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Books

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

When I was a kid attending Sunday School in a very traditional Baptist church in the Midwest, we learned Bible stories… I became familiar with the regular cast of characters like Adam and Eve, Noah, David, Moses, etc. I could tell you that Moses parted the Red Sea; Adam and Eve ate an apple; David slew a giant (thanks to a relative who gifted me one Christmas with 12-inch David and Goliath action figures!). As a teen, I would learn that the book of Leviticus was all about how family members in the same house should not undress in the…

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Pennywise the Clown, Stephen King, and Jesus

Pennywise the Clown, Stephen King, and Jesus

This piece was written by Jill Moran.

I married a man who learned from God through fiction. My husband swears by the hand of Stephen King in his spiritual life just as he does Brennan Manning, G.K. Chesterton, and the Apostle Paul. The sceptic in me, at first, saw only blood and horror at the sight of a Stephen King book. I wanted nothing to do with it, as I don’t with most dark things, assuming there is nothing sacred to be found in the midst of gore. I now see something much deeper as I peer through the pages of these…

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All Alone in a Disenchanted Universe

All Alone in a Disenchanted Universe

Did anyone actually see Miss Sloane in theaters? I remember seeing a trailer for it some moon cycles ago, but never did hear much buzz about it. That is, until last weekend, when, after some coaxing from my sister, I watched it on Amazon.

In any case, you don’t have to see the movie to know, essentially, who Miss Sloane is. You’ve likely encountered her “type” before, whether in movies or daily life. She’s a ruthless fast-talker, wicked-smart, but terribly lonely. The kind of person some would call a strong, independent woman and others would call an obsessive-compulsive conniver. A notorious…

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Reading to Big Kids, Making Connections, and The Very Persistent Pirate

Reading to Big Kids, Making Connections, and The Very Persistent Pirate

Some of my most cherished memories of my kids’ younger years are connected to our children’s books. We read to our kids multiple times every day with The Carrot Seed, Caps for Sale, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Curious George, and Olivia topping our list of favorites. When they got a little older, we added books like Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Velveteen Rabbit. Once our kids started reading, they chose chapter books—Amelia Bedelia, The Boxcar Children, Ramona, and more. My kids loved to read and constantly consumed books like athletes consume water after a grueling…

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With My Own Eyes by Bo Giertz - A Review

With My Own Eyes by Bo Giertz – A Review

By personal habit, and soon by way of formal study (again), I read a good deal of academic theology. It isn’t always easy going down – sometimes quite far from it, as most working theologians are not sparkling writers. By contrast, I don’t read much popular Christian literature. It isn’t my thing, and I justify this opinion by noting that a huge proportion is bound to be saccharine, moralistic, anti-intellectual, or just plain bad art (though somewhere in this Venn diagram of horror there must be a kitschy sweet spot). There do exist, however, Christian writers who have addressed head…

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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.

A Consolation You Could Believe In

Via the introduction to Francis Spufford’s wonderful Unapologetic, pg 13-14:

A consolation you could believe in would be one that didn’t have to be kept apart from awkward areas of reality. One that didn’t depend on some more or less tacky fantasy about ourselves, and therefore one that wasn’t in danger of popping like a soap bubble upon contact with the ordinary truths about us, whatever they turned out to be, good and bad and indifferent. A consolation you could trust would be one that acknowledged the difficult stuff rather than being in flight from it, and then found you grounds for hope in spite of it, or even because of it, with your fingers firmly out of your ears, and all the sounds of the complicated world rushing in, undenied.

A Reminder from Fleming Rutledge

From page 345 of The Crucifixion:

“…distinctions between the “innocent” and the “guilty,” while provisionally necessary in this fallen world, lose their power when seen from the perspective of the end-time. Categories of more and less guilt, and declarations of amnesty, so inadequate in this age of Sin and Death, become meaningless in the light of God’s new day as we come to understand that in the sight of the Lord “there is not one righteous” (Ps. 14:3; Rom. 3:10). This is the heart of biblical understanding concerning the entire human race. In the light of what was permitted to be done to the Son of God by the machinations, duplicity, and collaboration of all the “best people,” we come to see ourselves in bondage to forces far stronger than we are.”

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Five Verses Twenty-Two Through Twenty-Seven

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Five Verses Twenty-Two Through Twenty-Seven

This morning’s devotion was written by John Zahl. 

The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice…

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Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death

Freud, Kierkegaard, and the drug lord Heisenberg…A free peek into the Love & Death Issue, which people continue to tell us is their favorite issue thus far. Here is Ethan’s piece on the classic, Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. If you subscribe to the magazine, and add the code JESSEPINKMAN in the notes section of your order, we’ll send a free copy to a friend of your choosing.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone…

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"Bring Your Baby to Hospice Day," by Sarah Condon

“Bring Your Baby to Hospice Day,” by Sarah Condon

The following is an excerpt from one of Mockingbird’s best-selling books, Churchy: The Real Life Adventures of a Wife, Mom, and Priest, by Sarah Condon. If you haven’t bought your copy yet…what are you waiting for?! Now available on Kindle and in paperback.

Parents today are raising a bunch of ice monsters. At least, that’s what the endless stream of articles explaining how to “teach” compassion seems to suggest. We are told to talk to our kids at eye level or to let them speak at great length about their feelings. We worry that we must train them to be emotionally…

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The Power of the Personal Essay

The Power of the Personal Essay

In her piece for newyorker.com, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over,” Jia Tolentino laments the death of a genre of writing that was, for a spell, ubiquitous. “A genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared,” she writes. The Toast, Hairpin, Gawker, and other sites showcasing the noble attempts of young writers to mine their experiences and explore what they had to say have since disbanded or stopped receiving first-person pitches. The audience has shrunk for these essays, and Tolentino is sad to see them go.

The online personal essay has its faults. The form’s popularity contributed…

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