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Volunteering to Love My Kids and to Eat Donuts

Volunteering to Love My Kids and to Eat Donuts

This is the time of year when my email inbox becomes full of “invitations” for me to volunteer. We have our children in two different schools, with different ways of doing things. And there is a steady stream of electronic missives with subjects lines like: Fall Festival, Donuts with Dad,...

Halloween Is For All the Saints

Halloween Is For All the Saints

Do I love Halloween because I love darkness? That’s a trick question, albeit an unintentional one. Do I love darkness? Yes. Every son and daughter of Adam loves darkness, John records for us in the light of Nicodemus’ bumbling nighttime interview with Jesus. Our inheritance as a race is a...

The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

I spent the better part of my 20s working with teenagers in one form or another. Whether as a youth minister, a creative writing teacher, or a photography TA, one dazzling thread remained the same: Gaga. I spent time with kids who didn’t just adore her music, they worshiped her....

Martin Luther and the Cross-Shattered Church (According to Rowan Williams)

Martin Luther and the Cross-Shattered Church (According to Rowan Williams)

Happy thoughts from The Wound of Knowledge by Rowan Williams, taken from the excellent chapter on Martin Luther. I would make an eyebrow/Dumbledore/beard joke, but let’s face it, that one is pretty much played out. Read on for that comment by the former Archbishop of Canterbury on Luther’s relationship to...

Pobody's Nerfect: On Performance Anxiety and (Not) Giving Advice from the Pulpit

Pobody’s Nerfect: On Performance Anxiety and (Not) Giving Advice from the Pulpit

With both the Reformation’s quincentennial kickoff and our DC conference mere weeks away, we’ve put our feelers out for all things smacking of the reason for the season, that “harsh doctor,” Martin Luther. Today we were pleased to find just that from our friend Phillip Cary, who is featured in the latest issue...

Kicking the Dog: The Not-So-Subtle Art of Displacement

Kicking the Dog: The Not-So-Subtle Art of Displacement

This begins a short mini-series on the wide world of defense mechanisms—how you and I do our very best to cope with the realities of pain.

We all have our defense mechanisms. In psychodynamic terms, these are the ways our egos fend off stressors—situations or circumstances or, you know, very very...

#MeToo, and You

#MeToo, and You

My fingers hovered over the keys, wondering whether this was the right or wrong thing to do. Forty years’ practice keep me coming back to this default: not the nuanced, winding halls of grace but the black-and-white certainty of law. I considered and weighed, and I posted.

There are three memories...

Some Other Power At Work in Russell Brand's Life (Inadvertently)

Some Other Power At Work in Russell Brand’s Life (Inadvertently)

Great little passage from the comedian’s far from (merely) comic new book Recovery:

These are secular times. I just went to see a priest with my girlfriend to discuss getting married in his church and God wasn’t mentioned, as if doing so might cause embarrassment and I feel some of the...

Pre-Register Today!

Pre-Register Today!

We're overjoyed to announce that, over Reformation Weekend (Oct 27-28), we'll be celebrating in Washington, DC, with a 24-hour mini-conference. Hosted by our friends at All Saints Chevy Chase, we would love for you to join us. Talks will be (of course) Reformation-themed, and as always, we'll...

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This Weekend in DC: Talk Titles and Lineup! (T-Minus 5 Days and Counting)

For those who haven’t yet been wooed, take a look at the unbelievable lineup for our event this weekend in DC. Things kick off on Friday evening with a talk from Nick Lannon, dinner courtesy of Broad Branch Market (with Starr Hill beer & wine from Keswick Vineyards), and music by Mark Miller. The party continues Saturday morning with with coffee sponsored by our friends at Anchor Coffee Roasters, followed by talks from Jacob Smith, Sarah Condon, Daryl Davis (of Accidental Courtesy fame), and, post-lunch, David Zahl. We’ll have books for sale and cheer aplenty.

