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In Defense of 2016

In Defense of 2016

This past calendar year, known by many of us as 2016, was nothing if not controversial. Populated as it was by unexpected outcomes, celebrity demises, and global tragedies, the year stands out as, at the very least, memorable. And at the very most? Well, it may be the first time I’ve heard a quartet of numbers get accused of killing people. Who knew those four digits carried around a sickle and political machinations in their back pockets?

Whether the loss of Prince and Princess (Leia) ruined your year or just amounted to a footnote in it, overall apathy about the past…

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Time Precious Time: On Unread Emails and Productivity Panics

Time Precious Time: On Unread Emails and Productivity Panics

Our phones were piled on top of each other on the table near the charger. Not just mine and my wife’s but those of the four friends who had dropped by for dinner. People had been showing each other photos earlier in the evening and someone had suggested we leave our devices in the kitchen while we ate. How disciplined of us!

When it was time to go, the first guest grabbed the one on top, clicked it on and… nearly jumped out of her skin. The little number next to the email icon read “2448”. Needless to say, it was…

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Why Sarah Almost Titled Her Book Prodigal Daughter Who Is the Worst

Why Sarah Almost Titled Her Book Prodigal Daughter Who Is the Worst

Mockingbird’s latest publication, Churchy by Sarah Condon, is flying off the shelves! A hilarious and deeply touching dispatch from the trenches of contemporary life, the book recounts the real life (and grace-saturated) adventures of a wife, mom, and priest as only Sarah can. The introduction alone, excerpted below, features tips on raising churchy kids of your own, and an explanation of the startling white robes seen here:

“Are you guys wearing KKK hoods?!”

I started college at a small liberal arts school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upon arrival, I affixed several family photos to the wall of my dorm room. After about a week of…

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The Academic Terror Dream

The Academic Terror Dream

This one comes to us from our terrified academic friend, Duo Dickinson.

I am 61 years old. The last time I took a meaningful test was when I took, and passed, the last 2 (of 5) days of licensing exams to become an architect in 1982, 35 years ago.

But 20 years of testing from grammar school through licensing exams infected me with a disease so deep it’s unseen, unfelt and without consequence. Unless I am asleep.

By any objective estimate, I have lived a blessed life. I may have worked hard, but I have been given every advantage by circumstances I did…

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My Best New Years Eve(r)

My Best New Years Eve(r)

In downtown Milwaukee, there’s a Starbucks attached to an ice rink where every winter, you can drive past and see families, singles, couples, and kids of all ages gliding in graceful rotation over an artificial frozen pond. The sight evokes the kind of Americana sentimentality one might feel upon seeing a Norman Rockwell painting or a 1980’s Speilberg film. It just looks like the thing to do – the thing you ‘ought’ (read Law) to do in the winter, in the Midwest, with your wife and kids…especially during the holidays. It seems so inviting to sit with a cup of hot coco or…

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Things Done and Left Undone – David Zahl

Alrighty, just under the wire, here’s DZ’s closing presentation from the OKC Conference (10/28-29):

Summer Camp: A Vacation from the Real World

Summer Camp: A Vacation from the Real World

Telling an anxious, Type-A person, like myself, not to take herself too seriously is nothing more than a practice in futility. Nevertheless, I have heard this message three times in various forms within the past week. Even in the slogan on the back of a Yellow Cab: “Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.”

Whenever I hear people talk about being able to laugh at themselves, I automatically think of summer camp. I have spent eleven summers, sixty-four weeks to be exact, at Camp Merrie-Woode for Girls in western North Carolina. To give you some context, it is often…

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Consider the Grasshopper

Consider the Grasshopper

There are more than 11,000 species of grasshopper. The Acrididae family comprises about 10,000 of those species, accounting for nearly all grasshoppers in the United States. They’re harmless creatures, really. Plant-eaters, the lot of them, and many produce a gentle, familiar sound by rubbing the ridges of their hind legs against the edges of their forewings. They come in different shapes and sizes, and the color schemes on different species range from bland to beautiful.

Locusts, on the other hand, are not so meek. In fact, they exhibit terrible hostility and wreak legendary devastation. Often, where they go, famine and death…

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Parish Retreat at Buc-ee’s: Grace in Unlikely Places

Parish Retreat at Buc-ee’s: Grace in Unlikely Places

This past weekend, our church held its annual retreat. Due to the hellacious nature of traffic in our area, families arrived at the conference center at different times throughout the afternoon and evening, depending on their route and whether the traffic gods were smiling on them. This year, our family arrived pretty early in the evening (#grateful more than #blessed). After we unloaded our car, we were sitting around the campsite, and phones began to ding around us. It seemed that some of our church friends were stranded after a nasty car accident on their way to the retreat. Could someone…

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Playing it Safe with Consumer Reports

Playing it Safe with Consumer Reports

It’s taken a while to write this love letter. Consumer Reports has for 80 years now provided its readers with solace from the fear of getting it wrong. Its slogan, “Smarter Choices for a Better World,” says it all. Who doesn’t want to make smarter choices? And when it comes to consumer products, who doesn’t want to get a deal—or at least not screwed? When an entire display wall at the Walmart gives you 148 different plaque and tartar removal toothpastes, when your kitchen remodel is stuck between electric smoothtop and pro-style dual-fuel ranges, when you wonder whose frequent flyer…

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Valorized Intelligence and Less Profitable Truths of the Heart

Valorized Intelligence and Less Profitable Truths of the Heart

In recent news, CBS doubles down on eccentric male geniuses for its fall television lineup. One show, Pure Genius, treats us to an inside view of a Silicon Valley billionaire’s game-changing medical innovation; another, Bull, features the “brilliant, brash, and charming” titular consultant. And the MacGyver reboot, in addition to featuring an actor ten years younger than did the former series (!), snazzes up the clever factor, viz.,

electronics! What differentiates this slate from earlier hit shows (e.g., NCIS, Bluebloods) is its emphasis on intellect as the protagonist’s defining trait. Sure, our hero may commit the occasional social gaffe, exhibit some…

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The Difference Between the Minister and the Doctor

The Difference Between the Minister and the Doctor

I have always been a bit skeptical of the “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable” adage deployed in many an evangelical circle. It’s not just the implicit condescension it lends to the ‘minister’ in any given moment. The main skepticism has to do with the supposition that anyone is actually comfortable in life–that, beneath the surface, all of us are experiencing some underlying discomfort with the world we’re inhabiting. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all afflicted, and we all need comfort.

If this adage makes any sense, then, it’s that we sometimes need help facing ourselves. It’s that maybe the…

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