About Jesse

    A veteran newspaper reporter, Jesse tells stories of regular people living with passion, struggling against injustice or simply practicing their faith. Through songwriting, magazine journalism and essays, Jesse aims to describe the human condition, especially the search for transcendence.


this littler light:
flashes of grace in politics, pop culture and publick houses

Groanings too deep for words (Durham News)

Sloan Meek’s singing doesn’t mean everything is right with the world. Far from it. But when he gets going, it’s hard not to sing along in honest-to-goodness, genuine joy.

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You’re not supposed to believe in magic, but I do

If you want a mystical experience, go on a spiritual retreat, if you must, but don’t try to tell the rest of us about it. We can’t understand.

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The beauty of this place (Durham News)

I was in San Francisco recently, shopping in a vintage-clothing store in Haight-Ashbury, and I asked the cashier to recommend a place for dinner. “In the Haight?” he asked. “Nowhere. The food is terrible. Go down the hill to Cole Valley.” Seriously? There were almost 30 restaurants within a few blocks. None of them were any good?

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The magic of fire (Durham News)

Conversation feels lighter and lubricated when I can stare at the glowing orange embers, instead of noticing the people around me and wondering if we’re tired of one another’s company yet. Silence is not awkward, because mysterious chemical changes are happening right in front of our eyes. Wood, once green with life, is now turning into black soot and heavenbound smoke.

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One-way train (Durham News)

Brother Starch would convene us every Sunday evening to boast to one another about how many souls we had won the previous week. He that winneth souls is wise, he’d always say, quoting Proverbs 11:30. Winning souls was never about anything like, say, convincing a man to stop beating his wife or to start serving at a soup kitchen. It was about keeping people from eternal damnation. One lady, Miss Beth, would come reporting she’d won seven or 11 or 17 souls in any particular week. Nobody, not even Brother Starch, ever came close to beating her.

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Dad, “Cecilia” and me (Durham News)

If you’re like most artists, struggling to build enough of an audience to make something that resembles a living, and if you’re like Dad or me, with a family to support, then a disease like writer’s block sounds like a death sentence.

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Nearer, my God, to ski (Durham News)

It was uncomplicated: You were riding on the back of something much bigger than yourself, just trying to hang on.

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Confessions of a Bible-camp counselor (Durham News)

We staff members didn’t have any bed frames, so I sat on my mattress in the middle of the floor like some kind of spiritual guru.

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What Nanny taught me about God (Durham News)

No one was trying to convert her anymore. We’d seen good and bad, divinity and sin, love and bitterness in her, just like in everyone else. We hope her salvation doesn’t depend on anything she did or didn’t do, believed or didn’t believe, but only on a Creator who loves her.

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When things go bad (Durham News)

I was a 24-year-old assistant city editor at a little daily paper in Portsmouth, N.H., on Sept. 11, 2001. That morning, I sat at my desk, staring at the newsroom TV. Like so many people, I watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center in real time, thinking it was just a replay before I realized the gruesome truth.

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