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Mike Stavlund on "Where is God When my pain/grief is deepest?" (book talk)

Have you ever wondered, "Why does God seem farthest from me precisely when My Pain & Grief is at it's deepest?"  If so, join our conversation with Mike Stavlund as he discusses his wrestling with God in the midst of personal tragedy of losing an infant son as described in his powerful new book A Force of Will: The Reshaping of Faith in a Year of Grief (2013).  Unresolved and painful episodes of grief can alienate us from God and others, so is there hope in the midst of our hurt and trauma?  Why can't we verbalize our honest grief without being told to "see the brighter side of life?"  Where is the resurrection in times of grief here and now?  Or is surviving and minimizing the pain all we can hope for?  Come and find out..discuss and reflect.

With brutal honesty, Mike will share with us his experiences of encountering and wrestling with God in his deepest grief as he lost a child, and he will read excerpts from his book.  We're planning to have lots of Q & A afterward & a book signing (click here to order).  Copies will also be available to purchase at the event.

Mike has been participating heavily in the theological discussions coming out of the emerging Christianity movement, so his appearance will help us talk about the personal/existential significance of theological ideas ("absence of God" theology, "weakness of God" theology, postmodern theology, etc) we and others have been reading about (via Rob Bell, Kierkegaard, Brian McLaren, Peter Rollins, John Caputo, etc.).  You might say this book is an attempt to see where the rubber meets the road when you put emerging conversations and theology into practice while facing a life crisis.  And so we can all learn something about ourselves from Mike's struggle and questions.

Why Mike wrote this Book: When Mike Stavlund's four-month-old son suddenly died, a flood of cards, flowers, meals, phone calls, and gifts let his family know that they were loved and cared for. What was less welcome were the books, and particularly the religious ones. Often impossibly upbeat, saccharine sweet, and with all kinds of confident promises, they increased the pain rather than soothing it. Though Mike could plainly see that these writers meant well, their preoccupation with defending pristine ideas about God from the sudden reality of life's unkindness (maybe God's unkindness?) created a cognitive dissonance of such scale that he simply put them away. They were too painful to read and too offensive to bear.

Instead he wrote his own book, one week at a time during that first terrible year. A book that embraced the stark reality of loss, the sense of alienation from all of life, the feelings of suffocation at the hands of the well-meaning people gathered around, and the new awareness of feeling abandoned by God.

A Force of Will helps anyone who is going through difficulty to honestly confront their feelings without being made to feel guilty. With heartfelt honesty, Mike shows that there is hope--even when there is no happy ending.

Hope you can join us for this deep and meaningful conversation on God and grief.


Glenn & Jen


About our Conversation Partner:
Mike Stavlund (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is an author, speaker, blogger, theologian, and leader of a Christian community (Common Table) in Vienna, Virginia.  An adjunct faculty member at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, Stavlund is a regular writer for Emergent Village at and at, and is a frequent speaker at Christian conferences. His writing has been influenced by his family's experience of infertility, threatened pregnancy, infant cardiac surgery and critical care, grueling round-the-clock home care, and the sudden and shocking death of his son. Read more about Mike at and follow him on his social media platforms..

Music: Will Williamson will providing some instrumental music for the evening. Will is a local singer, guitarist, music educator with a love for blues, early gospel, rock, and ballads.  He recently put together The Wild Will and Whiskey Bent Band which performs in the DC area.  He is also a music educator, developing the Blues in the Schools Programs for K to 12 students in conjunction with the DC Blues Society.  To learn more and follow Will, check out his music website at


What Others are Saying:

"This book is about life in all its splendor and in all its agony. Mike talks about pain without trying to theologize it away and reminds us that it's okay for us to feel darkness--for even in our darkest moments we are not alone."--Shane Claiborne, author, activist (

"Stavlund's unguarded account is one that you will neither put down unfinished nor soon forget."--Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the Religion Department at Publishers Weekly


Logistics: We’ll be in the Patio Room at Buffalo Billiards (in the southwest corner of the pub). Books will be available for purchase if you want to have Mike sign one.

About the location (Metro logistics, parking, food, beer, etc.): We will be meeting in the Patio Room at Buffalo Billiards on Dupont Circle. The Room holds between 20 and 40 people. You can order a beer and food items right in the event space, or at the bar right aside the room. Buffalo Billiards in is the basement space in the building right across the street from the metro south exit for Dupont Circle (The Front Page bar and restaurant is in the first floor space right above Buffalo Billiards).

There is a “Colonial Parking” garage right to the south of Buffalo Billiards for $5 or 10.

Donations welcomed to pay for the venue space: We never charge for events, but if you have extra change, we would welcome $3 donations from participants to help pay for the venue space (an average metro ride costs $1 to $2 dollars) for this high-quality conversation. We'll have a coffee cup on a table near the rear door of the Patio Room where people can discreetly pitch in a donation to help cover costs if they are able. Thanks for your help!

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  • Michele P.

    Great talk, great discussion! We could have so many more discussions just based on this topic!

    April 25, 2013

  • Glenn Z.

    it was wonderful! Great topic, and music was a plus!

    April 24, 2013

  • Kofi

    Great conversation/forum!........Thanks to a great speaker,...... great musician,...... & a great organizer!!

    April 24, 2013

  • Victoria P.

    Excellent reading and responses to questions. Really thought-provoking. Would like to have him back.

    1 · April 23, 2013

  • Tara Spuhler M.

    really sorry to miss this. Thank you Mike for sharing this conversation.

    April 23, 2013

  • Larry B.

    When God plans a meeting He knows just what we need to hear and when we need to hear it. He is perfect.

    April 23, 2013

  • Glenn Z.

    We are very excited that Will Williamson will be providing music for our theology pub. Thanks Will! check out the new blurb at the bottom of the meetup description for more information. Best, glenn

    April 23, 2013

  • emily b.

    I not feeling well.

    April 22, 2013

  • Kofi

    Hopefully!..... Cheers!!

    April 18, 2013

  • Eileen

    I think I can actually make this one... I don't forsee anything (a move, an anniversary, etc.) stopping me! See you there! Looking forward to it.

    April 18, 2013

  • Christina

    I'll be out of town but hope you all have a great discussion.

    April 9, 2013

  • Mike S.

    Thanks for having me!

    April 9, 2013

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