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God’s Salty Lamb: A Conference Breakout Preview

God’s Salty Lamb: A Conference Breakout Preview

The Economist wrote an obituary for Robert Farrar Capon after his death in 2013, and they had this to say about the food writer/theologian’s style of life:

Mr Capon had no time for strict scorekeeping, in the kitchen or anywhere else. Grace, not willpower, dealt with sin: Jesus came to save the world, not to judge it. Showy piety, legalism and quietism were all abominations, almost as much as the cheap oil and harsh flavours of phoney ethnic food.

His own scorecard had some blots. Divorce from the mother of his six children cost him his parish on Long Island and his…

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Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean: A Conference Breakout Preview

Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean: A Conference Breakout Preview

Life’s a mess. This is incontrovertibly true, no matter who you are. Some of us are better at hiding it (hedge fund managers, Dalai Lamas, me) than others (Kardashians, hacky-sack players, you), but we’re all a mess. We all want to be able to put our mess behind us; to start over. We all want a clean slate; to be washed. That’s why we’re coming to New York (a place that is truly a mess…I’m looking at you, trash night…er, rat night)…David Zahl (a mess) has promised us a conference that will tell us about this mythical creature: the cleaned…

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A Tyler Talk on Getting It Together: A Lesson in Failure

A Tyler Talk on Getting It Together: A Lesson in Failure

This talk came from Keith Pozzuto, the minister for spiritual formation at Christ Church in Tyler. To listen to the other talks we posted earlier in the week, go here. 

One of the bishops who ordained me told me the story of how he became a bishop. It is a perfect example of a work in failure: He started in England as a parish priest and found it to be very exhausting, so he found that there was a parish that was open in the country in northern Spain. Looking for a better climate and sensing a call, he moved himself and…

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The Seventh Deadly Sin: A Conference Breakout Preview

The Seventh Deadly Sin: A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference preview comes from Ted Scofield. 

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, it’s the last one on our list. Number seven, at the bottom, out of sight, out of mind. Anger, pride, gluttony, laziness, lust and envy — we’ll cop to all of those sins, but greed?

What? Who? Me?

Research shows that most of us agree: Greed is someone else’s problem, not mine. Wall Street fat cats are greedy, welfare freeloaders are greedy, millenials, baby boomers, short people, tall people, those people over there, anybody but me! During this breakout session at the upcoming Mockingbird conference (Friday, April 17, 10:30am), together we’ll explore how…

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2015 Tyler Conference Recordings: Tangled Up in Grace


A Texas-sized thank-you to everyone who helped put on our conference in Tyler last month, especially the fabulous–and ridiculously ecumenical–steering committee, led by the indefatigable Matt Magill. Huge thanks to all the sponsors as well: B3 Ministries, Bethel Bible, Christ Episcopal, Porch Culture Coffee Roasters, and True Vine Brewery, not to mention Mark and David Babikow, who once again came to our rescue on the A/V front. Vielen dank to Richard Dvorak for taking such awesome photos, too.

As per usual, we’re making the recordings available at no charge; we only ask that those who were not able to attend this year *consider* tossing something in the hat to help cover the cost of the event. Download links are followed by an in-line player for each session. The main sessions were also videotaped, and we’ll be rolling the clips out gradually over the next few weeks.


TALK 1.  Lay Down Your Weary Tune: Everyday Life and the Roots of Exhaustion – David Zahl

TALK 2.  Does Jesus Like Donuts? The After-Party for the Sermon on the Mount – Aaron Zimmerman


BREAKOUT 1.  Hiding in the Bathroom: Why Inspired Parenting Will Kill You – Sarah Condon (click here for Powerpoint)

BREAKOUT 2What the #$%* is A Jackson Pollock: The Messy Grace of Modern Art – Randy Randall

BREAKOUT 3.  Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Beer is Good, God is Great, People are Lonely – Ryan Dixon

BREAKOUT 4.  Management, Control, and Getting It Together: A Work in Failure – Keith Pozzuto*

*There was sadly a technological snafu and Keith’s session did not make it onto tape. He agreed to write it up for us, though, and you can read it here.

