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Grace in Practice

From the Archives: Optimizing the Sabbath (One Pillow at a Time)

From the Archives: Optimizing the Sabbath (One Pillow at a Time)

The following originally appeared as a guest post to Amy Julia Becker’s Thin Places blog over at Christianity Today. Some readers may notice a few, er, congruencies with past Mbird posts:

A couple of years ago, The New York Times ran a remarkably astute editorial about the state of American sleep. Apparently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently declared insomnia to be a full-blown public health epidemic. The “Sleep Industry”—a $32 billion/year endeavor—has responded. They’ve introduced a spate of new soporific technology, from pills and teas and chocolates to bracelets and mattresses. (The number one selling paid app on…

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PZ’s Podcast: Hey, Everybody

PZ’s Podcast: Hey, Everybody

EPISODE 219

Gosh, I like Tommy Roe!

But why?

Well, partly, because his songs are catchy and sweet, and especially “Everybody” (1963). But “Dizzy” (1969) also makes me… dizzy.

The real reason a person likes a song — or really likes a song — is that it speaks for them. Or speaks to them. Or speaks from them. The song “resonates”, to use the idiom, with you. In other words, it’s not just the song. It’s the part of you that connects to the song.

All these things we like so much (i.e., pop songs, videos, movies, novels, television shows, poems, paintings) draw something out…

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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: The Relief of Grief – Lauren Larkin

Very excited to present the next breakout session video from NYC, from long-time contributor and friend Lauren R.E. Larkin. Just wish the digital version came with candy too:

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: The Relief of Grief – Lauren Larkin from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Chickens Running at Midnight

Chickens Running at Midnight

Here in the Atl, we are on par with Cleveland (at best) in terms of major sport championship futility.  We’ve got nothing other than our World Series Championship in 1995 – against Cleveland (ironically).  In fact our biggest sports moment is not actually in that World Series, it’s 3 years earlier when “Sid slid” against the Pirates to send the Braves to the 1992 World Series (that we would lose to Toronto). While Atlanta fans were experiencing pure euphoria after “Sid slid”, there was a different story brewing on the Pittsburgh side.  It’s chronicled in the video below, on July…

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When the Solution Isn’t a Solution

When the Solution Isn’t a Solution

It’s only July, I know, but the 2016 Podcast Episode of the Year can already be announced. I wish I could give the nod to The Mockingcast or PZP (“Ecumenical Apocalypse” tied with “Cook’d Book” for runner-up, and Gladwell’s “The Lady Vanishes” took bronze), but alas, top honors go to Invisibilia’s “The Problem with the Solution”, which first aired this past Friday, ht CWZ & LM.

The cast takes a lengthy look at a place we’ve written about a couple of times before, the town of Geel in Belgium, where instead of being cooped up in a facility mental patients live…

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The Rabbi and the KKK: What We Can Learn

The Rabbi and the KKK: What We Can Learn

According to the latest findings from Brookings, over half of all American Christians believe that they are being discriminated against. While this is not something I can say I’ve personally experienced, it is certainly an issue worth addressing, as the numbers involved are staggering.

To be honest, I’m not really invested in figuring out why people feel this way, or whether they should or shouldn’t feel this way.

What I am interested in, however, is how American Christians collectively respond to feeling discriminated against. Do we meet vitriol with vitriol? Do we justify ourselves to those who wish to do us harm?…

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Christmas in Colombia: The Gracious End of FARC

Christmas in Colombia: The Gracious End of FARC

Some incredible and beautiful news coming out of Colombia this week, and not just with their third place finish over the USA at the COPA. In a news cycle defined by #Brexit and the massive dip in your retirement portfolio, the 50+ year guerrilla insurgency FARC signed a cease-fire pact with the Colombian government. The odds are looking good that this war is officially over.

If you need brushing up on your South American Contemporary History, the FARC were really bad guys, and they were that way for half-a-century. Seriously, they’re the South American version of ISIS, motivated by Marxism instead of religion….

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From Grace in Practice: The Problem with Christianity

Here’s another excerpt from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, from pages 36-38, in the sections entitled “What is Grace?” and “Grace in the New Testament.”

otis-redding-try-a-little-tend-290448In 1965 Joe Meek produced a would-be pop single that was sung by Bobby Rio and The Revelles and was entitled “Value for Love.” It was a great tune, but, like almost everything Joe Meek produced, it only grazed the Top Thirty. The lyrics were wildly false. The singer keeps telling the girl she should go for him because he is “good value for love.” He is “worth” her falling for him. Sure, Bobby Rio! That line never works. It never will. It is all weights and measures. Grace is one-way love.

