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    How to Have (Just) One God ~ Adam Morton

    Don’t miss this talk from our favorite polytheist (in that amazing Cthulhu 2016 t-shirt). From our conference in NYC this past April:

    How to Have (Just) One God ~ Adam Morton from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    My Neighbor's Mailbox - Robert Cording

    My Neighbor’s Mailbox – Robert Cording

    One of the three gems we got from him in this Love & Death Issue.

    My Neighbor’s Mailbox

    is the usual silver color, oversized
    Wonder Bread shape on which he’s stenciled
    “Welcome Family and Friends.”
    My neighbor and I are friendly.
    I appreciate the way he’s often tuning up
    an engine or working around his yard.
    We talk about the weather, or how our houses
    are always in need of more attention
    than we can give them. Last week
    he told me of a robbery only three doors away
    from where we stood, and the loaded gun
    he keeps in his closet. He wondered
    about our neighbor with the half-shaved head
    and face-full of piercings…

    Read More > > >

    PZ's Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

    PZ’s Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

    EPISODE 234: Turning Point

    This theme of the insuperability of at least one problem in your life continues to absorb me — and in the light of hope and hopefulness.

    I tell the story of a woman who recently attended a meeting of church executives, almost all of whom are absorbed by current issues and questions of identity in political terms. This person said to me afterwards, “It seemed like a voice spoke to me, as I listened to the virtue-signalling: ‘This form of Christianity has no future.’ ” What she meant was that there was no SAVING being proffered, nothing related…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Eighteen Verses Twenty-One Through Thirty-Five

    This morning’s devotion, inspired by yesterday’s Gospel passage, was written by Kris McInnes.

    …Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV)

    Forgiveness is hard, and the forgiveness God demands is impossible. Jesus tells a story of a man who was forgiven much and then refused to forgive one who owed him little. This unforgiving man was tortured until he paid back all he owed, an amount so staggering that it would have been impossible for him to recover.

    We often assume the point of the parable is simple, that we should forgive others and not hold grudges, but that end is impossible to attain. If we walk away from the parable thinking that this is something we can live up to, or worse, something we are living up to, then we are lost. The parable can only help us if through it we hear what we are supposed to do and realize that we are not doing it. And this should come naturally—it won’t take long to think about how unforgiving we are: think about the last time you heard someone sing the national anthem, the last time you watched Access Hollywood, the last time you sized someone up in the grocery store, the latest gossip you heard.

    These are our shortcomings before the Law of Forgiveness. We may like that Jesus forgives, we may even like the idea of forgiving others, but we cannot do it ourselves. Like any other, this law can only assist us in illuminating our death before it and our need for an external forgiver. Thankfully, on the other side of this death is the new life in a forgiving and loving God, who sent his son Jesus to show us how it’s done.

    From the cross Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and that is exactly what God does. He doesn’t even wait for us to ask. Before we go looking for it or even realize we need help, we are forgiven. Before our mouths can even form the words “I’m sorry,” we are forgiven.

    Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music, Pt 2 (1973-1987) – John Zahl

    At last, the one we’ve all been waiting for! Firefighters not included unfortunately… But you can check out the initial installment here:

    Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music, Part 2 ~ John Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    JAZ was also kind enough to furnish us with a recording of the first two hours of his set at this year’s Episcodisco. Stream below or download here:

    PZ's Podcast: Question (LIVE), On the Road to Love & Easier Said Than Done

    PZ’s Podcast: Question (LIVE), On the Road to Love & Easier Said Than Done

    EPISODE 230: Question (LIVE)

    The fact that the mainstream churches are hiding their Light under a bushel is the primary reason for their atrophy. The fact that most of our churches are “missing in action” when it comes to the seemingly insuperable pain of living that we bring to them and to their representatives — well, that, I believe, is the main cause of their numerical decline.

