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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 three sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church (


Author Archive

    Happy Reformation Day! Special Podcast and Round-Up

    When I realized the law was one thing, and the gospel another, I broke through and was free. – M. Luther

    21. Believe it or not, this week marks not only 499 years since the Protestant Reformation kicked off, but one year since The Mockingcast did. Coincidence?! You decide… In commemoration of both anniversaries (but mainly the former one), we put together a special episode. Scott, Sarah and myself open the festivities before handing the mic to Duo Dickinson and Paul Zahl for an extended reflection on the meaning of the day. Click here to listen.

    2. Over at 1517 Project, our friend Scott Keith put together a super accessible guide to “Just What Are the Five Solas of The Reformation”. A great refresher for today.

    3. Be sure to take a gander at Nick Lannon’s wonderful “Merry Halloween” post if you haven’t recently. A seasonal favorite for sure. Click here to peruse our Martin Luther archive, too.

    4. On the grace-in-practice front, pretty amazing to read about Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden to celebrate the 500th Anniversary.

    5. Mark your calendars for October 19-21, which is when the Here We Still Stand: A Reformation Conference takes place in San Diego. I’ll be there, and hope you will be too.

    6. Don’t forget the Luther Insult Generator.

    More as the day progresses.

    P.S. Huge thank you to all those who helped make this past weekend’s conference in Oklahoma City such a beautiful time! Recordings will be available soon.

    How to Snub Christ (According to Martin Luther)

    As the countdown to Reformation Day (10/31) continues, a quick word from the Great Reformer’s commentary on Galatians:

    Men fast, pray, watch, suffer. They intend to appease the wrath of God and to deserve God’s grace by their exertions. But there is no glory in it for God, because by their exertions these workers pronounce God an unmerciful slave driver, an unfaithful and angry Judge. They despise God, make a liar out of Him, snub Christ and all His benefits; in short they pull God from His throne and perch themselves on it.

    This Friday and Saturday in Oklahoma City!

    aprcover8Very flattered to be interviewed by Carla Hinton of The Oklahoman about the *free* conference we’re hosting in Oklahoma City this coming Friday and Saturday (10/28-29).

    Click here to read the article, which I think does a nice job of explaining what we’re trying to do. If you’ve got friends in the area who might be interested in dropping by, definitely forward it their way.

    There’s still/always room for last-minute walk-ins, but please, if you are planning to eat with us on Friday evening, we ask that you register over at ASAP.

    P.S. The first one hundred people through the door will receive a complimentary copy of the mental health issue of The Mockingbird!

    P.P.S. Deepest thanks to The Anglican Foundation and All Souls Episcopal Church for their supreme generosity in making it possible to keep the registration fees at zero.

    From the Archives: A Referendum on Midlife Friendships

    From the Archives: A Referendum on Midlife Friendships

    “We haven’t seen them in a while,” I hear myself observing every few weeks, usually in reference to friends with whom my wife and I have lost touch.

    Most of the time, the estrangement is logistical, schedules being what they are in a house with two working parents and two napping toddlers. But guilt nevertheless sets in and triggers defensiveness. Soon platitudes like “it takes two to tango” or “life happens” are being trotted out and before long, you’re castigating yourself or the other person(s), possibly deconstructing society as a whole, and any chance of reconnection has been essentially nullified.

    Growing up,…

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    Monday Morning Mental Health Break (with Danny MacAskill and Bobby D)

    Barely noon and day already made. Plus, The Divine Comedy…!

    P.S. You can listen to the obligatory Dylan sermon below, delivered yesterday at Christ Church Charlottesville. Major ht to BJ.

    Speaking of which, if you’re not signed up for our weekly sermon podcast, The Mockingpulpit, what are you waiting for?

