Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Earlier this week, Parks and Recreation concluded after a remarkable seven-season run. While other outlets have covered the show’s legacy in far greater detail than I can provide (check out Uproxx and Grantland for that), I wouldn’t feel right if I missed this opportunity to eulogize a show that has...

Francis Spufford on the Cruel Optimism of an Atheist Bus

Francis Spufford on the Cruel Optimism of an Atheist Bus

Another wonderful passage from the introduction of our 2014 NYC Conference speaker’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense.

Take the well-known slogan on the atheist bus in London. I know, I know, that’s an utterance by the hardcore hobbyists of unbelief, but in this particular case...

A Look Inside Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

A Look Inside Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

We’re happy to announce that Issue 4 will be on its way by month’s end. Here’s our Table of Contents for the Work and Play Issue. Needless to say there’s lots to be excited for, so if you’re looking for a subscription, now’s the time, because this is also the...



Very excited to announce the preliminary schedule for our upcoming conference in NYC! For more info on the various speakers, click here. In addition to the sessions below, we can confirm that we’ll have a magician in tow to perform tricks between talks (seriously!). Some details subject to change. To...

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

I recently got an invitation via email for a new social network for businesspeople, GoBuyside.com. While I know far too little about the finance world to receive an invitation, let alone reflect on it, I think buy side means the people who buy securities for investment, which seems like the...

A Life of Aching Beauty: Vincent van Gogh as Preacher, Failure, and Painter

A Life of Aching Beauty: Vincent van Gogh as Preacher, Failure, and Painter

Originally posted on Tides of God.


Undergrowth with Two Figures is the only Van Gogh painting I have seen in real life. Several times my wife and I have sought it out on visits to the Cincinnati Art Museum. It is not one of Van Gogh’s well-known paintings. The...

The Ever-Blurring Line Between Workweek and Weekend

The Ever-Blurring Line Between Workweek and Weekend

As our fourth issue of The Mockingbird makes it way to you, here’s a glimpse at what’s headed your way, the Opener from yours truly.

In an upcoming 2015 documentary called The Land, Vermont filmmaker Erin Davis is capturing the nature of play and risk-taking on an unusual playground in North...

New Music: Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

New Music: Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

Recently while hanging out with some friends, one of our laptops was being passed around as a few of us were selecting favorite Youtube music videos to share. A few days prior, I had watched Father John Misty’s excellent Take Away Show performance of “I Went To The Store One...

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Winners and Losers Under the Inner-Editor

Winners and Losers Under the Inner-Editor

I have to admit, as a watcher of The Bachelor, that I participated in this phenomenon without ever thinking about it. Colson Whitehead, in the most recent NYT Magazine, talks about the “loser edit” in most competition-based reality television shows, the fact that, in winnowing 30 TV from strangers into winners and losers, requires some narrative-building and, in the case of the losers, narrative-obliviating. As many of us (I hope?) can recall, there are the moments at the end of each of these shows where the ousted suitor, the ousted chef, the ousted whatever creates this reaction among viewers: “Who…

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A Quick Calvin and Hobbes (for Lent)


Mbird in Tyler, TX (3/27-28): Tangled Up in Grace – FULL SCHEDULE!

Calling all mathematicians and carpenters’ wives! Thanks to a truly amazing group of volunteers, later this month we are coming back to Texas–Tyler this time. The event has come together beautifully, as you’ll see below. The theme is Dylan-derived, ptL, and we’ve even gotten a local brewery in on the action! Best of all, local supporters have come together to ensure that the entire thing is only $40/person. For more information, or to pre-register, click here.