The one-way love of grace is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. You can find this out for yourself by taking a simple inventory of your own happiness, or the moments of happiness you have had. They have almost always had to do with some incident of love or belatedness that has come to you from someone outside yourself when you were down. You felt ugly or sinking in confidence, and somebody complimented you, or helped you, or spoke a kind word to you. You were at the end of your rope and someone showed a little sympathy. This is the message of Otis Redding’s immortal 1962 song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” […]

One-way love is the change agent in everyday life because it speaks in a voice completely different from the voice of the law. It has nothing to do with its receiver’s characteristics. Its logic is hidden within the intention of its source. Theologically speaking, we can say it is the prime directive of God to love the world in no relation to the world’s fitness to be loved. Speaking in terms of Christian theology, God loves the world in a kind of reverse relationship to its moral unfitness. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In the dimension of grace, one-way love is inscrutable or irrational not only because it is out of relation with any intrinsic circumstances on the part of the receiver. One-way love is also irrational because it reaches out to he specifically undeserving person. This is the beating heart of it. Grace is directed toward what the Scripture calls “the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Not just the lonely, not just the sick and disconsolate, but the “perpetrators,” the murderers and abusers, the people who cross the line. God has a heart — his one-way love — for sinners. This is the problem with Christianity. This piece of logical and ethical incongruity and inappropriateness is the problem with Christianity.

From Grace in Practice: “Grace in Everyday Life”

From Grace in Practice: “Grace in Everyday Life”

The following is an excerpt from pages 73-76 of Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life by Paul F. M. Zahl. Soak it up!

Grace has the power of the mallet. Every other prong and heavy-lifting device that seeks to change people is an expression of law and accomplishes the opposite of what it intends. People fear that grace will give permission to be bad. This is the classic fear: that grace will issue in a license–“007”–to do whatever you want, without consequences.

Yet that never happens! In fact, the opposite happens. When you treat people gracefully, they always end up…

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Capon and Cupcakes: My Daughter’s Baptism

Capon and Cupcakes: My Daughter’s Baptism

I’m a new mom stuck in a game where no matter how skilled I might be at changing a blowout diaper on the side of the road in a pencil skirt or making a chicken salad without too much mayo for my husband, I lose. An illustration for you: our daughter was baptized a couple weeks ago, and I must admit that I had been daydreaming about her big day for quite a while (for a variety of reasons, some holier than others).

Amidst my daydreams, I naturally would smile thinking about the waters of baptism running over her bald head….

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PZ’s Podcast: The Monolith

EPISODE 217

80s-hair-funny-weddingWe’re just awash — aground! — in “narratives” these days. “Narratives” are conceptual stories or frameworks that are designed by the ever-grinding mind to organize and categorize realities of everyday life. Many of the realities faced by the ordinary person, starting with me, are unsatisfactory and distressing. “Narratives” are a form of mental control, to vitiate and diminish some of the distress of life..

But “narratives” don’t work! They are seldom completely true; and more often, they are cataclysmically partial. In both senses! This cast examines two “narratives” — one regarding an apparently neglected English hymn writer and the other being racism — and comes up with a caution.

I then expand the caution to account for irrational experiences within personal relationships. I had a vision a year ago, at a lovely beach wedding in the Carolinas, which invalidated almost everything else in front of me. (And it happened to be a great wedding.) But my vision rendered null and void the entire situation. “Let me take you there.”

Let’s hear it, too, for General Johnson.

Angels with an Incredible Capacity for Beer: A 1986 Interview with Brennan Manning

Angels with an Incredible Capacity for Beer: A 1986 Interview with Brennan Manning

Before The Babylon Bee, there was The Wittenburg Door, a satirical Christian journal with some serious humor–a cartoon called “Dogs Who Know the Lord”, fake news headlines, a Theologian of the Year (with winners like Xena Warrior Princess and Mister T)–all pointed in cornball fashion at the Church and its bizarre inner- and outer-workings. Our mentor and spirit-guide Robert Farrar Capon was, in fact, a “Keeper of the Door”–he started a column series he called “Pietro and Madeleine,” a theological love story (of sorts). But The Door, as it later became known, also did some very serious interviews. In these interviews, they were both just playing…

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