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This Old House

This Old House

I asked my mom once if she believed in ghosts. She never seemed afraid of much of anything, and so I figured if she wasn’t afraid of them, it probably wasn’t worth bothering working myself up over them, either. “I don’t know about ghosts,” she replied. “But I do wish my mother could come visit […]

Justice, Serena Style

Justice, Serena Style

She is not playin’, sports fans, even when she’s playin’. That’s what I have come to love about Serena Williams. She’s been one of the top five athletes in the world for years now, but she has never stopped being Serena. If you haven’t heard about the U.S. Open Women’s Final from Saturday in Flushing […]

Bringing You The Gospel, pt 46

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Twenty

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

– 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)

The Bible declares that “the body of sin has been destroyed…. God has condemned sin in the flesh.” We don’t have to fear the Old Adam anymore…even though we still see and experience his residual phantom manifestations.

Sin has no eternal consequence anymore. Do we still sin? Of course. Do we still wrestle with sin? Yes. Does sin still have mundane experiential implications? Absolutely. But our sure confidence is in the gift of the leading of the Holy Spirit: the verdict of “no condemnation.” By his grace, through faith, we trust that we are clean, we are righteous, we are washed, we are justified…despite what the apparent evidence in our lives says.

Daily life damns us. Life consistently says “failed.” Grace faithfully says “forgiven.” Life always says “no.” God always says “enough”…because He has given us his ultimate and eternal “yes” in Jesus.

Microplastics and Macrograce

Microplastics and Macrograce

This one comes to us from Amanda McMillen.  I come from a family of Greek women that collect seashells. On every beach trip, we’d pack empty buckets and leave room in the car to lug our treasures home. I’ve since learned that stealing pounds of shells from beaches is not good practice for clams and […]

The Disappointment of Still Being Me

The Disappointment of Still Being Me

I turned forty-one last week, and to be honest, it was a total crock. I woke up that morning and nothing had changed. Actually, I woke up at 4:55 that morning because that’s when my six-year-old lumbered into the room, ready to begin his day. My husband Jason was already downstairs in the boys’ room […]

Judgment and Relief at the End of Summer

Judgment and Relief at the End of Summer

In my neighborhood, the evidence of leaves already falling from the trees sounds a clear indictment and an unmistakable verdict: Summer is virtually gone…and I didn’t do enough to justify my existence. We didn’t do a good enough bona-fide family vacation—as in, we didn’t go anyplace exotic like Hawaii or Mexico or travel across country […]

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.

The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

Tis the season… “I am on vacation, away from my office, Email access is remote so I may not respond until my return.” We seem to need vacation.  My father had the month of August off, but we went near nowhere (once a drive to DC to see a friend along the way and see […]

The Déjà Vu Issue is Here!

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.

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 […]