1. Forgiveness and apology seems to be a theme in the news as of late, or at least it was prior to Monday’s heartbreaking news from Boston. CNN’s belief blog highlighted the story of one man’s quest to forgive and restore the man who killed his brother when they were teens. I found the story enlightening as it ping-ponged between the two poles of forgiveness by grace (the victim’s brother) and forgiveness by works righteousness (the recently released killer). Quote: “I think for me, forgiveness will come in doing good works, trying to help others. But as far as forgiving myself I don’t think I will ever get to that place.”  Elsewhere, though it might feel a little saccharine, eight-year-old students from a New Zealand Catholic School were assigned to write a note to the vandal who knocked off the head of the school’s patron saint statue, and all involve parties are shocked at the empathy the kids are able to muster. On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, one writer at Slate offers his articulation on forgiveness titled “The Healing Power of Holding a Grudge.” Equal parts reflection on personal pain and current culture trends, it might be a helpful reflection of a world with only “gospel” and no law or justice, where one is resigned to forgive without hope of a great equalizing. Quote: “In days gone by it was only the Man Upstairs who could pardon and absolve. Now everybody is taking a crack at it.”  And to round out our coverage, Christianity Today’s “The Sorry State of Apology” laments the “Sorry I’m Not Sorry” phenomenon as it relates to the church, though the ten principles for Christian forgiveness that the article outlines are really just things apologetic people do anyways, Christian or not.

2. On the Mockingbird Facebook Page this week, newsfeeds were inundated with our posts containing our favorite quotes in memory of the Original Ragamuffin’s passing.  Brennan Manning’s recent death inspired some of the most bittersweet and honest tributes worthy of the author’s bittersweet and honest faith. Friend and conference speaker Tullian Tchividjian shared his reflections here, noting “Brennan’s life… was a living testimony that horizontal consequences for sin… cannot forfeit the “no condemnation” that is ours in Christ Jesus.” Over at HuffPo religion, John Blase offers the most succinct version of the church’s relationship to Manning’s message:

Brennan Manning has preached his vagabond evangelist variation of the same theme for over forty years now: God loves you as you are and not as you should be. In my exposure to the vast crowd aware of Brennan and his message, I found that most either love that line or want to amend it. Those that cling to it do so because they too have experienced their share of not so funny things happening along the way to wherever they were going. He unforgettably described them/us/me in The Ragamuffin Gospel as “inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.” Those who seek to amend Manning’s message are fully satisfied once the line finally reads: God loves you as you are, but too much to leave you there. And that tack reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of what Brennan Manning has blown the horn, banged the drum and waved the flag for all these years; in his word — grace.

Finally, this little anecdote from author Donald Miller, which I hadn’t heard before, though according to him it was one of Manning’s favorite stories:

Brennan Manning, who passed away on Friday of last week, and Shel Silverstein met when they were young and according to Manning, stayed in touch. Later, after Shel began to write and Manning became a priest, they had a conversation about God and God’s love. Manning asked Silverstein what he thought God’s love felt like. Silverstein thought about it for a while but had no answer. Much later, Silverstein got in touch with Manning and gave him a copy of The Giving Tree saying the book was his answer to Manning’s question.

Manning told the story so many times you have to wonder if it didn’t become his answer, too. I’ve abused God and He forgives me, Manning seems to be saying.

3. In the ever-expanding world of This American Life episodes with Mockingbird themes, last week’s “Dr. Gilmer and Mr Hyde” was especially thoughtful, delving into the link between violence, mental illness, and “how good people go bad.” Again, see This American Gospel for more on that pattern, available at the conference book table for those in NYC.

4. The trailer for J.I. Packer’s new book is a dose of sobering reality, highlighting the theologian’s increasing frailty to emphasize the book’s theme of weakness. As many of our faith heroes age, like Brennan Manning did before his passing, it is a great gift that their decades of insight are applied to life’s end for others to prepare accordingly. Quote: “God doesn’t allow us to stay with the idea that we are strong. Oh, we may have that idea. But God is going to disabuse us of it one way or another.”

5. A round-up of the latest in identity and social science news: The Atlantic’s “How Parents Around the World Describe Their Children, in Charts” continues to shed light on difference between American and European child-rearing methods. As a newlywed with no kids, I’m naively optimistic that Spanish parents use the word “easy ” to describe newborns. Also from The Atlantic, 71% of Facebook users regularly type five-or-more letters into their status update, only to delete everything and decide not to post it. A little self-censorship goes a long way, especially as it relates to managing how other people view you across your social network. The WSJ tried to convince its readers being a diva isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unconvincingly IMHO, but the piece was a fun read on narcissism, especially the sidebar on “Diva Behaviors.”

6. An interesting article from NYT earlier this week about mental health and believing in a loving God, interestingly titled “When God Is Your Therapist.” It could have just as easily, however, be re-written as a piece on the universal need for hope, love, compassion, and integration, flipped backward, and re-titled “When Your Therapist is God.” As DZ noted before he left for the conference, “I love T.M. Luhrmann and this is yet another irenic and sympathetic piece from her, though it is funny and/or sad that the NY times is now regularly employing her, a trained cognitive anthropologist, to explain Christians to them.”

7. Lastly, in movies and TV, reviews for Oblivion have been fairly warm leading up to its opening weekend. The trailer for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire dropped this week, making November seem that much farther away. The real story of the week, however, it Patton Oswalt’s Emmy-deserving Star Wars VII filibuster from Parks and Rec. Well worth the almost 9 minutes of sci-fi improv.

As always with conference weekends, it might be a few days before the blog returns to normal posting schedule. Thanks in advance for your patience and support!