New Here?
     
Posts tagged "A 2018 Conference Breakout Preview"


Candy Cigarettes and Stubborn Grace — A Conference Breakout Preview

This NYC Conference breakout preview comes to us from Daniel Emery Price.

When I was thirteen, I was seen walking down the street “smoking cigarettes.” A woman in our church witnessed this “highly rebellious” and “brazenly defiant” act, and she immediately informed a different woman in the church who reported it back to my mother. This lady “just thought my mom should know” while informing her that I was no longer allowed to be friends with her son.

My mother was outraged. I only know about this because I walked into a room where she was firing both barrels of an all-law sermon on gossip and slander to this other mother over the phone. I was completely freaked out as I had never seen my mother this angry before. But not angry at me—angry for me.

I quickly exited the room to retrieve my backpack. While my mother proceeded to unload into the phone, I reached into my bag and pulled out the box of candy cigarettes I had been pretending to “smoke” while walking down the street. After I handed them to her, she hung up the phone with no reference to the evidence of innocence I had just provided

“Why didn’t you tell her they were candy?!” I shouted.

“Because it doesn’t matter,” she replied.

I didn’t realize until much later that my mother was not defending my innocence. She didn’t think I was innocent. She was merely defending me. She was defending my reputation and was willing to sacrifice her own reputation (as a good Christian mother) out of love for me. It seems like a small thing, but that helped shape my thoughts on grace and Christ-like-ness.

That is a short story, a parable of sorts. Jesus told a lot of those. People like short stories because our lives are made up of a long series of them.

At the Mockingbird Conference in NYC, I will be sharing a few parables of Jesus (and a few of my own) to talk about our addiction to judgment and the stubborn nature of God’s grace.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference!

Lent Itself — A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference breakout preview comes from Duo Dickinson.

Between Ash & Maundy, I write in silence.

It happens to be Lent. I happen to be at Level 23. I most always do this every day anyway, but 90 minutes, every day, is a lot.

Like this morning, while writing, I trigger some unknown algorithm on my new iPad, and some weirdness happens, but stuff gets done.

Like my childhood, it is a time of screaming. Almost every channel that I usually watch while working out every morning is trying to express a point, to validate its presence with a conviction. It is depressing.

I retreat to Law & Order reruns when they are on, and I have missed those during these 40 days, and replays of NFL games. In these 40 days, I have heard no Joe Scarborough or Jack McCoy (or is it McCaughey?) for the 4th Lent.

Four years ago, it was just Holy Week, where I ranted about what none of us know, but what is undeniable.

The next year I wrote a modest set of observations, mostly to myself, about myself in the world.

Last year I tried to be more thoughtful, graphically evocative, and then BANG (or better, POP) a defective vein burst and I missed a day, the Spring Equinox, with the first gap in two years, a planned gap, but not because I was in Yale Hospital, but because I was to be in DC. Which was cancelled. A good thing for those scheduled to fly and meet with me. (THANK YOU, God).

That event framed all the other events since, even though apparently, according to all those doctors, I cured myself — despite 100 hospital hours and $64,000 of insurance. But I take 4 pills, every day. So this morning I am at 120/67BP with 49 HBM.

This 40 day period is, intentionally, of the Flood, the Wilderness, and any other allusion the learned can divine. But Lent is, like, 45 days long, or 44 — because the Sunday’s should not count, but, that does not work out either, as there are 5, and Leap years, and…

This year I initially noted the point guard on F&M’s basketball team was on the verge of an end of his 4 years that may be exceptional to the tiny number that care. It turned out to be mixed. He got the record 2,000 points, the 4th First Team All Conference, the NCAA Sweet 16 (D3). But missed all the national honors that were hoped for. If you cared about numbers you were happy and sad.

Like Lent.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference!

Do I Feel a Draft? Keeping the Door Open for Reconciliation — A Conference Breakout Preview

With one week left until our New York Conference, here’s another breakout preview. This one comes to us from Carrie Willard.

Reconciliation might feel like something that is Someone Else’s Problem, preferably people who live at least an ocean away. Korea should probably get its act together, and the Middle East would also be a nice place to start. These conflicts are a nice, safe distance from our having to do anything about it. But reconciliation comes home in this conference breakout session, when we discuss reconciliation in family life.

