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The Jeffersonian Ideal and the Unexpected Solution to Racism

The Jeffersonian Ideal and the Unexpected Solution to Racism

As you may know, Mockingbird HQ is situated here in happy, wealthy, intellectual, pastoral Charlottesville, Virginia. When I moved to Charlottesville for college almost 15 years ago, it was considered “America’s Happiest City” and one of the best places in America to raise a family. It still is. For this reason, and others, there is a […]

Do I Feel a Draft? Leaving the Door Open for Reconciliation – Carrie Willard

The next breakout vid from our NYC Conference is here–and it’s explosive! After you’ve recovered and are ready for your next dose of Willard magic, be advised: Carrie is giving one the keynotes at the upcoming event in Oklahoma City (10/11-13).

Do I Feel a Draft?: Keeping the Door Open for Reconciliation – Carrie Willard from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

A Message of Hope for the Geeks: From Coheed and Cambria

A Message of Hope for the Geeks: From Coheed and Cambria

Music is a weird time machine. Whether it’s an entire record, a song, or even a particular melody or rhythm, music has a way of viscerally tethering me to snapshots from my past. It not only surfaces visual memories of particular places and things, but it dredges up the feeling of particular seasons of life. […]

PZ's Podcast: The Letter and My Antediluvian Baby

PZ’s Podcast: The Letter and My Antediluvian Baby

EPISODE 255: The Letter Pastorally — and generally — it is easy to miss the core of what’s going on with a person in pain. You may see some symptoms — tho’ sometimes even the symptoms are hidden — and may sub-rationally understand that something bad is taking place under the surface. But when it […]

Anhedonia: The Disease of Happy People

Anhedonia: The Disease of Happy People

Falling in love stereotypically brings with it a come-what-may optimism. It is a symptom of what we are feeling so strongly at the present moment. Never in our lives have we felt so magnetized in the present moment than in these with this one person—we can sit and talk until three in the morning, the […]

Catch Me

Catch Me

This one comes from Andrew Taylor-Troutman.  A new friend, who is joining the church I serve, offered a Rumi reading to me from his morning devotional: Hold up a mirror to your worst destructive habits, for that is how the real making begins. ~ 1995 was my first year of high school. That spring, my […]

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

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 time with wandering conversations over […]

Death and Resurrection (but Mainly Death) in Church Planting

Death and Resurrection (but Mainly Death) in Church Planting

I am a failed church planter. From 2008-2012, my wife and I and a group of friends started a new church in New York City. It was, in many ways, a wonderful time. We gathered a young, vibrant congregation and formed life-long relationships but, in the end, we could not reach the proverbial, and dreaded, […]

My Most Selfish Prayer

My Most Selfish Prayer

This one comes to us from Andrew Taylor-Troutman: Dear Lord: let me die before my wife. I’m bouncing our baby daughter on my lap as she drools on a wooden rattle. Her mom makes pancakes every Saturday morning, but the baby has only recently gotten her first taste. Our middle child, age two and a […]

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 […]

New Blackened Dawn Approaching: Deafheaven as a Mirror in the Darkness

New Blackened Dawn Approaching: Deafheaven as a Mirror in the Darkness

There’s something deliciously ironic in the fact that a blisteringly hot summer such as this one should serve as a portal for bone-chillingly cold black metal in the form of a new Deafheaven LP. But yea verily, the underworld doth cackle at the fittingness of said album launching on Friday the 13th. Swirling within this […]