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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

    Announcing The Very Persistent Pirate, Mockingbird’s First Children’s Book!

    We are very excited to announce Mockingbird’s first children’s book, The Very Persistent Pirate, a swashbuckling tale of good news for sinners and saints ages 3-8.

    When most children are drifting to sleep,
    one kid and his monkey are drifting at sea.

    One day, they spy a treasure
    that is not theirs…

    Over the course of 34 beautifully illustrated pages, The Very Persistent Pirate winds its way across a rollicking sea and onto a mysterious island in hot pursuit of stolen booty. Playing with all of our favorite themes — law, gospel [marauding] and, of course, the stubbornness of grace — The Very Persistent Pirate will capture the imaginations of children and adults alike.

    Click here to pre-order your copy of The Very Persistent Pirate! Shipping mid-May.

    DJ JAZ and the Church of Episco-Disco

    While we were in NYC, as if on cue, the good people at Vice/Thump finally shared this with the world beyond the app where it made its debut last year. Too bad they missed this year’s cameo by the NY Fire Department:

    In Praise of Excess: The Beauty of Babette's Feast

    In Praise of Excess: The Beauty of Babette’s Feast

    Another sneak peek into the Food & Drink Issue, which will be on sale at the conference this weekend! Ethan’s essay is all about grace in the 1987 Danish film (and Oscar winner) Babette’s Feast.

    Last winter, my wife Hannah found out she has celiac disease, the rare autoimmune disorder that means you can’t eat gluten. Contrary to the many gluten-free fads that have taken the nation by storm, people with celiac suffer a gluten intolerance that is microscopically comprehensive. The smallest gluten part per million—a dust particle in a vat of soup—can wreak havoc on her stomach.

    The fact that we’re in…

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    Now Available! The Man Who Met God in a Bar: The Gospel According to Marvin

    Mercury may be in retrograde, but that hasn’t stopped us yet! We are pleased to announce the publication of The Man Who Met God in a Bar: The Gospel According to Marvin, by Robert Farrar Capon.

    As many of you may already know, we have been given the distinct privilege of resurrecting a handful of out-of-print books by the acclaimed chef-theologian, Robert Farrar Capon. First up was the never-before-published More Theology and Less Heavy Cream (available here), a collection of musings on food, God, and everything in between, featuring Robert and his wife’s fictional alter-egos; and now, just in time for the big NYC Conference, we are pleased to present to you The Man Who Met God in a Bar, a completely outrageous novel that imaginatively retells the life of Jesus as though it had happened in 1990s Cleveland. Here’s the summary:

    It’s time for a drink, Marvin Goodman decides after missing his red-eye out of Cleveland. Moseying into the airport bar, he encounters a charismatic young chef named Jerry—who also claims to be God. Before long, Marvin finds himself in the middle of a spiritual revival—witnessing miracles, healings and one everlasting anchovy pizza—in this weird and wonderfully inspired account of the Gospel story.

    Click here to order your copy of The Man Who Met God in a Bar: The Gospel According to Marvin!  And look for it on Amazon soon.

    What Sort of World? Trivial Expressions of the Transcendent ~ Randy Randall & Mary McCleary

    You thought we had posted all the videos from the Tyler conference? Wrong again! Here’s Randy Randall’s enthralling (and highly relevant) on-stage discussion with renowned artist Mary McCleary. As you’ll see, audio alone wouldn’t have made much sense:

    What Sort of World? Trivial Expressions of the Transcendent ~ Randy Randall & Mary McCleary from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Saving Paul from the Academy: A Conference Breakout Preview

    Only three days away! This breakout will be led by Professor Todd Brewer.

    “The Academy” is a term used by both insiders and outsiders to speak about the world of biblical scholarship. It is a term meant to ascribe prestige and importance to one’s profession and life work. To be a card-carrying member of “the guild” – to use another term of esteem – is to be part of an elite club of professionals trapped by the perpetual need to justify their significance. But to most people, “the academy” is a term of intimidation to create a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the so-called, non-specialist layperson, thus making the Bible and faith itself feel like something you’re not qualified to have an opinion about.

    Along the same lines, the last 40+ years of Pauline scholarship – with its almost iconoclastic radicalism – has so thoroughly revised the traditional understanding of Paul that many, if not most, feel unable to understand the Bible at all.

    This breakout session has three, related goals. I first hope to offer a pointed critique at recent interpreters of Paul and their overall practice of interpretation, particularly those within what are known as the “New Perspective on Paul,” and the “anti-imperial Paul.” By way of critical-historical inquiry, these scholars ironically offer an allegorical reading of Paul by constantly reconstructing what St. Paul really said and overlooking what he actually said. Secondly, I hope to outline a positive vision for how to read the Bible, one that views it not as a riddle to be solved by the specialist, but as a conversation partner that wants to be charitably heard on its own terms, without being overinterpreted. Finally, I will examine Galatians 3:24-25 to offer some critical self-reflection on how Paul has been understood by Luther (and, by extension, Mockingbird!).

    You, Too, Might Find God in a Jar of Queso

    You, Too, Might Find God in a Jar of Queso

    This reflection comes to us from Mimi Montgomery.

    “When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.” – Barbara Kingsolver

    “Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that all the bats had been put back behind the closet door…How…

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    The Reformation Today: A Conference Breakout Preview

    This preview comes to us from the host of this coming weekend’s festivities in NYC, The Rev. Jacob Smith himself.

    This breakout is entitled “The Reformation Today” because “Is the Reformation Over?” has already been taken by everyone writing at First Things or The Gospel Coalition. Also, because at Mockingbird we believe the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.”

    In order to make my pitch, I believe the shake up at the burger chain Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s has a lot to to say. For seventeen years, Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s defined their business not by amazing fast food burgers (when it comes to fast-food burgers they are the best) but instead by sexy models eating the burgers. Interestingly enough, this actually led to a drop in sales over time. A new ad campaign is throwing all that to the wind, with Carl Sr. coming back to office and taking Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s back to its roots: really, really good burgers and amazing customer service. Is the Reformation Over? It is–if the Reformation has to do with smoke machines or sermons on sex and community development.

    As in life, the present is never understood by looking to the future (Carl Jr.).  We understand the present by looking to and understanding the past (Carl Sr.). In this breakout, we will take a trip back to our roots as Reformational Christians, and look briefly at some of the overlap between the English and German Reformations, which all came together in the person of Dr. Robert Barnes. Then using “The Reformation Essays of Dr. Robert Barnes,” we will define and answer the big question at the heart of the Reformation: “How is a person justified before God?” That is the question.  That question will help the church get out of the realm of trying to be cool and get back to the “Carl Sr. of Christianity.” With this question answered, we will examine some important pastoral implication in the midst of real pastoral ministry because when this question of justification is not answered correctly the real power and strength of Christianity is lost. This breakout is for anyone, especially those who are interested in pastoral care and practicing it from a perspective of “by grace alone!”

    NYC Conference: T-Minus Two Days and Counting!

    This is the week, people! High time we announced the final talk titles:

    Thurs PM
    “Rock n Roll All Night, Party Every Day: The Secret of Mockingbird’s Success” – Aaron Zimmerman

    Friday AM
    “Jackwagon Junction: The Losing Battle of Being in Charge” – Sarah Condon
    “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Lost Doctrine of Sin” – Simeon Zahl

    Friday PM
    “Sisyphus’s Inbox” – Oliver Burkeman
    “Culture Against Culture” – William Deresiewicz
    “The Raising of the Crucified One” – Fleming Rutledge

    Sat AM
    “ARCHITECT: Fellow & Failing” – Duo Dickinson
    “Did It Have to be Jesus?” – Nicole Cliffe
    “Another Decade Ends: The First 10 Years in Flight” – David Zahl

    View the full, final schedule here. We’ve also adjusted the menu ever so slightly (and added cold brew coffee!), which you can check out here.

