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2018 Fall Conference in OKC (10/11-13): Registration Now Open!

2018 Fall Conference in OKC (10/11-13): Registration Now Open!

Super excited to announce that pre-registration for our Fall Conference in Oklahoma City in now open! Join us October 11-13th at All Souls Episcopal Church in OKC as we explore what “Grace in an Age of Distraction” might look like. Speakers include Steven Paulson, Jady Koch, Carrie Willard, David Zahl,...
That Time I Caved and Finally Read Harry Potter

That Time I Caved and Finally Read Harry Potter

On Monday, I experienced what millions of people were doing decades ago: I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire until 1:00AM. No way was I going to go to sleep on a cliffhanger! Earlier in the evening, my housemate got home just as I started to scratch the...
My Lifestyle Brand Isn't Pretty, But It's Amazing

My Lifestyle Brand Isn’t Pretty, But It’s Amazing

“Reality is an ally of God.” — Richard Rohr When I was in dental school, I spent most afternoons with the rest of my class in the lab, where we’d toil over fake teeth for three hours. It was just as fun as it sounds, which led to filling the...
The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

This comes to us from Father Kenneth Tanner.  When I first came to the parish I serve, there were about twenty persons over the age of seventy. We have since buried a few, some have retired to Florida or warmer states, but until recently about half were still active participants...
Lance Armstrong's Moving Finish Line

Lance Armstrong’s Moving Finish Line

Where were you in 2012 when Lance Armstrong confessed his steroid sins to St. Oprah? Did you immediately take off your 2004 (!) Livestrong wristband and trash it, or did you simply let it fall behind the bedroom dresser? Was it the talk of your town, or did it just...
Of Cubs and Humans and Good Thieves

Of Cubs and Humans and Good Thieves

Wrigley Field is one of America’s sacred spaces. Even if one prefers a different team, no morally serious person dislikes the Cubs, and thousands of Americans every year take pilgrimages to The Friendly Confines. That’s partly why stealing a ball intended for a child at Wrigley produces such outrage. For...
'Never Stop Improving' and the Myth of Ontological Change

‘Never Stop Improving’ and the Myth of Ontological Change

There is a moving box sitting on the floor of our dining room. This box has been taunting me since the day we moved. Emblazoned on the side of the box is a simple corporate slogan that constantly cuts me to the core: Never stop improving. This is where we...
Announcing! The Déjà Vu Issue!

Announcing! The Déjà Vu Issue!

Dear readers, Issue 12 is officially out to print and will be in your hands in a matter of days! Maybe you’ve wondered to yourself, “What is Mockingbird all about? And what should I read to get some insight?” If you have, or know your nosy roommate has, this is the...
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Announcing! The Déjà Vu Issue!

Dear readers, Issue 12 is officially out to print and will be in your hands in a matter of days!

Maybe you’ve wondered to yourself, “What is Mockingbird all about? And what should I read to get some insight?” If you have, or know your nosy roommate has, this is the primer to get you (or anyone) started. Even if you’re a vintage reader, this issue will sit with you like an old friend. After all, this is what déjà vu is all about: old stories/friends cropping up in new ways you never expected. Here is a collection of refurbished, rewritten posts, talks, and interviews from the dark caverns of the Mockinglibrary, an issue packed with sturdy theology, plenty of personality and, always, light hearts. In a word, it is classic.

So, to tide you over until your copy gets there, here’s the Opener from Ethan and a glimpse at the Table of Contents. Grab them fast! ORDER UP TODAY!

The Missing Word

In broaching the phenomenon that is déjà vu, there is one memory that’s bubbled up from the depths for a lot of Americans recently. The memory is of a smiling, lanky man, who sort of talk-sings off-key, who enters his house and changes out his coat and shoes for a sweater and sneakers.

