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Another Week Ends: Conditional Epidemics, Lasting Love Songs, Contextless Forgiveness, Enforced Happiness, Atheist Architecture and John Adams’ Lament

Another Week Ends: Conditional Epidemics, Lasting Love Songs, Contextless Forgiveness, Enforced Happiness, Atheist Architecture and John Adams’ Lament

1. Reporting from the Aspen Festival of Ideas, Connor Friedersdorf briefs us on “How Parents Make High-Achieving Kids Miserable” via a discussion that took place earlier this week between William Deresiewicz and David Brooks on the state/purpose of higher education. The first twelve minutes find Deresiewicz recounting the background of his new book, but once Brooks hits the stage (13 minute mark or so), it really heats up. For instance:

“I see my students burdened by this epidemic of conditional love, where their parents have honed them, and if they decide not to take the job they want, or the major…

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England's Jo Potter (L) consoles teammate Laura Bassett after she scored an own-goal in the last minutes of the game giving Japan the win in their semifinal match at the FIFA Women's World Cup at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada on July 1, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/GEOFF ROBINS        (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Upside-Down Notion of an “Absolute Hero”

This week’s sports post comes from Mockingbird contributor Jonathan Adams:

Like (I’m sure) many of us, these past few weeks I’ve been dutifully doing something that I literally never do – watching women’s soccer on TV. I’ve been watching the US matches in the World Cup. I don’t claim to know much about soccer, but I concluded after watching the US in their semi-final match against Germany that (to my very untrained eye) the US team is a “team”. They communicate well and seem to have each others’ backs. They’re super fun to watch. And yes, I may have a pink…

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Chris Farley and the Tragedy of Splitting

I just watched the trailer for the upcoming Chris Farley documentary and nearly bawled on my desk. His work was a huge part of my childhood and, for my money, there have never been better SNL skits than Matt Foley or funnier movies than Tommy Boy. What a tragic loss.

The trailer revealed that this poor man fell victim to what some have called “splitting”: the living of two lives, ever more separated – one an idealized, “super” version of self and the other a dark brew of one’s less admirable traits (what Paul Zahl refers to as “the boys in the basement”). Chris Farley always had to be “Chris Farley.” He couldn’t find a space to let down, tell the truth, not be funny,  and even as the expectations on his better self ramped up, the appetites of his shadow self increased in step, and finally claimed him. No one can be “on” all the time.

Chris was killed by the law of fame, and not God’s Law, but the lesson still holds. As long as we attempt to find approval and peace by living up to some unattainable ideal, we will inevitably split. The hope of the Gospel is that our darker self will be brought into the light, where it can be forgiven, loved, embraced, and integrated. Only grace moves us towards wholeness, a miracle which Christopher Crosby Farley never experienced.

New York Tenements and the Green, Green Grass of Home

New York Tenements and the Green, Green Grass of Home

As a young person in New York City, one of my favorite spots was the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. Through touring actual old tenement apartments, the museum tells the difficult and often tragic story of 19th century immigrants to Manhattan.

I loved it because it felt like they were telling my story. As strange as it may sound, when we moved to the Big Apple I felt as though I had landed on another planet. At the time I was a 24 year old befuddled Mississippian who cried (often) standing in front of Subway maps.

Of course, my problems…

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2015 Kanuga Renewal Conference: Rest

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An enormous thanks to all those who make last week’s Renewal Conference at Kanuga happen. It was such a joy and privilege to be asked to provide the content, and spend a week with such a wonderful group of people (in such a beautiful place). Best of all, the time itself proved genuinely restful for all involved. The recordings of the main sessions are now up on The Mockingpulpit as well as the Recordings page, but for those who would rather stream or download directly from here, you’re in luck.

1. Rest for the Restless – David Zahl

2. Christian Obstacles to Rest – Jacob Smith

3. Rest in the Bible, part 1 – Jady Koch

4. Rest in the Bible, part 2 – Jady Koch

5. How Rest Is Applied – Jacob Smith

6. The Life of Rest – David Zahl

7. Closing Question and Answer Session – DZ, JS & JDK

Another Week Ends: More Thoughts on Charleston, Papal Sustainability, NPR Snobbery, Holy Metal, and Delinquent Ethicists

Another Week Ends: More Thoughts on Charleston, Papal Sustainability, NPR Snobbery, Holy Metal, and Delinquent Ethicists

1. As a follow-up to the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan points out the extraordinary character of the community’s response:

[In the courtroom, victims’ family members] spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God.

