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Pitcher Gone to Pasture: The Incurable Mystery of Steve Blass

Pitcher Gone to Pasture: The Incurable Mystery of Steve Blass

A pitcher is the only man in baseball who can properly look on the ball as being his instrument, his accomplice. He is the only player who is granted the privilege of making offensive plans, and once the game begins he is (with the catcher) the only on the field...

Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

It’s getting to the point where I’d almost rather not draw attention to articles like Frank Bruni’s “Best, Brightest–and Saddest?”. Not just because I wish their subject matter wasn’t as urgent as it is, or that their claims were more groundless, but because the whole thing has become so excruciatingly obvious....

Walker Percy Interviews Himself

Walker Percy Interviews Himself

From his piece “Questions They Never Asked Me,” collected in Conversations with Walker Percy. Those who read the whole thing will be rewarded:

Q: What kind of Catholic are you? A. Bad. Q: No. I mean are you liberal or conservative? A: I no longer know what those words mean. Q: Are you a dogmatic...

Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

I want to think for a second about the ways we tend to process language in different places. At our conference last weekend, Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke eloquently about how a sermon is a local event, preached to a specific people at a specific time in the contexts of the larger...

2015 Tyler Conference Recordings: Tangled Up in Grace

2015 Tyler Conference Recordings: Tangled Up in Grace

A Texas-sized thank-you to everyone who helped put on our conference in Tyler last month, especially the fabulous–and ridiculously ecumenical–steering committee, led by the indefatigable Matt Magill. Huge thanks to all the sponsors as well: B3 Ministries, Bethel Bible, Christ Episcopal, Porch Culture Coffee Roasters, and True Vine Brewery, not...

Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

Hard to believe we’ve never posted this section from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice before. As with most of the provocative second half of that book, it goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage,...

The Virtues and Vices of N.T. Wright’s After You Believe

The Virtues and Vices of N.T. Wright’s After You Believe

Apparently, the original title of N.T. Wright’s After You Believe was Virtue Reborn, changed for marketing purposes in the US. It’s difficult to understand this change, except perhaps that the American Church tends toward being sanctification-heavy, and purpose-driven, and the promise of a ‘Step 2’ to follow the ‘Step 1’...

The Italo Gospel Is Foolishness (But to Us…It Is the Power of God)

The Italo Gospel Is Foolishness (But to Us…It Is the Power of God)

Have you ever heard of Italo? The name refers to a genre of music that was made primarily in Italy (though not exclusively), and is basically a catch-all term for the pop music of 1980s Italy. What could be more intriguing?

Like any genre of music, Italo carries with it degrees...

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A Conference Week Ends: Shame Patient Zero, Moral Bucket Lists, Love & Mercy, and A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

A Conference Week Ends: Shame Patient Zero, Moral Bucket Lists, Love & Mercy, and A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

It’s a conference week here at mbird, so expect a lighter posting schedule for the next week or so while the focus shifts to New York City! Say a prayer for our attendees if you have a moment. In the meantime, here’s an extra-long weekender to hold you over:

1. David Brooks returned to his flirtatious ways last Saturday in the New York Times with his “Moral Bucket List,” a preview of coming attractions for his new book, The Road to Character:

Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with…

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“This American Life ” – On Re-purposing Our Monuments of Shame

This American Life ” – On Re-purposing Our Monuments of Shame

There was a great story on NPR’s “This American Life” this week.  Back in 1999, on an annual list of 354 U.S. & Canada Cities, Kankakee, Illinois was voted the worst – number 354. The criterion included crime rate per capita, climate, unemployment rate, etc. When the list came out, David Letterman (a nearby Indiana native) felt some compassion for Kankakee, knowing that they had (like a lot of Mid-West towns at the time) lost a lot of lot key industries in the 90’s, leaving the town a shell of itself.  The last thing he felt that the town needed…

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Even With the Smallest of Us

Even With the Smallest of Us

I have two sons. The older one is your quintessential responsible, law-following, parent-pleasing oldest child—a budding Adam Braverman, if you will. The younger son is, well, the opposite; he’s a total scofflaw. My oldest is ready to leave the house ten minutes before it’s time to go; the younger we have to practically pin to the floor and put his shoes on for him. When I call for the boys, the oldest comes over to me quickly, the younger doesn’t, and claims he didn’t hear… Apparently my voice is of the same frequency and tone as Legos clicking together. My…

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Clothes Make the Man: Thoughts on NYT’s Men’s Style

Clothes Make the Man: Thoughts on NYT’s Men’s Style

Earlier this month, the New York Times debuted a new print section in their newspaper- the first new print section of the paper in a decade- and that new section is dedicated to Men’s Style. It says a lot that one of the great media companies in history would decide in 2015 to invest ink and paper in any subject matter. Even if the section insert is only once a month, if the New York Times is getting into men’s fashion, perhaps we should be turning our attention there as well. Says Men’s Style editor Jim Windolf:

Today The Times unveils Men’s…

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What Plato and Aristotle Did Not Know (But Luther Did)