    From the Archives(ish): Like Dylan in the 80s

    From the Archives(ish): Like Dylan in the 80s

    In honor of this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature–couldn’t resist expanding/doubling the length:

    Call me a heretic, but I consider Bob Dylan to be something of a prophet. The man not only sees the world with astounding clarity and verticality, he shares that vision with others in ways that are as luminous as they often are perplexing. And he’s done so without compromise or deference to fashion. Well, at least, minimal deference to fashion (exhibit A, right). Put it down to having been transfigured.

    Nowhere is this more evident than in his work from the 1980s, a period unfairly…

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    The Overachiever’s Ultimate Trophy

    The Overachiever’s Ultimate Trophy

    It may not come as a surprise to learn that Lesson 39 in Randy Paterson’s wonderful How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use is “Pursue Happiness Relentlessly”. According to Paterson, there’s no more reliable way to ensure your future discontent than by enshrining happiness as the purpose of life.

    Actually, there’s one more reliable way to do so, and that’s to make happiness not simply a goal but an expectation. Which is what we do when we (mis)interpret Mr. Jefferson’s classic line about “the pursuit of happiness” as a guarantee rather than a right.

    That’s a brief intro to one…

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    Three from Henry Miller on a Wednesday Afternoon

    All of which come from the controversial author’s chapter on Rider Haggard in The Books in My Life, which was published 1951.

    the-books-in-my-life“The language and behavior of Jesus do not conform to sense until one has passed through sorrow and travail, until one has become desperate, lost, utterly forsaken and abandoned.”

    “Of what stupendous, unimaginable detours are our lives composed.”

    “It is our great fortune sometimes to misinterpret our destiny when it is revealed to us. We often accomplish our ends despite ourselves. We try to avoid the swamps and jungles, we seek frantically to escape the wilderness or the desert (one and the same), we attach ourselves to leaders, we worship the gods instead of the One and Only, we lose ourselves in the labyrinth, we fly to distant shores and speak with other tongues, adopt other customs, manners, conventions but ever and always are we driven towards our true end, concealed from us till the last moment.”

    As always, we can’t post something from Henry Miller without referencing the trouble one of his books once got Jerry in:

    The Onion Reports: 50% Of Heaven’s Population Just Assholes Who Begged For Forgiveness At Last Second

    Just when I thought they had run out of gas… Click here to read the whole thing:

    landscape-1463345474-screen-shot-2016-05-15-at-214845WASHINGTON—According to an alarming new report published Monday, roughly half the population of Heaven is composed of total assholes who begged for God’s forgiveness at the last moment before dying. “Our data show that 50 percent of the inhabitants of the Heavenly Kingdom were total… sleazebags on Earth who waited until their very final breath to plead with God for mercy,” said report co-author Janet Ryder, adding that a survey of celestial records confirmed that one of every two residents of the eternal paradise willfully lived sinful existences and shamelessly committed immoral acts before seeking clemency in the closing seconds of their lives. “What we found particularly interesting is that those who truly committed themselves to God by leading lives of virtue and doing good works are actually outnumbered by hate-filled scoundrels, petty criminals, and murderers who humbled themselves before the Lord and turned from their wicked ways at the last possible moment to con their way into Heaven.”

    October Playlist

    Another Week Ends: Amish Forgiveness, Psalm 88, Exhaustion Badges, (A)Political Lewis, Taylor Love, and Suburban Superman

    Another Week Ends: Amish Forgiveness, Psalm 88, Exhaustion Badges, (A)Political Lewis, Taylor Love, and Suburban Superman

    Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with theologian Jeffrey Pugh about his new book, Theology After You’ve Been Left Behind.

    1. First of all, this (times a billion trillion):

    2. Second, bravo to Charlotte Donlon for her column in The Washington Post this week about what happens when churches ignore mental illness–and not just because it jives so profoundly with the emphasis of the new issue of The Mockingbird. After recounting a painful yet all-too-familiar episode of pastoral ineptness vis-a-vis her own bipolar disorder, she ruminates on the danger of equating sin and…

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    From The New Yorker