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Lay Down Your Smartphone and Follow Me? (Just a Second…)

Lay Down Your Smartphone and Follow Me? (Just a Second…)

I owe you an apology. Or at least a confession. Nine months after switching to a flip phone, and about six months after making a big stink about it, I went back to a smart one. I’m not proud.

What got me in the end wasn’t Internet itself. I stand by what I wrote about the cost, both personal and communal, of non-stop web access. I probably undersold it. What made me, er, flip back was two things: music and texts. They were the rationalization, in any case.

I realized about a month into the experiment that I wasn’t willing to live…

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Stranger Things and Upside-Down Kingdoms

Stranger Things and Upside-Down Kingdoms

“These men…have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

My husband and I recently binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix. And by binge-watched, I mean that we finished the series in about ten days, taking into account my propensity for falling asleep mid-episode and stretching a couple of the chapters over multiple viewings–like the last one, which we viewed on a laptop from a Sydney hotel room over the course of a night (I passed out thirty minutes in) and the next morning at 4:30 (thanks, jet lag). CJ already deftly covered the appeal of the show–themes of nostalgia, redemption, purity, and…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Lamentations Chapter Two Verses Twenty Two and Twenty Three

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Mockintern extraordinaire Margaret Pope.

As of May 14, 2016, I am an adult. Maybe more accurately a pseudo-adult because my dad still pays my cellphone bill and insurance, but nevertheless, I am no longer an undergrad. I went straight from graduation in Oxford, Mississippi, to summer camp in North Carolina to a new job in Charlottesville, Virginia, so I did not fully comprehend the reality of my newly-minted adulthood until today.  A restless weekend and an exceptionally long Monday hit me like a ton of bricks. The honeymoon phase of moving to a new city and starting a new job came to a screeching halt. Cue the tears and the hour-long phone call to mom. I explained to her that I felt as if I might crumble into a million pieces at any given moment, that life was not all sunshine and rainbows. She admitted that she had a similar day last week, confirming that, despite appearances, no one actually has it all together.

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The world tells us that as adults, we must have our lives completely figured out with a sense of who we are, where we want to be, and how we are going to get there. When we cannot meet that standard, we feel like utter failures. Fortunately, the world’s definition of a successful, put-together adult is contrary to what God requires of us. In fact, not having it all together is the only requirement for receiving the immeasurable grace that God offers. He knew full well that we would never be able to get our acts together because of the sin that permeates every aspect of our lives. Therefore, He sent His Son to earth to live a perfect life on our behalf that would cover up our bad days, our failures, and our complete inability to get it together. And the best part is that no matter how many bad days we have, God never turns away, leaving us to fend for ourselves: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 2:22-23).

In no way do I pretend to have adulthood figured out or to live perfectly in this grace. I write this to preach to myself and to remind myself of the God who saved me, forgave me, and guided me to where I am now. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Pretentious Believers and the Law of Authenticity

Pretentious Believers and the Law of Authenticity

There was a period of time, and I’m not proud of it, when the worst insult my friends and I could lob at a person/place/thing was that they were ‘pretentious’. It connoted everything we didn’t like: phoniness, humorlessness, and haughtiness.

At least, in theory it did. Over time, the word became less of a spear and more of a shield, fending off anything that made us feel bad about ourselves. That grad school student who disagreed with our opinion? Pfff, pretentious! That girl who wouldn’t give us the time of day?! So pretentious. That writer who slagged off Guns n Roses…

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Welcome To My Neuroticism, I Mean, My House

Welcome To My Neuroticism, I Mean, My House

If you’ve ever embarked on a remodeling project, chances are you’ve found yourself–at some point–way in over your head, cheekily quoting Tom Hanks’s Walter from The Money Pit: “It’s going to be fun, fixing it up. You’ll see…A little imagination, and it’s gonna be great…” Little did he know…

The ups and downs of ‘making house’ were chronicled in The New York Times’ recent mammoth, “Making House: Notes on Domesticity,” by Rachel Cusk, which is all at once a cultural critique, a philosophy dissertation, and a comedy sketch (don’t miss the story about her ex-boyfriend’s table). Cusk’s article, primarily, is about the human impulses behind the urge to…

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Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

Before even beginning this post, you probably noticed the one giant, smug asterisk that naturally attached itself to the title: *Oh goodness, that’s right. Can’t believe I forgot to tell you! I do jail ministry. NBD. I’d love to, you know, grab a beer and tell you more about it sometime…