We’ll talk about family reconciliation close to home, especially about the sister who’s been missing from the Family Math for the past eighteen years. Even when reconciliation isn’t readily available on the deadline we’d prefer, we can count on God to keep the door open for that reconciliation as we move through the rest of our lives without a balanced, settled equation.

We’ll also discuss the reconciliation in the House of Windsor, when the Queen of England felt called to reconcile with her uncle, the former King. Again, there’s no tidy, balanced equation in this family story, for all of the Queen’s desire to forgive.

As Fleming Rutledge so aptly highlights in The Crucifixion, any reconciliation we might realize in this life is a temporary one. So why should we bother? With clips from Grumpy Old Men and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, we’ll talk about asking God’s forgiveness for our own failings, and how we get in our own way of reconciliation.

Don’t forget to register for the 11th Annual New York Conference! You won’t want to miss it!

Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – A Conference Breakout Preview

In this past week’s Another Week Ends, I mentioned very briefly the newest season of Invisibilia, one of our go-to podcasts. That particular episode, “The Pattern Problem,” tells the story of a woman with a seriously checkered past, some her fault, some not at all. She’s the child of addicts, an ex-addict and ex-felon herself, and yet she’s made an against-all-odds comeback: after a couple stints in prison, she gets into law school and is now studying for the bar. A panel of judges overseeing the bar in her state is deciding whether or not her past precludes her from such an unlikely future.

I won’t give away what ends up happening, but you can see where the focus on “patterns” comes into play. Does her criminal past foreshadow the future? Can we really be sure she’s changed? Patterns provide ways for people to make sober decisions. They are the conditional protective measures for how we decide to invest our time, our money, and in this case, our forgiveness. Courts as institutions are not known to be particularly forgiving—it’s not their job—but the same patterns are at work for us, in our minds, in the ways we read the news and process the actions of our strangers and friends alike.

Human beings don’t just dole out our forgiveness to anyone. To the contrary, unforgiveness is tended to like a formal garden. Each garden has hard boundaries with designated entrances, and strict guidelines for keeping its delicate order alive. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the garden would be indistinguishable from the chaos surrounding it. I am not trying to be glib. This is really how it has to be.

At the same time, social science has made it clear that unforgiveness will, in the end, kill you. For all the sensible order our fine gardens provide, they are solitary places, kept alive by stress, numbness to intruders, and estrangement. In other words, unforgiveness may simplify the “pattern problem,” but forgiveness, we are told by social science (and by the New Testament), is the way to new life.

In this breakout, we will talk about the psychology of forgiveness, its proven biological and psychosocial benefits, its various meanings in our culture, and the real, totally practical hope it expresses in the Bible.

Register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! Miss out, and you’ll never forgive yourself…

Not Weak on Sanctification: Christians Grow in Reverse – A Conference Break-Out Preview

This breakout preview comes from longtime Mockingbird contributor Nick Lannon, who is also the Associate Rector of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY.

If you’re reading a post on (or reposted from) the Mockingbird website, chances are pretty good that, at one point or another, you’ve been accused of being “weak on sanctification.” I’ve even had a staff member of a previous church casually refer to the alleged fact that I “don’t believe in sanctification.”

Is that true? What is certainly true is that most discussion of Christian growth rubs me the wrong way, depresses me, or makes me the kind of angry that I got when I heard they were remaking Point Break. But God is at work in us! He promised he would be!

Clearly, some clarification is in order.

For people who have, like thirsty vagrants crawling out of the desert, come to the fount of the Good News of the Gospel—that “it is finished” on account of Christ—sanctification can become, at best, a difficult subject to deal with, and, at worst, a dirty word. How can we talk about the work that God is doing in our lives without making it just another law? Is there a way to celebrate the activity of the Holy Spirit without becoming self-righteous Pharisees? Does talk of “sanctification” or “Christian maturity” necessarily lead to a ranked order of Christians stretching from Mother Teresa and Billy Graham at the top to death-row converts and your back-slidden college roommate at the bottom?

At this break-out session, I’ll try to find a helpful way to talk about sanctification. There is a paradigm through which Christian growth can be discussed, believed in, and even celebrated. Spiritual maturity is neither unicorn nor bogeyman, but it does seem to work itself out in the exact opposite way of that which we are hard-wired to expect.

So join me…afterwards, you can tell all your friends that you’re a more mature Christian than they are. Or not. Wait and see.

You can still register for the 2018 Mockingbird Conference: The Grace of God in Divided Times. Click here to check out the full schedule. We hope to see you there!

