Once a month, I like to point to all the good stuff I’ve been reading, watching and listening to, especially as it relates to what’s going on in the world and in my own life. If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed I’ve been thinking, writing, and posting about the theme of presence recently. Maybe you’ve seen an essay on my blog or a post on Instragram. We’re finishing up that theme with a round up of resources from around the internet, off my shelves, and even on my own blog.

1. Not Back to Normal interview with architect, urbanist, author, and educator John Massengale for Breaking Ground

COVID-19 has had a significant effect on our nation’s cities. In this conversation, Breaking Ground senior editor Susannah Black talked with urbanist John Massengale about the impact of the pandemic on New York City, how cities can become better than normal after the pandemic is over, and whether it is possible that the pandemic might even be a source of revitalization for cities. In the quoted segment below, I particularly like this idea of “embodied cognition,” or how our presence in a city shapes and changes how we think about and experience it.

From the essay: “I’ve been working on this topic lately, to try to dig into what we mean when we say that we love a city, when we experience a city, a street, a building, as a good place. The aspect of neuroscience that I’m looking at is called embodied cognition. That says that when you walk down the street, you experience all sorts of things that you’re not entirely aware of; you’re perceiving the world, including the built environment and your body in it, in a profoundly integrated way.”

2. On the Rachel Hollis’ Divorce: Girl, Here’s Some Mercy by Sarah Condon for Mockingbird

While I’m loath to turn someone’s divorce into a conversation starter, I did appreciate how this article discusses the ways we present ourselves on social media, somehow creating a non-human version of ourselves to present to our followers. I think this is what happens when we try to be an un-embodied or a non present entity through the Internet.

From the essay: “I am not interested in unpacking [Hollis’] life’s tragedy so much as I am interested in how she has chosen to frame it. In her Instagram unveiling she wrote this:

… having been such an open book to this beloved community, we hope you can allow us a human moment. We hope you can understand our need to process these changes away from social media.

“She asks for a human moment. As though she is normally something other than human. Which, to be clear, she is. But we all are something other than human on the Internet.

“It really does not matter if you claim vulnerability or a persona that tells it like it is, no one is actually honest in their social media accounts. We share only the parts that are quirky and relatably messy. Just enough, not too much.”

3. Our Nostalgia Is Spiritually Dangerous by Jeremy Sabella for Christianity Today.

The longing for normal is palpable in these days of continued uncertainty. But what if constantly looking backward to what was is actually keeping us from being present to what is? And as the author asks, what if nostalgia is actually harmful to our souls?

From the essay: “Wistful longing for a simpler time comes easily during this dysfunctional present. But left unchecked, that nostalgia can lead us alarmingly astray.”

4. Sense Enough: How Practicing the Presence of God Can Begin with Using Our Five Senses by Kris Camealy for The Cultivating Project

With thoughts and emotions constantly swirling, Camealy longs for the focus and intentionality of being present with God. But like Brother Lawrence, she finds that it takes a little practice.

From the essay: “As I am re-discovering during these post-quarantine days, practicing God’s presence is about living each day in a particular posture—a posture of paying attention. … As part of my ritual for being outdoors, I am making special effort to notice everything that I can with my senses.”

5. Families Keep Going, In Pandemic and Health” by Rachel Anderson for Christianity Today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on families. So hard. And from the looks of things, there are hard days still ahead. This article is a clarion call to churches, communities, businesses, and governments to keep showing up to help families care for their own in the uncertain days that are still ahead.

From the essay</i: “In reality, God designed and entrusted families with the care of their members, in sickness and in health. Families honor the sacredness of life in all of its vulnerability and precarity (Ps. 68:6). Yes, there is brokenness in family life. But God also equips many families with resilience, adaptability, and love for just such a time as this.”

6. Living the Questions: It’s Really Settling in Now, the Losses Large and Small, interview by On Being’s Krista Tippett with family therapist Pauline Boss, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota.

In this podcast episode, Krista and Pauline talk about the ambiguous loss we’ve all experienced during COVID-19. The term “ambiguous loss” refers to loss and grief that is hard to understand and offers no real closure. The term was coined by Boss and often is used to describe the loss that comes from watching a family member descend into dementia or from losing a loved one when their body can’t be recovered. On a more day to day level, ambiguous loss might be used to describe watching a child leave the nest, divorcing a spouse, or moving to a different country.

From the podcast: “We have a worldwide pandemic, and it’s cutting in on everything that we have done before. So even the big losses, the little losses, pile up after a while, and you feel sad. Now, the most important thing to remember is that grief is normal if you’ve lost something. And I would wager that everyone could make a list of what they’ve lost during this pandemic — the loss of whatever it is you did before.”

7. My House Has Not Kept Up With the Pandemic by Ronda Kaysen for The New York Times.

For all the ways our lives have changed during the pandemic, our homes have been the setting and born witness to our transitions. We spend a lot more time at home now; it’s become a school, an office, a shopping center, an entertainment hub, a restaurant, a post office, and more. And as the author says in this essay, the house itself hasn’t always adapted well.

From the essay: “The living room used to be relatively tidy, cluttered with only normal living room stuff — a stray newspaper section, a coffee cup, slippers. Now, four months into this coronavirus existence, I have lost the thread. Rooms no longer have a clear purpose, since any given space could, at any moment, become a gym or a classroom or a video conference room with the camera expertly angled to hide the mayhem. With no one coming over for the foreseeable future, what’s the point in pretending? Normal isn’t coming back anytime soon.”

8. Finally, if you missed one of my recent posts about change, you can find those here: