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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
    The Prayers of the Red Light District

    The Prayers of the Red Light District

    Another gem from Margaret Pope. 

    I am very slowly working my way through Eric Metaxas’s six-hundred-page biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who adamantly opposed Hitler’s Third Reich and helped plot Hitler’s assassination. As I read this weekend, one section of the book stood out to me. Bonhoeffer is recounting attending a church in Paris, wherein he is given a picture of grace:

    On Sunday afternoon I attended an extremely festive high mass in Sacré Coeur. The people in church were almost exclusively from Montmartre; prostitutes and their men went to mass, submitted to all the ceremonies; it was an enormously impressive picture, and once…

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    The Laws of Personality in The Road Back to You

    The Laws of Personality in The Road Back to You

    This reflection was written by Joshua Retterer.

    I felt a wave of relief when I pulled my copy of Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s new book, The Road Back to You from the box. The dust jacket design was restrained and inoffensive. Why relief? The cover of Richard Rohr’s 1990 book, Discovering the Enneagram, the first  popular book on the subject, looked like a prop from the CW’s Supernatural TV series.  Let’s be honest, the moment you have to explain, “No, that’s not a pentagram,” you’ve lost. For evangelicals just starting to peak out from underneath the covers after the…

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    PZ’s Podcast: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room

    PZ’s Podcast: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room

    EPISODE 225: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room

    A forthcoming book on the sacraments, edited by Justin Holcomb and David A. Johnson, has got me thinking about the “means of grace” — or rather, how do we know and recognize God’s grace in our actual personal lives. The history of the Christian Church could almost be reduced to a long timeline of disagreement over the sacraments as means of grace, and in particular, the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist.

    In order to think about this today, I’ve had to travel back to basics: which is Jackie DeShannon, and a song she wrote, and performed and…

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    Printable up to 6"x8".

    Hopelessly Devoted: First Peter Chapter One Verses Three Through Seven

    This post comes to us from our friend, Jim McNeely.

    My friend Mike Rehmet once told a story about his wife, Gina, who likes plants but apparently doesn’t have the greenest of thumbs. She brought home a new potted plant and set it on the front porch. As they were going out, he noticed the plant there, and said, “So–this is where you’re gonna do it?”

    I was thinking about that story as I read this passage recently:

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a…

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    Playing Chess with the King of Kings: Moments of Grace in The Queen of Katwe

    Playing Chess with the King of Kings: Moments of Grace in The Queen of Katwe

    This one comes to us from our friend, Jason Thompson.

    Disney’s The Queen of Katwe prefers subtle nuances over soap-boxy platitudes, which tend to posit overly simplistic answers to the complexities of life in a fallen world. In veteran director Mira Nair’s vision, we see references to faith quietly pervading the film without ever becoming overbearing. Here, we have the kind of creative and engaging expression of spirituality found in such recent works as 2015’s Selma and The Revenant and this year’s Hail Ceasar!, Hell or High Water, and Birth of a Nation.

    Based on true events as chronicled in the 2012 book Tim Crother published for ESPN, The Queen of Katwe stars…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verses Twenty Eight Through Thirty Nine

    Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verses Twenty Eight Through Thirty Nine

    This morning’s devotion comes to us from Laurel Marr.

    O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.

    O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, George Matheson, 1882

    Paul, the chief of sinners, tells us God’s answer when he pleads with God to remove a thorn in his flesh. “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12: 7-10). Paul makes it known to us that this thorn is given to him. In ancient…

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    The Tenth Annual Mockingbird NYC Conference: 10 Years of Grace

    Hard to believe that the 2017 Spring Conference will be our 10th annual get-together in New York City. It happens April 27-29, 2017 and you are warmly invited. Registration is now open! We’re so excited we produced a video about it:

    We would love to see you there. Get your tickets here

    Earlybird prices expire at the end of the year.

    P.S. Just over two weeks til Oklahoma City! Click here for more info about this *free* event.

    How to Be Miserable, Lesson 20

    How to Be Miserable, Lesson 20

    Here is an excerpt from one of the books recommended in The Mental Health Issue’s list of Non-Self-Help Self-Help Books. How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use, by Randy J. Paterson:  

    Lesson 20: Work Endlessly on Your Self-Esteem:

    Do you have a cat? If so, does it seem to think well of itself, or does it appear to slink around in deep shame at being an inferior sort of feline?

    Most people sense that the cats they know have perfectly high self-esteem–despite never having had psychotherapy, attending no esteem-building workshops, and reading very few self-help books. How do they do it?

    We live…

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    A Gracious Misdirection: Humor as a Fruit of the Gospel

    The following is excerpted from the “Fruits of the Gospel” chapter in Mockingbird’s Law & Gospel: A Theology for Sinners and Saints, available on Amazon or through our own store, here


    If the Gospel is ever experienced for the ridiculous good news that it is, then laughter is soon to follow it. And this is mostly because humor is, in part, an expression of relief. Steve Brown describes it perfectly in his story about a woman who, after years of hiding a moment of infidelity from her husband, suddenly feels the (spontaneous!) need to admit it to him. Though nervous, she decides to do it.

    “I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘When I told him,’ she exclaimed, ‘he replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!’ And then she started to laugh. ‘He forgave me twenty years ago, and I’ve been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!’ Perhaps you are like this woman who had been forgiven and didn’t know it.”[1]

    Her laughter is the laughter of the forgiven. It stems from a simultaneous flood of relief (“He forgave me twenty years ago!”) and a corresponding lack of self-seriousness (“How ridiculous that I carried this around for so long?”). A sense of humor comes from the ridiculousness of your happy outcome, and the fact that it had nothing to do with you.