Friday March 27th  (Christ Episcopal Church)

Mockingbird_FB-Poster-full4:30pm – Registration and Welcome

5:15pm – Call to Worship – Matt and Megan Magill and Robert Finney

5:30pm – David Zahl Talk #1: “Lay Down Your Weary Tune: Everyday Life and the Roots of Exhaustion”

6:30pm – Stanley’s BBQ Dinner

7:30pm – True Vine Beer Tasting

8:30pm – Bob Dylan Tribute Show at The Foundry Coffee House (202 Broadway)

Saturday March 28th  (The Foundry Coffee House)

9:00am – Coffee Talk w/ Jonathan Ramm and Josh Modisette

9:45am – Morning Worship – The Magills & The Downtowners

10:00am – Aaron Zimmerman talk #1: (TBA)

11:00am – Breakout sessions at The Foundry Coffee House/Bethel Bible:

  • Keith Pozzuto: ”Management, Control, and Getting It Together: a Work in Failure”
  • Randy Randall: “What the #$%* is A Jackson Pollock: The Messy Grace of Modern Art”
  • Ryan Dixon: “Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Beer is Good, God is Great, People are Lonely”
  • Sarah Condon: “Hiding in the Bathroom: Why Inspired Parenting Will Kill You”

12-1:30pm – Curbside Taco at The Foundry back Lot. (Cost not included in registration.)

1:45pm – David Zahl Talk #2 “Shelter From The Storm: Rest, Refuge, and Our Merciful Friend”

3:00pm – Round Table Discussion and free time

4:00-5:30pm – Free Time (Area Attractions)

5:30pm – “Open Taps” at True Vine Brewery, 219 S. Englewood (This is a separate event that you are invited to attend click here for more info.)


The Secret – Christian Wiman

From his new collection of poems, Once in the West.

Creeping_Ivy_2_by_TudorxRoseDaily higher the ivy dies,
Leaf by leaf subsiding white
Like a secret that seems to rise
Through vein and vine up to his eyes
And the green of what remains.
In spite of books and better light,
In spite of air and what friends say,
A rare arrested day, brief shoots,
In spite of all he cuts away:
From the ground up to the shelf,
From the leaves into the roots,
In spite of everything he tries,
Utterly the ivy tells itself.

The Hope For Some Kind of Sinners Anonymous

The Hope For Some Kind of Sinners Anonymous

Better late than never: This past week I came across a remarkable (and remarkably witty) article by Helen Rittelmeyer Andrews, published last January, on the subject of “AA Envy” that seems almost ripped from the pages of Grace in Addiction. Andrews explores why Alcoholics Anonymous gets a free pass in contemporary society when pretty much every other organization/movement that talks openly about “moral failure” and abstention from traditional vices inspires ridicule, contempt or indifference–at least in elite metropolitan circles. Indeed, if NY Times articles like this one are to be trusted, then the inventories and amend-making and low-as-you-can-go anthropology (and monergistic…

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March Playlist

It’s a Lenten Britpop girl-group extravaganza!


The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

Here at Mbird we spend a good deal of time hemming and hawing against the myth of humanism – that we are free to shape our own destinies, unconstrained, or mostly unconstrained, by our past, circumstances, and vices – unbound, that is, to our deeply distorted wills. The facts dismantle this myth quickly: the fact that the worst human atrocities have been committed in our most advanced century, that New Year’s resolutions quickly dwindle into February guilt, that the decades in our lives when we’re advancing and progressing tend to be the most unhappy ones. When people actually do change for the better, it…

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A Brief Parenting Lesson from Mr. Spock

Like many people, I’m a huge fan of the original Star Trek. And I loved Spock. I loved his pointy ears and his earnestness. He was exotic, smart, and thoughtful. And my goodness, was he cool under pressure.

And so when I heard of Leonard Nimoy’s death, I knew that it was important to talk about how his Jewish Orthodox tradition impacted his boyhood and later informed the character of Spock. It is a wonderful story. I’ll let Nimoy speak for himself:

Sometimes, as religious people, we lose sight of how beautiful our traditions really are. We forget that they seep into our bones and show themselves at the least expected moments.

But Nimoy’s most important lesson here speaks to me as a mother. During worship I can often get caught up in what my children should be doing. And I forget that God is so present to them, regardless of if they are quiet or still. Despite my anxieties, my kids are getting exactly what they need. So thanks for this story, Mr. Spock. Let’s here it for the tiny rule breakers in our midst.

