My newest Quirky Sermon:
Desire (Under Construction).

Specifically: A approach we might take with our desires, other than knee-jerk chasing or knee-jerk squashing. Our desire as electricity, engine, construction site: a space for encountering God.

Watch it here.

The sermon starts 19 minutes into the video, after the band. 

I had so much fun creating and delivering this one. Laughed a lot, as usual. Among other things, it includes

  • An exercise in which I help you make a map of your desires
  • Four references to tacos
  • Knicks announcer Walt Clyde Frazier
  • Creamy citrus body wash and semi-automatic weapons
  • Two different ideas of manliness

and the two ideas I can never get away from:

  1. Love at the core of all we do, and
  2. God’s wild dreams for the world.

Enjoy, you passionate bunch of sermon-watchers, you.

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the beautiful mess

I often look around at other people’s religious belief the way I look at their perfect lush lawns. How did they make that look so nice and tidy and easy?

Mine will never be like that, and I’m at peace with that. (See Quirky Sermons.)


I got to speak at True North Community Church this weekend as part of a series they’re doing called Under Construction—what it looks like to be a work in progress. I talked specifically about the beauty of doubts, questions, skepticism—and how much fear a lot of people experience around these things. How they are actually a vital part of our spirituality. How there’s something to be said for faith that doesn’t look as easy, neat and tidy as a suburban lawn.


Click here to watch.

The talk is about 23 minutes in (after a sweet music set by visiting musicians The Brothers McClurg and Ian Zumback).


Among other things, I talked about how faith is not supposed to be something you conjure up in a vacuum for your own benefit. It’s meant to DO THINGS—to open the door for greater acts of love in the real world. Speaking of which:

I am so grateful for the hundreds of clergy who traveled to Charlottesville, VA this week to protest against white supremacy. I was moved by this account of the counter-protest from Brian McLaren. 

I’m continually grateful for people like Red Letter Christians, who take justice and mercy seriously.



And I was so grateful yesterday to share the stage with the gifted musicians Ian Zumback and the Brothers McClurg, who stopped by as part of their “Back to Their Roots” tour. On a weekend when the ugliness in our culture was so bold and so public, I was glad to sit in the dark backstage listening to Ian ‘s new song “Entertaining Angels,” about the choice to do simple, quiet acts of love. It began with the words I will be your hospital…

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Fiction that Glimmers in Darkness (Review Series)

Opening up my mailbox to find indie (literary) books I might never otherwise discover is one of the pleasures of reviewing for IMAGE Journal. Each month I get to read and ponder a new one for their digest of delights, ImageUpdate, and recently it was Animal Heart, a collection of short stories by Paul Luikart.


Luikart has worked in homeless services for the past 15 years. This wasn’t why I chose the book to review—I just enjoyed reading it, out of a large stack I’d been sent—but that fact did pique my interest. It’s a tricky thing (or has been for me), splitting a life between two vocations that, however rewarding, do draw on the energy of the soul. Almost all the paid jobs of my adult life, too, have been for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit work can be deeply meaningful. And disillusioning. And enlightening. And deadening. And all kinds of other ings, not least of which, on good days and bad, is tiring…

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After the Storm (Song Series #18)

We almost didn’t make the visit; it stormed in the morning. But the day shook off the rain and we headed east, miles of wet vineyards glowing green in the new light—my bearded beloved, my wee boys & me.



Out in Greenport, at the house of our good friend V. Hansmann (poet, essayist, and host of the Cornelia Street Reading Series), we ate grilled corn-on-the-cob.

“What’s your favorite word?” I asked.

The 3-year-old jumped on it. “Dump truck or cement truck,” he said, “or magic wand.”

“Observations,” said the 7-year-old.

“Three words,” said my husband. “Good night, boys.”

“Bioluminescence,” said V.

After dinner we walked down the street to the harbor, where the hundred-year-old carousel is still spinning. It was built upstate and then after WWII it belonged to the Grumman plant, where my grandfather built airplanes, and it could’ve been lost when the plant shut down, but Grumman gave it to this little port town.

