why this pitted white crescent
was called a goddess.

#73 — 9/7/18
Turn signal, little
heartbeat, reminds its master
that a path can change.

#74 — 9/7/18
A long, jagged rip
in the cloudfront exposes
imperial gray.