 

A Visit to Another World: Modern Fiction and Life After Death – A Conference Breakout Preview

Christians have long puzzled over whether literary fiction is of any use to the remnant of believers in the world. Of course, most of the Western canon is essentially Christian; you can’t get anywhere in a lit course without some basic familiarity with the Bible. But many of today’s stories seem postmodern, remaining thematically ambiguous and unresolved. Even so, stories remain one of our surest avenues for (something like) transcendence.

Good fiction describes the reality of everyday life—describes, in the words of Flannery O’Conner, “what is.” But for many Christians this seems too earthly a goal. Where have the symbolic references to Calvary gone? How long do we wait for this character’s redemption? Good stories are not always innocent or sentimental, nor necessarily redemptive. O’Connor, a Catholic herself, seemed just fine with this: “We lost our innocence in the Fall,” she writes plainly, “and our return to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite.” Oof!

During this breakout session, we’ll spend some time looking at the work of 3 contemporary writers—Denis Johnson, George Saunders, and Ottessa Moshfegh—who I haven’t been able to get out of my head this year. Their stories relate, sometimes brutally, sometimes humorously, “what is.” These writers are not Christians (actually one of them is), but they nevertheless “reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete, observable reality” (O’Connor). These stories poke fun at the absurdity of our everyday reality and illuminate our desperate need for a life after life. My hope is that their words will help us put some fresh “skin on the bones” of the Christian message (in the words of John Zahl). It should be fun and maybe a little weird! Hope to see ya there.

Click here to register for the upcoming Mockingbird conference in NYC! And check out the incredible line-up of speakers here.

I Don’t Identify as Human: The Hidden Image of the Hidden God – A Conference Breakout Preview

This NYC 2018 Conference breakout preview comes from Adam Morton, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church and associate pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, both in Lancaster, PA.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

You’ve heard that bit before. If not, purchase or steal a Bible (we can work on the ethics of acquisition later), and crack it open to the very first chapter. It’s a good read. This passage is one of the small set that might come out of the mouths of folks who have little or nothing to do with the church; nevertheless, they have heard that humanity is somehow the “image of God,” and this is surely important. But what does it mean?

Modern life is such that the definition of a human being seems to be daily renegotiated. The pet food commercials tell me that my pair of cats (let us never speak of them again) and my son are more or less equal objects of my care. I doubt this, but clearly not everyone does, else General Mills wouldn’t have offered $8 billion to acquire Blue Buffalo. Various experts and news stories have warned me, repeatedly, that if the robots don’t rise up to kill us, they’ll seduce us instead—and that this sort of thing is one day going to be perfectly normal. Silicon Valley appears awash in the notion that humanity can be—no, that’s too weak—will be transcended by way of the proper application of consumer electronics to the body. Sad as it is to say, neither are we anywhere near rid of the notion that certain colors or other configurations of the anthropoid form are markedly less than human.

Hear enough of this stuff and you might begin to suspect that we don’t yet really know what a human being is. This ancient notion of the image of God might be helpful in such a mess, if only we could pin it down. However, the thorny heart of the matter is that this image isn’t all that apparent in my daily life. I can’t see it, and while I could make several plausible suggestions as to its meaning, settling on which one (if any) is true is another matter—which means, strangely enough, that it has something in common with the God whose image it is supposed to be.

In this conference breakout we’ll try to talk about this image-of-God thing, what it means for it to be hidden from us, and how this confusion impacts us on a daily basis. Along the way we’ll enlist the help of Johann Georg Hamann, the greatest 18th century German writer you’ve never heard of (yes, I know, that’s hardly a selling point—but trust me, this guy is hilarious in a very un-German and un-18th century way).

You can sign up for the 11th annual Mockingbird conference here! No human beings will want to miss this!

Grace for Those with Father Issues (AKA, Grace for Those with a Pulse): A Conference Breakout Preview

Here’s another NYC conference breakout preview. This one is from Dave Johnson, rector of Christ Church in Valdosta, GA and author of Grace Upon Grace.

