“On Earth As It Is In Heaven”: Stories of Grace (A Conference Breakout with John Zahl)

Continuing our NYC Conference breakout previews, this one comes to us from the Rev. John Zahl:

No single word better describes the heart of the Christian message than “grace”. Grace defines our relationship with God, and describes the shape of our response to it. But it is also the case that life and people are not always gracious; sometimes our day-to-day experience seems devoid of charity. And so grace typically breaks into our midst like a wonderful surprise.

RedBeardw_originalWith that in mind, I wonder, are you familiar with that wonderful feeling when a film moves you to cry tears of joy? This breakout presupposes that we do well to draw attention to such moments, for they remind us of the things in life that are most important, and point us back toward their point of origin. This breakout is an attempt to ground those experiences within the context of Christian spirituality.

Not only that, Gospel illustrations help our hearts to connect with the good news that we hold so dear. In “Stories of Grace,” with the help of film clips, newspaper articles, and excerpts from literature, we will reflect upon some of these special instances. If you don’t cry tears of joy in this break-out, then you need a (second) heart transplant.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (1 Cor 16:23).

NYC Breakout Preview: Faith through Imagination

This begins our series of previews for our Mockingbird NYC Conference this April. It comes from the one and only Melina Smith.  

Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed. Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal. And without personality, a story cannot ring true to the audience. – Walt Disney

We can all recall being small people and being captured through imagination. For me this experience came through vivid stories and films my father shared with me as a child. I can honestly say faith did not come through Sunday School. I can recall being disappointed in the presentation of your average Bible story– they came across as stale, rigid, and lacking in any creativity. As a child I preferred being in the big church; it was there, at the very least,that I heard more compelling and imaginative readings of the Bible. Sunday School felt like a threat–a boring one.

Walt-Disney-and-Mickey-Mouse-at-Disneyland-walter-e-disney-6626898-400-512Fast forward to 2007 when I find myself in the basement of the church, working with a couple of volunteers to create Sunday School programing. I call upon my own childhood, remembering the felt board Jesus, watching Salty, and reading through the KJV. I knew going forward we would not be using materials I grew up with. As our small team continued, we bought curriculums, and worked with Godly Play, the programs we used were good, but I found something was missing.

Why is it that in the Christian subculture we miss our opportunity to capture the imaginations of our youngest members during the time when its development is MOST vivid? As children we are not bound to what’s “real”–we are open to story. Take Walt Disney for instance: you could argue the world of Disney is its very own religious sphere. Disney said, “Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.” He was onto something here. Disney understood the power or imagination, he knew how to communicate the impossible with the hope of plausibility.

Children and grown-ups are captivated by the strength of a story. Sure, the Bible may not include singing lobsters, but each story includes enough drama and risk to capture any listener, if the story is told well.

Join us for “Faith Through Imagination” at the 2015 Mockingbird conference. Jackie DeMarco and I will share how our team has created programing that captures the imaginations of our youngest members. The imagination is the natural way to the heart of our youngest members. Can you imagine creation, the stormy story of Noah, and Jonah’s time in the belly of a whale? Children can so long as the story is told well. Join Jackie and I as we share our process, our vision, and hope for sharing the Gospel through story.

Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.

Mbird in Tyler, TX (3/27-28): Tangled Up in Grace – FULL SCHEDULE!

Calling all mathematicians and carpenters’ wives! Thanks to a truly amazing group of volunteers, later this month we are coming back to Texas–Tyler this time. The event has come together beautifully, as you’ll see below. The theme is Dylan-derived, ptL, and we’ve even gotten a local brewery in on the action! Best of all, local supporters have come together to ensure that the entire thing is only $40/person. For more information, or to pre-register, click here.

