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About David Zahl

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their three sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church (christchurchcville.org).

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Author Archive
    
    Prisons of Sadness and a Love Much Greater Than Evolution Requires

    Prisons of Sadness and a Love Much Greater Than Evolution Requires

    I was going to save this for tomorrow’s Another Week Ends column, but it’s just too good not to highlight all on its own. I’m referring to the sermon that author and journalist Michael Gerson gave at The National Cathedral this past Sunday. He opens with the admission that he’d missed the initial preaching date […]

    Accommodating Parents and Their Anxious Kids (or, What I Really Want For Dinner Is Not To Make a Decision)

    Accommodating Parents and Their Anxious Kids (or, What I Really Want For Dinner Is Not To Make a Decision)

    This is what’s for breakfast, that’s what you’re wearing, and here’s how we’re getting to school. Nothing about the next hour is up for grabs, boys. Get to it! …I wish that’s how the morning routine in our house went. Alas, like a lot of modern parents, my reflex is to give my kids options […]

    Sobriety as More Than Deprivation

    Incredibly pleased to announce that the final addition to the speaker line-up at our upcoming NYC Conference (4/25-27)–our ‘mystery guest’–is none other than Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams and The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath. Needless to say, her work has served as a mighty source of inspiration these past few years, and it is a rare privilege to host her. She’ll be joining us on Saturday morning, April 27th, and to celebrate, here’s a favorite passage from The Recovering, a book which details, among (many) other things, her relationship with addiction:

    Leslie Jamison by Beowulf Sheehan

    For a long time, I’d believed that sincerity was all about actions lining up with belief: knowing myself and acting accordingly. But when it came to drinking, I’d parsed my motivations in a thousand sincere conversations–with friends, with therapists, with my mother, with my boyfriends–and all my self-understanding hadn’t granted me any release from compulsion…

    I didn’t know what I believed, and prayed anyway. I called my sponsor even when I didn’t want to, showed up to meetings even when I didn’t want to. I sat in the circle and held hands with everyone, opened myself up to cliches I felt ashamed to be described by, got down on my knees to pray even though I wasn’t sure what I was praying to, only what I was praying for: don’t drink, don’t drink, don’t drink. The desire to believe that there was something out there, something that wasn’t me, that could make not-drinking seem like anything other than punishment–this desire was strong enough to dissolve the rigid border I’d drawn between faith and its absence. When I looked back on my early days in church, I started to realize how silly it had been to think that I’d had a monopoly on doubt, or that wanting faith was so categorically different from having it.

    When people in the program talked about a Higher Power, they sometimes simply said “H.P.,” which seemed expansive and open, a pair of letters you could fill with whatever you needed: the sky, other people in meetings, an old woman who wore loose flowing skirts like my grandmother had worn. Whatever it was, I needed to believe in something stronger than my willpower. This willpower was a fine-tuned machine, fierce and humming, and it had done plenty of things–gotten me straight A’s, gotten my papers written, gotten me through cross-country training runs–but when I’d applied it to drinking, the only thing I felt was that I was turning my life into a small, joyless clenched fist. The Higher Power that turned sobriety into more than deprivation was simply not me. That was all I knew. It was a force animating the world in all of its particular glories: jellyfish, the clean turn of line breaks, pineapple upside-down cake, my friend Rachel’s laughter. Perhaps I’d been looking for it–for whatever it was–for years, bent over the toilet on all those other nights, retching and heaving. (pgs 303-4)

    Click here to pre-register for our NYC Conference!

    February Playlist

    Click here to listen on Spotify (minus a couple tracks, unfortunately, one of which being the extra special Faith & Doubt gem from Dion).

    The Trauma of Decadent Religion (and the Best Worst S-Word)

    The Trauma of Decadent Religion (and the Best Worst S-Word)

    The notion of sin dominated my girlhood. Raised in Indiana by fundamentalist parents, sin was the inflexible yardstick by which I was measured. Actions, words, even thoughts weren’t safe from scrutiny. The list of sinful offenses seemed infinite: listening to secular music or watching secular television, saying “gosh” or “darn” or “jeez,” questioning authorities, envying […]

    Another Week Ends: Bad Believers, Fyre Festivals, Glittering Pastors, Self-Esteem Sadness, StartUp Tongue Twisters, Richard Swift, and #NeverTweet

    Another Week Ends: Bad Believers, Fyre Festivals, Glittering Pastors, Self-Esteem Sadness, StartUp Tongue Twisters, Richard Swift, and #NeverTweet

    1. The best thing that hit the web this past week, as far as I can tell, came from Harrison Scott Key, whose name you may remember from such publications as the Thurber award-winning memoir The World’s Largest Man or The Humor Issue of The Mockingbird. His recent “Confessions of a Bad Christian” is, well, […]

    Are You Burned Out?

