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Mockingbird is devoted to connecting the Christian message with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.

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    Across the Great Divide – David Zahl

    The final plenary from NYC in which we broach that topic and lose our sense of smell. Also, ABBA meets the King.

    Across the Great Divide – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    God's Two Words: An Introduction

    God’s Two Words: An Introduction

    Very pleased to share the following introduction to the new collection edited by our friend Dr. Jono Linebaugh, God’s Two Words—which hit shelves last week.

    On October 4, 1529, Martin Luther wrote a letter to his wife. He was in Marburg at the urging of Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who had brought together several leading Lutheran and Reformed theologians in an attempt to secure the theological agreement necessary to establish a united evangelical front against the Hapsburgs. The participants in this Marburg Colloquy were able to produce a joint doctrinal statement, the “Marburg Articles,” and the list of signatories reads like…

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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

    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.

    A Dirty Church, Body Shame, and God’s Twisted Smile – Chad Bird

    Beyond grateful for this eloquent, powerful talk from our recent conference in NYC, by guest speaker Chad Bird:

    A Dirty Church, Body Shame, and God’s Twisted Smile – Chad Bird from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    PZ's Podcast: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life, Facing the Cannons (NOT!), and Tupper

    PZ’s Podcast: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life, Facing the Cannons (NOT!), and Tupper

    EPISODE 252: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life

    In a quote that’s been making the rounds recently, Rudolph Bultmann wrote, “When we encounter the words of Jesus in history, we do not judge them by a philosophical system with reference to their rational validity; they meet us with the question of how we are to interpret our own mode of existence. That we ourselves be deeply disturbed by the problem of our own life is the indispensable condition of our inquiry.”

    Note that word “indispensable”.

    I used to pussy foot some around this, trying to allow for “stronger” personalities or less either-or ways of…

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    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, Kelsi Klembara, Ethan Richardson and more. You can check out the full schedule here.

    Thanks to the generosity of our hosts, the price tag is just $30/person or $50/couple, which includes (distractably) delicious lunch and dinner on Friday catered by The Kitchen at Commonplace. You do not want to miss this one.

    PRE-REGISTER TODAY!

    All the Pods That Are Fit to Cast

    No fresh Mockingcast this week, as the hosts have all been on vacation, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to run down what else we’ve got on offer, audio-wise, and where you can listen/subscribe. Also, the more reviews we have on iTunes, the more visibility those casts get, so if you haven’t had a chance to post one, go for it! The links are below.

    The Mockingcast

    A bi-weekly roundtable on culture, faith and grace, co-hosted by RJ Heijmen, Sarah Condon and David Zahl.

    Listen/Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher

     

     

    mockingpulpit

    The Mockingpulpit

    Sermons and talks from the voices associated with Mockingbird, singing that “same song” of God’s grace in different keys, week after week.

    Listen/Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play

    PZ_podcast

    PZ’s Podcast

    Grace-based impressions and outré correlations from the author of Grace in Practice, Paul F.M. Zahl. [Note: two fresh episodes have gone up since we last posted a blurb, “252: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” and “253: Facing the Cannons (NOT!)”]

    Listen/Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher

     

    Talkingbird

    Your destination for talks given at our events, both present and past. Subjects run the gamut from religion and theology to psychology and literature to pop culture and relationships and everything in between. Humor and grace abound. Selected talks from our archives go up every two weeks in between events.

    Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher

     

    Fresh on Talkingbird as of this past weekend are both David Zahl’s talk from the Ordinary event in CA last month (“Nobody’s Somebody or Somebody’s Nobody’s”) and Jady Koch’s masterful presentation on “Law, Gospel and Guns N Roses: How the English Reformation Is Still Speaking Today” that he gave at Concordia Seminary this past Fall as part of their symposium on “The Just Shall Live by Faith: The Reformation Word for Life Then and Now.” You can watch the video below.

    Did We Even See the Same Movie?: How Art Works, and Why It Matters – Alissa Wilkinson

    Grateful for this wonderful talk from special guest NYC Conference speaker Alissa Wilkinson, film critic for Vox and co-author of How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World.

    Did We Even See the Same Movie?: How Art Works, and Why It Matters – Alissa Wilkinson from Mockingbird on Vimeo

    Tully: Ever-Present Wounds and Subdued Joy

    Tully: Ever-Present Wounds and Subdued Joy

    The following review was written by Caleb Ackley. Tully is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and other outlets as of today, July 17. Spoilers below.

    Charlize Theron isn’t a name typically associated with the average in society. Known best for her roles which require both acting ability and incredible athleticism — think suave assassin in Atomic Blonde or shaven-headed warrior in Mad Max: Fury Road — the name of Theron rarely evokes the pedestrian struggles of a stay-at-home mom. But the year is 2018, after all, and anything, it seems, is possible.

    Enter Tully, the latest offering from director Jason Reitman, which stars…

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    Char and Steph Wander the Desert: A Flashback to Ancient Israel

    Char and Steph Wander the Desert: A Flashback to Ancient Israel

    The following play — a precious relic from ancient Israel — tells the untold story of motherhood in Exodus. It was published in Mockingbird’s latest book, Unmapped, a memoir duet about spirituality, family, and finding home in unexpected exile. This is Act I of IV:

    Char and Steph Wander the Desert
    A Play by Charlotte Getz and Stephanie Phillips
    ACT I

    CHAR and STEPH, two young-ish Hebrew women, work side-by-side in a field making bricks out of clay and straw. They are just two women amongst thousands, and the sun beats down on them all without a trace of shade in sight.

    CHAR (wipes…

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    Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Seven Verses Fourteen Through Fifteen and Verses Twenty-One Through Twenty-Three

    Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Seven Verses Fourteen Through Fifteen and Verses Twenty-One Through Twenty-Three

    This morning’s devotion was written by Todd Brewer. 

    Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them… For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-15, 21-23, NIV)

    Jesus is talking about the origin of the great problems of life and how,…

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