Tony Woodlief | Author


Not home

On Sunday nights, after I’ve tucked in the boys, after I’ve packed my bags for another trip, I write each of them a note. I tell Caleb that I love the way he takes care of his younger brothers, or that I love his inquisitive spirit. I tell Eli that I love his perseverance, or …

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Spot of grace

I stepped out onto the wet sidewalk this morning and looked up at the sky and tried to see whether the grey clouds were dissipating or gathering tighter, because sometimes on a dark day I just want to know whether the light is spilling in or fading away. I looked up to heaven and a …

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Exclusion of Christ

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by way of Lance Nixon’s piece on Down Syndrome and human worth in last month’s Touchstone Magazine: “The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door.” Nixon notes a …

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Hospital, not courtroom

“Did you commit sin? Enter the Church, repent for your sin, for here is the physician, not the judge. Here, one is not investigated; one receives remission of sins.”  (St. John Chrysostom)

To rest

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital does a small but important and dignified thing in burying the organs its employees stole from dead babies. It is small because babies are small, and the parts of them even smaller, and because crimes against the weakest bodies in the name of science have a sickening commonality in human history, …

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Be it resolved

I read once that the historian’s admiration for authority affects his assessments of civilizations past — that oppressive regimes, with their monuments to state power, will draw his eye and his imagination more readily than a nation of citizen farmers. That’s probably true for most people; we can’t help but watch the parade’s prancing exhibition of the …

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Sometimes the words don’t seem like they’ll get close to the truth of anything, and so I just stop writing. That’s not completely true; I’ll write fiction perhaps, because those people in the stories inside my head haven’t yet worked themselves into corners where the words are like sunfaded fabric or covered-over grass or the sigh …

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You yearn for a holy place because, in the time between waking unable to recall where you are, and drifting again into the half-sleep that is all you’ve known for the longest time, you stand in the darkness of your sterile hotel room, peering into a mirror to see that you are nothing like what …

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I have just come home, and Eli runs up to me. “Dad, I left you a Boxcar Children book on your nightstand. It’s your Easter present.” “Thank you,” I say. He turns back toward where he has been playing. “Eli,” I say. “Where’s my hug?” He smiles, and walks back in my direction, slowly now. …

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The Storm

The two younger boys crept into our bed in the black morning, driven by a snarling storm. They curled into me, shivering, as if I am a safe harbor. There is no keeping out the storm; this is what I thought. The cool peaceful evenings line themselves up between the vibrant days, and we forget …

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Three Reasons

Caleb has borrowed my Essential Charlie Parker, and I don’t think he’s ever giving it back. He likes to listen to it as he falls asleep, and so I hear it drifting down to me from his bedroom, the cool sound of that inimitable saxophone, and with it the knowledge that my seven year-old is …

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