It’s not that we don’t recognize the man or the place. It’s Mister Rogers, of course, and we’re in his house, which is in his Neighborhood. The déjà vu moment has been brought to us via the new documentary about the man, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? And it’s not that we’ve forgotten having watched this program as children. It’s that when we re-watch these scenes in the documentary—scenes of such simplicity and warmth—we momentarily access a feeling that we can’t quite source. It is a feeling that seems to predate our first experience of the show, and even predates us entirely. We have known the feeling before but we don’t know where from.

The new Mister Rogers documentary was inspired by an Esquire feature written in 1998 by Tom Junod. Junod tells the story of meeting Fred for the first time, in Rogers’ small, dingy New York City apartment. Before he could get down to any of his own questions, Rogers had his own.

“What about you, Tom? Did you have any special friends growing up?”

“Yes, Mister Rogers.”

“Did your special friend have a name, Tom?”

“Yes, Mister Rogers. His name was Old Rabbit.”

“Old Rabbit. Oh, and I’ll bet the two of you were together since he was a very young rabbit. Would you like to tell me about Old Rabbit, Tom?”

To his own surprise, the award-winning journalist jumped into a long lost, favorite story about Old Rabbit. It wasn’t a new story, like the one he was working up for Esquire, but a very old one. He became a child again.

We named this The Déjà Vu Issue out of a similar conviction that the old stories are the ones to pay attention to. This is not to stake a claim on the importance of tradition so much as to say that, while the world is kept spinning by fresh headlines and hot takes, the deepest stories pretty much stay the same. The experience of déjà vu is really the new experience of an old truth, maybe one you forgot you ever knew.

Déjà vu is also the experience of life in repetition. Contrary to the way we prefer to imagine our lives—as linear progressions, moving upward and onward towards an ever-improving end—they instead take on a more circular trajectory. You don’t have to look far for examples: we find ourselves saying things we only ever heard our father say. A history of some great war we read mirrors almost exactly the newspaper’s description of the political climate this week. And that old macramé lampshade in the attic, the one you nearly got rid of, is now all the rage.

Still, if these were the only kinds of repetitions, then déjà vu would be a harbinger of despair, a reminder that nothing ever changes. But Christianity proclaims that these are not the only repetitions we experience in life. The Christian faith announces that something—someone—broke through these circular histories and offered something truly new. It proclaims that this something new is like a fountain that continues to spring up all the time—it is good news, hope for a change, and it continues to surface in unexpected ways. In our own lives, we may see it crop up out of nowhere, much like déjà vu: we’ve never seen it before, but then again, maybe we have.

Mockingbird is named after this phenomenon of repetition: a mockingbird repeats what it hears. We are a group of people who have, in some way or other, witnessed paranormal déjà vu. We have experienced it in our lives, we have seen it bubble up in places no one expected it to, and we have felt compelled to share that story with others. Whenever it shows up it may be a new story on its own, but it’s really just an extension of the very old story that gave us the good news to begin with.[1]

This issue makes use of old stories to go back to the Old Story. The essays collected herein were published earlier in Mockingbird’s tenure—as blogposts, in chapters of books, in talks at conferences—and have been polished and reworked here in hopes to tell it, all over again, for you. We share parenting lessons from the late child psychologist Dorothy Martyn and the final interview with Robert Farrar Capon. We talk law and gospel, cross and glory, Halloween candy and wedding dresses, girly boys and gorilla moms. We also have a handful of brand-new lists and three brand-new poems from Mary Karr. Some of it you may remember, but none of it will be the same—that’s the way déjà vu works.

Later in that Esquire piece, after Tom Junod has followed Mister Rogers around Penn Station, and joined him on his daily morning swim and seen his office in Pittsburgh, he gets a sense that there is something heroic about the man. Despite the zip cardigans and wide-eyed wonder, maybe Mister Rogers himself is an agent of some kind of power, a reminder of an Old Story he never fully got to hear. He calls this Old Story “grace.”

What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it… and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time.

This missing word is what we hope you find here too.

[1] When we were initially planning this issue, we had thought of it as a Greatest Hits Issue. Besides the inherent judginess of such a theme, there was something else about it that didn’t seem to ring true. It was only after pulling these essays together that we realized why: it wasn’t just about which essays were our favorites, or garnered the most attention, it was also which stories have portrayed this Old Story so powerfully.