Friday March 27th  (Christ Episcopal Church)

Mockingbird_FB-Poster-full4:30pm – Registration and Welcome

5:15pm – Call to Worship – Matt and Megan Magill and Robert Finney

5:30pm – David Zahl Talk #1: “Lay Down Your Weary Tune: Everyday Life and the Roots of Exhaustion”

6:30pm – Stanley’s BBQ Dinner

7:30pm – True Vine Beer Tasting

8:30pm – Bob Dylan Tribute Show at The Foundry Coffee House (202 Broadway)

Saturday March 28th  (The Foundry Coffee House)

9:00am – Coffee Talk w/ Jonathan Ramm and Josh Modisette

9:45am – Morning Worship – The Magills & The Downtowners

10:00am – Aaron Zimmerman talk #1: “A Mockingbird in Capernaum: The After-party for the Sermon on the Mount (In Which the Sinners Get the Good Stuff)”

11:00am – Breakout sessions at The Foundry Coffee House/Bethel Bible:

  • Keith Pozzuto: ”Management, Control, and Getting It Together: a Work in Failure”
  • Randy Randall: “What the #$%* is A Jackson Pollock: The Messy Grace of Modern Art”
  • Ryan Dixon: “Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Beer is Good, God is Great, People are Lonely”
  • Sarah Condon: “Hiding in the Bathroom: Why Inspired Parenting Will Kill You”

12-1:30pm – Curbside Taco at The Foundry back Lot. (Cost not included in registration.)

1:45pm – David Zahl Talk #2 “Shelter From The Storm: Rest, Refuge, and Our Merciful Friend”

3:00pm – Round Table Discussion and free time

4:00-5:30pm – Free Time (Area Attractions)

5:30pm – “Open Taps” at True Vine Brewery, 219 S. Englewood (This is a separate event that you are invited to attend click here for more info.)



Very excited to announce the preliminary schedule for our upcoming conference in NYC! For more info on the various speakers, click here. In addition to the sessions below, we can confirm that we’ll have a magician in tow to perform tricks between talks (seriously!). Some details subject to change. To reserve your spot, pre-register today!

Thursday April 16th

sidebar_version3TBA  Pre-Conference museum tour
5:00pm  Registration Opens!
6:30pm  Welcome and Opening Devotion – Jim Munroe
7:00pm  “Clean Slate: Absolution Is Just” – Jacob Smith
7:30pm  Dinner (catered, once again, by The Pixie and the Scout!)

Friday April 17th

8:15am  Coffee and Registration
9:00am  Welcome and Devotion – Jim Munroe
9:15am  Morning Mini-Talks (20-30 minutes each)

  • TBA – Sarah Condon
  • TBA – Jamin Warren

10:15am  Coffee Break
10:30am  Morning Breakouts

  • I’m New Here! What’s Going On? – Jacob Smith & Sarah Condon
  • Even My Slate? Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean – Nick Lannon
  • The Seventh Deadly Sin – Ted Scofield
  • Faith Formed Through Imagination: Sharing the Gospel with our Youngest Members – Melina Smith and Jackie Demarco

11:45am  Lunch
1:00pm  Afternoon Talks

  • TBA – Jim Gilmore
  • “Hidden Holiness: The Experience of Sanctification?” – Will McDavid

2:00pm  Afternoon Breakouts A

  • Olmsted Salon and The Garage: Bridging the Gap Between the Church and the Culture – Dusty Brown & Sam Bush
  • TBA – Ethan Richardson
  • Stories of Grace – John Zahl

3:00pm  Afternoon Breakouts B

  • The Religion of Exercise – Evan Brush
  • Pick Up Your La-Z-Boy and Follow Me: The Theology of False Absolution in Christian Kitsch – Jeremy Coleman & James Romaine
  • All Things Are Lawful! Freedom and Imperatives Under Grace – Jim McNeely

7:00pm  TBA – Nadia Bolz-Weber
8:00pm  Dinner


Saturday April 18th

8:45am  Coffee
9:15am  Morning Welcome and Devotion – Jim Munroe
9:30am  The Gospel in the 21st Century: An On-Stage Conversation between Nadia Bolz-Weber and Tullian Tchividjian
10:45am  TBA – David Zahl
12:00pm  Conference Ends
12:30pm  Book Table closes
7:30pm  Post-Conference Concert in the Cave: Jazz Conceptions Orchestra featuring Dusty Brown and Melanie Penn (suggested donation $10)


