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This Week: In The City So Nice They Named It Twice

We’ll be away from keyboards and desks for the rest of the week, at our annual conference/disco in New York, New York, where we’d love to see your face! Walk-ins welcome. If you haven’t looked into the full schedule, find all the information here. We’ll return next week with more new posts. Meantime, there’s lots of Mockingbird content in the archives for those wanting. Some places to start may be: our recordings page, where you can find fresh Easter and Good Friday sermons, plus all of the available audio from our conference in Tyler, TX. Also, earlier this morning we had the privilege of posting the transcription of a wonderful sermon by author Francis Spufford — no surprise, it is tremendous. For further seasonal reading, visit our Easter-related archives. And keep your eyes on our podcasts, as new episodes will be recorded live in NYC. Till next time!

What the Hell Is Going On?: The Strangest Things about Stranger Things - Leigh Hickman

This next video from our Tyler conference features an amazing analysis of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. With English professor Leigh Hickman as our guide, we re-discover the greatest story within all great stories and why the show resonates with so many viewers. Trust us, this you will enjoy:

What The Hell Is Going On?: The Strangest Things about Stranger Things – Leigh Hickman from Mockingbird on Vimeo

God Isn’t Mad At You (I’m Not Blowing Smoke!) - Dr. Steve Brown

We’ve got a wonderful slate of videos coming in from the recent Mockingbird conference in Tyler, TX. Up first, a powerful message from author and Key Life founder Steve Brown. Topics include: the visage of Steve Brown, the Marlboro Man, a stable metanarrative, Arminian daisies, Firing Line, and a sovereign God.

God Isn’t Mad At You (I’m Not Blowing Smoke!) – Dr. Steve Brown from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

2019 NYC Conference Breakout Previews, Part 3

With our annual NYC Conference just over one week away, here’s the final round of previews for our breakout sessions, which will be available during the 3:00pm block on Friday, April 26. You don’t want to miss Part 1 or Part 2 either. Register today! Newcomers warmly welcomed.

Why Me Lord: A Brief Look at the Scoundrels, Buffoons, and Ne’er Do Well’s Whom God Pursues in the ParablesErick Sorensen

Human beings are wired for stories. In fact, we’re so wired for stories, that we simply can’t help inserting ourselves into just about every story we hear. Since Jesus is the one who wired us this way, it’s not surprising that when he ministered here in the flesh, He oftentimes chose to teach us about God not with crisp, systematic statements of doctrine, but with stories we call parables. Going against all our natural religious impulses, the parables have the capacity to turn our theological world’s upside down: Tax collectors and prostitutes are declared righteous, prodigal sons are embraced, even dishonest stewards are lauded. There’s a heretical Samaritan made into a hero, a kingdom filled with outcasts and a group of lazy laborers that are given the exact same reward as the hardest working among them. Jesus teaches us in the parables that God’s kingdom happily includes a bunch of Scoundrels, Buffoons, and Ne’erdowells. Why them, Lord? Why me, Lord? Those are the questions we’ll look to explore in my breakout.

Be Your Worst SelfStephanie Phillips

Because I am a contrarian, I’m not going to tell you what to expect from my upcoming breakout session, entitled “Be Your Worst Self.” Instead, I’m going to tell you what not to expect.

Do not expect to be given instructions on how to wash your face. Do not expect to be yelled at that you’re not doing enough. Do not expect to see any inspirational memes written in swirly cursive against a mountain backdrop. Do not expect to be agitated into becoming the misconception of a Proverbs 31 woman (or the partner of one). Do not expect to escape without hearing an awkward joke I wrote when I was ten. Do not expect for my family secrets to remain hidden. Do not expect to leave without questioning whether you should switch deodorants. Do not expect me to promote my “brand,” be an Instagram influencer, invite you to join my multilevel marketing company, or advocate for self-esteem. Do not expect me to attack Liam Neeson. And especially do not expect me to let you leave without telling you about the hill I would die on.

Other than that? Anything could happen. Which hopefully will look a lot like grace as it’s appearing to me right now. See you soon!