TALK 3.  Shelter From the Storm: The Refuge of Our Merciful Friend – David Zahl


Cold Dead Hands: The Everything and Nothing of a Clean Slate (A Conference Preview)

This morning’s conference preview comes from Sarah Condon. Oh, and may we refer you to the (ridiculous!) menu we’re offering at the conference? Goodness.

After an especially long days at Casa Condon, when the kids are demanding, the husband is cranky, and I am starting to treat my family like there’s a camera crew from Bravo about to capture my own personal breakthrough/breakdown, one thought often comes into my mind: Someday, I get to be dead. Gosh, that’s going to be nice. Everything will be quiet.

shutterstock_201599033But the news of a Clean Slate rolls in and tells me I already am dead. Or, at least I am in the process of dying. I have been given a Clean Slate in Christ and in the immortal words of Mbird favorite Robert Farrar Capon:

The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.

I also want to talk about what we mean when we trot out the much beloved Romans 6, “Dead to sin, alive in Christ.” What do we mean by this death? What do we lose by dying? And are we really the ones who choose to give it up?

If you’re thinking this sounds dark, you are right on the money. But if you’re sick of acting like Starbucks platitudes are life-giving, then join us for this talk. We’ve got a club and a handshake. And the only requirement is inevitable death.

The world tells us we can control our behavioral destinies. We can make choices to improve ourselves and our nasty, hidden habits. Well, bullhockey. I don’t think we do anything, except that we start dying. And God, in all of His mercy, pries our #bestlifenow from our cold dead hands. And offers us the sweet relief of a Clean Slate. Clean of our heartbreak. Clean of our grudges. Clean of our sin.

Pick Up Your La-Z-Boy and Follow Me: An NYC Conference Preview

The Theology of False Absolution in Christian Kitsch

i-115d13b18d3b104621321fd8c7cc6c6f-chief_of_the_medical_staff_greene_lHave you ever unsuspectingly picked up a novelty mug from your local Christian book store, looked at the image on its side and found yourself thinking, “Hey, I thought Rembrandt was the ‘Painter of Light’? Who does this Thomas Kinkade guy think he is anyway!?” Well, you’re not alone! Join us as we explore how paintings and visual art speak a language all of their own; some words of which ring more true than you think, and others…well, you didn’t really think Kinkade’s work qualified as fine art, did you? J

1) First, we’ll look at paintings by artists such as Warner Sallman and Thomas Kinkade, and consider what the paintings themselves communicate about theology (by examining what subject they depict, and, more importantly, how).

2) Next, we’ll consider the theology of the gospel itself, and in what ways these paintings support or supplant that message.

3) Finally, we’ll examine works by Jeff Koons, Francis Bacon, and Vincent van Gough (among others), and repeat our strategy from above, though hopefully with a different outcome!

If you’re an artist, a theologian, or just an amateur art historian who’s curious to see in what ways theology and visual art may intersect, this breakout session is for you. The format of this session will be conversational, so come ready with lots of questions.

Pre-Register for our NYC Conference today!

Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

This one comes to us from Mockingtern Evan Brush:

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote last fall about the decline in the number of cults capturing America’s attention. He recalled the 1980s when cults worried the parents of estranged children and often caught headlines for all the wrong reasons. However, Douthat actually saw the decline in cults as indicative of a lack of vitality in American religious life: less people seeking to go outside the mainstream in search of the answers to the big questions. He thinks that the lack of a somewhat radical fringe is indicative of stagnation within…

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Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

I am very excited about the upcoming Mockingbird Conference! First, and possibly most importantly, I have been asked to do a few magic tricks at the conference. If you come, you will be one of the few humans ever to witness a one-time demonstration of the power of the amazing Cords of Shastri, which have been lost for over 600 years, but which have recently come into my possession. I will bring these to New York City for this one event. I repeat, this is a feat of legerdemain which has not been performed for over 600 years! I swear its…

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“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.)