Pre-registration closes this Wednesday. Last minute walk-ins are more than welcome; we just can’t guarantee food. Oh and there’s still some limited scholarship funds available – hit us up at info@mbird.com if that’d be a help. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 27

5:30pm  —  Registration
6:30pm  —  Welcome Worship Service
7:00pm  —  “No, Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts” – Nick Lannon
7:30pm  —  Dinner catered by Broad Branch Market & Music with Mark Miller

Saturday, October 28

8:00am  —  Coffee (courtesy of our friends at Anchor Coffee Roasters!)
9:00am  —  Morning Talks

  • “Robert Barnes and 500 Years of Justification by Grace Alone” – Jacob Smith
  • “When Katie Met Luther: A New Kind of Love” – Sarah Condon

10:45am  —  Daryl Davis speaks on Race and Grace
12:00pm  —  Lunch courtesy of Broad Branch Market
1:15pm  —  “Can’t Stop the Signal: Enduring Hope in Divided Times” – David Zahl
2:00pm  —  Mockingbird Panel Q&A and Closing Communion Service
3:30pm  —  Book table closes

Sunday, October 29 (Post-Conference)

7:45am, 9am, & 11am — DZ preaches at all three Reformation Sunday worship services at All Saints

CLICK HERE TO PRE-REGISTER

Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 1)

Portal Guns, Talking Horses, and the Future of TV Comedy (Part 1)

On the TV front, two new seasons of Mockingbird favorites are now out for your viewing pleasure. Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty just finished its third season, with Nielsen knighting it the most popular comedy on television, and Bojack Horseman’s fourth season is now available for binging on Netflix. Both shows are regulars in our “best of TV” columns each December, occupying a fair amount of Mockingbird HQ water cooler chitchat. It’s a little silly to think that TV shows featuring an alcoholic super-genius grandfather and a washed up 90s sitcom-star horse garner critical acclaim and commercial success, but that’s…

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Stewards of Our Scars

Stewards of Our Scars

The following excerpt comes from Chapter 9, “Stewards of Our Scars,” in Chad Bird’s new book Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul.

In a Bible full of bizarre stories with bizarre endings, the account of Jacob wrestling the angel ranks among the more unusual. At the end of the narrative, we are given an odd little detail about the enduring legacy of Jacob’s struggle. Jacob was “limping because of his hip.” “Therefore,” the text adds, “to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the…

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Another Week Ends: Anger at God, Tyrannical Histories, Pitmaster Preachers, Rom-Com Females, Money Metrics, and Here I Still Stand

Another Week Ends: Anger at God, Tyrannical Histories, Pitmaster Preachers, Rom-Com Females, Money Metrics, and Here I Still Stand

Bonnie Poon Zahl has an amazing interview in the Salvation Army magazine about the psychology of religion and anger at God. Bonnie, who wrote an amazing essay in our Mental Health Issue on attachment theory, here discusses the link between religious life and the life of the mind. Incredibly wise, she notes the fear Christians have of expressing their negative feelings and uncertainties towards God, very often because they have learned that such emotions mean a lack of faith. To the contrary, she says, such invitations to honesty comes directly from God:

God gave us emotions as important cues. We need…

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Volunteering to Love My Kids and to Eat Donuts

Volunteering to Love My Kids and to Eat Donuts

This is the time of year when my email inbox becomes full of “invitations” for me to volunteer. We have our children in two different schools, with different ways of doing things. And there is a steady stream of electronic missives with subjects lines like: Fall Festival, Donuts with Dad, and Pep Rally. Which has got me thinking, aren’t women in my neighborhood thin enough? Why can’t we have donuts too?

It also has me wondering if I am the only mother completely overwhelmed by the onslaught of participation asks. It can feel that way. Is everyone signing up to bring…

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Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

This spooky little treat comes to us from Caleb Stallings.

“Fail to see the tragic,
Turn it into magic!”

– Marilyn Manson

“Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago, which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.”

– Psalm 74:2, NRSV

Halloween came strangely early for me this year. By the time September was settling in, I was already halfway through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with The Cramps’ Off the Bone constantly buzzing in the background. And as soon as October arrived, the un-carved pumpkins were placed, the paper skeletons were hung, and the ghoulish festivities were well under way. Horror was on my…

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No, Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts (A DC Conference Preview)

I don’t have any acquired tastes. I don’t drink coffee, or smoke a pipe, or do anything else that I didn’t like the first time. And no, actually, I don’t work out, either. I used to think that I was just weak…but now I’ve realized that while I am weak, I’m not just weak. I am also human.

Thomas Cranmer, the English Reformer and first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, knew a lot about this connection between weakness and humanity. When he was formulating the theological expressions of the post-Reformational church in England, he realized that the old way—which, of course, remains the predominant way—of thinking about the human person was completely backward and insufficient to explain the struggles of real life.

So, as a good reformer might, he reformed it.

