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Mockingbird is devoted to connecting the Christian message with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.


Author Archive
    Wonder Woman and the Side Effects of Losing Innocence

    Wonder Woman and the Side Effects of Losing Innocence

    This review of the new Wonder Woman comes to us from Caleb Ackley. 

    Typically when I hear the words ‘summer’ and ‘blockbuster’ uttered in the same sentence, a shudder runs down my spine. Forehead wet with anxiety-induced sweat, I try with every ounce of strength I possess to keep from imagining the latest franchise subjected to the dreaded ‘reboot’ or, worse still, the newest installment in an ever-widening and ever more deafening Transformers universe. This summer, however, thanks to a certain female superhero, change was in the air, and when that fateful weekend in June finally came, I ran to the…

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    A Long Strange Trip through Death to Life

    A Long Strange Trip through Death to Life

    This was written by Deadhead, Luke Roland. 

    The highly anticipated documentary on The Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip, is now on Amazon Prime.  I have previously written about the effect that the music of The Grateful Dead has had on me for Mockingbird, and in light of the documentary I thought it would be a great time to revisit them in a Mockingbirdian context.  

    The Grateful Dead have had a positive influence on American culture, and continue to do so. They could be the most important American band in our history. I realize that is a tall statement, but think about…

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    Architect: Fellow and Failing ~ Duo Dickinson

    Another one from the conference! This talk certainly won the “shock factor” award. From the one and only Duo Dickinson.

    Architect: Fellow and Failing ~ Duo Dickinson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Jesus Christ the Pelican Mother

    Here at Mbird HQ, sometimes you get an advance copy of a book from a publisher and you’re not exactly thrilled about opening it. This one, though, is an exception. It is a prayer book from the days of Shakespeare, written by layman (and playwright) Thomas Dekker. The book is divided into four parts, each part a “bird,” or form of prayer, flying from Noah’s Ark. The notion of the Ark as the human body/experience is a powerful one. This is Dekker’s introduction to his third bird, The Pelican. You can pre-order the book here.

    The third bird that I call out of Noah’s ark is the Pelican. The nature of the Pelican is to peck her own bosom and with the drops of her blood to feed her young ones. Christ, the Son of God, is the Pelican whose blood was shed to feed us. The physician made a medicine of his own body to cure us. Look upon him well, and behold his wounds bleeding, his head bowed down (as if to kiss us), his very sides opened (as if to show how his heart loved us), his arms stretched out to their length (as if to embrace us). And judge by all these if Christ be not our truest Pelican.

    He who was King of Heaven and Earth suffered his brow to wear a crown of thorns. He received wounds that are our health. He tasted the bitterness of death that is our salvation—what Pelican can do more for her young ones?

    Our souls were spotted: Sin had pawned them, sin had lost them, sin had made them foul. All the medicine in the world could not purge our corruption, all the fountains in the world could not wash our spots, all the gold and silver on earth could not redeem our forfeitures, all the kings under heaven could not pay our ransoms. Nothing could free us from captivity but to make Christ a prisoner. Nothing could give us life but the heavenly Pelican’s death.

    From Matt Johnson’s Getting Jesus Wrong

    Another great find from our friend Luke Mackinnon.

    Getting Jesus Wrong, written by Matt Johnson, is an insightful invitation to give up spiritual vitamins and checklist Christianity. The freelance writer and editor gives a breath of fresh air to the worn out soul trying to follow caricatures of Jesus that are far from the Jesus we read about in the Bible. Johnson assures us that life does not become better by swallowing religious pills or crossing things off inventories, but becomes better by God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice. This comes from the chapter titled “The Problem,” and it unearths our tendency to shove Jesus into the mold we want him to be instead of grasping his true essence and character on the cross.

    Everyone has an image of Jesus they prefer, a Jesus who values what they value: Tough-guy Jesus, Wise Sage Jesus, Bearded, Tattooed, Skinny Jeans Jesus, Khakis and Polo Shirt Jesus, Suit and Tie Conservative Jesus, or Social Revolutionary Jesus. On a deeper level, our personal images of Jesus reveal that we think the Christian faith is about furthering our hopes and dreams, and that Jesus is the primary catalyst for getting us where we want to be in life. This is another way of saying, in the words of Gerhard Forde, we all are ‘inverted theologians of glory.’ When we operate within the glory-story paradigm, it reveals we’re in love with all the attractiveness of power, influence, success, or possessions, and we call it being ‘blessed.’ We’re encouraged by all the cliché slogans ‘reach for the stars’ and ‘don’t give up on your dreams,’ but then like a flaky boyfriend or girlfriend, when we don’t ‘feel the chemistry’ anymore, when real life really falls apart, suddenly our relationship with Jesus is on shaky ground…

    God works in ways that are the opposite of our lofty imaginings. If we take the story of Jesus at bare-bones face value, he wasn’t a great success. God sent Jesus into the world to be born in a barn. He was born into scandal (imagine the naysayers: ‘Yeah, right, Mary conceived of the “Holy Spirit”’), he worked a regular job, he didn’t study under a famous Rabbi, he claimed he was God, many people thought he was crazy or demon possessed, and he was executed like a criminal. In our day and age where only good things in life constitute being blessed, it would seem that Jesus was anything but.

    It’s only by faith that we can grasp the God reveals his character on the cross. On the cross, God subverted everything we intuitively understand about power. ‘Of all the places to search for God, the last place most people would think to look is the gallows.’ Instead of demanding power for himself and presenting himself as a God who ‘… could knock heads and straighten people out when they got out of line…,’ God, in Christ, laid down his power and died for us.

