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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.


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    Bridging Church and Culture: A Conference Breakout Preview

    Bridging Church and Culture: A Conference Breakout Preview

    Seven years ago, Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA renovated a small, single-car garage into a downtown art space and then guess what we named it? We named it The Garage. Since then we’ve hosted monthly art openings, potluck dinners, letter-writing days, some amateur film screenings and literally hundreds of concerts (five years ago, The Lumineers played in front of eight people on a rainy Sunday, long before they were writing songs for The Hunger Games, #neverforget). The space opens out onto a street and, during concerts, passers-by either gather at the entrance or in a park on the other…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Proverbs Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Six

    Hopelessly Devoted: Proverbs Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Six

    This morning’s devotion comes from Peter Moore. 

    Faithful are the wounds of a friend. (Proverbs 27:6, KJV)

    We, of course, expect wounds from our enemies. And the person without enemies is the person without convictions, without conscience, without passion. “Beware when all men speak well of you,” said Jesus, a man who, as we know from the Gospels, knew an enemy when he saw one.

    But it is wounds from those who are our friends that surprise us and hurt us the most. We expect our friends to be trustworthy, kind, understanding, and forgiving. When they are not, we are often undone. The…

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    A Tyler Talk on Getting It Together: A Lesson in Failure

    A Tyler Talk on Getting It Together: A Lesson in Failure

    This talk came from Keith Pozzuto, the minister for spiritual formation at Christ Church in Tyler. To listen to the other talks we posted earlier in the week, go here. 

    One of the bishops who ordained me told me the story of how he became a bishop. It is a perfect example of a work in failure: He started in England as a parish priest and found it to be very exhausting, so he found that there was a parish that was open in the country in northern Spain. Looking for a better climate and sensing a call, he moved himself and…

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    The Seventh Deadly Sin: A Conference Breakout Preview

    The Seventh Deadly Sin: A Conference Breakout Preview

    This conference preview comes from Ted Scofield. 

    Of the Seven Deadly Sins, it’s the last one on our list. Number seven, at the bottom, out of sight, out of mind. Anger, pride, gluttony, laziness, lust and envy — we’ll cop to all of those sins, but greed?

    What? Who? Me?

    Research shows that most of us agree: Greed is someone else’s problem, not mine. Wall Street fat cats are greedy, welfare freeloaders are greedy, millenials, baby boomers, short people, tall people, those people over there, anybody but me! During this breakout session at the upcoming Mockingbird conference (Friday, April 17, 10:30am), together we’ll explore how…

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    2015 Tyler Conference Recordings: Tangled Up in Grace


    A Texas-sized thank-you to everyone who helped put on our conference in Tyler last month, especially the fabulous–and ridiculously ecumenical–steering committee, led by the indefatigable Matt Magill. Huge thanks to all the sponsors as well: B3 Ministries, Bethel Bible, Christ Episcopal, Porch Culture Coffee Roasters, and True Vine Brewery, not to mention Mark and David Babikow, who once again came to our rescue on the A/V front. Vielen dank to Richard Dvorak for taking such awesome photos, too.

    As per usual, we’re making the recordings available at no charge; we only ask that those who were not able to attend this year *consider* tossing something in the hat to help cover the cost of the event. Download links are followed by an in-line player for each session. The main sessions were also videotaped, and we’ll be rolling the clips out gradually over the next few weeks.


    TALK 1.  Lay Down Your Weary Tune: Everyday Life and the Roots of Exhaustion – David Zahl

    TALK 2.  Does Jesus Like Donuts? The After-Party for the Sermon on the Mount – Aaron Zimmerman


    BREAKOUT 1.  Hiding in the Bathroom: Why Inspired Parenting Will Kill You – Sarah Condon (click here for Powerpoint)

    BREAKOUT 2What the #$%* is A Jackson Pollock: The Messy Grace of Modern Art – Randy Randall

    BREAKOUT 3.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Beer is Good, God is Great, People are Lonely – Ryan Dixon

    BREAKOUT 4.  Management, Control, and Getting It Together: A Work in Failure – Keith Pozzuto*

    *There was sadly a technological snafu and Keith’s session did not make it onto tape. He agreed to write it up for us, though, and you can read it here.

    TALK 3.  Shelter From the Storm: The Refuge of Our Merciful Friend – David Zahl


    Cold Dead Hands: The Everything and Nothing of a Clean Slate (A Conference Preview)

    This morning’s conference preview comes from Sarah Condon. Oh, and may we refer you to the (ridiculous!) menu we’re offering at the conference? Goodness.

    After an especially long days at Casa Condon, when the kids are demanding, the husband is cranky, and I am starting to treat my family like there’s a camera crew from Bravo about to capture my own personal breakthrough/breakdown, one thought often comes into my mind: Someday, I get to be dead. Gosh, that’s going to be nice. Everything will be quiet.

    shutterstock_201599033But the news of a Clean Slate rolls in and tells me I already am dead. Or, at least I am in the process of dying. I have been given a Clean Slate in Christ and in the immortal words of Mbird favorite Robert Farrar Capon:

    The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.