Two more remarkable passages from Steven Paulson’s Luther for Armchair Theologians:

51N4yVb4VNL._SY445_Faith in Christ’s promise, not works of the law, alone saves. But we will have to be very careful, since the word “faith” is one of the most abused words in our vocabulary. It does not mean for Luther “accepting,” or “deciding for,” or “committing oneself for Christ,” or any of the misuses this word has received. Faith is perfect passivity for Luther–being done unto by God, or simply suffering God. It is literally being put to death as a sinner and raised as a saint, which is decidedly God’s own act through preached words. This is a teaching that Plato and Aristotle did not know… (pg. 51-52)

Salvation is not the progress of a spiritual athlete for whom practice in the law makes perfect. It is not even like a sick person getting well on the medicine of grace, for those pictures of Christian living leave Christ on the sidelines while human free will takes center stage. Such notions leave Christ idle, displacing him by the star of that drama, the free will that dreams of becoming ever more holy under the law. Why then the cross? Did Christ come simply to remind people of the law that Moses already gave, or even to give an improved version of the tablets of stone? Is Christ to be patient while you try to solve the puzzle of God’s law? The story of scripture, Luther begins to understand, is not how we make our way up the mountain by getting grace and then topping it off with love and works. Scripture is the story of how God came down to meet us–while we were yet sinners. Christ is the mover and the shaker, the active subject, the star of the show. And when Christ comes the law ends. Luther coined a phrase–crux sola nostra theologia (the cross alone is our theology)–and put it in capital letters to stand out boldly as the chief truth he found while lecturing on Psalms for the first time. (pg. 62-63)

God’s Salty Lamb: A Conference Breakout Preview

God’s Salty Lamb: A Conference Breakout Preview

The Economist wrote an obituary for Robert Farrar Capon after his death in 2013, and they had this to say about the food writer/theologian’s style of life:

Mr Capon had no time for strict scorekeeping, in the kitchen or anywhere else. Grace, not willpower, dealt with sin: Jesus came to save the world, not to judge it. Showy piety, legalism and quietism were all abominations, almost as much as the cheap oil and harsh flavours of phoney ethnic food.

His own scorecard had some blots. Divorce from the mother of his six children cost him his parish on Long Island and his…

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You’ll Always Be a Part of Billy Joel

You’ll Always Be a Part of Billy Joel

For the first few years I sang our son lullabies, I was very intentional about him only hearing church hymns. We’d rock to “Lift High the Cross” or “Let us Break Bread Together.” Sometimes, if I was feeling really crazy, I’d throw in the Doxology. I know, I’m intense.

My aims were good. I wanted the music of the church to be a part of his earliest memories. And what better way to do it than in those sweet moments just before bedtime?

And then, at around the age of 2, he started to rebel. It was the Christmas season that did…

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Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean: A Conference Breakout Preview

Jesus as the Ultimate Mr. Clean: A Conference Breakout Preview

Life’s a mess. This is incontrovertibly true, no matter who you are. Some of us are better at hiding it (hedge fund managers, Dalai Lamas, me) than others (Kardashians, hacky-sack players, you), but we’re all a mess. We all want to be able to put our mess behind us; to start over. We all want a clean slate; to be washed. That’s why we’re coming to New York (a place that is truly a mess…I’m looking at you, trash night…er, rat night)…David Zahl (a mess) has promised us a conference that will tell us about this mythical creature: the cleaned…

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Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

Perhaps you’ve seen Anne Lamott’s Facebook post that went viral over the weekend, in which she lists “every single thing she knows” on the eve of her 61st birthday (which turns out to be fifteen things)? If not, do yourself a favor. Filled with characteristic wit and wisdom, not to mention memorable turns of phrase, it’s a crash course in effective communication, especially in regards to Christianity. In fact, it’s enough to make a person wonder: why is it that so many of the most compelling religious voices these days belong to women in recovery? It’s almost uncanny. Whatever the…

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Bridging Church and Culture: A Conference Breakout Preview

Bridging Church and Culture: A Conference Breakout Preview

Seven years ago, Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA renovated a small, single-car garage into a downtown art space and then guess what we named it? We named it The Garage. Since then we’ve hosted monthly art openings, potluck dinners, letter-writing days, some amateur film screenings and literally hundreds of concerts (five years ago, The Lumineers played in front of eight people on a rainy Sunday, long before they were writing songs for The Hunger Games, #neverforget). The space opens out onto a street and, during concerts, passers-by either gather at the entrance or in a park on the other…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Proverbs Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Six

Hopelessly Devoted: Proverbs Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Six

This morning’s devotion comes from Peter Moore. 

Faithful are the wounds of a friend. (Proverbs 27:6, KJV)

We, of course, expect wounds from our enemies. And the person without enemies is the person without convictions, without conscience, without passion. “Beware when all men speak well of you,” said Jesus, a man who, as we know from the Gospels, knew an enemy when he saw one.

But it is wounds from those who are our friends that surprise us and hurt us the most. We expect our friends to be trustworthy, kind, understanding, and forgiving. When they are not, we are often undone. The…

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