The Lame Shall Enter First: Grace and Weakness in Flannery O’Connor

Getting close to the end of our video rollout. This one comes from the incomparable Mr. McD:

The Lame Shall Enter First: Grace and Weakness in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Risk of Grace Pt 2 – Tullian Tchividjian

Herr Tchividjian’s second talk from Houston, in which he comes clean about the Christian life in no uncertain terms:

The Risk of Grace, part 2 – Tullian Tchividjian from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Speaking of our man Tullian, just found out that he’ll be with us in NYC in April to lead an on-stage conversation with his good friend Nadia Bolz Weber (on Saturday morning). Should be incredible. And don’t forget: the LIBERATE conference is only a month away!

SPRING CONFERENCE in NYC (4/16-18): Theme and Details



April 16-18, 2015

St George’s Church, New York City


“Pardon’s the word to all” – W. Shakespeare

A fresh start. A free pass. An expunged record. To be let off the hook, and not just in theory—that is what it means to be absolved of sin, and it is the life-saving heart of the Christian message. It’s what it is all about.

Yet we seldom experience absolution, in church or any other context. When is the last time you were forgiven for something you had done and it wasn’t surrounded by implicit expectations for the future? What would it look like if we truly believed that God does not hold our past against us? Nor our complicated present, for that matter.

Join us in April as we delve into this most hopeful of subjects. To help, we’ve enlisted Nadia Bolz-Weber (author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint), Jamin Warren (editor of Kill Screen Magazine), and a host of Mockingbirds, including Sarah Condon, Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, Jacob Smith, and John & David Zahl. Our chaplain will be Jim Munroe, and we’ve got a number of special guests in the works that we hope to announce very soon.

In addition to the main presentations, there will be breakout sessions on a wide range of topics, from theology and religion, to movies and music, children and relationships, to philosophy and psychology. If the past eight years are anything to go by, the conference is sure to be a time of warmth, laughter, delicious food, and maybe even a little freedom. We hope you can join us!

Full schedule will be announced Feb 1st.

The event is open to all, and we guarantee there will be something for everyone. Just be sure to pre-register ASAP, as space is limited.


How I Learned To Love Gravedigging in Marriage – Matt and Megan Magill

And…. we’re back! A handful more videos from the Fall Conference to share, the first of which captures, beautifully, what happens when vulnerability, truth, and amazing harmonies come together:

Cause This is Thriller: How I Learned to Love Grave Digging (in Marriage) – Matt and Megan Magill from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Earlybird Registration for 2015 Spring Conference in NYC (Expires 1/18)!

Earlybird Registration for 2015 Spring Conference in NYC (Expires 1/18)!

Earlybird pre-registration is now open for our annual Spring Conference, which happens April 16-18th in New York City! Details for the event are still coming together, but we assure you that you’ll not want to miss this one. Speakers already confirmed include author and preacher Nadia Bolz-Weber, journalist Jamin Warren (founder of Killscreen magazine), Mockingbird’s own Jacob Smith, Sarah Condon, and David Zahl, among many others. Our chaplain will be The Rev. Jim Munroe.

As always, in addition to the main presentations, there will be a number of breakout sessions, covering a wide range of topics, from theology to literature, television…

Read More »

Living By Grace (and According to Frankenstein) – Matthew Fenlon

Watch out, here comes another session from the Houston Conference:

Living by Grace (and According to Frankenstein) – Matthew Fenlon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

I Feel Like I Win When I Lose – David Zahl

The closing talk (pre-bagpipes!) from Houston. More videos on their way:

I Feel Like I Win When I Lose – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

For more about The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, go here.

Grace in Parenting: I Have No Advice – Sarah Condon

This one will have you in stitches (when you’re not tearing up). Enjoy:

Grace in Parenting: I Have No Advice – Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.