Orange Is the New BlessingDebbie Griffith

I’m not gonna lie; orange is a good color for me, and unlike Leigh-Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, it’s in my color wheel. But I never expected I’d be wearing orange in a jail cell after being charged with a DUI. My stay was short but long enough to write on a piece of paper, “Nothing is wasted.” My DUI season ran nine months because I challenged the charge. It all seemed a bit cray that I was questioned while sitting in my running vehicle eating McDonald’s French fries. Yet someone had called the cops after they had followed my two-mile drive home from the drive-thru. Of course I thought later, “if only” I had walked into my home and turned off the truck. But then I would have lost the magic of the magical fires due to the February weather of the Icebox of the Nation. And while the embarrassment, remorse, and guilt hurt my heart, the blessings that came with the DUI charge overwhelmed me with thankfulness. I owned my story so my story didn’t own me. I learned more on the power of transparency and empathy, and saw God’s grace “big-time.” I was in a season of pain and then entered into another. God knew. He was always there waiting to make creative and redemptive use of what happened. I’m beyond deserving and still comprehending how God is always good even when we’re not.

At Ego’s End: Where Grace Intersects UsJosh Retterer

Watching Netflix’s new series, The Umbrella Academy, a scene jumped out at me. One of the characters, Luther, a giant gorilla of a man, nicknamed Spaceboy for his superhero exploits on the moon, is a sobbing heap on the floor of his late father’s study. He wasn’t grieving his father’s death, but his own death. Luther had been sent, alone, on a dangerous—and painfully boring—mission to the moon, instructed to send detailed daily reports back to earth. Assured this was important work, “for the safety of world,” as his dad put it, Luther dutifully carried out the mission. It’s the kind of thing people named Spaceboy do!

Gathered with his equally super-human, adopted siblings in their childhood home for their father’s funeral, Luther discovered a hidden cache of his reports. All of the reports he had sent back to earth were there; all of them unopened. He had given years of his life fulfilling his dad’s wishes, only to find out he had been sent on a fool’s errand. His reaction is one of the best portrayals of “ego death” on screen I’ve seen in a while. The show has a great cast (Mary J. Blige’s character is great) and a killer soundtrack. It’s worth checking out.

My talk won’t have a single thing to do with The Umbrella Academy, well, except for the “ego death” part. We will explore what happens when we “die” before we die, and where God’s grace intersects. I’ll tell you my story, and I hope you’ll tell us yours!

Sleeping in Church: A Short Story About a Sign from GodCJ Green

When I was eighteen, I joined a Pentecostal revival and spent four years looking for signs from God. I wanted a vision, a dream, just a little something to reassure me I was doing it right. Occasionally signs came. At least, I said they did. Jokes aside, I do believe in signs, and I also believe in the unexpected. In this session, we’ll investigate these themes not through personal testimony but through storytime/short fiction, which can be the back door into otherwise isolating concepts. The story is “The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark,” by poet/writer/ex-Jesuit John L’Heureux. Taking place in the 50s, this is the fictionalized tale of a woman who wants a sign from God and gets one, just not in the way she expects. You can read it here or come and be surprised. We’ll look at what the author says about the mechanics of grace. We’ll discuss themes from the story, such as sleeping in church and what this might suggest about our relationship to the divine. As a kid, I spent tons of time sleeping in church, so I feel I have some authority with this topic. We’ll also consider what makes effective faith-based fiction, if such a thing exists, and what this could mean about the nature of grace.

Register for the 2019 NYC Conference today!

Featured image courtesy of Stellate Photography.

2019 Mbird Tyler Recordings: The Future of Grace

A Texas-sized thank you to everyone who helped put on our conference in Tyler earlier this 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, Redeemer Pres Tyler, Moon River Naturals, Porch Culture Coffee Roasters, Sola Bread Co, The Kalos Foundation, Center for Creative Media, The Foundry Coffee House, True Vine Brewery, and Ridiculously Good Branding & Threads Co, not to mention Mark Babikow, who once again came to our rescue on the A/V front, and Casey & Travis Squyres at Stellate Photography who take the best photos ever, for example:

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As per usual, we’re making the recordings available at no charge; we only ask that those who were not able to attend this year *consider* tossing something in the hat to help cover the cost of the event.

To listen, head over to The TALKINGBIRD feed.

