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About David Zahl

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their two sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church.


Author Archive

    From The New Yorker


    Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

    Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

    Perhaps you’ve seen Anne Lamott’s Facebook post that went viral over the weekend, in which she lists “every single thing she knows” on the eve of her 61st birthday (which turns out to be fifteen things)? If not, do yourself a favor. Filled with characteristic wit and wisdom, not to mention memorable turns of phrase, it’s a crash course in effective communication, especially in regards to Christianity. In fact, it’s enough to make a person wonder: why is it that so many of the most compelling religious voices these days belong to women in recovery? It’s almost uncanny. Whatever the…

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    When the Time’s Toxins – Christian Wiman

    From Orion Magazine’s celebration of poetry month

    tree-of-life52When the time’s toxins
    have seeped into every cell

    and like a salted plot
    from which all rain, all green, are gone

    I and life are leached
    of meaning

    somehow a seed
    of belief

    sprouts the instant
    I acknowledge it:

    little weedy hardy would-be

    tugged upward
    by light

    while deep within
    roots like talons

    are taking hold again
    of this our only earth.

    Things Happen (to Dawes)

    Yesterday NPR debuted the new video by Dawes, for “Things Happen”, the terrific first single from their upcoming album, All Your Favorite Bands (out June 2). Who plays the central troubadour in the Sgt Pepper suit? You may remember him from such projects as The Mockingbird Devotional, and this post. Nate Michaux is my hero:

    Another Holy Week Ends: Tinder Fixes, Going Clear, Oklahoma Grace, Online Shaming, Sufjan, and Preschool for Adults

    Another Holy Week Ends: Tinder Fixes, Going Clear, Oklahoma Grace, Online Shaming, Sufjan, and Preschool for Adults

    1. Wow. The award for Best Unintentional Good Friday Article goes to novelist Diana Spechler, writing in The Times. It’s her latest entry in a series of short essays documenting the process of tapering off her anti-depressants, “Going Off”. This one has to do with her relationship to the popular dating app Tinder, appropriately titled “Tinder While I Taper”. She not only captures the Romans 7/bondage of the will aspect with harrowing vividness, she does a remarkable job of  exposing the underside of a culture built on bootstrapping and the veneration of self-sufficiency, namely, the shame of self-insufficiency–the taboo of…

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    A Poem for Good Friday – Emily Dickinson (#622)

    To know just how He suffered — would be dear —
    To know if any Human eyes were near
    To whom He could entrust His wavering gaze —
    Until it settle broad — on Paradise —

    106friedTo know if He was patient — part content —
    Was Dying as He thought — or different —
    Was it a pleasant Day to die —
    And did the Sunshine face his way —

    What was His furthest mind — Of Home — or God —
    Or what the Distant say —
    At news that He ceased Human Nature
    Such a Day —

    And Wishes — Had He Any —
    Just His Sigh — Accented —
    Had been legible — to Me —
    And was He Confident until
    Ill fluttered out — in Everlasting Well —

    And if He spoke — What name was Best —
    What last
    What One broke off with
    At the Drowsiest —

    Was He afraid — or tranquil —
    Might He know
    How Conscious Consciousness — could grow —
    Till Love that was — and Love too best to be —
    Meet — and the Junction be Eternity

    You Do You, Genghis

    You Do You, Genghis

    I was a little worried when The NY Times Magazine changed its format in February and did away with “Riff”, a column we’ve mined over the years almost more than any other. Lo and behold, my concern was misfounded. What they’ve done is clever, funneling those observations into a handful of thematically-defined columns, the language-oriented “First Words” being the prime example. For the second time in as many months, writer Colson Whitehead has utilized that new umbrella to deliver a tour de force of cultural commentary. Last time he explored the appeal of the ‘loser edit’, this time he goes…

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    April Playlist

    The Donkey – G.K. Chesterton

    9780394842325When fishes flew and forests walked
    And figs grew upon thorn,
    Some moment when the moon was blood
    Then surely I was born.

    With monstrous head and sickening cry
    And ears like errant wings,
    The devil’s walking parody
    On all four-footed things.

    The tattered outlaw of the earth,
    Of ancient crooked will;
    Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
    I keep my secret still.

    Fools! For I also had my hour;
    One far fierce hour and sweet:
    There was a shout about my ears,
    And palms before my feet.

    The Danger of Rolling Suffering Into Evil (According to Gerhard Forde)

    A helpful and ever-timely distinction from pages 84-85 of On Being a Theologian of the Cross:


    “Contemporary theologians talk much about the problem of evil. Some think it is the most difficult problem for theology today and one of the most persistent causes of unbelief. … Since suffering is itself classified as evil, it is of course simply lumped together with disaster, crime, misfortune of every sort, abuse, holocaust, and all manner of notorious wrong as one and the same problem. So it is almost universally the case that theologians and philosophers include suffering without further qualification among those things they call evil. … Evil does cause suffering — but not always. Indeed, the usual complaint is that the evil don’t seem to suffer. However, the causes of suffering may not always be evil — perhaps not even most of the time. Love can cause suffering. Beauty can be the occasion for suffering. Children with their demands and impetuous cries can cause suffering. Just the toil and trouble of daily life can cause suffering, and so on. Yet these are surely not to be termed evil. The problem of suffering should not just be rolled up with the problem of evil…”

    “Identification of suffering with evil has the further result that God must be absolved from all blame. Thus, the theologian of glory adds to the perfidy of false speech by trying to assure us that God, of course, has nothing to do with suffering and evil. God is “good,” the rewarder of all our “good” works, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of merit. …Meanwhile, suffering goes on unabated. If God has nothing to do with suffering, what is he involved with? Whoever does not know God hidden in suffering, Luther asserts in his proof, does not know God at all.”

    And speaking of God hidden in suffering, today’s bonus track would have to be JAZ’s new mix, “For the Heads and the Heart”, which was selected as Dream Chimney’s current mix of the week:

    The (Beginning and) End of Scorekeeping

    Here’s my presentation at last month’s Liberate Conference, which is much indebted to Paul Walker’s talk on the same subject back in 2011. Those who came to the Fall conference in Houston (or have read the new issue of The Mockingbird) may be tempted to subtract points for the overlap:

    LIBERATE 2015 | David Zahl from Coral Ridge | LIBERATE on Vimeo.

    From The Onion: Scientists Discover Eating Serves Function Other Than Easing Anxiety

    Holy lord they got me good today:

    This-Is-40-2-Paul-Rudd-cupcakesPROVIDENCE, RI—Shedding new light on the biological underpinnings behind the behavior, scientists at Brown University announced Tuesday that eating appears to serve a number of key functions besides relieving anxiety. “While a considerable portion of food is indeed ingested in order to distract an individual from feelings of panic and insecurity, our research shows that eating actually confers several benefits beyond temporarily holding despair at bay,” said Dr. Sandra Lutkin, who explained that consuming food has been found to provide vital nutrients to the human body and in many cases replenish it with energy, suggesting that its primary purpose may not be as a coping mechanism at all. “In fact, we observed dozens of subjects and discovered that only a portion of the items they ingested were intended to assuage their apprehension about their job, relationship, or body image…” Although she cautioned the findings were tentative, Lutkin posited that there might be additional methods of eating besides frantically devouring a meal directly over a trash can or sink.