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From Matt Johnson’s Getting Jesus Wrong

Another great find from our friend Luke Mackinnon.

Getting Jesus Wrong, written by Matt Johnson, is an insightful invitation to give up spiritual vitamins and checklist Christianity. The freelance writer and editor gives a breath of fresh air to the worn out soul trying to follow caricatures of Jesus that are far from the Jesus we read about in the Bible. Johnson assures us that life does not become better by swallowing religious pills or crossing things off inventories, but becomes better by God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice. This comes from the chapter titled “The Problem,” and it unearths our tendency to shove Jesus into the mold we want him to be instead of grasping his true essence and character on the cross.

Everyone has an image of Jesus they prefer, a Jesus who values what they value: Tough-guy Jesus, Wise Sage Jesus, Bearded, Tattooed, Skinny Jeans Jesus, Khakis and Polo Shirt Jesus, Suit and Tie Conservative Jesus, or Social Revolutionary Jesus. On a deeper level, our personal images of Jesus reveal that we think the Christian faith is about furthering our hopes and dreams, and that Jesus is the primary catalyst for getting us where we want to be in life. This is another way of saying, in the words of Gerhard Forde, we all are ‘inverted theologians of glory.’ When we operate within the glory-story paradigm, it reveals we’re in love with all the attractiveness of power, influence, success, or possessions, and we call it being ‘blessed.’ We’re encouraged by all the cliché slogans ‘reach for the stars’ and ‘don’t give up on your dreams,’ but then like a flaky boyfriend or girlfriend, when we don’t ‘feel the chemistry’ anymore, when real life really falls apart, suddenly our relationship with Jesus is on shaky ground…

God works in ways that are the opposite of our lofty imaginings. If we take the story of Jesus at bare-bones face value, he wasn’t a great success. God sent Jesus into the world to be born in a barn. He was born into scandal (imagine the naysayers: ‘Yeah, right, Mary conceived of the “Holy Spirit”’), he worked a regular job, he didn’t study under a famous Rabbi, he claimed he was God, many people thought he was crazy or demon possessed, and he was executed like a criminal. In our day and age where only good things in life constitute being blessed, it would seem that Jesus was anything but.

It’s only by faith that we can grasp the God reveals his character on the cross. On the cross, God subverted everything we intuitively understand about power. ‘Of all the places to search for God, the last place most people would think to look is the gallows.’ Instead of demanding power for himself and presenting himself as a God who ‘… could knock heads and straighten people out when they got out of line…,’ God, in Christ, laid down his power and died for us.

On Being Fat (and Life's Other Unavoidable Criteria)

On Being Fat (and Life’s Other Unavoidable Criteria)

I have always been fat.

From earliest memory, my mother took me to De Pinna’s “husky section” to buy fat kids’ clothing. When I was playing at 189 and 10% body fat, my BMI was close to “morbid” — and I have not been below 200 in 37 years. When I lost a third of myself 10 years ago, I was, and am, still fat.

Weight is the most obvious criterion of my life. It was once grades. It’s also money — not the love of family, God, or being “saved.” No, I prefer numbers — especially the hard ones — but my weight…

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Death of a Garden That Never Existed. And Robots.

Death of a Garden That Never Existed. And Robots.

Garden writing is a rather unusual sub-genre, part memoir and part fantasy. You do, you dream. Gardening is all about should and ought; nature is governed by its own laws, and we are struggling to keep or subvert them. Exploring the existential effects of our ‘original profession’ has, on us mere mortals, produced some worthy and insightful reading material over the years. Karel Capek, the early 20th century Czech writer — and coiner of the word ‘robot’ — was an avid gardener who understood the struggle, or more accurately, the compulsion. To wit: “Let no one think that real gardening is…

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Sisyphus’s Inbox ~ Oliver Burkeman

It was such a privilege to have journalist and best-selling author Oliver Burkeman speak at our recent conference in NYC! His incredible talk, about productivity and modern life, is available here:

Sisyphus’s Inbox ~ Oliver Burkeman from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Law of Minimalism and the Idolatry of Sparking Joy

The Law of Minimalism and the Idolatry of Sparking Joy

In the fall of 2014, I had just completed a cross-country move after a cross-city move with my husband and two small children. After those moves, we got a puppy, which destroyed anything that didn’t make it through those first moves, and we also said goodbye to diapers and pacifiers in that same year. We were feeling pretty great about lightening our load. We were lean — svelte even — in the hoarding possessions department. And so, that same fall, when Marie Kondo published “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” I politely ignored…

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Self-Righteousness at Home in the Twenty-First Century

Self-Righteousness at Home in the Twenty-First Century

Yet another harrowing indictment of modern family life recently came across my newsfeed. “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century” chronicles the ways in which American family life is falling in on itself. Apparently things are worse than we thought. We are surrounded by our belongings, our children are staring at screens, and no one is going outside. Also, it turns out everyone is eating chicken nuggets. Dammit, America, haven’t we talked about this already?

