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The Essential Shift: Moving from Orphan to Beloved Son

A terrific talk from the 2017 Coming Back Stronger Conference in Birmingham, AL. Tray Lovvorn, one of the hosts of Undone Redone, talks about the different ways we understand our relationship to God:

Riding Shotgun: On Being the Clergy-Adjacent

Riding Shotgun: On Being the Clergy-Adjacent

I was hauling a giant luggage container, the kind that attaches to a car roof, across my driveway with the woman who bought it from me on craigslist. It wasn’t heavy, but it was awkward and large, and we were having a bit of a hard time maneuvering it. It was dark outside, and we couldn’t really see what we were doing.

“Oh my god, this is like hauling a dead body by dark of night.”

I said it, and then I immediately wished I hadn’t said it. “I’m sorry—I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just that my husband is clergy, and…

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Chill, dummy—It’s Only Life or Death

Chill, dummy—It’s Only Life or Death

The first time I saw an audience simultaneously discomforted and reassured was at a P.O.S concert. After he sang one of his new songs, “Wearing a Bear,” he explained that the goofy dance he did at the end was for the day of his death (#ripPOS). He had done a different dance at every show because he wanted his tribute to be thousands of fans doing various goofy dances and posting them to social media.

P.O.S is the stage name for Stefon Alexander. As P.O.S, Alexander has released 4 punk-infused hip-hop albums and has achieved prominence in the underground rap community—especially…

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Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

This is an incredible excerpt, albeit completely unorthodox. It comes from a short section entitled, “Saying Goodbye to Satan,” in Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s book, Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry.

As you read, note the utter left-handedness in Mehl-Madrona’s approach: he allows the patient to tell her story and enters that story with her, totally devoid of judgment or correction. This example of narrative psychiatry in real-life shows, first of all, that the stories we tell ourselves can be damning; second, that denying those stories won’t restore us to sanity. Instead, acceptance (and more importantly:…

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Old Ways and New Ways in Master of None Season 2

Old Ways and New Ways in Master of None Season 2

Bust out the Italo and pull out your pasta makers! Aziz Ansari’s Netflix project Master of None is back for season two, exploring the difficulties of love and relationships in 2017. The show continues with storytelling inspired by Aziz’s Modern Romance research project, a book we loved so much that we invited co-author Eric Klinenberg to #MbirdNYC16. Sadly, book deals prevented us from sharing the recording, so just trust me when I report that it was one of the best (funniest? most poignant?) talks at an Mbird gathering from someone “outside” the fold.

Season one, united by the theme of “fear…

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Architect: Fellow and Failing ~ Duo Dickinson

Another one from the conference! This talk certainly won the “shock factor” award. From the one and only Duo Dickinson.

Architect: Fellow and Failing ~ Duo Dickinson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part One

Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part One

During the first call with my new health coach, she told me to stop weighing myself. I agreed to cease this action and hid our scale next to my hair dryer and a pack of cotton balls in a bathroom cabinet. That lasted three days. The scale is now back on the black-and-white ceramic tile floor beside my bathtub, and I step on it every morning after I wake up. Some days I weigh myself multiple times. Don’t tell my health coach.

I have operated with a diet mentality for thirty years. As a serious classical ballet dancer during my teens,…

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Party of Five and the God of Party Poopers

Party of Five and the God of Party Poopers

When life gets tough, I like to watch other people’s lives get tougher. In Germany or Avenue Q, this is called shadenfreude; in America, this is called haphazardly engaging in political discourse on social media, or watching just about any popular TV drama. Forgoing the Covfefe hoo-ha, I recently committed instead to a teen soap opera — a precious genre rife with death and tragedy and youth pregnancy scares.

Several episodes deep into a show like Party of Five (1994-2000) and my day-to-day seems pretty alright. The walls begin to lean blessedly outward instead of in. I can breathe, and I…

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Rest for the Betty Draper in Me

Rest for the Betty Draper in Me

In my dreams, I can breathe underwater. In my anxiety-crippled reality, I just discovered that a thing called secondary drowning exists. Yay! NEW WAYS (FOR MY KIDS) TO DIE THAT I HADN’T HEARD OF BEFORE.

We’ve been in Sydney nearly six months and there are countless “favourites” among our crew: the local, world-class zoo; Sunday morning ferry rides into the harbour for church; the amusement park fifteen minutes from our house; water views at every turn; late-afternoon trips to the beach. But one of my greatest thrills occurs every Thursday, when the local weekly paper is delivered to our mailbox.

Perhaps it’s…

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Stolen Righteousness in a Conditional World

This amazing find came by way of our friend Luke Mackinnon.

John Newton’s Falling into Grace is a profound paperback that packs a punch. The Episcopal priest expands upon the beauty and mystery of God’s grace, which “permeates our life right down to the smallest detail.” The act of letting go and allowing God’s life to fully take over our own feels a lot like falling, and our safety net is grace. This passage, in the chapter “Accepting Acceptance,” unpacks the narrative of Jacob stealing his brother’s birthright from their blind father Isaac and our difficulty in understanding grace as it is given to us despite our sinful nature.

Jacob steals a blessing by pretending to be someone he’s not. We are no different than Jacob. Our need for acceptance is so strong that we will do anything we need to do to feel accepted and blessed. This is because the world we live in doesn’t issue unconditional blessings. This is a problem because we all have a deep and divine need to feel accepted and blessed. Our world says that to be blessed we need to perform, look good, stay young, and be funny, clever, interesting, or rich. The world’s blessings is only awarded to people that earn it. The world doesn’t just dole out acceptance for free, and the default instinct of the human heart is to project this anti-grace nonsense onto God… We forget that grace doesn’t use sticks and carrots, and that it expects nothing from us at all. Grace just dies for our life.
A Clockwork Theology and the Un-Free Will

A Clockwork Theology and the Un-Free Will

A friend recently noted that TV, post-Breaking Bad, seems to be getting more violent. Typically I’d discard this as your run-of-the-mill cantankerous “kids these days” complaint…but somewhere between grimace-inducing episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s The Keepers, I realized, well, maybe he had a point. Game of Thrones fits the bill. So does HBO’s adaptation of Big Little Lies, which was much darker than its airport-thriller source material. The list goes on.

Considering all this, I was reminded of the landmark violence of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, which I read way back in high school, for a project about banned books. For the (lucky?) uninitiated, it tells the story of a violent young…

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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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