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Correcting Joy in Swimming Pools and Pulpits: Do Y'all Need a Hug?

Correcting Joy in Swimming Pools and Pulpits: Do Y’all Need a Hug?

One of my least favorite parental duties is swimming lessons. They are tedious and trying and the teachers are far too patient. When I was a kid we took swim lessons everyday for two weeks. They dumped us in the pool. We gasped for air. And then we swam.

Nowadays, you take your child to a Swim School. They let the kids “acclimate to the water” as though they are encountering an alien substance. We are on lesson three and still have not put our head in the water. And by “we” I mean my daughter. But it kind of feels…

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The Golden (Arches) Rule

The Golden (Arches) Rule

This tasteful reflection was written by Andrew Taylor-Troutman.

On the first Sunday of the month, I gathered with the other middle schoolers early in the morning before church and piled into the motley assortment of cars driven by our church’s college leaders. I worshipped those undergraduates and would have gladly tagged along wherever they drove. Plus, you got to wear your t-shirt and jeans. Having arrived downtown in the shadow of tall buildings, all you had to do was help unfold tables and unload boxes of donations. When people came to look over the clothes, you smiled politely. Maybe said God…

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The Distraction of Grace

The Distraction of Grace

This reflection comes to us from Blair Kilgallen.

Our two granddaughters had been staying with us for several days while our kids took a respite in Iceland before they got too weighed down with the arrival of their third child.

Morning plans were set. My wife Rachel was working at the clinic. Arrangements were made for me to drive our granddaughters over the mountain-pass to drop them off with their other Gramma in Denver. Afterwards, a group from our local church-plant was to meet with the leadership of our oversight church.

Then things took an unexpected turn, as they often do in the mountains.

A…

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Mockingbird NYC: All Such Good Works

Mockingbird NYC: All Such Good Works

I first saw the couple waiting in line at the airport ticketing desk. I was probably standing 25 feet away. They were elderly and Indian. The wife wore a bindi on her head, the traditional marker of marriage in Hinduism and a protection from the evil eye. Neither of them looked like they’d showered in days. He faithfully pushed her through the lines in a wheelchair. I noticed that when he stepped away to get their tickets, her hand went up in the air. It seemed to be searching for him.

I very unpastorally thought to myself, “Gosh. That looks like…

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Jonah's Reluctant Obedience, and Ours

Jonah’s Reluctant Obedience, and Ours

The absurd thing that happens in the book of Jonah is not the fish swallowing a man…it is the grace Jonah receives after he basically tells God off! The fish, which consumes the prophet, serves as an indictment on how sin turns everything topsy-turvy. It reverses God’s order in the worst way. Man was made to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and in condemning the pride that prefers the creation over the creator, God does something that shows the exceedingly stupid nature of sin for what it is. Our rebellion against God is both foolish and a joke…and…

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℞ecipe for a Miserable Life: The Weight of the Law in Everyday Circumstances

℞ecipe for a Miserable Life: The Weight of the Law in Everyday Circumstances

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 

Galatians 4:4-5

We wrongly assume that the ‘law’ can fix our broken, messy lives. Jesus came into the world to show us that the law, in a sense, makes matters worse—that we cannot fix ourselves with the law. Think about it. Think about your relationships, think about your life circumstances and how even though it seems natural, logical, and common sensible to apply ‘law’…it never works. Still, something…

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Candy Cigarettes and Stubborn Grace — A Conference Breakout Preview

This NYC Conference breakout preview comes to us from Daniel Emery Price.

When I was thirteen, I was seen walking down the street “smoking cigarettes.” A woman in our church witnessed this “highly rebellious” and “brazenly defiant” act, and she immediately informed a different woman in the church who reported it back to my mother. This lady “just thought my mom should know” while informing her that I was no longer allowed to be friends with her son.

My mother was outraged. I only know about this because I walked into a room where she was firing both barrels of an all-law sermon on gossip and slander to this other mother over the phone. I was completely freaked out as I had never seen my mother this angry before. But not angry at me—angry for me.