August opens: Gold light. Third life for a carousel. Observations; bioluminescence; magic wand.

After the Storm

Vocal & viola: Jen Hinst-White

Guitar: Rob Hinst

Written by Shovels & Rope


Ain’t it funny
How time just seems to run
What the hell have you been doin’?
Not too sure, guess mostly movin’…
I’ve been spinnin’ for so long
Now I guess I’m spun

Like the widest river
Like the brightest morn
There is hope where you can’t see it
There is a light after the storm

—Shovels & Rope, “After the Storm”

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Quetzals, Ecclesiastes, and Slinky Dresses (OR: Date Night Photos)

“Tell me what you’ve been thinking about lately,” I said to my husband.


Date Night Photo: Exhibit A

(This is—a friend pointed out to me recently—a classic Jen HW question. I like to hear people’s deep thoughts: what they’re wrestling with, who and what they love, what they’ve always wanted to do with their lives. You’d be amazed how deep you can go with party small-talk if you add a few extra degrees of How so? Why?)

So Rob (husband) and I were out on a date and I asked him this question and he surprised me. Which still happens once in a while, after all these years.

“Pretty often,” he said, “I think about the meaninglessness of everything.”

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Lucky (Song Series #17)

95% of my days are a quotidian mixture of laboring at my desk and the care and feeding of hurricanes.

(Pictured here: Hurricane #1 and Hurricane #2, along with a rare eye-of-the-storm moment)


I’m pretty tired, usually, but it’s a lucky life.

Last week, though, felt like I’d been picked up and dropped into some other plane of lucky.

I was up at the Bennington Writing Seminars, hearing electrifying readings and lectures and also getting some much-needed space for writing (while my generous husband, mom & in-laws wrangled the kids at home)…


And then, on the evening of the summer solstice, I got some news: I’ve been offered the lavish gift of a Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowship  at Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Tennessee: a fully-funded, two-week retreat this fall, to work on my brand-new second novel. No hurricane-wrangling. Just reading and writing. I’ve never had two solid weeks for reading and writing in my entire life. I’m floored and so grateful. 

Coincidentally, my creative-co-conspirator Elijah Burrell and I had just worked out our little version of Radiohead’s song “Lucky.” It was one of the songs we figured out for a show we were playing at Bennington. So—in honor of feeling pretty lucky right now—

“Lucky” (Radiohead cover)

Vocals: Jen Hinst-White & Eli Burrell

Guitar: Eli Burrell



Playing with Eli Burrell at Bennington College, June 17, 2017. Photo: Laura Gill.


PS Just to make it all a little more ridiculous: On a rainy walk off the End of the World at Bennington College, Vermont, I found the three biggest 4-leaf-clovers I have ever seen. OK, to be honest—I have a strange knack for finding 4-leaf-clovers, and the where’s-Waldo part of my brain was probably scanning for them. But I felt pretty lucky to be in that meadow at all.





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Orexia (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

51Kjj4ZSfzL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Poems as Temples
Orexia by Lisa Russ Spaar

Temples exist, possibly, not because the Holy is holier there, but to make us awake to it. A singular hour—one with a lover who is going on a journey, for example—draws up all our attention. Maybe this is why “Temple” and “Hour” appear so often in the poem titles of Lisa Russ Spaar’s new collection Orexia, a word which means “desire, appetite.” Discrete spaces, including bodies, are important in these poems. In “Temple Tomb,” a reimagining of John 20:11-18, the speaker is shocked by the physicality of the man who appears to her: “What did your body ever have / to do with me?” In “Temple Dictionary,” Spaar does heavy work in a space no bigger than a violet pressed in a dictionary: “genital lapels held in tiny, kama sutric / kimono foldings, obeisant // to the word “thesis,” a setting down. Down. / Forgive me, O once-alive. // I believed to press love / would be to make love.”

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