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Flipping Rest into Work, Grace into Law

Flipping Rest into Work, Grace into Law

This post comes to us from Samuel Son.

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. – Mark 3:1-2 (New Living Translation)

No story gets me more steamed than this one of the Pharisees salivating because Jesus is about to heal a man on the Sabbath; it gives them the ammunition to finally “nail” Jesus with a Sabbath infraction, a serious charge. Jesus knows they are springing…

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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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The Law of “Needless Words”

The Law of “Needless Words”

Here’s another great one from Larry Parsley. 

For years I have referred to this well-worn paperback not by its title (“The Elements of Style”) but by the authors’ last names — “Strunk and White.” E.B. White (of New Yorker and children’s lit fame) was a college student at Cornell under English professor William Strunk Jr. White studied his professor’s self published volume, referred to by Strunk as “the little book.” It was, in White’s words, “a forty-three-page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.” In 1957, White (who had published “Charlotte’s Web” five years…

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The Mission of Self-Justification in Hell or High Water

The Mission of Self-Justification in Hell or High Water

This one comes to us from our friend Jason Thompson.

David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water must be the year’s most unintentionally Christian film. Aimed more at capturing the mood and the cultural atmosphere of rural Texas than it is at making an argument for or against religion, the film ironically succeeds at presenting us with a rich tapestry and various threads of religious iconography, Biblical themes, and a soundtrack (performed partly by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) that not only underscores key plot points, but accurately reflects the inner lives of the conflicted characters, namely a bank robbing fraternal duo hellbent on…

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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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Washington Football Just Can’t Win

Washington Football Just Can’t Win

♫ Are you ready for some football? ♫ We’re a less than a month away from professional gridiron action and even closer to our beloved college ball. Living in Morgantown WV, home to my WVU Mountaineers, the start of football season induces a Pavlovian happiness into my small community. Relief from summer heat, fall foliage, harvest festivals, the holiday season, it’s all coming right alongside the thunderous crush of helmets and shoulder pads.

And yet, despite the near universal joy that football brings, no thing is untouched by sin. There is much to be said about concussions and the increase in head injury. Violence and…

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A-Rod’s Legacy: It’s Complicated

A-Rod’s Legacy: It’s Complicated

Normally, a great athlete announcing his/her retirement provides an opportunity to reflect on a legacy. Image-management, tweaking of narratives and ad nauseam SportsCenter coverage often ensue. For professional athletes, therefore, this can be viewed as a strategic opportunity to forge a lasting impact, like a President in the final year of his second term. Different players choose to handle the retirement issue in different ways. Michael Jordan retired three times, Brett Favre stumbled over it so much we were eventually begging him to leave and Peyton Manning stepped into his next job as Papa Johns and Budweiser PR-man on the…

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An Upholder’s Confession

An Upholder’s Confession

This one comes to us from friend and contributor Lindsey Hepler:

In her recent book about habit formation, Gretchen Rubin describes four types of people: obligers, rebels, upholders, and questioners. Without ever taking her short quiz, I already know which type I am: an upholder, through and through. Upholders, Rubin says, respond readily to outer and inner expectations. Basically, we are rule followers and rule lovers.

On the positive side, being an upholder often contributes to success in school, where being a good rule follower is essentially seen as the same thing as being a smart/gifted child. An adult tells us what…

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From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

As with most of the provocative second half of Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, the following excerpt goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute a variety of other relational contexts:

Men and women encounter a serpent-ridden wilderness of Eden when they enter into marriage. Competition for need-fulfillment and attention squanders huge amounts of energy in resentment and suppressed antagonism. The nature of the law is to place every single marriage under the Damocles’ sword of needs to be met. The word…

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How to Be a Person in a World of Divorce Delusions

How to Be a Person in a World of Divorce Delusions

I first ran across the name “Heather Havrilesky” back in 2011, when The New York Times Magazine published a column of hers comparing the tv shows Friday Night Lights and Glee. What she wrote knocked me flat, and formed the basis of one of our first posts to go (relatively) viral. Here was someone musing on our favorite themes in a national outlet, with a wit and compassion that we could only dream of mustering.

Since then, seldom a week has passed when I haven’t been on the lookout for her by-line. Because no matter what the topic, Havrilesky’s knack for…

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Optimizing the Sabbath (One Pillow at a Time)

Optimizing the Sabbath (One Pillow at a Time)

The following originally appeared as a guest post to Amy Julia Becker’s 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 iTunes this…

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From the Archives: In Praise of Guilty Pleasures

From the Archives: In Praise of Guilty Pleasures

I brought two books with me on vacation last week: a collection of Jonathan Franzen essays and the recent Dark Tower prequel by Stephen King. One guess as to which one I read. That’s right: both books stayed shut as I inhaled 20 or so Batman comics on my iPad and caught up on Beach Boys message boards. Guilty pleasures in other words.

So upon returning to the world of ‘serious’ reading I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wonderful little piece in The New Yorker by critic Arthur Krystal, tracing the history and appeal of literary guilty pleasures. He touches…

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