PRE-ORDER THE DEJA VU ISSUE HERE

Death, Critique, Heaven, and Hell

Death, Critique, Heaven, and Hell

Last spring, I finished my undergrad, where I drug myself through a severely disoriented and disorienting thesis. Among the many lessons I learned in the process, I discovered something that deeply hindered my academic writing: I hated it. This revelation surprised me because I entered that research project believing I liked it and did it […]

Saturday Night Law: How Humor Convicts the Sinner – Sam Bush

Another breakout from our NYC Conference, from the one and only Sam Bush.

Saturday Night Law: How Humor Convicts the Sinner – Sam Bush from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

This comes to us from Father Kenneth Tanner.  When I first came to the parish I serve, there were about twenty persons over the age of seventy. We have since buried a few, some have retired to Florida or warmer states, but until recently about half were still active participants in our worship and community. […]

Requiescat in Pace: The Naming Power of HBO's The Leftovers

Requiescat in Pace: The Naming Power of HBO’s The Leftovers

Last week, the Earth made a seismic shift, though mostly unnoticed. A gentle giant among us in terms of Anglican church music, John Bradford Bohl, died unexpectedly at the young age of 37. I had the joy of serving with him at Saint Paul’s K Street in Washington, D.C., and when I took over the venerable […]

'Never Stop Improving' and the Myth of Ontological Change

‘Never Stop Improving’ and the Myth of Ontological Change

There is a moving box sitting on the floor of our dining room. This box has been taunting me since the day we moved. Emblazoned on the side of the box is a simple corporate slogan that constantly cuts me to the core: Never stop improving. This is where we find ourselves in 2018. Our […]

Deep Water

Deep Water

This one comes to us from Jay Wamsted. It was only after the Parkland tragedy that the high school where I teach began having active shooter drills. We had dusty protocols in place already, and I can remember doing some sort of drill years ago. This winter, however, we reacted to the mass shooting in […]

The Weight of Living, Part 2: God Would Not Save What God Does Not Love

The Weight of Living, Part 2: God Would Not Save What God Does Not Love

Today in the Liturgical Calendar we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. Jesus and three of his disciples are on a mountaintop, and that’s significant. Think of the times we’re told that Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray. He gives his first sermon on a mountain, the Sermon Mount. Before the Cross, he […]

Another Week Ends: Saving MS-13, Church of Pod, Responsibilityland, Present Bias, Creative Hiatuses and Cheap Trick

Another Week Ends: Saving MS-13, Church of Pod, Responsibilityland, Present Bias, Creative Hiatuses and Cheap Trick

1. First up has got to be the video below, in which The Guardian(!) casts a light on some truly miraculous conversions happening in El Salvador at present. I forget who said that where sin remains theoretical, so does redemption, but whoever they were, this video illustrates the inverse truth beautifully. PTL: 2. “Humans seem […]

Motherhood in an Age of Anxiety: Your Story Isn't Good Enough

Motherhood in an Age of Anxiety: Your Story Isn’t Good Enough

Once, some years back, our young daughter was wandering around our church campus. Like any church campus, we can have multiple things happening in a day. But on this particular day, a woman who I have never met, who does not attend our church, saw my daughter. And she decided that her mother (me) was […]

Lance Armstrong's Moving Finish Line

Lance Armstrong’s Moving Finish Line

Where were you in 2012 when Lance Armstrong confessed his steroid sins to St. Oprah? Did you immediately take off your 2004 (!) Livestrong wristband and trash it, or did you simply let it fall behind the bedroom dresser? Was it the talk of your town, or did it just confirm your lack of interest […]

Sweet Syrup

Sweet Syrup

This reflection comes to us from Catherine Hause. It seems quiet moments are hard to come by lately. However, the ruckus resides mainly in my own head. I am often alone during the day, but my whirling thoughts remain my constant companion, pulling me this way and that with the boundless energy of a toddler. Each […]