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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
    From the Archives: Sneezing at the Cult of Productivity (over Sushi)

    From the Archives: Sneezing at the Cult of Productivity (over Sushi)

    The New Yorker made me laugh out loud the other day with their poking fun at the ever-escalating ‘cult of productivity’ in this country. In their Daily Shouts column, “3 under 3”, Marc Philippe Eskenazi introduced us to “the innovators and disruptors of 2014, all under the age of three years old, all impatient to change the world.” It’s really funny. For example, their top “pick” is two and a half year old Cheryl Kloberman, who is apparently making major strides as an Energy Conservationist:

    What does it take to power an entire household with a flick of a switch? This…

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    Another Week Ends: Food, Drink, Sermons, Apologies, Snackadiums, Haters, Finders and Keepers

    Another Week Ends: Food, Drink, Sermons, Apologies, Snackadiums, Haters, Finders and Keepers

    Here in the office we’re drowning in Food & Drink! The issue, that is, which arrived today and is already out the door to subscribers. To quote Seinfeld’s Poppy, it turned out “more succulent than even we hadda hoped”! Click here to check out the Table of Contents and whatnot. #humbled

    Why not kick things off then with a couple of food-related items from the world of social science? First, The Telegraph reported on a new study out of UPenn on the effects of fat shaming. Surprise surprise, it tends to have the opposite effect than what’s intended:

    Professor Rebecca Pearl, of…

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    From The Onion: Depressed Groundhog Sees Shadow Of Rodent He Once Was

    A day late but nonetheless a classic:

    PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA—According to sources, clinically depressed groundhog and weather prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil awoke from his slumber this early morning, peered directly into his soul, and saw but a mere pathetic shadow of the rodent he once was. “My God, is this who I am now? Is this what I’ve become?” the melancholy animal told reporters, staring hopelessly out onto the pale morning light outside his pen. “There was a time when my world was spring eternal, bright and without gloom. But that was a lifetime ago, I’m afraid.” The downcast rodent then sighed, lifted himself from his urine-soaked confines, and mustered the strength to perform his “little song and dance” for excited locals.

    Someone Left the February Playlist Out in the Rain

    A clutch of tunes this month from the original “rock n roll Christian”, Jimmy Webb, to pluck and/or sever our heartstrings in time for Valentines:

    Three Minutes of Pixar Easter Eggs

    Because we could all use a mental health break this AM:

    p.s. Remember when we released “The Gospel According to Pixar”? Me neither…

    (The Tide Decides) When The Hill and Wood Goes

    (The Tide Decides) When The Hill and Wood Goes

    If the cover of The Hill and Wood’s brilliant new record, When You Go, looks familiar, that’s because lead singer/songwriter Sam Bush and I share not only a long friendship but an affection for the work of Australian artist Jeremy Geddes. Sam somehow got permission for Geddes’s “Ascent”, part of his series of astronaut-slash-deepseadiver-floating-in-space paintings. No dove in this one, you’ll note. Instead, tentacles of fresh, slightly tangled plant-life are breaking through the voyager’s vacuum-sealed armor as he/she/it rises into the light. That’s no coincidence either.

    The way Sam tells it, this record wasn’t supposed to happen. After a couple of…

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    Hope, Realism, and the Protestant Face of Anglicanism

    Hope, Realism, and the Protestant Face of Anglicanism

    Back in 1998, my father wrote an unfashionable yet characteristically compelling little volume entitled The Protestant Face of Anglicanism. With the big anniversary finally here, it seemed like an ideal time to remind people of its existence (and merit)! Coincidentally, the book shares the title of PZ’s latest project, a tumblr devoted to, well, you guessed it. He’s provided us with a personal introduction to the project below, but first, a couple of zinging paragraphs from the final chapter of the book in question:

    The Reformers saw the message of justification as a word of comfort, first and primarily, to the troubled conscience. The conscience, unable…

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    From The New Yorker


    The Surprising, Unsought Gift of Sylvia

    Can’t believe we’ve never posted a quote from Anne Long’s classic (and now sadly out of print) treatise on Listening, much of which was inspired/informed by the work of her longtime mentor and teacher, the hallowed Dr. Frank Lake. The book is a must, not just for those involved in ministry, but for anyone hoping to traverse an increasingly divided world. Here’s an excerpt from Section 2:

    41m7cmrifql-_sx314_bo1204203200_Looking back, we may well recall individuals who have meant something to us at particular, sometimes crucial, points on our life journey. For me, it was Sylvia Lake, wife of the well-known Dr. Frank, yet with an experience and contribution very much her own. I first met her when training as a Clinical Theology tutor. There was an honesty, humanity, wisdom and wholeness about her which were, for many of us, a ‘fleshing out’ of integrity. She was ‘fully human, fully alive’, in touch with both joy and pain. And, as I discovered  in the times when she listened to me, there was a quality of loving in her that was resilient, straight and unsentimental. Gordon Allport, the Harvard psychologist, said that love as described in 1 John 4 is ‘incomparably the greatest psychotherapeutic agent — something that professional psychiatry cannot of itself create, focus nor release’.

    This was so with Sylvia. Certainly it was more than a collection of human qualities that attracted me, rather a uniting of them into what felt both personal and beyond personality. She was at home in her humanity yet at the same time pointing beyond herself. At various points when I have been depressed I have turned to Sylvia and been helped, not only by her good listening skills but by something deeper–the presence of grace and God in her. I can think of others who, in similar ways, have been given to me at various, often critical, points in my life. They may or may not have been trained in counseling skills, which has helped me to see that, [in the words of Alastair Campbell] “In the last analysis there is no cleverness or accomplishment in pastoral care. It is no more (and no less) than sharing with another in the experience of grace, a surprising, unsought gift.” (pg 44-45)

    Time Precious Time: On Unread Emails and Productivity Panics

    Time Precious Time: On Unread Emails and Productivity Panics

    Our phones were piled on top of each other on the table near the charger. Not just mine and my wife’s but those of the four friends who had dropped by for dinner. People had been showing each other photos earlier in the evening and someone had suggested we leave our devices in the kitchen while we ate. How disciplined of us!

    When it was time to go, the first guest grabbed the one on top, clicked it on and… nearly jumped out of her skin. The little number next to the email icon read “2448”. Needless to say, it was…

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    In the Church of All the Answers – Nina Forsythe

    We’ve had numerous requests to post this poem on the site, since it first appeared in the Church Issue of The Mockingbird. You can see why:



    The Deepest Search in (Thomas Wolfe’s) Life

    twolfeA quick excerpt from Thomas Wolfe’s The Story of a Novel, his book-length meditation on the writing process, published in 1936, ht LM:

    “From the beginning—and this was one fact that in all my times of hopelessness returned to fortify my faith in my conviction—the idea, the central legend that I wished my book to express has not changed. And this central idea was this: the deepest search in life, it seemed to me, the thing that in one way or another was central to all living was man’s search to find a father, not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost father of his youth, but the image of a strength and wisdom external to his need and superior to his hunger, to which the belief and power of his own life could be united.” (Pg 39).