I quickly exited the room to retrieve my backpack. While my mother proceeded to unload into the phone, I reached into my bag and pulled out the box of candy cigarettes I had been pretending to “smoke” while walking down the street. After I handed them to her, she hung up the phone with no reference to the evidence of innocence I had just provided

“Why didn’t you tell her they were candy?!” I shouted.

“Because it doesn’t matter,” she replied.

I didn’t realize until much later that my mother was not defending my innocence. She didn’t think I was innocent. She was merely defending me. She was defending my reputation and was willing to sacrifice her own reputation (as a good Christian mother) out of love for me. It seems like a small thing, but that helped shape my thoughts on grace and Christ-like-ness.

That is a short story, a parable of sorts. Jesus told a lot of those. People like short stories because our lives are made up of a long series of them.

At the Mockingbird Conference in NYC, I will be sharing a few parables of Jesus (and a few of my own) to talk about our addiction to judgment and the stubborn nature of God’s grace.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference!

What They Don't Show You On Fixer Upper

What They Don’t Show You On Fixer Upper

In keeping with the millennial stereotype of rustic appeal, my wife and I bought our first home this summer, a “fixer-upper” with a lot of character, wet insulation, and dead birds. We took a selfie out front, made a list of future projects, hired a contractor, personally knocked some walls out, and let some light into a house that had not been lived in for nearly ten years. We slapped a fresh coat of paint on the outside, with a green accent door, and voila! Home! Eat it, Chip and Jojo…got no time for that shiplap!

Of course, it has not…

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The Psalm'ish Imagination

The Psalm’ish Imagination

This reflection comes to us from Cole Deike.

We have bloody imaginations.

As an opposite to the bloody imagination, I think of the Pixar animated movie Up. Early in the film, there is a montage of a young couple falling in love with one another. In one of the scenes, the young couple lays on a blanket and gazes up at clouds that breeze across the blue, summer sky. There is no audio of their dialogue, but they are pointing at specific clouds and talking about their shapes: this one reminds me of this animal, that one reminds me of that animal,…

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A Letter of Recommendation

A Letter of Recommendation

When you reach a certain age, you begin to get requests to write letters of recommendation. For college applicants, for award seekers, and, in my case, for those seeking to become a Fellow in the AIA.

These letters can devolve into a formula: state your bona fides, recount the seeker’s, and give a pithy, defendable, honest endorsement.

What do you do when someone asks you for a letter to endorse his effort to become an agent of faith in God in Chaplaincy, when you are a profane jackass rustic in the ways of Divine understanding?

Well, without a name, I did this. And…

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Lonely People and Lonelier Communities

Lonely People and Lonelier Communities

Lately, the social science data, human interest stories, and public policy initiatives all seem to point every step of the way to one panacea: connection. It explains why Her Majesty’s Government has recently appointed the minister for loneliness. It explains why truck commercials are snagging MLK speech snippets, and why Elon Musk wants a girlfriend so badly. Human loneliness is the problem that precedes many others, as we’ve said so many times here on Mockingbird, and for much of the world, togetherness is the answer: If we can just be neighbors to one another, and get past our differences and…

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Hopelessly Devoted: ‘Grace At Work’ – James Chapter One Verse Seventeen

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Grace is not always guaranteed to work on the horizontal plane — i.e. as we attempt to steward it in the midst of our relationships with one another. We can however be sure that grace is always at work. We don’t get to define what this has to look like. We don’t always get the privilege of discerning its results or activity. In fact, grace specializes in disappointing and confounding our every expectation of what God ‘should be’ and what His people ‘should be’.

You’re free, though you often feel like a slave. You’re forgiven, though you often feel the weight of judgment. You’re victorious, though you often feel like a chump. The gospel confronts our self-righteousness and confirms the righteousness of Jesus as being ours. We walk by faith, not by sight…yes, but rarely in an experiential or functional manner. All we have ultimately is the faithful witness (James 1:17) of the indwelling Spirit bringing us back to a ridiculous, impossible-to-believe verdict: “You are absolved.”