    Again, while the meals themselves are sold out, the conference is not. The more, the merrier in fact. Online pre-registration ends on Tuesday, but last-minute walk-ins are always welcome.

    Oh and probably goes without saying, but there’s no cover charge on Friday night for this:

    P.S. Those who’ve signed up for the pre-conference art tour with PZ, which is currently at capacity, will be receiving an email with details on Monday.

    The Dynamite of Salvation: A Conference Breakout Preview

    The Dynamite of Salvation: A Conference Breakout Preview

    This conference breakout will be led by the one and only Scott Keith. If you want to read a longer preview of Scott’s talk, go here. 

    Dynamite does one thing well: it blows stuff up. Dynamite is no more than an absorbent material, such as sawdust, soaked in a highly combustible chemical called nitroglycerin. The absorbent material makes the nitroglycerin much more stable. Attached to the nitroglycerin infused sawdust is either a fuse of a blasting cap. Once lit, the fuse or cap creates a small explosion that triggers the larger explosion in the dynamite itself. Once ignited, the dynamite burns…

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    An Un-Earnable Love and the Tragic Death of Performance: "Emotional Stuff" on 3 Mics

    An Un-Earnable Love and the Tragic Death of Performance: “Emotional Stuff” on 3 Mics

    This reflection comes from Julian Brooks.

    Lately I’ve been on a standup comedy binge thanks to the power of Netflix, and I recently stumbled upon Neal Brennan’s special, 3 Mics. For those of you that don’t know, Neal Brennan was the co-writer of Chappelle’s Show oh too many years ago and has since been quietly writing behind the scenes for several other comedy shows.

    The special is fantastic in its own right. As the title suggests, there are three mics set up on stage for Neal when the show opens. Each mic represents a different part of the show. One mic for witty one-liners…

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    Multiple Marriages to the Same Spouse: A Conference Breakout Preview

    This breakout preview comes to us from Debbie and Ellis Brazeal.

    Nietzsche said that he would only believe in a “God who dances.”

    As Mockingbird devotees, and survivors of three marriages, Debbie and I have come to believe in a dancing God.  Yet, this view of God only came after years, many years, in which we didn’t.

    A romantic courtship, with breathless excitement and anticipation of an American-dream marriage, quickly turned into a marriage of unmet expectations from both sides.  Indeed, each of us hurt the other (albeit unintentionally) in the very fashion that would cause the most pain. We unknowingly tread upon the past hurts and expectations that each of us brought into the marriage.

    Our marriage devolved into separate lives with no hope of reconciliation–none.  We certainly didn’t believe in a dancing God–in one who could bring dance into our marriage.  We believed in a God who rewarded effort and wise decisions. We thought we had married the wrong person. In fact, we each wished that the other was dead or that we were dead.

    But then, the dancing God, the God we talk about at Mockingbird, stepped in. By God’s limitless grace, we both began learning of a God who knew the depths of our dark hearts–the true extent of our sinful flaws–but loved us nonetheless with His limitless, eternal love. Over the years, as we became more convinced of God’s unfathomable, eternal love for us, we began to love each other.

    My favorite parable is the one concerning the “treasure in the field.”  Virtually always, the “treasure in the field” is construed as the Kingdom of God.  Yet, when you review the parables surrounding it (the lost coin, the lost sheep), it becomes abundantly clear (as I first learned from CI Scofield) that we are the “treasure in the field,” that Christ sold everything (gave His life) to purchase. The character of a Kingdom is determined by the character of the King.

    This King is the savior and redeemer of individuals, of marriages, and of all creation.  As Sally Loyd Jones writes in Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing: “God made everything in his world and in his universe and in his children’s hearts to center around him–in a wonderful Dance of Joy!  It’s the dance you were born for.”