    Humor and hyperbole are, then, delicate ministers of God’s good relief. In various ways, either through satire or self-deprecation, humor is a way of uncoupling the truth from its sting. It is a way of including oneself on the wrong side of the righteousness equation. It is a delightful willingness to be wrong, because you can afford to be. It also allows us the privilege of disarming the stings against us, to find humor in things around us that might have offended or wounded us before.

    Humor can also be used as a form of gracious misdirection. It is a chance for the forgiven to put on a clown suit in love, for the sake of deflecting another’s judgment. This is precisely what Christ does for the woman caught in adultery, lining out a distracting drawing in the sand for her team of accusers (Jn 8:6). If we are so lucky, we experience the same willingness to play the fool, to feel the great pricelessness of God’s wonderful gift, and thus to ham it up at no cost to anyone.

    In the realm of the Law, we must keep face. In the realm of the Gospel, we can laugh at our own faces in the mirror. In the realm of the Law, we must tediously craft emails with the right balance of seriousness and brevity. In the realm of the Gospel, we’re free to say precisely the ridiculous thing that comes to mind, without fear of what brand of trouble our words may bring. While the Law incites us to point our fingers at others in blame, the Gospel provokes us to return the pointing finger back to our chest, and shrug our shoulders, and laugh at the absurdity.[2]

    [1] “The Laughter of God,” When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough (Keylife, 2014).

    [2] Surely humor is part of what is meant by the meaning of pure love “casting out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). When we are out of the realm of fear, we are into the realm where self-ridicule is easy.

    Buy your copy of Law & Gospel here!

    Needtobreathe Comes Up For Air

    Needtobreathe Comes Up For Air

    This one was written by the esteemed Margaret Pope.

    Growing up in the Bible-belt south and actively participating in youth group, I could hardly be considered a good Christian if I didn’t listen to NEEDTOBREATHE. I distinctly remember singing “Washed by the Water” for the first time in ninth grade on a senior high youth group retreat, and the rest, as they say, is history. Wikipedia classifies NEEDTOBREATHE as an “American Christian rock band,” but I think of NEEDTOBREATHE as a rock band with a hint of folk whose members happen to be Christians. Each of their albums consists of a mix of…

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    Run Don’t Walk: ‘Martin Luther’s Reformation’ at the Morgan Library in New York

    Run Don’t Walk: ‘Martin Luther’s Reformation’ at the Morgan Library in New York

    Calling all Mockingbirds! Attention, all Mockingbirds!

    Adam and Eve in excellent company

    Run Don’t Walk to the Martin Luther exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York. And first let’s get a couple of details straight. The Morgan is at the corner of 36th Street and Madison Avenue, which is exactly six blocks south of Grand Central Station. You can check out the opening hours on line, and the Morgan is only closed Mondays. Also, it’s a great place to go to the bathroom — always an issue in New York — and the cafe is excellent, and never crowded. Plus,…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: 1 Corinthians Chapter Three Verses Six and Seven

    This morning’s devotion comes to us from none other than the President of the Mockingboard, Aaron Zimmerman.

    I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, ESV)

    Here again we see Paul addressing the bickering problems among the Corinthians. But rather than addressing the external behavior, Paul realizes the real problem is internal and theological.

    dwight-schrute-the-office-fan-artPaul knows that there are two approaches to life for all human beings. The first approach is human-centered. Men and women in this camp see themselves as in control of their lives. This is like The Office’s Dwight Schrute quoting Billy Zane’s character in Titanic: “A man makes his own luck.” In other words, human beings have the ability to judge people and events, map out their lives, and control their destiny. Students at elite colleges positively ooze with this kind of thinking. This is the human-centered view of life. In the spiritual realm, this view is called justification by works: making oneself acceptable to God through good behavior.

    The second approach to life is God-centered. In this view, people are seen as they are, flawed and broken, prone to compulsive acting-out. Like the Harvard student who plays a video game for 10 hours straight, despite the fact that he has a paper due and is already on academic probation. Or like the suburban mother who regularly spends thousands of dollars on clothes she doesn’t need. Or the executive who is a furtive alcoholic. Or the high-achieving honor-roll student who is anorexic and cuts herself. Or the Bible study leader who obsesses over pornography. Thus, unlike in the human-centered view, the clear thinking God-centered man or woman no longer places the burden of “getting better” on the ones who are ill. The God-centered view knows that people need a divine rescuer—like sick people need a doctor—and that this never stops being true, even for “serious” Christians.

    The Corinthians are decidedly human-centered. As a result, as we see in this passage, they quarrel about their spiritual leaders. Since they believe their personal growth is their responsibility, they know they better pick the right guru! Paul attacks this view. He steers them back to reality: God is the one who calls, redeems, saves, and continues to heal. Paul says that he and his co-pastor Apollos are nothing. An amazing thing to say! Can you imagine TV preachers saying that? But Paul says conclusively: only God gives the growth.

    Do you feel like you control your closeness to God? Is your “walk with Christ,” your “spiritual journey,” all up to you? Paul says only God gives the growth. See the illustration Paul uses to close the argument: God is the gardener, and you are simply a plant in the field. So don’t do something, just sit there!