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Grace in Practice

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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The God of Seven Buses

The God of Seven Buses

I recently started reading Gregory Boyle’s excellent Tattoos on the Heart, a memoir of his powerful ministry in Pico-Aliso, a low-income area in L.A. dominated by gangs. So far, it’s full of incredible stories about the action of grace upon those who had spent years cultivating facades of toughness and independence, almost as a matter of survival. Boyle, a Jesuit, and the grace-brimming adults (predominantly women) of his community find, through the love they show, an inside look at the hearts of the ‘homies’ they befriend. My favorite vignette from the first chapter is below:

At Camp Paige, a county detention facility near Glendora, I was getting…

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Free as a Mother: Telling the Devil to Sit on a Tack

Free as a Mother: Telling the Devil to Sit on a Tack

Last week, as my kindergartner and I approached the pool for his first swimming lesson of the season, I noticed all of the children sitting there in goggles. I panicked. Goggles! Of course! Forget that I learned how to swim without goggles. Forget that we go through 14 pairs of goggles a summer because we lose them like we are getting paid to. Forget that children the world over have swum without protective eye covering for millennia. My baby needed goggles and I forgot them.

One more check in the Sarah is a Crappy Mom column.

I always…

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Thank you again to everyone who helped put on this year’s conference in NYC, especially our invaluable friends at Calvary St. George’s! What a truly special celebration it was.

We are rolling out the recordings a little differently this year, making them available first as fresh episodes of The Mockingcast. All of the plenaries are now up over on Fireside and iTunes for you to listen to, download and share–minus William Deresiewicz’s (which was an in-person-only deal).

Please note: The Mockingcast ‘feed’ is a fresh one as of a couple weeks ago, so even if you think you’re subscribed, you may not be. Just click here to sign back up, and you’ll be notified as soon as the breakouts are ready (not to mention when The Mockingcast itself returns, post-summer/DZ sabbatical. Hopefully these’ll tie you over til then!). We’ll also add everything to the Resources page in the coming days.

Major thanks go to Mark Babikow, Lino Martinez, and Collin Anderson for making our AV dreams come true. Major thanks also goes to Casey and Travis Squyres at Stellate Photography for capturing it all on camera! A few highlights below:

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As per usual, we are making the recordings available for free; we only ask that those who were not able to be there consider making a donation to help cover the cost of the event. Pretty much everything was videotaped, and we’ll be posting those clips over the next few weeks (a couple of the presentations won’t make much sense without the accompanying footage).

SAVE THE DATE: Next year’s NYC Conference will take place April 26-28th, 2018.

Spiritual Podiatry

It’s true: our feet tell the story of where we’ve been. Whether we like it or not, they record the terrain we’ve traversed, from the immediate substances tracked in – mud and dirt and chewing gum – to the deeper battering caused by missteps and accidents and just life. Not surprisingly, our feet are seldom the first thing we show other people. They’re covered, protected, hidden. Unless we’re in flip-flops.

Our feet, in other words, contain our age. One of the most beautiful things about a baby is how soft and pristine their feet are. No callouses or bunions or weird hairs. An adult foot, on the other hand… I remember being so grossed out by my father’s feet as a boy (to say nothing of my grandfather’s). Nowhere on the body was the discrepancy in our ages more pronounced.

There’s something democratizing about feet. The opening paragraph of David Foster Wallace’s Broom of the System has always stayed with me:

“Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. They’re long and thin and splay-toed, with buttons of yellow callus on the little toes and a thick stair-step of it on the back of the heel, and a few long black hairs are curling out of the skin at the tops of the feet, and the red nail polish is cracking and peeling in curls and candy-striped with decay.”

You could say that unlike most body parts, feet tend to be a source of commiseration rather than comparison, a body part that places us all on similar, er, footing. It’s no coincidence that Jerry Seinfeld once quipped about one of Elaine’s boyfriends, “He’s not a doctor, he’s a podiatrist.”

How do we deal with our feet? Some of us get really into shoes, I suppose. We spend exorbitant amounts of money on that pair which can most transform the appendage into something attractive or exotic or extra-performative. Come to find out, the shiniest surfaces have a way of suffocating the puppies within.

