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Music, Truth, and David Zahl’s A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll

Music, Truth, and David Zahl’s A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll

Last week I was revising an essay that’s in my thesis for my MFA in creative writing. It’s about music and memory, and I write about how music roots us to past, present, and future versions of ourselves. While I was revising that piece, my soon-to-be-15-year-old daughter asked me to review one of her essays. It was also about music and memory. It was about other things, too (essays are usually about other things besides the obvious things), but it was a sort of exploration of different seasons of her life and music was the vehicle that carried me through…

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The Gospel of Alexander Hamilton

The Gospel of Alexander Hamilton

If you haven’t yet snagged your e-version of Never Satisfied Until Satisfied In Thee: Finding Grace in Hamilton, now’s your chance! Mockingbird’s latest e-book is a wonderful collection of gospel-centered essays about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s landmark musical, Hamilton. Edited by Tim Peoples and Cort Gatliff, this e-book features fresh essays by Stephanie Phillips, Michael Sansbury, Lauren R.E. Larkin, Margaret Pope, Matthew Linder, Amanda McClendon, and the editors themselves.

The following excerpt comes from Cort’s introduction:

My life can be divided into two distinct eras: Before Hamilton and After Hamilton. On October 1, 2015, after months of following the online hysteria and critical acclaim, the former era came to an…

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Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

If you write, you’ve probably read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She is the shy, neurotic, wise, funny, dread-locked, recovering alcoholic, who is a font of sanity and encouragement for many of us engaged in the compulsion of writing. Anne grew up in a family of atheists, but came to faith and got sober — in that order, as that sobriety wasn’t instantaneous. Her descriptions of the struggles and joys of parenting, the messiness of life, and the wonders of being part of a church family are alternately hilarious and weepingly beautiful.

There aren’t many interviews with her, but when…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Five Verses Twenty-One to Forty-Three

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Five Verses Twenty-One to Forty-Three

In an undergraduate class on the short story, James Joyce’s Dubliners in hand, I learned how to hunt for epiphanies. In Joyce’s Araby, for example, a young boy is infatuated with his friend Mangan’s sister. She is to him a chaste goddess — “Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.” In her presence, he was the harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires. Yeah, the boy’s got it bad.

One day she casually asks him if he planned to go to an exotic-sounding…

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What If I Never Change?

What If I Never Change?

Sydney is currently seventeen hours ahead of my beloved EST, the time zone occupied by my former homes of New York and Atlanta. Funny how waking up so many hours ahead can leave me feeling so far behind.

Most days our king-sized bed holds three to four people by the time of my sons’ circadian-induced awakening around 6 am. Our older son is burrowed underneath the covers between us, his feet unfailingly within inches of my face, and our younger boy is typically planted on the pillows between my husband and me, or upon my husband’s chest, telling the “lazy…

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When Kiss Means Kill: Reflections on the Apocalypse of Language

“As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, firstly slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt the misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened by soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free… Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought….

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Announcing a Mockingbird Take on Hamilton!

We are excited to announce an ebook titled Never Satisfied Until Satisfied in Thee: Finding Grace in Hamilton—which drops on November 1!

America needed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical as 2016 left us with unprecedented division and cynicism about our national values. Fortunately, Hamilton modeled grace to America and its people, past and present in its hip-hop, sung-through presentation of the life of our “ten-dollar founding father without a father,” Alexander Hamilton.

Never Satisfied Until Satisfied in Thee, edited by Tim Peoples and Cort Gatliff, explores the many ways that grace shows itself in Miranda’s musical: Cort Gatliff, Michael Sansbury, Matthew…

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Stories of Grace and Ethan Richardson's This American Gospel

Stories of Grace and Ethan Richardson’s This American Gospel

In an article from The Atlantic, Cody C. Delistraty writes about the psychological comforts of storytelling. He writes, “Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness.” He also says stories can impact and form our emotional lives. Storytelling pulls back the curtain on others’ minds so we can see how people operate and think. This process can validate and challenge our own beliefs. Another reason we tell stories is that we all want to be a part…

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Stewards of Our Scars

Stewards of Our Scars

The following excerpt comes from Chapter 9, “Stewards of Our Scars,” in Chad Bird’s new book Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul.

In a Bible full of bizarre stories with bizarre endings, the account of Jacob wrestling the angel ranks among the more unusual. At the end of the narrative, we are given an odd little detail about the enduring legacy of Jacob’s struggle. Jacob was “limping because of his hip.” “Therefore,” the text adds, “to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the…

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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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