There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious…

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Rubbing the Rabbit’s Foot: a Chronicle of Failure (with Free Quotes from Interesting People)

Rubbing the Rabbit’s Foot: a Chronicle of Failure (with Free Quotes from Interesting People)

I did everything I could to avoid posting something this week.

I slowly and meticulously inventoried all our books, even alphabetized them. I spent an afternoon hiding in the attic (read: furnace in the sky), then prolongedly squawked about how hot it was. I made a lot of pour-over coffees. I initiated long conversations about any- and everything with people who had better things to do, including the homeless people in the park across the street.

And then the worst possible thing happened, which is that my to-do list of inverted priorities dwindled down to one major item left glaring up at me from…

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The Mockingbird Issue 5 Out Now!

The Forgiveness Issue is here! Order your (boyfriend’s, stepdad’s, daughter’s) copy today! To check out the Opener and Table of Contents, click here.

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“When I Run, I Feel His Pleasure”, and Sometimes I’m Just Pleasant

“When I Run, I Feel His Pleasure”, and Sometimes I’m Just Pleasant

I was talking about the film “Secretariat” with a friend recently, and I remember him saying “I’m not really into horse movies”. That made me laugh. It’s like saying “I’m not into books about turtles”. It just seems to be an odd thing to be averse to. Anyway, I guess if I was pressed on the topic, I’d say I kind of like horse movies, Sea Biscuit, Secretariat, War Horse, and Black Beauty all come to mind. The film Secretariat came up in our conversation because we were talking about favorite movie scenes. I had mentioned that one of my…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Seven Verses Sixteen through Nineteen

This morning’s devotion comes from the main character in this video

You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:16-19, NASB)

3039842-slide-s-5-hipstory-leadersI grew up in the South, where this was an often-quoted verse. And people said things like, “We’re not judging, we’re just being fruit inspectors.” I’m not kidding. I’ve actually heard people say that, and they believed it. Conversely, I recently came across this quote from good ol’ Honest Abe: “A man watches his pear tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear falls at length into his lap.”

Quaint as it may be, I feel like this relates much more to what Jesus is really talking about. If the standard is perfection, and we all fail equally, then how can anyone be a “fruit inspector”?

I once listened to a preacher talk about how profoundly passive a metaphor the fruit tree was. Think about it: a tree has no input on where it’s planted, where it grows, or even what kind of fruit it produces. It’s completely at the mercy of external forces as to whether it even produces fruit to begin with. A tree has no say in the matter. It simply must be what it is.

This is oddly comforting. God is working out His plan in, through, and all around us. It’s often difficult, but I know I can trust that. Passivity is the key to activity. Seems counterintuitive, but if we take Abe for his word, it actually works.

A Response to Charleston: Finding the Gospel at Prayer Vigils

A Response to Charleston: Finding the Gospel at Prayer Vigils

Yesterday, I went to one of the many prayer vigils that happened at African Methodist Episcopal churches all over the country to show support and love for the people tragically killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. I’ve been to these kinds of events before. But this one was different because frankly, I am different.

There was a time in my life when I would have felt some sort of an obligation to show up at these events. To put it simply: my white guilt would have compelled me. I would have shown up and felt pretty great about what I…

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Another Week Ends: Jung’s God, Smart Drummers, Game of Peanuts, Justified Magic, Disappointed Youth, and Inside Out

Another Week Ends: Jung’s God, Smart Drummers, Game of Peanuts, Justified Magic, Disappointed Youth, and Inside Out

A mercifully truncated weekend column today, as we finish prepping for our week at Kanuga. (Probably goes without saying but next week will be light on content). Happy Father’s Day!

1. First off, an incredibly moving picture of collective grief in Charleston, via John Zahl, who was present at a citywide prayer service at Morris Brown AME Church. Our hope is truly built on nothing less:

2. The new issue of The Mockingbird is here! And copies shipped to subscribers yesterday afternoon. Order your copy, or subscription, here. By way of reminder, anyone who signs up for monthly support of Mbird not…

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