Let me alleviate any forespoken superiority with a quick rejoinder: God did not equip me with enough confidence to throw “successful tips” out about much, and definitely not about doing jail Bible studies. I do not have tips. I am a “sensitive” guy, which does not exactly disqualify me from…

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Mr. Robot Wants to Save the World

Mr. Robot Wants to Save the World

“Watching a group of young people rebel against the one percent — these are not new ideas,” Portia Doubleday, a star of the hit show Mr. Robot, explained to an interviewer. “They’re things that as a society we’re all thinking but don’t know how to tackle. He’s just relating to what so many of us are wondering, but don’t say, and don’t have a platform to,” she said, referencing the show’s talented creator/writer/director, Sam Esmail. We’ve seen this whole young rebel thing done, she’s right, but any good iteration usually has something fresh to communicate, and Mr. Robot is no different….

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Major Expectations and Higher Ed Helicopter Parenting

A doozie of a note from The Washington Post earlier this month, one raised that raised the collective blood pressure of Academic Twitter and Parent Twitter at the same time. It is the time of year, after all, when college students are either validated or terrified by their choice of major. As infamous weed-out professors once again earn their tough reputations, it turns out that this year’s crop of freshmen are, more than ever, forced into their major by their parents. George Mason professor Steven Pearlstein writes:

“I have heard from many different colleges that there is now a considerable — and disturbing…

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The Last, the Least, the Lost, the Little and the… Old?

The Last, the Least, the Lost, the Little and the… Old?

I don’t have to think of a clever lead-in for this post. Erlich Bachmann has me more than covered:

That’s a solid four and half minutes of unaired, improvised, and largely top-drawer old-fogey jokes courtesy of T.J. Miller’s Silicon Valley maestro. As with much of what happens on that show, there’s a biting subtext, in this case the writers hinting at what one publication recently called The Brutal Ageism of Tech.

“Another day, another -ism”, the cynical among us might sigh, and at this point you can’t exactly blame them. A culture of complaint has a way of devaluing grievance, especially when it comes…

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The Complicated Righteousness of Yoga Pants

The Complicated Righteousness of Yoga Pants

In years to come, when Hollywood makes its first period pieces about the mid 2010s, or HBO films a miniseries about American life at the end of the Obama presidency, they’ll have a wide range of fashion trends to choose from when dressing the cast. But they won’t be able to pull off a credible depiction of today’s professional class without putting at least some of the females in “athleisure”, e.g. yoga pants and the like.

Jokes about ladies adopting high-end athletic gear as their go-to daily uniform (for all manner of non-athletic activity) have cropped up in enough movies and…

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Climbing Ladders with Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-26)

Climbing Ladders with Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-26)

The following is an excerpt from Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis, available on Mockingbird and Amazon. The chapter below focuses on the story of Cain and Abel.

Here we follow the second generation of humanity, and we continue to see the effects of the Fall radiating outward. The first result of the Fall, in human relationships, was covering up and the second blame-shifting; the third will be murder. Cain’s competition with Abel follows so closely upon the Fall, and his crime is so closely linked with earning God’s favor, that a vital connection point with the later stories…

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I Wanna Know What Hipness Is

TOP-Hipper-CoverI recently re-discovered a band that loomed over my childhood. Tower of Power, a brass-based soul-funk big band explosion used to make an annual headline performance each summer at the San Mateo County Fair when I was growing up. The band was local, from Oakland, which is across the Bay. As is often the case, lyrics of songs that washed over me when I was too young to understand often blow me away when I hear them again for the first time as a grown man.

Take for instance “What Is Hip” from Power’s Hipper Than Hip (Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow) LP. The song could almost be a riff on the collect for the fifth Sunday in Lent (or the Fourth Sunday after Easter, depending on which Prayer Book you’re looking at): “Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found.”

Power is tapping into the same idea on Hipper Than Hip, asking what actually is hip anyway (I wanna know). It’s really a perennial question, observation, and reality check. During a time when it seems everyone is an indie hipster creative, we ought to allow “What Is Hip” to live a second life. Watch this amazing recording of Lenny Williams leading the band in a live(ly) performance of the song on Don Cornelius’s Soul Train—hey, people all over the world, remember Soul Train!? Watch, listen, pay attention to the lyrics, and be convicted of your need for Jesus because “sometimes hipness is, what it ain’t.”

What is hip
Tell me, tell me, if you think you know
What is hip
If you’re really hip
The passing years will show
You’re into a hip trip
Maybe hipper than hip
What is hip