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Samuel Chapter Nine Verse Thirteen

Happy Monday! Here’s your daily supplement of Gospel juju, coming at you piping hot. This one comes from DZ.

And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet. (2 Samuel 9:13, NIV)

Try saying “Mephibosheth” five times in row—it’s a mouthful! But it’s also a name that should conjure up only the most positive associations. To set the scene: After David becomes king of Israel (following Saul’s defeat and suicide), his first order of business is to find any surviving relations of his late, beloved friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, so that he might show them kindness.

r15David soon finds out that Jonathan’s sole living heir, Mephibosheth, is “crippled in both feet” and not exactly regal material. Mephibosheth seems to have internalized his disabilities, referring to himself in front of David as “a dead dog” (9:8). Yet without any hesitation, David restores to him all of his family land and issues the command that Mephibosheth is to dine at the king’s table at every meal, henceforth.

This is a touching example of grace in the Old Testament. An unworthy person receives love and favor on account of something that someone else has done. Even more, there is a deep security to the new situation—Mephibosheth will always eat at David’s table, like one of his sons. What is the result of this radical decree? We are told that Mephibosheth himself has a son. That is, hope springs where there was once desperation and life where there once was death. (Of course, the feet remain crippled…)

Sometimes we get to witness grace like this, and occasionally we even get to experience it. Even though acts of grace astound us, it is only a shadow of the real thing: the grace given by God on account of the death of Jesus.

Have you ever felt like a dead dog? Or perhaps there is something in your life that feels (or looks) like a dead dog? That’s where the voice of the King is to be heard, the voice of unconditional love that makes dead things alive and brings hope to the hopeless. The voice that says, “Because of My beloved son, you will always eat at my table.”

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

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The Law Always Accuses


A killer, seasonally appropriate quote from Werner Elert’s classic pamphlet “Law and Gospel”:

“Obviously the words of Christ [from the Sermon on the Mount] cannot be twisted in order to say that by heightening the demands of the law he sought only to demonstrate the impossibility of fulfilling it, and thus from the very outset to induce his hearers to capitulate. The law is and remains a demand. It is inviolably valid. Not an iota will pass from it. It ought to be and must be fulfilled (Matt. 5:18).

“It is another question, however, whether with this heightened interpretation Christ intended to say that his hearers actually had fulfilled the law. If he really did intend to say that, then there would be a contradiction between him and Paul. But that would be an even worse twisting of his words than the previous one. Exactly the opposite is correct. The proof is found precisely in his treatment of the decalogue commandments. For when he transposes the criteria for fulfillment from the external to the internal, he presupposes his hearers know what feelings of hatred and evil lusts are. Here we already have the lex semper accusat. What murder and adultery are, in the sense of acts that transgress the commandments, one can also learn merely by being told. However, what hatred and evil lusts are we could not even imagine if we had not experienced them ourselves. Accordingly, for the man who receives the heightened interpretation of the decalogue as validly directed toward himself, it exposes his own inner nature, and demonstrates to him that his opposition to God’s law is not only possible, but actual. At that point no further self-examination is necessary. The man who understands what Christ means by hatred and impure desires testifies by the mere fact of this understanding that he is already guilty of this transgression.

“The law always accuses. Christ exempted no one from this verdict. Proof of this can be seen in his call, directed to everyone, for repentance from the heart (Makr 1:15 in conjunction with Luke 13:3-5). The “Our Father”, designed for all to pray, presupposes also that all are guilty (Matt. 6:12). Therefore also in the interpretation which the law receives from Christ it always exposes man’s sin. There is no situation imaginable, so long as the law reigns over us, where it would not exercise this accusatory function.”

From The Onion: New Nike Running App Tells You What You’re Really Running From

And then, one Friday morning in February, a front-runner for Onion article of the year emerged, pun intended, ht BJ: