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Candy Cigarettes and Stubborn Grace — A Conference Breakout Preview

This NYC Conference breakout preview comes to us from Daniel Emery Price.

When I was thirteen, I was seen walking down the street “smoking cigarettes.” A woman in our church witnessed this “highly rebellious” and “brazenly defiant” act, and she immediately informed a different woman in the church who reported it back to my mother. This lady “just thought my mom should know” while informing her that I was no longer allowed to be friends with her son.

My mother was outraged. I only know about this because I walked into a room where she was firing both barrels of an all-law sermon on gossip and slander to this other mother over the phone. I was completely freaked out as I had never seen my mother this angry before. But not angry at me—angry for me.

I quickly exited the room to retrieve my backpack. While my mother proceeded to unload into the phone, I reached into my bag and pulled out the box of candy cigarettes I had been pretending to “smoke” while walking down the street. After I handed them to her, she hung up the phone with no reference to the evidence of innocence I had just provided

“Why didn’t you tell her they were candy?!” I shouted.

“Because it doesn’t matter,” she replied.

I didn’t realize until much later that my mother was not defending my innocence. She didn’t think I was innocent. She was merely defending me. She was defending my reputation and was willing to sacrifice her own reputation (as a good Christian mother) out of love for me. It seems like a small thing, but that helped shape my thoughts on grace and Christ-like-ness.

That is a short story, a parable of sorts. Jesus told a lot of those. People like short stories because our lives are made up of a long series of them.

At the Mockingbird Conference in NYC, I will be sharing a few parables of Jesus (and a few of my own) to talk about our addiction to judgment and the stubborn nature of God’s grace.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference!

What They Don't Show You On Fixer Upper

What They Don’t Show You On Fixer Upper

In keeping with the millennial stereotype of rustic appeal, my wife and I bought our first home this summer, a “fixer-upper” with a lot of character, wet insulation, and dead birds. We took a selfie out front, made a list of future projects, hired a contractor, personally knocked some walls out, and let some light into a house that had not been lived in for nearly ten years. We slapped a fresh coat of paint on the outside, with a green accent door, and voila! Home! Eat it, Chip and Jojo…got no time for that shiplap!

Of course, it has not…

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Lent Itself — A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference breakout preview comes from Duo Dickinson.

Between Ash & Maundy, I write in silence.

It happens to be Lent. I happen to be at Level 23. I most always do this every day anyway, but 90 minutes, every day, is a lot.

Like this morning, while writing, I trigger some unknown algorithm on my new iPad, and some weirdness happens, but stuff gets done.

Like my childhood, it is a time of screaming. Almost every channel that I usually watch while working out every morning is trying to express a point, to validate its presence with a conviction. It is depressing.

I retreat to Law & Order reruns when they are on, and I have missed those during these 40 days, and replays of NFL games. In these 40 days, I have heard no Joe Scarborough or Jack McCoy (or is it McCaughey?) for the 4th Lent.

Four years ago, it was just Holy Week, where I ranted about what none of us know, but what is undeniable.

The next year I wrote a modest set of observations, mostly to myself, about myself in the world.

Last year I tried to be more thoughtful, graphically evocative, and then BANG (or better, POP) a defective vein burst and I missed a day, the Spring Equinox, with the first gap in two years, a planned gap, but not because I was in Yale Hospital, but because I was to be in DC. Which was cancelled. A good thing for those scheduled to fly and meet with me. (THANK YOU, God).

That event framed all the other events since, even though apparently, according to all those doctors, I cured myself — despite 100 hospital hours and $64,000 of insurance. But I take 4 pills, every day. So this morning I am at 120/67BP with 49 HBM.

This 40 day period is, intentionally, of the Flood, the Wilderness, and any other allusion the learned can divine. But Lent is, like, 45 days long, or 44 — because the Sunday’s should not count, but, that does not work out either, as there are 5, and Leap years, and…

This year I initially noted the point guard on F&M’s basketball team was on the verge of an end of his 4 years that may be exceptional to the tiny number that care. It turned out to be mixed. He got the record 2,000 points, the 4th First Team All Conference, the NCAA Sweet 16 (D3). But missed all the national honors that were hoped for. If you cared about numbers you were happy and sad.

Like Lent.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference!

Do I Feel a Draft? Keeping the Door Open for Reconciliation — A Conference Breakout Preview

With one week left until our New York Conference, here’s another breakout preview. This one comes to us from Carrie Willard.

Reconciliation might feel like something that is Someone Else’s Problem, preferably people who live at least an ocean away. Korea should probably get its act together, and the Middle East would also be a nice place to start. These conflicts are a nice, safe distance from our having to do anything about it. But reconciliation comes home in this conference breakout session, when we discuss reconciliation in family life.

We’ll talk about family reconciliation close to home, especially about the sister who’s been missing from the Family Math for the past eighteen years. Even when reconciliation isn’t readily available on the deadline we’d prefer, we can count on God to keep the door open for that reconciliation as we move through the rest of our lives without a balanced, settled equation.

We’ll also discuss the reconciliation in the House of Windsor, when the Queen of England felt called to reconcile with her uncle, the former King. Again, there’s no tidy, balanced equation in this family story, for all of the Queen’s desire to forgive.

As Fleming Rutledge so aptly highlights in The Crucifixion, any reconciliation we might realize in this life is a temporary one. So why should we bother? With clips from Grumpy Old Men and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, we’ll talk about asking God’s forgiveness for our own failings, and how we get in our own way of reconciliation.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference! You won’t want to miss it!

Another Week Ends: De-Konged, Earning Easter, Natural Causes, Deep Laziness and American Recordings

Another Week Ends: De-Konged, Earning Easter, Natural Causes, Deep Laziness and American Recordings

1. Not quite sure what to make of the fact that in the eleven or so years I’ve been writing on Mbird, I have never been forwarded a single news item more than this one. I suppose I should take it as a compliment, as Lord knows there are worst things to be associated with. But it’s true: the mighty have fallen–and they have fallen hard. We’re talking here about Billy Mitchell, erstwhile record holder on both Donkey Kong and Centipede, AKA he of the perfect Pac Man game. The fulfillment of all (arcade) righteousness has been shown to be…

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Geno Auriemma and the Tyranny of…Wait, Didn’t We Just Do This?

Geno Auriemma and the Tyranny of…Wait, Didn’t We Just Do This?

Geno Auriemma is the high priest of women’s college basketball. His career record is 1027-136, which, I promise you, is not a typo. I checked it a bunch of times. His University of Connecticut basketball team is the unquestioned top dog (it’s a pun…they’re the Huskies) in the sport. They get all best recruits, lose an average of about one game a season, and nearly always win the National Championship.

But Auriemma’s not satisfied. He has no peace.

Sports seems to provide the perfect crucible for this sort of impossible-to-satisfy quest. Tom Brady’s on it, and so is almost every other athlete,…

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The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everyone – John Zahl

From our recent conference in Tyler, TX, here’s the incredible second talk from John Zahl, inspired by his book Grace in Addiction. Topics include: the founding of AA, the spirituality of the 12-steps, a plaid peg-leg, an empathetic high priest, and cat curling.

The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everyone – John Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – A Conference Breakout Preview

In this past week’s Another Week Ends, I mentioned very briefly the newest season of Invisibilia, one of our go-to podcasts. That particular episode, “The Pattern Problem,” tells the story of a woman with a seriously checkered past, some her fault, some not at all. She’s the child of addicts, an ex-addict and ex-felon herself, and yet she’s made an against-all-odds comeback: after a couple stints in prison, she gets into law school and is now studying for the bar. A panel of judges overseeing the bar in her state is deciding whether or not her past precludes her from such an unlikely future.

I won’t give away what ends up happening, but you can see where the focus on “patterns” comes into play. Does her criminal past foreshadow the future? Can we really be sure she’s changed? Patterns provide ways for people to make sober decisions. They are the conditional protective measures for how we decide to invest our time, our money, and in this case, our forgiveness. Courts as institutions are not known to be particularly forgiving—it’s not their job—but the same patterns are at work for us, in our minds, in the ways we read the news and process the actions of our strangers and friends alike.

Human beings don’t just dole out our forgiveness to anyone. To the contrary, unforgiveness is tended to like a formal garden. Each garden has hard boundaries with designated entrances, and strict guidelines for keeping its delicate order alive. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the garden would be indistinguishable from the chaos surrounding it. I am not trying to be glib. This is really how it has to be.

At the same time, social science has made it clear that unforgiveness will, in the end, kill you. For all the sensible order our fine gardens provide, they are solitary places, kept alive by stress, numbness to intruders, and estrangement. In other words, unforgiveness may simplify the “pattern problem,” but forgiveness, we are told by social science (and by the New Testament), is the way to new life.

In this breakout, we will talk about the psychology of forgiveness, its proven biological and psychosocial benefits, its various meanings in our culture, and the real, totally practical hope it expresses in the Bible.

