About John Zahl

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma...


Author Archive

    Grace in Sports (and Practice): Jacob Jarvis and Ohio St. Football

    In preparing a new series we’re offering at my church, I was reminded of this post from a few years ago about Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer. The man experienced a breakdown following his team’s loss to Alabama in 2009, enough to warrant him stepping away from coaching for a year. One recent interview indicated that indeed things have been going much better for him, personally, since coming back to coach at OSU. That he managed to win another National Championship on the other side of such a wake-up call, strikes me as fantastic news. Much better, at least, than hearing it was simply the product of a return to (old) form. His daughter even reports that they now speak on the phone “five times a day.” Which is to say, the support and connection to his family is apparently stronger than ever, and his work has not suffered for it. But best of all was discovering the video below, which displays just how much Urban’s new set of priorities have trickled over into the lives of his players and, especially, Jacob Jarvis and his younger brother. As Jacob wheels onto the field, holding hands with the players on the team, I couldn’t help but think: “Now that’s imputation, which is love.”

    JAZ Picks: “Love Is The Message” – Dan Greer

    Cosmic-Gospel-Prog, Gospel-Funk, & Gospel-Boogie

    As promised, here are tracks from the devotions at the Mockingbird NYC Conference…

    1. “Let us affirm our faith with the (cosmic) Nicene Creed.” Eela Craig, 1978 #AustrianCosmicProg 

    2. “Holy Spirit, don’t leave me for a minute.” Limousine, 1976 #SwedishGospelFunk

    3. “Won’t you serve Him?” Cyril Walker, 1983 #GospelBoogie

    BONUS TRACK: “Holy Ghost” by The Barkays

    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt 32)


    The Secret Santa-Sower and the Heroin Addict

    The Secret Santa-Sower and the Heroin Addict

    I lead a Thursday morning Bible study. Recently, we have been working our way through the parables (often using the backdrop of Robert Capon’s amazing Kingdom, Grace, Judgment), and this morning, it was time for The Parable of the Sower. You can imagine how happy I was when fellow Mbirder, Ethan Magness posted this clip on Facebook last night, understating, “it’s a nice portrait of imputation.”

    The Secret Santa is a perfect analogy for the Sower, who scatters seed willy-nilly across all types of ground. As a group this morning, we were struck by just how strange it is that the…

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    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt. 29)

    jesus and monkey alien

    “…He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Col 1:18)

    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt. 28)














    “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will refresh you.” (Mt 11:28)

    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt. 27)














    “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt. 26)
















    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt. 25)

    Epcot 21st Century begins 1982














    We live in between the “already” and the “not yet”…

    The Italo Gospel Is Foolishness (But to Us…It Is the Power of God)

    The Italo Gospel Is Foolishness (But to Us…It Is the Power of God)

    Have you ever heard of Italo? The name refers to a genre of music that was made primarily in Italy (though not exclusively), and is basically a catch-all term for the pop music of 1980s Italy. What could be more intriguing?

    Like any genre of music, Italo carries with it degrees of sophistication, polish, and genuine artistry. A lot of Italo was made by youngsters in make-shift home studios. But some of it was created in the big flashy studios of Rome and Bologna. There are a few cross-over Italo hits that made it to the radio in the States too….

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    All Night Fights and the Sound of Mercy

    All Night Fights and the Sound of Mercy

    A beautiful passage about mercy and marital strife from the first chapter of Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic:

    I remember a morning about 15 years ago. It was a particularly bad morning, after a particularly bad night. We had been caught in one of those cyclical rows that reignite every time you think they come to an exhausted close, because the thing that’s wrong won’t be left alone, won’t stay out of sight if you try to turn away from it. Over and over, between midnight and six, when we finally gave up and got up, we’d helplessly looped from tears, and the…

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