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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

    NOW OPEN: Earlybird Pre-Registration for 2015 Spring Conference!

    Earlybird pre-registration is now open for our annual Spring Conference, which happens April 16-18th in New York City! Details for the event are still coming together, but we assure you that you’ll not want to miss this one. Speakers already confirmed include author and preacher Nadia Bolz-Weber, journalist Jamin Warren (founder of Killscreen magazine), Mockingbird’s own Jacob Smith, Sarah Condon, and David Zahl, among many others. Our chaplain will be The Rev. Jim Munroe.

    As always, in addition to the main presentations, there will be a number of breakout sessions, covering a wide range of topics, from theology to literature, television to psychology, music to parenting. If the past eight years are anything to go by, the conference is sure to be a time of grace, humor, and maybe even a little emancipation (not to mention delicious food). We hope you can join us! We’ll announce the full schedule in mid-January.

    The event is open to anyone and everyone. If you plan on attending, we only ask that you pre-register beforehand. The earlybird rate is $100/person, which covers the entire event, meals and program, a significant discount on the normal price ($150/person)–makes a great Christmas present! Please note that the earlybird option is only available for those who wish to register for the entire event. The offer expires on January 16th, at which point all other pricing tiers will open.

    Click here to Pre-Register!

    PZ’s Podcast: Summer Rain

    EPISODE 181: Summer Rain

    It’s pathetic how little we know. And that’s not just some “secular” concession to the Uncertainty Principle. I’m talking about ourselves, about other people, and about what God is “up to” in our lives.

    Not only do we not know a lot, but what we think we know is often wrong at root. At best it is partial.

    I had an acute example of my colossal ignorance fall on my life recently — about ten days ago, in fact. Some old documents from college days dropped out of a book. They were primary sources about something that mattered to me. They revealed beyond a “Shadow of Doubt” (Alfred Hitchcock/Thornton Wilder) that I had mis-remembered something important, and mis-remembered it from stem to stern.

    I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. (In fact I am typing this in a cave near Lake Tahoe. But you know that.) Yet I didn’t, and I won’t. Which is mainly because the 51st Psalm was also in that book. I’ve got a place to go, my knees for lack of a better term, with some damaging new info. If I didn’t have Psalm 51 (King James Version, please), well, then I really would die. I’m actually not expecting to.

    This podcast is dedicated to Adrienne Parks Bowman.

    When I Was an Adult I Read Books, to Remain a Child

    When I Was an Adult I Read Books, to Remain a Child

    The following piece was recently shared with Mockingbird. The “librarian,” whose name is not Paul Zahl (seriously!), has given us permission to post it here.

    Note from the librarian: This reading diary, penned by LeVar Burton, was recently discovered in the archives of a theological library. The manuscript, handwritten on napkins and folded away inside an old volume of George Herbert’s poetry, suggests that Burton found gold at the end of the (Reading) Rainbow.

    [Books are] a children’s game which God has given me in order that the time till his appearing should not be long for me.”

    ~ Johann Georg Hamann


    William Hale…

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    Living By Grace (and According to Frankenstein) – Matthew Fenlon

    Watch out, here comes another session from the Houston Conference:

    Living by Grace (and According to Frankenstein) – Matthew Fenlon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Resurrection of the 78 rpm Record

    Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Resurrection of the 78 rpm Record

    This reflection on the 78s of great price comes to us from Nick Rynerson:

    If you’ve ever spent a Sunday afternoon moseying through the rural late-modern labyrinth that is an antique mall you’ve probably seen a 78. Hidden behind the over-priced spice racks, odd smelling jackets, and empty (“collectible”) coke bottles is usually a box or two––almost always on the ground––of 78 rpm records. Unplayable on most modern turntables, heavy as hell, and comically breakable, 78s sit untouched.

    By the 1960’s 45 rpm (“singles”) and 33⅓ rpm (LP’s) had all but eradicated the bulky shellac 78. In a few short years, the…

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    I Feel Like I Win When I Lose – David Zahl

    The closing talk (pre-bagpipes!) from Houston. More videos on their way:

    I Feel Like I Win When I Lose – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    For more about The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, go here.

    From the Magazine: Feast of the Holy Innocents by Vito Aiuto

    From the Magazine: Feast of the Holy Innocents by Vito Aiuto

    We could not have been more honored to publish Welcome Wagoner Vito Aiuto’s short story in this most recent issue of The Mockingbird. And behold, it comes just in time for Christmas! Order one today!

    Matthew Cusick

    The wide dirty sky hung above the interstate. The pulsing wipers and the broken stereo. Jon Eddy drives out early in the morning, still dark, the back of the car packed with Christmas gifts and decorations and candies in two brown paper grocery bags; he’s hoping to bring his son something that speaks of Christmas because Christmas has come and gone and it’s not…

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    Brand-New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl

    Brand-New Book and an Advent Sermon by John Zahl

    We’re happy to announce another Mbird-friendly book out now: friend and Mbird contributor John Zahl‘s new sermon collection from Grace Church, Charleston, titled Sermons of Grace! We can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s available for purchase on Amazon here. The sermon below is the book’s opener and a great beginning to Advent, first given on Dec 1, 2013.

