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The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

We encounter the world, perhaps more explicitly now than ever, as a field of useful objects. We don’t even think twice about the most everyday of them: the remote control for the TV, the doorframe of the door we walk through each morning, the stove or refrigerator. Gestures, too, are...
The Absurd Command, Part 2: We Are Always in the Wrong

The Absurd Command, Part 2: We Are Always in the Wrong

Continuing from last week’s first part. Kierkegaard once (indirectly) wrote that it is an edifying thought that “before God we are always in the wrong.” Not because he was an apologist for the perfectionist strain of popular Calvinism (thank God) but because this view recalibrates our lenses to assess what...
2019 Mbird NYC Conference happens 4/25-27!

2019 Mbird NYC Conference happens 4/25-27!

A bunch of details about our upcoming 12th annual conference in NYC are now up on conference.mbird.com. Some things to note: Our theme will be “Beyond Deserving: Hope in a World of Performance”! Speaking of performance, we didn’t get just any Conference YoYoist – we got JWYOYO! On Friday night...
Five Years of Grace and Bad Coffee: Sobriety and Holy Week

Five Years of Grace and Bad Coffee: Sobriety and Holy Week

On Tuesday night of Holy Week, I sat under fluorescent lights at a plastic folding table and gripped a styrofoam cup of bad coffee. Around the room sat men from all walks of life. Respectable businessmen, craftsmen and laborers, men living in a residential rehab or halfway house, and me:...
Can Loneliness Be a Good Thing?

Can Loneliness Be a Good Thing?

While most of the news coming out about loneliness is about how bad it is for our health, some people have stated that loneliness can be a good thing. Dr. Karyn Hall writes, “Just as physical pain protects people from physical dangers, loneliness may serve as a social pain to...
“All Is Lost…and All Is Not Lost”: An Introduction to <i>Life Is Impossible</i> by Nick Lannon

“All Is Lost…and All Is Not Lost”: An Introduction to Life Is Impossible by Nick Lannon

No one ever said life would be easy. But does your life ever seem…too hard? Does self-help, strangely, not work? If so, consider Life Is Impossible: And That’s Good News, the new book by longtime Mockingbird writer Nick Lannon. It’s a slim work, biblically sound and buoyed by vivid illustrations from...
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...
I Love You Without All Your Accomplishments

I Love You Without All Your Accomplishments

This week, I read an article in the New York Times about an Olympic medalist who recently died from suicide. Kelly Catlin was a lot of things in her short life. Beyond Olympic cycling, she was also a horse enthusiast, a triplet, a mathematician, and someone who lived by her...
The In-Between: Sufjan Stevens and the Anticipation of Holy Saturday

The In-Between: Sufjan Stevens and the Anticipation of Holy Saturday

Thankful for this reflection from Kelly Reed. I’m not sure what I expected from turning thirty. (I suspected there would at least be a dog in the picture…alas, no). My other friends in their thirties have moved steadily through the phases of adulthood. They’ve developed careers, gone to grad school,...
<i>Seculosity</i> Has Landed!!

Seculosity Has Landed!!

Beyond excited to announce that my new book Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What To Do About It is officially out today! So excited, in fact, that we made another video to celebrate #markbabikowisagenius: A few ways to support the cause...
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Another Week Ends: Good Friday, the Boomers' Death Boom, a Grand Miracle, <i>Lazarus Is Dead</i>, Meritocracy, Performance, [chill / lofi  / jazzhop], and Oat Milk

Another Week Ends: Good Friday, the Boomers' Death Boom, a Grand Miracle, Lazarus Is Dead, Meritocracy, Performance, [chill / lofi / jazzhop], and Oat Milk

1. Today is Good Friday, which means, if ever there were a time to consider the brutal instrument of death at the center of a major world religion, that time has come. Off-putting and oft-baffling, the cross carries a multifaceted meaning that can prove elusive for onlookers and skeptics (and, much of time, believers). In […]

From The New Yorker


p.s. How’s that for some prime #seculosity?!

“Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack” - Vicki Hearne

“Good Friday: No Way Out but Straight Through, Jack”
by Vicki Hearne (1946-2001)

It’s like chance, but chance knocks but
Won’t open the door, and here’s
A greater thing than we have
Ever done (before we learn
What we are doing). The god
Will become so resplendent
With wounds our eyes must dazzle,

But now our hands hold aloft
The spears that dance in the light
From the hillside. Ecstasy,
Even, should not distract us:
The flesh must be opened full
To the light and wait, bleeding
In welcome. And in welcome

The elegant wounds will close
With all of us safe inside.
But we are not now to know
With Whom we trifle, not yet
To ask forgiveness lest we
Not plunge the gleaming weapons
Heartily. Grief will give wings

And song reveal the purple
Gold, the burnished ground, the flame.

______

featured image: Cross with arma Christi, wood cross, Joaquín López Antay, Fowler Museum at UCLA.

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.

The Failure of Best Intentions (Mark 14:27-31)

The Failure of Best Intentions (Mark 14:27-31)

This timely excerpt is taken from Larry Parsley’s devotional, An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark.  Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” (14:29–30) If you have read the gospels […]

I Love You, But I'm Not Gonna Wash Your Feet

I Love You, But I'm Not Gonna Wash Your Feet

Sometimes I’m asked after our Maundy Thursday service why we don’t hold a foot washing like some other churches do on that night. They’re never quite prepared for my answer. The reason I don’t do foot washings is that I’m not sure about the theology communicated in that act, namely that we are at all […]

Rebuilding What We Never Made: Notre Dame

Rebuilding What We Never Made: Notre Dame

Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (Matthew 17:4) Those tabernacles were the best way that St. Peter could fully express his love of Jesus. But […]

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.

The Sermon in Stone at Notre Dame

The Sermon in Stone at Notre Dame

Notre Dame has burned. The cathedral had — “had,” how terrible to write — one of the oldest surviving wood frames in Paris’ history, comprising 52 acres of trees. Workers cut those trees down in the 12th century and made the beams. Each beam required the wood of a whole tree. The intricate lattice of […]

Peace Among the Monsters

Peace Among the Monsters

I’ve never seen Bigfoot myself (other than when he guest-starred on The Six Million Dollar Man). But when I was in kindergarten, I was convinced, more than once, that he would be, at any given time — particularly at night — looking through my bedroom window. The fact that my bedroom was on the second […]

Death and Resurrection: UVA Basketball on Embracing Failure

Death and Resurrection: UVA Basketball on Embracing Failure

“If you didn’t believe in resurrection before those last two UVA basketball games, then you must now.” This is how Marilu Thomas started her sermon at Christ Church Charlottesville the Sunday before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final. And then in the third game, the Hoos rose again. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but last […]

A Very Brady Holy Week

A Very Brady Holy Week

The most famous episode of The Brady Bunch is the one where Marcia takes a football to the nose.[1] In the beginning of the episode, she is asked out by the school’s star football player and breaks off a date with her friend Charley, a rather unremarkable suitor by comparison. In breaking off the date, […]