Mostly, all of the nuerotic-as-I-am mothers are posting articles about this book and wondering what we are doing to screw our kids up. We see…

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The Girls of Whitehaven: Love and Friend Requests in Cyber Space

The Girls of Whitehaven: Love and Friend Requests in Cyber Space

In 2009 I was invited to join “Facebook.” I already knew all about it, because my best friend from high school had gone to Harvard, where I had visited her and had seen it in 1974, in her freshman room. Back then, “Facebook” was paper and had all the Radcliffe girls listed in it.

It was mostly a catalog of pictures. Many of those pictures were of Groucho Marx — those who did not submit photos were represented by the specter of the huge mustache, glasses and cigar. This mid-century Facebook was a proto-dating service. High tech as it was — Xeroxed (versus mimeographed) and mass produced, I…

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The Handmaid's Tale: When My Zumba-Loving Heart Hit the Dance Floor

The Handmaid’s Tale: When My Zumba-Loving Heart Hit the Dance Floor

In Houston, Texas, Zumba is what God hath intendeth it to be. You will never hear a song in English because it is almost exclusively Latin music. Praise Jesus. Also, you will not hear many words spoken in English either. All of my teachers have been native Spanish speakers. Which is perfect, because many of the classes participants are too. So, Spanglish it is. God bless Texas. And Houston. #sanctuarycity4lyfe

Some years ago, I attended my first Zumba class when we lived in Westchester County, New York. To say the least, I was not impressed. The music was mostly from the…

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The Mockingbird Devotional: Finding Grace and Being Found

The Mockingbird Devotional: Finding Grace and Being Found

After scrolling through my Twitter feed and seeing a prominent Christian leader post something that made me want to climb in my bed, pull my down alternative comforter over my head, and hide from the world; I tweet-confessed that remembering the gospel doesn’t undo the bad stuff. My proclamation got a couple of likes so there are at least two other people in the world who might agree that oh-remember-the-gospel-and-god-and-the-kingdom-everything-is-better-now just doesn’t work sometimes. Maybe we aren’t Christian-y enough, but using the gospel and the reality of God’s kingdom as a bandaid for all that is wrong in the world…

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Faeries, Lies, and Leporicide: A Meditation on Genesis 15

Faeries, Lies, and Leporicide: A Meditation on Genesis 15

A wonderful contribution from Thomas Hayes.

I’m going to tell a few stories and then tell you what the stories mean. But first a cautionary tale: When my middle son was very young, his grandmother took him to see The Wizard of Oz. Afterwards, I asked him what it was about, and he replied, “It was about a girl, a scarecrow, a robot, and a bear.” The moral is: in relation to stories and their meanings we are all young.

When I was a boy, I used to attend a summer camp with my best friend, Steve. Steve’s uncle, Uncle Jim, ran…

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Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

I am over sixty, so I know a lot of people over sixty. Several of those — measured, responsible leaders — have giddily announced they are visiting Holland. I have always loved the Amsterdam School of early twentieth-century modernism-meets-craftsman housing design, but no, that is not why these good folks are going to that part of the world.

They want to re-live dope.

Most of them have not touched marijuana since the 1970s. They are amused by the Colorado experiment with legalization. They fought tooth and nail to have their kids avoid the Grass Pit, some unsuccessfully. But they themselves are giddy to…

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"Mockingbird Turns 10" Interviews: Joshua Retterer

“Mockingbird Turns 10” Interviews: Joshua Retterer

This is the third installment in a series of monthly-ish interviews between myself and various writers and members of the Mockingbird community. These posts will explore some aspects of each individual’s personal story and some aspects of Mockingbird’s larger story and ministry as we celebrate its 10th Anniversary. Additional interviews in this series can be found here and here.

Charlotte Donlon: Let’s start at a beginning. When were you converted to Christianity?

Joshua Retterer: My dad was radically saved when I was in kindergarten. And like many new Christians he was very evangelistic and worked his way through our family. God was was…

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