David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate currently reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their two sons, Charlie and Cabell, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church.
NEW YORK—Saying that sometimes she just needs a little break from her daily regimen, law-abiding citizen Karen Garver told reporters Tuesday that she keeps herself on track with a weekly cheat day in which she allows herself to commit any crime she wants. “I’m pretty strict Sunday through Friday, but come Saturday I tell myself it’s okay to bend the rules a little and improperly dispose of hazardous substances or rob a liquor store,” said Garver, explaining that by setting aside one day a week during which she can evade tax regulations, cause thousands of dollars in property damage, or assault a stranger, she’s able to resist temptation the rest of the week. “Being able to pause from living within the law now and then definitely helps keep me on the right path. Sometimes I’ll make a big day out of it with my girlfriends and we’ll all go out and set a forest fire, and then lead police on a high-speed chase through a crowded residential neighborhood.”… Read the rest here.
An extremely heartfelt thank you to all who helped put on the launch party for A Mess of Help this past Saturday at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, especially Dusty Brown, Melina Smith, and William Brafford. It was a blast, from start to finish. If you weren’t able to make it (and/or are currently trapped by snow), the audio is available! You can listen below in fact:
I was also gratified to see a couple of reviews crop up on outlets that I greatly respect. Perhaps it’s gauche for the author to publicly thank his critics, but who cares–it’s a rare thing to feel so deeply understood by anyone, let alone people you admire. First, there was John J Thompson’s flattering and supremely articulate write-up for ThinkChristian. The opening remark mirrors how I felt after reading his review:
“I would say that books like David Zahl’s A Mess of Help make me feel less alone in the world, if there were any other books like David Zahl’s A Mess Of Help to be found. The fact is, there are not… With great humor, candor and spiritual insight – and an insanely passionate musical vocabulary – Zahl crafts rant after rant that would be equally at home in the film High Fidelity as in a Bible study. It’s like he’s having a long, funny, interesting and rambling conversation with all of the voices in his head. That some of those voices seem also to be the ones in my head is overwhelmingly comforting.”
That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to keep writing. Prost, Herr Thompson! Second, Curator Magazine published a full-length treatment by William Brafford, who conducted the interview on Saturday. I always knew I liked him…! There are any number of paragraphs I could excerpt. Here’s one:
“Humor and passion practically drip from the pages of A Mess of Help. Love of paradox is said to be Lutheran trait. You’ll find it here, especially in an amazing essay that rediscovers the bizarre Elvis movie Change of Habit in all its kitschy glory. Dave writes, “Elvis Presley was not ridiculous, then amazing. He was both at the same time.” Dave’s collection of bizarre Elvis anecdotes is rivaled only by his collection of bizarre Brian Wilson anecdotes, like the one where Wilson tells a reporter something amazing and profound about God’s love as the power behind the universe, and then totters off into the kitchen to squirt Reddi-Whip into his mouth.”
Thanks again to everyone who came, don’t forget to stay tuned to the Olmsted page for future events, and please, for the love of God, keep on chooglin!
From the fascinating little volume Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, in which a wide array of American writers offer decidedly non-academic, gut-level interpretations of NT passages. It was edited by Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm, Right Livelihoods, and most recently my personal fave, On Celestial Music) and Darcy Steinke (Jesus Saves, Suicide Blonde, Easter Everywhere), and published in 1997. This passage from Rick’s introduction stuck out:
My own interpretation of the parable of the hidden treasure (Mark 13:44) is, somewhat ironically, rigidly allegorical…: the treasure at the heart of this story is the message of the kingdom itself, and the fact of grace offered therein — grace in spite of the way you have lived your life, grace in spite of your crimes or your peccadilloes, grace in spite of your religion, grace in spite of mean birth of lofty one, grace in spite of your sexuality or the color of your skin or your creed or anything else, grace simply because grace is what God gives. That’s the message buried in the New Testament, as treasure is buried in a field, the message often overpowered by the fire and brimstone of evangelists going all the way back to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, through two long millenia of Swaggarts and Robertsons. The Kingdom of Heaven, as opposed to the kingdom of PACs, multinationals, gun lobbyists, tax-exempt charitable organizations, et al., is a place of grace, and this is born out, moreover by the fact that the protagonist of the parable of the hidden treasure is a reprobate. The treasure, after all, is in somebody else’s field when he finds it. The treasure belongs to somebody else. So what kind of guy is this, who has hidden the veritable kingdom of heaven so that he can come back later and swipe it?
He’s like all of us… This hit-and-run, morally dubious miscreant is myself.
I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .
I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper….
When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .
I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .
I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .
I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .
I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .
I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .
I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .
I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .
I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .
Herr Tchividjian’s second talk from Houston, in which he comes clean about the Christian life in no uncertain terms:
Speaking of our man Tullian, just found out that he’ll be with us in NYC in April to lead an on-stage conversation with his good friend Nadia Bolz Weber (on Saturday morning). Should be incredible. And don’t forget: the LIBERATE conference is only a month away!
Published last month over at Commonweal.
Ninety percent of what’s wrong with you
could be cured with a hot bath,
says God from the bowels of the subway.
but we want magic, to win
the lottery we never bought a ticket for.
(Tenderly, the monks chant, embrace
the suffering.) The voice of God does not pander,
offers no five year plan, no long-term
solution, nary an edict. It is small & fond & local.
Don’t look for your initials in the geese
honking overhead or to see thru the glass even
darkly. It says the most obvious crap—
put down that gun, you need a sandwich.
NEW YORK–In an alarming shift of mindset that is said to have occurred so gradually that he failed to notice it at first, Westport Data Systems senior manager and career-driven man Matthew Bowers expressed concern Friday that his identity was no longer exclusively tied to his job. “I always saw myself as a high-performance individual who was focused solely on working my way up to VP, but lately I’ve been worried that I may be developing aspects of my personality that have nothing to do with climbing the corporate ladder,” said Bowers, 42, noting that he has recently observed in himself an “unhealthy” level of preoccupation with personal interests, activities, and relationships that can in no way give him a leg up professionally. “Just the other day, I was telling my boss about my son’s soccer game—at work, mind you—and he responded by calling me ‘a real family man.’ My boss called me that. It was a huge wake-up call.”…
Another Week Ends: Technologic Prophecies, Bad Buzzwords, Kindness Diets, Hooker Wisdom, Herzog Humor, Andrae Crouch, and The Only Animal
1. If only I’d held off on writing about sushi and productivity a couple days, I could’ve leaned on Leon Wieseltier’s masterful column for The New York Times Book Review, “Among the Disrupted.” It stands out amongst the sobering (translation: grim) crop of forecasts that have appeared over the first week of the year. I almost wish I didn’t agree with so much of what he writes, but alas, it’s hard to object when your arms have been nailed to the wall…! The erstwhile New Republic editor’s prognostications cover a remarkable amount of ground, from intellectual and journalistic history to…