If you’d rather go a la carte, the individual files are now available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify for you to stream, download, and share. They should be up on our Resources page presently as well. We’ll be rolling out the videos super soon. Enjoy!

2019 NYC Conference Breakout Previews, Part 2

2019 NYC Conference Breakout Previews, Part 2

The countdown is on for our annual NYC Conference, so here’s Part 2 of the previews for our breakout sessions. The following breakouts will be available during the 2:00pm block on Friday, April 26. Check out Part 1, too, for the morning session offerings. Also note: “all inclusive” registration, which includes [delicious, excellent] meals, is […]

2019 NYC Conference Breakout Previews, Part 1

2019 NYC Conference Breakout Previews, Part 1

With less than a month until our annual conference in NYC, we’ll be taking the next few weeks to share previews of our upcoming breakout sessions, covering a variety of topics both personal and spiritual. Here are the first five which will be available during the morning block on Friday, April 26. StoryMakers present: Imagination, Stories, […]

The Kicker: Steve Brown on Hidden Agendas and the Fondness of Christ

The Kicker: Steve Brown on Hidden Agendas and the Fondness of Christ

In preparation for our upcoming conference in Tyler, TX (next week!), we’ve pulled the following excerpt from our archives (originally published over at Key Life). Here, conference speaker Dr. Steve Brown discusses hidden agendas and the distinctly un-sneaky love of God: Some seriously misguided Christians once called a Jewish friend of mine a “Christ killer.” When […]

Walker Percy on Distraction and Selfhood ~ Scott Johnson

Nuclear winter, malaise, transcendence, and an amiable dude in khakis — all this and more in the following video! Very pleased to share this talk by Scott Johnson, from our recent conference in Oklahoma City, a revised version of which appeared in the latest Mockingbird magazine, the Faith and Doubt issue.

Walker Percy on Distraction and Selfhood ~ Scott Johnson

Instagram Scrolling and Twitter Rants: Today’s Solutions to Luther’s Anfechtung - Kelsi Klembara

Apocalyptic bunkers, daily anxiety, total failure, and more: Very pleased to share this talk by Kelsi Klembara, from the recent Mockingbird conference in Oklahoma City!

Instagram Scrolling and Twitter Rants: Today’s Solutions to Luther’s Anfechtung – Kelsi Klembara from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

NYC Conference Update: Breakout Titles and Normie Premiere

Very pleased to announce the breakout titles and topics for our upcoming conference in New York City (4/25-27)!

  • StoryMakers presents: Imagination, Stories, and God – Melina Smith & co
  • Shooting Blanks: Baby Making in an Age of Anxiety – Ben Maddison
  • Living in Sin: Making Marriage Work Between I Do and Death – Jason Micheli
  • Love Is Stronger than Fear: Rethinking the Conversation about Privilege – Amy Julia Becker
  • I Died and Didn’t Go To Heaven: Grace, Grief, and the Big Question – Connor Gwin
  • Same Old Song: Live Recording and Q&A – Jacob Smith & Aaron Zimmerman
  • On Comic Books: Our Commonly Felt Need and the Search for Hope – Kyle Tomlin
  • When God Makes All Things Nude: Gospel Hope for Marriage When It’s Not All Princess Bride and Marvin Gaye – Charlotte Getz
  • Judgment, Grace, and Rest in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid
  • Beyond Gold Stars: A Law/Gospel Approach to Pedagogy – Bryan Jarrell
  • Why Me Lord: A Brief Look at the Scoundrels, Buffoons, and Ne’er Do Well’s whom God Pursues in the Parables – Erick Sorensen
  • Be Your Worst Self – Stephanie Phillips
  • Orange Is the New Blessing – Debbie Griffith
  • At Ego’s End: Where Grace Intersects Us – Josh Retterer
  • Sleeping in Church: A Short Story about a Sign From God – CJ Green

Pre-Register Today!

Also, as part of our pre-conference programming this year, on Weds April 24th (the night before the conference begins!) we’ll be hosting the NYC premiere of Normie, the new documentary from the team that brought us ASK. Stay tuned for details about a post-viewing Q&A with the filmmakers, but this is not to be missed. Tickets are available at

April 5th & 6th in Tyler, Texas!

Pre-Register Today!