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Grace in the Age of Fentanyl

Grace in the Age of Fentanyl

“[Karl] Marx famously called religion the opiate of the masses, but these days opiates are the opiates of the masses.” That’s the first variation of this observation I came across last week, via Tim Kreider’s new I Wrote This Book Because I Love You. The second run-in occurred a couple days later, toward the middle […]

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

Tragic school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida this week are becoming an all-too-common occurrence in our culture. Ubiquitous screens and news outlets surround us as we encounter these tragedies, in a second-handed fashion, in a strange collective way (only those directly affected can experience them). As with any repeated and communal form of […]

Prohibition (Mostly) Does Not Work

Prohibition (Mostly) Does Not Work

Being one of those Baby Boomer antiquaries, I was caused by (and witnessed) a unique cultural evolution. No, not the 60s. It began with Prohibition, which was tried on my parents’ generation and was an epic fail — its genesis was unassailable and its failure inevitable. Before the Industrial Age, hard cider was relatively safer […]

"Chip in My Brain": This American Life Buried the Lede

“Chip in My Brain”: This American Life Buried the Lede

Like many here at Mockingbird, I’m a big fan of This American Life and Serial/S-Town and all of those NPRish, WBEC Chicago Public Radio podcasts. I’ve been listening to the TAL podcasts for going on four years now, and “Chip in My Brain” (Jan 13, 2018) is the most compelling to date, for me. That’s a huge compliment […]

Step Back From That Ledge? Outdoor Activity, 'the Progression Mindset,' and the Pressure of Experience

Step Back From That Ledge? Outdoor Activity, ‘the Progression Mindset,’ and the Pressure of Experience

Imagine you’re on a hike. (Where I live, everyone loves to hike.) Imagine you’re out in the woods, and you’ve been on the trail for hours, going steadily uphill, stepping carefully over rocks and slippery wet roots. By the time you reach the summit, you’ve eaten all your snacks, drunk most of your water, and […]

Daryl Davis: Grace, Race, and the KKK

Very excited to share this talk from our recent conference in DC, featuring the incredible blues musician Daryl Davis. Here Davis talks about how, over the course of 30 years, he made meaningful friendships with some of his greatest antagonists…members of the Ku Klux Klan. Talk about grace in practice! (Also, you won’t want to miss that boogie-woogie piano at the end!)

Daryl Davis: Grace, Race, and the KKK from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

I, Tonya Justifies the '90s

I, Tonya Justifies the ’90s

Where were you in 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan took the famous billy club to the knee? Can you believe that event took place nearly a quarter century ago? It’s one of those strange decade-defining events that’s lasted in our minds alongside the Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal of 1990, the Clinton affair scandal of 1998, or […]

Improve Thyself! On the Fantasy Person You're Failing to Become

Improve Thyself! On the Fantasy Person You’re Failing to Become

If you go to an American bookshop, by far the biggest section is self-help and improvement. The idea that life is refine-able and that you can learn a technique for anything, whether it’s love-making, being a businessman, marriage, cooking, losing weight, whatever it is. There’s a Tony Robbins way of doing it, there’s a things-they-didn’t-teach-you-at-Harvard […]

Wearing Black

Wearing Black

I didn’t actually catch the Golden Globes on Sunday. On Monday morning, though, I watched Oprah’s dazzling speech and heard Natalie Portman’s perfect one-liner. I also saw the streaming in of men and women dressed in midnight and ebony and onyx. Oprah telling us about Recy Taylor and a new horizon gives everyone all the […]

Wendell Berry's Plea for Grace

Wendell Berry’s Plea for Grace

Have you ever seen your dog or cat suddenly turn its head, tense up, and stare intently into an unoccupied space? It’s quite unnerving. They obviously see something we can’t, and if the more instinctual part of our brain trusts their superior senses enough, we tense up as well. It’s an interesting cross-species bit of […]

We're Better Than This (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves)

We’re Better Than This (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves)

Grateful for this reflection by Connor Gwin. In high school, I wanted to be the President of the United States. It was a humble goal. I was involved in politics on a local level in my small town in Alabama. I kept up-to-date on all the top political news. I was a top debater for […]

The Very Persistent Pirate: A Thank You Note from Houston

Dear Mockingsupporters,

This isn’t a normal post. I’m not here to talk about the wonders of Martin Luther or to tell you that Advent could be more chill. I am writing to thank you.

Yesterday I visited our neighborhood school and talked with a room full of first graders about what it’s like to be a published author. This past fall, they worked for months writing and “publishing” their own books. The topics ranged from Pokémon to Cats to Jesus (“’cause it’s close to Christmas”). As St. Whitney profoundly sang, I do believe the children are our future.

I fielded questions about what it is like to be a published author. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you:

  1. Does your book have any explosions in it?
  2. Did you know that the Mockingbird is the state bird of Texas?
  3. I have a sister named Maddy.

Of course, in talking about being a published author, there was no way I could actually read from my own book. Not only is Churchy not public school safe, it’s not really “safe church” either. Besides, it didn’t seem like the place to offer the little girls a cautionary tale about the difficulties of being a mother and a priest.

Anyway.

When they asked me to spend some time with the kids I knew immediately the book I had to read: Mockingbird’s own The Very Persistent Pirate. It casts a picture of grace that is foreign to most of us in this frightening world. The Kid in the story keeps doing the wrong thing and the Pirate continues in his persistent generosity. They even have a party at the end. I needed to hear it more than the children did.

Plus, The Persistent Pirate has the word “booty” in it no less than 4 times. Which is a real riot when you are 7.

But these are not just any kids at any school. These are kids at a school in Houston. They are from neighborhoods that were hit particularly hard by Hurricane Harvey. Many of their houses flooded which meant that entire childhood libraries were lost. Many of you donated to make sure that every one of those first graders received their own copy of The Very Persistent Pirate. So thank you.

As one little girl exclaimed to me, “YOU MEAN WE GET TO TAKE IT HOME?!”

Yes. Yes you do.

Grateful,

Sarah