Our breakout session “Grace for Those with Father Issues (aka, Grace for Those with a Pulse)” will be touchy-feely and warm-fuzzy because when it comes to this heavy topic, God’s grace is exactly that. Whether your father is your hero or someone you cannot stand to be around for more than twenty seconds or so—whether your father is someone whose approval you crave or someone whose disapproval you incite (and actually enjoy doing so in a twisted way)—whether your father is one of your best friends or someone you have never met (and are not sure if you want to)—or whether you are all of the above, none of the above, or a combination thereof, you may find this session helpful (or at least not boring). For some people, their father issues are front and center; for others, it is an episodic struggle that often rears its head when least expected.

We’ll connect this topic with literature, movies, television, rock ‘n roll, and personal stories. We are not offering any cut and dry “answers” for this issue because it runs too deep and defies such “answers.” Instead, we’ll look at it through the lens of God’s grace, because God’s grace connects with our lives (and our father issues) as they actually are, not as they “should be.”  Even though it can be a heavy topic, we’ll have fun with it, hopefully in a non-creepy way—but no guarantees. In the words from the promotional poster of one Hollywood’s greatest masterpieces, Wayne’s World (1992): “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll hurl” (hurling is optional). We’ll also have time for Q and A, and offer healing prayer from The Book of Common Prayer for those who would like that.  Hope you will consider joining us—if not, send your father.

If you haven’t yet registered for the 11th annual Mockingbird conference, you can do so here! It’s comin’ up fast. We hope to see you there!

Art for God’s Sake (and Mine): A Conference Breakout Preview

Here’s another preview for one of our NYC conference breakout sessions. This one is from Mischa Willett, author of the poetry collection Phases. 

When I exceed the reach of the FM signal, driving in some part of the country, and the stations fade out and switch, I scan quickly for a new set. And I can always tell when I’ve passed a Christian music station, not because of the lyrics, or because of a lack of appeals for someone named “baby” to alter a current course of action, but because of the sound, somehow. I don’t think the sound is worse, particularly—I love CCM in fact—but it is distinctive. What am I hearing? A brightness? A cleanliness of production? A forwarding of the vocal track? 

That’s what reading a lot of literature by people of faith has been like for me. Apart from a few examples, I find it, I don’t know, wholesome in a way that’s grating. Maybe the earnestness bothers me. In my poems, I wanted to get away from all that, while still very much attending to first things. 

In this breakout session, I’ll be reading poems from my book Phases, which has recently been called “alive with the strenuous Christianity that makes Donne and Hopkins such a pleasure to read, even in these post-Christian times.” 

What is strenuous Christianity? How do we get our literature to be alive with it? This session is best for people who want to think about what a Christian vision of the arts might look like. 

You can read more about Phases here, and check out some of Mischa’s poems, which we’ve posted here. For more, join us at Calvary St. George’s church in NYC on April 27th, at 3:00pm. 

Click here to register for the 11th annual Mockingbird conference! We hope to see you there!

It Is Good: Waiting on Our New Creation — A Conference Breakout Preview

In preparation for our annual conference in NYC, we’ll be taking the next few weeks to share previews of our upcoming breakout sessions, which cover a variety of topics both personal and spiritual. Here’s the first, from Laurel Marr, staff member with our gracious hosts at Calvary St. George’s.

This breakout will look at where the 12-steps of recovery intersect with Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. We will be connecting The Rev. John Zahl’s book Grace in Addiction and Dr. Simeon Zahl’s dissertation, Pneumatology and Theology of the Cross in the Preaching of Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt: The Holy Spirit between Wittenburg & Azusa Street. You don’t have to be an addict in recovery to identify with this subject in the least.

Come and hear the theology of the German Preacher, Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), the son of a renowned healer. He eventually departed from his father’s healing ministry and belief that supernatural forces were opposing the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God, and adopted the theology that it is the sinful heart of mankind that is in opposition to the Kingdom of God. “Die, so that Jesus may live!” was Blumhardt’s call to his congregation.

This call to death is patterned after the cross of Christ. It is here that we are humbled, that we truly suffer, and that our will is thwarted. The recovering addict must die daily if he or she is to maintain sobriety. Blumhardt believed that this dying “belongs at first only to a few.” Only a few are first called to take on this dying work that opens a pathway for Christ to spread His message and His will. In a day where Christianity seemed to have lost its way, Blumhardt believed the Kingdom would move forward once again when a “little flock” of faithful men and women came to understand the problem of the flesh and put it in its rightful place, in the care and keeping of God.

For more, join Laurel on Friday April 27, at 3:00pm at Calvary St. George’s church in NYC.

You can register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! We hope to see you there!