    Today I want to posit an alternative to this almost willful but in fact mostly unconscious suppression of the Primary (i.e, the Gospel Word) in favor of the secondary (i.e., “issues” of the day) and…

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    Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

    Gethsemane Hospital: Our Interview with Ray Barfield

    Another glimpse into the Love & Death Issue, our interview with pediatric palliative care oncologist, Ray Barfield. Ray also teaches philosophical theology at Duke Divinity School. Tissues at the ready…

    When you think of modern healthcare, what comes to mind? White hallways, beeping monitors, lots of nervous energy, little laughter? Whether or not you’ve had positive experiences there, it’s hard to deny that the hospital often feels far from home. Part of this is unavoidable—CAT scans and physical exams will always be intrusive. But, as Atul Gawande noted in his groundbreaking bestseller, Being Mortal, much of what makes medicine scary is…

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    Greetings from the Upside-Down ~ Stephanie Phillips

    Here’s a fantastic breakout session from our recent conference in NYC. Mockingbird writer Stephanie Phillips discusses the ups and downs of moving across the world (not to mention a stellar intro by the one and only Mark Babikow).

    Greetings from the Upside Down ~ Stephanie Phillips from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Help for Houston

    Distraught by the many reports coming from our friends and contributors struggling to weather the terrible storm in Houston. There are a number of organizations that are already hard at work organizing the relief (Red Cross, Salvation Army, Episcopal Relief & Development, WorldVision, etc) but any readers interested in more specific ways of helping, here are two on-the-ground opportunities:

    1. Submerged St Thomas in Houston. Water has risen substantially since these were taken.

      St. Thomas Episcopal Church and School in Houston, the site of our 2014 conference (rector David Browder is a dear friend and former Mboard member), has been hit particularly hard, as has the neighborhood surrounding. To donate to their relief effort, click here.

    2. Holy Spirit Episcopal Church where Josh Condon (husband of Sarah) serves, has also suffered quite a bit of damage, especially in their immediate community and congregation. You can give here.

    PZ’s Podcast: I Live on a Battlefield

    He’s back!! Sincerest apologies to all the faithful PZP listeners who noticed that the cast had disappeared from iTunes this summer. We’ve had some technical issues which have now been resolved, ptL. Older episodes (pre-210) should be back on iTunes soon. For now, though, we have a brand new one for you:

    EPISODE 229: I Live on a Battlefield

    A penetrating comment recently from a friend set up a chain reaction inside me that’s resulted in this new cast. After a long hiatus and with the support of Mockingbird, I’m starting back up and hope these new episodes may speak.

    My friend, who is about my age, observed that everyone we know, without exception — that’s the “hard” part of the saying — has suffered some arresting impasse or insuperable loss, some decisive disappointment or unconquerable conflict, which they simply cannot get over.

    I agree with my friend.

    Moreover, people in situations of undeniable blockage often turn to God, or whatever/wherever they think God may be. And it is there, at this conscious point of need, that churches “come out” as being out of their depth and shockingly irrelevant to human suffering. Sadly, I know — Mary and I know.

    In points of distress since 2007 we have tried so many parishes and churches. We have crawled on our knees to hoped-for altars of comfort and hope, and received… nothing. I mean, nothing! There are exceptions, such as All Saints, Winter Park (FL) and Calvary/St. George in New York City. And there are others. But for the most part, you abase yourself in search of a word of hope and grace, and you get a junior-choir awards ceremony; or a sermon consisting wholly of platitudes without a single illustration; or an exhausting summons to a social cause; or a public baptism of perfect strangers who are actually strangers to the parish but can fill up some pews on a given Sunday. “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from goin’ under” (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1982)

    So I’m talking today about the universal in-reach of pain, and some of the resources I have found in recent months to stanch it. And I promise you, this is “Only the Beginning” (Chicago, 1969)…

    On Our Bookshelf (This Time Around)

    As summer winds down, here’s what we’ve been reading over here at Mockingbird HQ (and on sabbatical), as published in the Love & Death Issue

    Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

    George Saunders’ widely acclaimed first novel addresses death, grief, and the afterlife. Narrated by a graveyard full of, um, lively ghosts, this novel is a roller coaster from start to finish. With humor and empathy, Saunders powerfully illustrates that “the truth will set you free.”

    Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott

    Published this spring, Lamott continues to sing the song of grace: “Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves forgiving the debt, absolving the unabsolvable.” Pulling from St. Augustine and the Dalai Lama, she weaves her thoughts on mercy with such honesty and humor that you might feel like you’re sitting down as one of her Sunday School students.

    The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrère

    Emmanuel Carrère’s new book (novel? memoir? biography?) on St. Paul and the early Christians often reads like a diary fused with historical fiction. Carrère, well-known in France for his unique non-fiction storytelling, believes that the only way he can really communicate a subject is by looking as honestly as possible at himself. In this book, then, that means capturing the New Testament through his own relationship with and (un-)belief in its God. A powerfully honest and captivating reimagining of both the nature of belief and the radical message Paul carried.

    The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth about Men and Women in the 21st Century by Stephen Marche

    Stay-at-home dads get no respect, women are still almost never in the boardroom, and feminism has failed us. Why, Marche ponders, have we come so far and are still inundated with the same bizarre problems? Because women are still women and men are still men, and no one wants to make the damned bed. If you are in ministry, your premarital counseling couples should read this brilliant book alongside Capon’s Bed and Board.

    My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford

    Halford, who spent several years working as a staffer at The New Yorker, writes with immense care and loyalty about the devotional that shaped (and continues to shape) her life, Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Halford, who was raised in an Evangelical family in Dallas, uses the devotional (and Chambers’ own life story) as a way of excavating her own life and Christian faith.

    Against Everything: Essays by Mark Greif

    Greif is the co-founder of culture magazine n+1. This book synthesizes the strangeness of the modern world by challenging it and unpacking everyday taboos like exercise, hipsters, and punk music. Greif shows his cards as an Enneagram 8, but that doesn’t stop him from writing some real sizzlers on everyday life through a decidedly intellectual lens.

    Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos

    One of our guests on The Mockingcast, Febos’ cutting collection of memoirs wrestles with addiction and sexuality and offers up a gratifying depth of spirituality. Her riff on the Jonah story and our innate calling towards “choose your own adventure stories” is one for the ages. She writes, “every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.”

    The Idiot by Elif Batuman

    Ripping its title from a Dostoevsky classic, Elif Batuman’s debut novel follows Selin through her first year at Harvard. Upon arriving at school, she’s given an email address, her first. One night, she sends a snappy message to Ivan, the mysterious boy in her Russian class, and hilarity ensues. The romance would fit well in a 19th century novel—excepting Selin and Ivan’s preferred form of communication. Armed with a healthy suspicion of her surroundings and a sharp wit, Selin makes for a revelatory, refreshing narrator.

    Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Lerner

    This little book ranks up there with our other social science fave, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). Lerner gives us a powerful glimpse into all the strategies and self-deceptions we have around our wrongdoing–on what counts as an apology, and on what keeps us from giving (and receiving) it. She also insightfully keys in on the prime impulse that makes the non-apologizer a non-apologizer: the need to be perfect.

    Phases: Poems by Mischa Willett

    Poems playful, at times, epigrammatic, conscious of things Italian and incongruous—they are delightful and plain spoken, rhythmic and musical, at times difficult enough to slow the reader’s march through them, most times sufficiently welcoming and placed (e.g., the Pacific Northwest) to keep the reader coming back for more. The collection’s nine brief sections are laid out as though phases of a voyage. An exciting new volume in the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books), curated by poet/editor D. S. Martin.

    After God’s Own Heart: Life, Death, and the Gospel in the Story of King David ~ Nick Lannon

    In this wonderful talk from our recent conference in NYC, Nick Lannon helps us understand the story of King David in relation to our everyday lives.

    After God’s Own Heart: Life, Death, and the Gospel in the Story of King David ~ Nick Lannon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.