I’m so looking forward to Mockingbird’s Washington DC conference at the end of this month (Oct 27-28), celebrating 500 years of grace, the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. My talk is entitled “No Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts” and in it, I’ll attempt to translate the Reformation insight about the human person—that we are way more bound and twisted than we ever thought we were—into Good News for sinful people 500 years later. To do it, I’ll talk about a couple of episodes from the life of the Apostle Peter, discuss the (very real) Crotchety Associate Rector Syndrome, lament the fact that gyms have mirrored walls, fix WWJD bracelets, and confess weakness in the face of Oreos and General Tso’s Chicken. Through all that—and the Reformational lens—a portrait will appear: a savior God who came to Earth, not waiting for the weak to become strong or for the sinners to become saints…a Christ who came to set the captives free.

Click here to register for our Fall Conference in DC on October 27-28—you won’t want to miss it!

Jennifer Lawrence, the Irony of Normalcy, and the Righteousness of Faith

Jennifer Lawrence, the Irony of Normalcy, and the Righteousness of Faith

This piece was written by our friend Brad J. Gray.

She caught our eye in 2007 on a short-lived network comedy. Then, she broke through with an independent drama in 2010 that earned her national acclaim and attention. She flew into the stratosphere and became the mega-star we know and love with a summer blockbuster in 2012, the success of which she’s likely still riding the coattails. If you didn’t already catch it, I’m referring to Jennifer Lawrence. “J-Law,” as she’s lovingly known on the “Interwebz,” made a name for herself on The Bill Engvall Show during its brief run on…

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Kicking the Dog: The Not-So-Subtle Art of Displacement

Kicking the Dog: The Not-So-Subtle Art of Displacement

This begins a short mini-series on the wide world of defense mechanisms—how you and I do our very best to cope with the realities of pain.

We all have our defense mechanisms. In psychodynamic terms, these are the ways our egos fend off stressors—situations or circumstances or, you know, very very rarely, people that conjure realities we just can’t handle. Sometimes these stressors waylay us with personal condemnation, sometimes they demolish a sacred belief we hold dear, sometimes they are random, traumatic events. Other times, the stressors aren’t bad: there’s an exciting new career opportunity or it’s a busy time of…

Read More > > >

#MeToo, and You

#MeToo, and You

My fingers hovered over the keys, wondering whether this was the right or wrong thing to do. Forty years’ practice keep me coming back to this default: not the nuanced, winding halls of grace but the black-and-white certainty of law. I considered and weighed, and I posted.

There are three memories right off the top of my head, and who knows if more lurk beneath? Time continues to march on, though I gave it no such permit to do so, and it’s been around twenty years since the last one: a “friend” who wouldn’t hear no and proceeded to force me…

Read More > > >

Some Other Power At Work in Russell Brand’s Life (Inadvertently)

Great little passage from the comedian’s far from (merely) comic new book Recovery:

These are secular times. I just went to see a priest with my girlfriend to discuss getting married in his church and God wasn’t mentioned, as if doing so might cause embarrassment and I feel some of the same tension when writing. It’s not like the atheists have all the best tunes, though some people who I really admire are devout atheists, but it is the time we live in, the mechanical dome that umbrellas us from the eternal that causes me consternation. The unwillingness to open our hearts to the mystery. Even a sentence like ‘open our hearts to mystery’ makes me feel a bit queasy with its sincerity but nothing has given me a stronger sense of the great unknowable than listening to scientists, some spiritual, others not, confessing to the limitations of understanding being through material analysis.

I (like the saints and sages and prophets on my earlier list of heavyweights [Augustine, Shakespeare, MLK, Ghandi, etc] that this time I’m too shy to repeat in case it seems that I’m trying to edge myself onto the inventory of greats, which I am) feel there is some other power at work here. I feel too that in my journey to freedom from active addiction, undertaken basically for selfish reasons, I have inadvertently been connected to this power. I also believe that anyone can do it. That is what is at the heart of this book, that addiction, however severe or mild, is a sincere attempt to address a real problem, the lack of fulfillment to which the material world cannot cater. Therefore the solution to this problem is a spiritual connection. This is not my idea. (pg 231)

Richard Wilbur – Ecclesiastes 11:1

R.I.P. to the man Alan Jacobs said is “the best American poet since WW2.” Stay tuned for a fuller in memoriam…

We must cast our bread
Upon the waters, as the
Ancient preacher said,

Trusting that it may
Amply be restored to us
After many a day.

That old metaphor,
Drawn from rice farming on the
River’s flooded shore,

Helps us to believe
That it’s no great sin to give,
Hoping to receive.

Therefore I shall throw
Broken bread, this sullen day,
Out across the snow,

Betting crust and crumb
That birds will gather, and that
One more spring will come.