    Prepare the way of the Lord… (Matthew 3:3)

    John the Baptist’s words this morning are unequivocal: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” It is undeniable that “preparation” is one of the main themes of Advent.

    The readings in Advent contain an eschatological emphasis, which means that they deal with…

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    Grace in Parenting: I Have No Advice – Sarah Condon

    This one will have you in stitches (when you’re not tearing up). Enjoy:

    Grace in Parenting: I Have No Advice – Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Now Available! A MESS OF HELP: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll by David Zahl

    In his debut book, Mockingbird founder and editor-in-chief David Zahl riffs on the intersection of music, memoir, and theology to create a fresh and colorful series of essays that truly stands alone. Constructed like an album, A Mess of Help surveys some of pop’s most eccentric icons in hopes of finding answers to both the small questions (“Who am I?”) and the big ones (“What about Michael Jackson?”), unearthing timeless wisdom even as it entertains. So if you’ve ever wondered how fundamentalism sparked Guns N’ Roses, what ABBA can do for your marriage, or why Brian Wilson built his sandbox, open your heart and drop the needle.

    Order your copy today on Amazon or Createspace!* And by all means write a review if you feel so led.

    Table of Contents


    I. Introduction
    II. Teenage Angst Paid Off Well: Growing Up with Nirvana
    III. Get Back: The Ever Present Past of The Beatles
    IV. “You Need a Mess Of Help To Stand Alone”: Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys
    V. Crying ABBA: An Annotated Playlist
    VI. Belle and Sebastian Go Off and See a Minister
    VII. Searching Low and High For the Who Behind The Who
    VIII. The Secret History of William Axl Rose
    IX. Jesus Rides Beside The Replacements
    X. Even The (Rolling) Stones Cry Out: An Annotated Playlist
    XI. Big Star Talks to God
    XII. Lindsey Buckingham Walks a Thin Line
    XIII. Paging Dr. Carpenter: Elvis Presley’s Change of Habit
    XIV. Scott Walker Is Dead! Long Live Scott Walker!
    XV. Hated for Loving: The World According to Morrissey
    XVI. What About Michael Jackson?
    XVII. Confessions of a Former Music Critic
    XVIII. Sing Mockingbird Sing: The Alpha and Omega of Annotated Playlists

    “David Zahl writes like a true believer in the healing power of music, and one with a deep understanding that, at its most sublime, what music wants most is to mimic God’s voice. Each chapter of A Mess of Help reads like one side of a lengthy discussion with an old friend… who might be even more obsessed with your favorite band than you are! His passion for the subject is infectious. Highly recommended!” – John Davis, musician and songwriter (Superdrag, The Lees of Memory)

    Pre-order your copy today!

    * Mbird keeps more of the revenue if you order via Createspace.

    The Risk of Grace, Pt 1 – Tullian Tchividjian

    Just in time for Thanksgiving, here’s Tullian’s first talk from Houston. The man does not shy away from vulnerability! PtL:

    The Risk of Grace, part one – Tullian Tchividjian from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    p.s. She said yes.

    Hopelessly Devoted: First Timothy Chapter Four Verses Eleven through Sixteen

    Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday (and a much-needed reprieve for our office!) comes this devotion in today’s spot, from Jonathan Mumme–a reminder of the gift we have that holds the whole thing together.

    Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift [charisma] you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:11-16, ESV)

    como-acabar-con-tu-jefe-04Poor Timothy—what a load! Paul, his “father in the faith,” has left town, sticking him with quite the laundry list. And yet that sounds an awful lot like typical Christianity, doesn’t it? Taking the burden from your shoulders and laying a dozen in its place. Hit atonement like a drive-thru, and with that bag in hand, speed off to the highway of “the Christian life” of moral responsibility, Scripture reading, character-building. Christianity somehow became a life of holy burdens.

    There in the middle of all that is given him to do, though, is that which is given to him wholly and fully. The sine qua non—neglect it and it will all fall apart—is the charisma (gift) in him.

    The certainty with which Paul approaches the ministry is the same certainty under which Timothy gets to operate: if the Lord has put him to it, the Lord himself will do it, and the Lord has certainly put him to it. Is Timothy the one saving or preserving himself and his hearers, or is God Himself the Savior of all, including Timothy and his hearers? Paul says it is not an either/or: God saves, and Timothy is responsible for the saving where he has been placed. It is not God without Timothy, nor is it God x% and Timothy x%, but God fully and Timothy fully. Whatever saving Timothy is set to be doing, it will be the Lord doing it, and that goes for the ordering, reading, preaching, teaching and the rest of this grand, long list of things given to do along with the gift given.

    Where do you feel you and God are working 50-50? Where does God feel absent or dormant? Where does his presence feel all too present?

    What is to be done in the Church is what God himself gives to be done. Toward that doing He gives gifts. Tasks given, gift given, to Paul and Timothy and others who are surely put in place; it is the Lord, the Savior, seeing to the whole show.