    I also want to talk about what we mean when we trot out the much beloved Romans 6, “Dead to sin, alive in Christ.” What do we mean by this death? What do we lose by dying? And are we really the ones who choose to give it up?

    If you’re thinking this sounds dark, you are right on the money. But if you’re sick of acting like Starbucks platitudes are life-giving, then join us for this talk. We’ve got a club and a handshake. And the only requirement is inevitable death.

    The world tells us we can control our behavioral destinies. We can make choices to improve ourselves and our nasty, hidden habits. Well, bullhockey. I don’t think we do anything, except that we start dying. And God, in all of His mercy, pries our #bestlifenow from our cold dead hands. And offers us the sweet relief of a Clean Slate. Clean of our heartbreak. Clean of our grudges. Clean of our sin.

    Pick Up Your La-Z-Boy and Follow Me: An NYC Conference Preview

    The Theology of False Absolution in Christian Kitsch

    i-115d13b18d3b104621321fd8c7cc6c6f-chief_of_the_medical_staff_greene_lHave you ever unsuspectingly picked up a novelty mug from your local Christian book store, looked at the image on its side and found yourself thinking, “Hey, I thought Rembrandt was the ‘Painter of Light’? Who does this Thomas Kinkade guy think he is anyway!?” Well, you’re not alone! Join us as we explore how paintings and visual art speak a language all of their own; some words of which ring more true than you think, and others…well, you didn’t really think Kinkade’s work qualified as fine art, did you? J

    1) First, we’ll look at paintings by artists such as Warner Sallman and Thomas Kinkade, and consider what the paintings themselves communicate about theology (by examining what subject they depict, and, more importantly, how).

    2) Next, we’ll consider the theology of the gospel itself, and in what ways these paintings support or supplant that message.

    3) Finally, we’ll examine works by Jeff Koons, Francis Bacon, and Vincent van Gough (among others), and repeat our strategy from above, though hopefully with a different outcome!

    If you’re an artist, a theologian, or just an amateur art historian who’s curious to see in what ways theology and visual art may intersect, this breakout session is for you. The format of this session will be conversational, so come ready with lots of questions.

    Pre-Register for our NYC Conference today!

    PZ’s Guide to Turner Classic Movies’ “In The Ministry” Night

    PZ’s Guide to Turner Classic Movies’ “In The Ministry” Night

    Today, Maundy Thursday 2015, is “In the Ministry” night on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). It’s an incredible opportunity for us all. What TCM has scheduled is a feast of Hollywood fare that show Protestant ministers in a positive light. These are some of my favorite films ever, and they tend these days to get the short end.

    Here are a few thoughts concerning Turner’s offerings tonight, by way of description, and I hope you’ll be able to watch them, or Tivo them. I realize it’s “Tenebrae” night, and Foot-Washing Night; but the service is usually over by 9, which will get…

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    eye_of_beholderNo April’s Fools, people – welcome to the decluttered, reorganized, made-over, tuned-up Mbird! We’re really excited about this facelift. What’s new besides the look? The dropdown menus above, larger font for the posts, vertical social media buttons, to name a few features — we’ve also added a long-awaited “I’m New Here” page, which compiles some of our ‘greatest hits’, as well as recommended reading and listening. There are a ton of other little touches here and there that you’ll likely notice over time, a handful of things taken away. But don’t worry – it’s still the same site, with all the same content and the same basic flow/form. The hope is that the many new tweaks and twists add up to a more welcoming and easier-to-navigate site.

    Thank you for your patience while we’ve been working on it (and continue to fine tune), and thank you, as always, for reading! Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have trouble finding anything (

    Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

    Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

    This one comes to us from Mockingtern Evan Brush:

    New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote last fall about the decline in the number of cults capturing America’s attention. He recalled the 1980s when cults worried the parents of estranged children and often caught headlines for all the wrong reasons. However, Douthat actually saw the decline in cults as indicative of a lack of vitality in American religious life: less people seeking to go outside the mainstream in search of the answers to the big questions. He thinks that the lack of a somewhat radical fringe is indicative of stagnation within…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

    A Holy Week-appropriate reflection from Paul Zahl, via The Mockingbird Devotional.

    This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’” (RSV)

    Palm Sunday is a day in the Christian Calendar, and a day in history, that could define the word “irony.”

    It depicts the advance on Jerusalem of the city’s “King,” but in the form of a man seated on a donkey. It begins a week of ‘triumphal entry’ that only ends in…

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    Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

    Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

    I am very excited about the upcoming Mockingbird Conference! First, and possibly most importantly, I have been asked to do a few magic tricks at the conference. If you come, you will be one of the few humans ever to witness a one-time demonstration of the power of the amazing Cords of Shastri, which have been lost for over 600 years, but which have recently come into my possession. I will bring these to New York City for this one event. I repeat, this is a feat of legerdemain which has not been performed for over 600 years! I swear its…

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