Register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! Miss out, and you’ll never forgive yourself…

Not Weak on Sanctification: Christians Grow in Reverse – A Conference Break-Out Preview

This breakout preview comes from longtime Mockingbird contributor Nick Lannon, who is also the Associate Rector of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY.

If you’re reading a post on (or reposted from) the Mockingbird website, chances are pretty good that, at one point or another, you’ve been accused of being “weak on sanctification.” I’ve even had a staff member of a previous church casually refer to the alleged fact that I “don’t believe in sanctification.”

Is that true? What is certainly true is that most discussion of Christian growth rubs me the wrong way, depresses me, or makes me the kind of angry that I got when I heard they were remaking Point Break. But God is at work in us! He promised he would be!

Clearly, some clarification is in order.

For people who have, like thirsty vagrants crawling out of the desert, come to the fount of the Good News of the Gospel—that “it is finished” on account of Christ—sanctification can become, at best, a difficult subject to deal with, and, at worst, a dirty word. How can we talk about the work that God is doing in our lives without making it just another law? Is there a way to celebrate the activity of the Holy Spirit without becoming self-righteous Pharisees? Does talk of “sanctification” or “Christian maturity” necessarily lead to a ranked order of Christians stretching from Mother Teresa and Billy Graham at the top to death-row converts and your back-slidden college roommate at the bottom?

At this break-out session, I’ll try to find a helpful way to talk about sanctification. There is a paradigm through which Christian growth can be discussed, believed in, and even celebrated. Spiritual maturity is neither unicorn nor bogeyman, but it does seem to work itself out in the exact opposite way of that which we are hard-wired to expect.

So join me…afterwards, you can tell all your friends that you’re a more mature Christian than they are. Or not. Wait and see.

You can still register for the 2018 Mockingbird Conference: The Grace of God in Divided Times. Click here to check out the full schedule. We hope to see you there!

 

NYC Conference Update (T-Minus 7 Days and Counting!)

Our 11th Annual Conference in NYC (4/26-28) is almost here, and we wanted to relay a few exciting details that have just come together:

  1. The Pixie and the Scout sent us the final menu earlier this week and it looks scrumptious as can be. Click here to read. Reminder: registration for meals cuts off a few days before the event, so if you plan to eat but have yet to sign up, please do so at your earliest convenience.
  2. On Thursday evening, as people are arriving, we’ll be doing a live taping of The Mockingcast! 5:45-6:30pm-ish in the main sanctuary of St George’s. (Also, The Mockingcast is now on Spotify – new episode coming this weekend.)
  3. The talk schedule has been rejigged somewhat: Jason Micheli will now be speaking with Fleming Rutledge on Saturday morning, after a second talk from Alan Jacobs. Charlotte Getz, Stephanie Phillips & Chad Bird will all be presenting on Friday afternoon. Tim Blackmon will be that morning. Sorry if that messes with anyone’s plans. Click here to view.
  4. The evening after the conference ends, Saturday the 28th, Sea Dog Theater is offering all conference attendees a discount to their stellar production of Inherit the Wind. Click here for more details. Very, very cool.
  5. We’ve added two more breakouts to the slate:
    • Sam Bush will be speaking about David, Nathan and SNL.
    • Nate Lee will be presenting on “Justice is Good, Grace is Better: Reflections on Martin, Malcolm, and the Way Forward for Race in America.”
  6. All of the talk titles are now up on the main Schedule page.
  7. Lindsey Buckingham has just been fired from Fleetwood Mac…

Click here to pre-register – and you’ll be flyin’ high!

A Woman vs. Her Roomba: The Battle for Biblical Femininity

A Woman vs. Her Roomba: The Battle for Biblical Femininity

Several months ago, my husband Alex made a peculiar suggestion for his approaching birthday: he wanted a Roomba.

The notion was mildly annoying to me at the time (I wasn’t sure why), but I chose to brush it off as a disturbing lack of imagination on Alex’s part. You want a vacuum for your birthday? Okay, grandpa.

Several weeks ago the thing arrived, and I have never seen my betrothed operate with such rabid demeanor. Excitement and anticipation emoted through Alex’s every gesture. He darted around the house picking up any odd end that might get in the Roomba’s path. He flipped…

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Everything I Never Learned from Seinfeld – David Zahl

In this talk, from the recent Mockingbird conference in Tyler TX, DZ speaks about the personal and spiritual significance of Seinfeld’s trivial obsessions (9 seasons’ worth). It’s an abbreviated version of his essay featured in the just-released Humor Issue, which you can find here.

Everything I Never Learned from Seinfeld – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.