    “O Holy Night” by Gerry LaFemina

    The following is a new poem by Gerry LaFemina; he was kind enough to let us post it here. His most recent collection, Little Heretic, is available now; look for his forthcoming collection, The Story of Ash, in early 2018.

    O Holy Night

    The tiny novitiates of candlelight flicker but remain
    devout despite the bedroom’s draft,

    the movement of flame a kind of flirtation,
    the wicks seeming to wink &

    beckon. Tonight was supposed to be
    romantic in that way certain movies depict—

    how easy to forget the body can be
    sacred in its carnal wants. Touch, too. I’ve never been good

    at fidelity, so often I’ve been tempted
    by my name called in the hushed & lonely dark.

    "Please Come Save Me": An Interview with Evan Thomas Way

    “Please Come Save Me”: An Interview with Evan Thomas Way

    This one comes to us from Daniel Melvill Jones.

    The Parson Red Heads are a beloved West Coast indie band with a cult following and consistent critical acclaim. They are known for their harmony-rich psychedelic sound, rooted in the American folk and rock traditions. Evan Thomas Way, with his wife Brett, have led the band over the past decade, but on a day-to-day basis Evan serves as the worship pastor of Portland’s Door of Hope church. Door of Hope is remarkable for the many celebrated creatives that have been part of its community, including Josh Garrels, Liz Vice, Wesley Randolph Eader, and…

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    Working For Dad

    Working For Dad

    Just in time for Father’s Day, this one was written by Julian Brooks.

    My first summer home from Bible College left me with four months to get to work and save some money for the year’s upcoming tuition. Thankfully I had a job lined up and a place to stay that would allow me to save some money. Even so, I was still going to come up short on what was needed to cover the cost for another year of school.

    My dad told me before the summer began that whether I worked or took time off to spend with family and…

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    Another Decade Ends – David Zahl

    Here it was, the capstone of our 10th Anniversary weekend, the moment when Mockingbird’s not-quite-fearless leader actually tried to describe (and he did so somewhat successfully) what it is Mockingbird is… or at least showed us what it’s tried to do these ten years. A great starting place for any new reader (or veteran one!) who’s still wondering what this is all about…

    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Five Verse Four

    This morning’s devotion was written by Mary Zahl. 

    “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
    (Matthew 5:4, ASV)

    Again and again, I have been struck by Christians using the language of faith to ward off the presence of pain. It’s understandable—pain is painful. All of us want to avoid it as much as possible, and when we can’t avoid it, we try what we can to minimize its side effects. As Christians, we get nervous admitting the depth of our pain, because what if it is a sign of a lack of trust in the goodness of God, a lack of faith?

    I was listening to a friend tell me about her life in recent months. She had moved across the country after living happily in the South for many years. As I listened to her, it was clear to me that she was on the verge of tears from the change, but every time the tears came to the surface, she would say, “but I know I have so much to be thankful for, and I know God loves me, and that is all that matters.” No tears allowed.

    I don’t believe in telling people what to do, but if I did, I would have said to my sad, exhausted friend, “What you need is a good cry. You have lost so much. Of course, there are also good things about your move, but you will not be able to see those clearly until you mourn the losses. Cry until you cannot cry any more. And, for God’s sake, don’t think your tears are a sign of faithlessness or ingratitude. Did not Jesus himself say, ‘Blessed are they that mourn?’”

    When pain is denied or kept at bay, the sufferer misses out on the opportunity that comes with facing pain honestly, which is feeling the weight and powerlessness of it. Counterintuitively, the experience of going into the pain generally brings out compassion, peace, and even joy on the other side.

    Like the day we call Good Friday, our deaths (no matter how small) can be transformed—resurrected—such that we might even call them good. Conversely, when we hold onto words of “Christian hope” almost as if they were magic, we miss out on the joy and hope that come when the resurrection power is given rather than grasped.

    Stolen Righteousness in a Conditional World

    This amazing find came by way of our friend Luke Mackinnon.

    John Newton’s Falling into Grace is a profound paperback that packs a punch. The Episcopal priest expands upon the beauty and mystery of God’s grace, which “permeates our life right down to the smallest detail.” The act of letting go and allowing God’s life to fully take over our own feels a lot like falling, and our safety net is grace. This passage, in the chapter “Accepting Acceptance,” unpacks the narrative of Jacob stealing his brother’s birthright from their blind father Isaac and our difficulty in understanding grace as it is given to us despite our sinful nature.

    Jacob steals a blessing by pretending to be someone he’s not. We are no different than Jacob. Our need for acceptance is so strong that we will do anything we need to do to feel accepted and blessed. This is because the world we live in doesn’t issue unconditional blessings. This is a problem because we all have a deep and divine need to feel accepted and blessed. Our world says that to be blessed we need to perform, look good, stay young, and be funny, clever, interesting, or rich. The world’s blessings is only awarded to people that earn it. The world doesn’t just dole out acceptance for free, and the default instinct of the human heart is to project this anti-grace nonsense onto God… We forget that grace doesn’t use sticks and carrots, and that it expects nothing from us at all. Grace just dies for our life.

    The Raising of the Crucified One ~ Fleming Rutledge

    The speaker from the talk below received a standing ovation at our 10th Anniversary conference in NYC. Her book, The Crucifixion, has gone as viral as a 700-page theological magnum opus can. She’s Fleming Rutledge, speaking this time about the resurrection.

    The Raising of the Crucified One ~ Fleming Rutledge from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    PS. Expect an excellent interview with Fleming in the upcoming Love & Death Issue of The Mockingbird. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here!