Of course, many of us simply avoid and ignore our feet. It’s not that tough, since they’re the furthest thing from our face. We all remember the key plot point in Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne is able to escape from jail because people tend not to look at other people’s feet.

On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus and his relationship to feet. Remember, we hear next to nothing about his facial features in the New Testament. Yet his feet get a number of mentions (his sandals too). We hear about people sitting at them, we hear about people anointing them–and not anointing them. Ultimately, we read about him showing his disciples “the full extent of his love” by going for–you guessed it–their feet. (John 13)

It’s remarkable, really: he knows the end is near, and this is how he chooses to spend their final moments together. Apparently he’s not interested in what they think makes them presentable, but what doesn’t–that which they’re ignoring or avoiding or covering up, the grime they’ve accumulated, their most unglamorous common aspect.

That’s where he goes to work. Doing for them what they cannot do for themselves. Rinse, absorb, repeat.

Just like Mr. Clean. And just like another Mister we know and love:

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

Well, Disney, you did it again. You brought yet another animated classic to life with stunning costumes and incredible effects, transporting every audience member back to her childhood.

I am referring, of course, to Beauty and the Beast. Although a more seasoned film critic might find fault with aspects of the movie—yes, parts are slightly hokey and some of the acting is off—I would advise against arguing about the quality of the movie with a 90s kid who grew up on this story and was thrilled at the idea of enjoying it again. I loved every minute of it. I laughed. I…

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You Complete Me? Grace, Loneliness and the Religion of Romance – David Zahl

Carrying on with the videos from Tyler, here’s the first of the breakouts, courtesy of DZ:

You Complete Me?: Grace, Loneliness and the Religion of Romance ~ David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

"Mockingbird Turns 10" Interviews: Sarah Condon

“Mockingbird Turns 10” Interviews: Sarah Condon

This is the second installment in a series of monthly-ish interviews between myself and various Mockingbird 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. My subject this time was The Rev. Sarah Condon.

Charlotte Donlon: How has your involvement with Mockingbird impacted you over the past several years?

Sarah Condon: It’s changed the kind of priest I am. I think that’s fundamental. Had I stayed in seminary on the path I was headed, I think I would’ve quit by…

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How Low Can You Go? The Soul of the Gospel – Paul Zahl

The opening talk from Tyler is here! As as you’ll see, it was really something else:

How Low Can You Go?: The Soul of the Gospel ~ Paul Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Unshackle the Should: An Overlong Post on the Art of Failure (and the Failure of Art)

Unshackle the Should: An Overlong Post on the Art of Failure (and the Failure of Art)

I had the honor of presenting earlier this week at “The Art of Failure” event here in Charlottesville, alongside Invisbilia co-host Lulu Miller and musician Devon Sproule. You can listen to all of the recordings on the Christ Church site, but here’s the modified/edited transcript, the first portion of which is adapted from A Mess of Help. Sincerest thanks to New City Arts and The Garage for co-sponsoring! What a fabulous evening.

In 1966, The Walker Brothers reportedly had a bigger fan club in the UK than The Beatles. Boggles the mind but it’s the truth, or close to it. The…

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Dear Reformation, It’s Not You It’s Me: Theology We Love to Hate – Sarah Condon

The first video from Tyler is here! And as you’ll see, the footage fills in a number of blanks from the recording, so if you’ve yet to listen to the audio, definitely start here. The good Rev. Condon brought the house down – truly one for the ages (and an immediate addition to the “I’m New Here” page). Asshats not included sadly:

Dear Reformation, It’s Not You, It’s Me: Theology We Love to Hate ~ Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

P.S. We’ll have PZ’s opening talk soon – the separate venue made for a slight delay.

"Logan" (Wolverine) - The Incarnate Superman

“Logan” (Wolverine) – The Incarnate Superman

I’ve never been a Superman guy. I think that started when he reversed the rotation of the earth to save Lois Lane. It just seemed sooo…lame. My logic was simple: if a superhero is so strong that he can (one) stop the earth’s movement, and (two) PUSH IT BACK in the opposite direction, who can beat him? For me, buying into Superman was like randomly deciding that I was a Cowboys fan who never lived in Texas, or a Yankees fan who had never traveled west of the Mississippi. Superman fandom felt like “front-runnerism” — i.e. “I’ve picked the best…

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