    Are You Burned Out?

    …students were convinced that their first job out of college would not only determine their career trajectory, but also their intrinsic value for the rest of their lives. I told one student, whose dozens of internship and fellowship applications yielded no results, that she should move somewhere fun, get any job, and figure out what […]

    January Playlist


    Listen on Spotify by clicking here.

    Another Year Begins: Quarter Life Crisis, Relentless Parents, Haunted Houses, Merton's Epiphany, Trendy Church Names, and Jubilee Street

    Another Year Begins: Quarter Life Crisis, Relentless Parents, Haunted Houses, Merton's Epiphany, Trendy Church Names, and Jubilee Street

    Happy January! So glad to be back at the dials to kick off a fresh year of Mocking-activity and deeply grateful to our many supporters who came through, big time, this past month to make that possible. Stay tuned early next week for details about our upcoming NYC Conference (4/25-27), earlybird registration for which expires […]

    Mockingbird Update: What's in Store for 2019 and How You Can Help

    With 2019 busting down the door, it’s time for our annual update on all things Mockingbird! And what a year it’s been, praise God. Such a privilege to bear Good News, especially when the world feels like an increasingly merciless place.

    At the end of last year, we launched a series of new initiatives called “Mbird 2.0.” Twelve months in, the first fruits have arrived—top of the list being The Mockingapp, the cutting-edge app for iOSx mobile devices we unleashed in October. Next would be StoryMakers, our new children’s ministry venture which is going gangbusters (look for their first offering in early 2019). And then there’s our spectacularly redesigned print magazine, two issues of which appeared in 2018.

    We also held three conferences, published four books, and hosted five ongoing podcasts, including the revitalized lectionary guide, Same Old Song, which hit earbuds at the beginning of Advent.

    What’s next? My own book Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What To Do About It drops in April and is already available for pre-order. I think you’ll love it. In addition to our annual conferences in NYC (4/25-27) and Tyler, TX (4/5-6), we have a pastor’s gathering on the books for June, as well as a Fall event in Virginia. The Faith & Doubt Issue of our print magazine will be out in January, and later that month, we begin work on a second 365-day devotional! We’re also stockpiling new pastoral resources for a planned overhaul of this site.

    All this while the parade of high-quality written and audio content continues apace.

    How You Can Help

    Mockingbird relies on the generosity of individual donors and churches to fund its operations. In 2018 we ran into some unexpected (one-time) expenses, mainly having to do with web hosting and conference scholarships. We’ve cut our budget going forward but are still playing catching up and could really use your help. Specifically, we need to raise $360,000 to keep fulfilling our mission in 2019. For more info about where the money goes, click here. Three easy ways to help might be:

    1. Become a monthly supporter. Close to 250 people give automatically to Mbird every month, anywhere from $10 to $1200. We would love to see that number increase. Remember, anyone who signs up for monthly giving will receive a complimentary subscription to The Mockingbird. Same goes for those who give one-time gifts of $500 or more.
    2. See if your church can help. A handful of ‘partner’ churches support us every year with funds from their outreach budgets. Others give via discretionary accounts. If you attend or work at a church that is benefiting from our ministry but hasn’t gotten behind Mbird “officially” yet, be our advocate! Email us at info@mbird.com if you have any leads.
    3. Spread the word. If you’re not in a place where you can give, there are other ways to pitch in. Write a review of one of our books on Amazon. Rate one of our podcasts on iTunes. Publicize Mbird events and articles on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. Use one of our resources at your church or in your small group. Recruit folks to come to an event. Above all, pray for us!

    If you believe in what we’re doing and want to ensure that it continues, consider making a donation to Mockingbird today. Thanks for reading, and we wish you the happiest of new years.

    Consuming 2018: Favorite Music, TV, Movies, Humor, Books, and Media

    Consuming 2018: Favorite Music, TV, Movies, Humor, Books, and Media

    Time for our annual round up of favorites, which now includes TV too. As always, these are predominantly personal picks, albeit with an eye toward Mocking-resonance. Click here to read last year’s list. Deep breath: Music Favorite Discoveries Josh White. Usually I have a pretty good idea of what to expect at the conferences we […]

    A Mockingbird Gift Guide: 2018 Edition

    A Mockingbird Gift Guide: 2018 Edition

    That time again! Click here to check out last year’s guide. And to make sure all the gifts below look their best, we recommend (w)rapping them in deliciousness or genius. For Your Small Group Leader Who Keeps Hinting That You Take Your Law/Grace Paradigm More Seriously Than Scripture Itself: An Easy Stroll Through a Short […]

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