The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of Single-Elimination Childhood

The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of Single-Elimination Childhood

A few thoughts on one parent's devastating (and hilarious) attack on "America's Kid-Competition Complex". Turns out no one ever thought of a good idea in the middle of cramming for the SAT...
Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

We're told that learning how to handle failure is an important part of growing up. Yet we do everything we can to make sure our kids never experience it. What did Samuel Beckett actually mean when he told us to "fail better"? And what does it have to do--if anything--with...
For He Gives to His Beloved Sleep (Mode)

For He Gives to His Beloved Sleep (Mode)

What happens when we lose the final frontier? A look into the necessary uselessness of sleep.
2014 Fall Conference in Houston TX (10/17-18) – Pre-Registration Now Open!

2014 Fall Conference in Houston TX (10/17-18) – Pre-Registration Now Open!

Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free. – Robert Capon

The grace of God does not play it safe. It is imprudent, risky, foolish. It cannot be contained by the walls we build and masks we wear. It moves beyond deserving,...

Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

I never considered myself much of a fisherman, so when my dad said, “Take a gaff,” I asked what that was. He held up a massive hook. “In case you get a big one,” he insisted. And I answered, “We’ve been fishing all summer and never needed a gaff.” But...

500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

The New South aesthetic is farcical, but not irredeemably so. Over pimento cheese fritters with bacon jam at a restaurant in South Georgia, I marveled at waiters in chambray shirts under plaid vests, distressed brick walls, and cocktail names like ‘rockin porch’. How, I wondered, had things down there come...
The Lame Shall Enter First: Remembering Flannery O’Connor, Fifty Years Later

The Lame Shall Enter First: Remembering Flannery O’Connor, Fifty Years Later

A woman once wrote Flannery O’Connor, whose stories spanned such plots as misfit murderers, rapacious Bible salesmen, and racist old men, and the woman suggested Flannery’s stories weren’t uplifting. Complaining about the criticism in a letter to a friend, O’Connor said she would’ve found them uplifting, “if her heart were...

NOW AVAILABLE! Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis

NOW AVAILABLE! Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis

Mockingbird’s newest resource, Eden and Afterward, by Will McDavid, is available now! With imagination and deep empathy, the book brings to life some of the Bible’s oldest stories, looking at them through the lens of narrative. The symbols, motifs, situations, and characters explore the murky depths of human love, envy,...

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I Am What I Drink: Identity and Craft Beer

I Am What I Drink: Identity and Craft Beer

Long time readers of the blog will know the world of alcohol is one of life’s laboratories where our favorite theological themes are examined. Lord knows we’ve written a book’s worth of material on the subject of alcoholism, addiction, and the wisdom found in the world of recovery. Along with the very real and widespread issue of dependency, the bar scene is another petri dish where some of the most widespread identity-crafting techniques are employed. Chief among the questions of identity: what should I drink, and what will my order say about me.

For craft beer fans, the question of drink and identity is a…

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Steve Brown on the Laughter of the Forgiven

WBGIGE_13610f86-7f95-48b5-8411-f07cf247ee34_1024x1024Mockingbird-favorite Steve Brown’s classic, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough (recently revised in a new edition), calls us to enter the impasse of the overcontrolled Christian, half-looking at ourselves or at others with one eye, while the other one’s uneasily flitting back and forth to the scoreboard, seeing how things are measuring up. It admits that despite our doctrinal sophistication, our born-again spiritual credentials, our good work, and/or our pursuit of holiness, something still seems to missing. Brown says we miss laughter, the normal reaction to one’s own silliness or unexpected good fortune, because we take ourselves very seriously – especially in faith – and try to expect, predict, and control for everything. How could there be laughter in those circumstances? How can there be?

One story of his follows a woman who moved from having everything under control to being forced to give it up, ht JH:

Early in my ministry I counseled a woman who, some twenty years before, had been unfaithful to her husband. For years that sin had haunted her. I was the first person she had ever told about it. After we talked and prayed for a long time, I recommended she tell her husband. (That, by the way, isn’t always the advice I give. In this case, I knew the woman’s husband and knew that her revelation, after the initial shock, would probably strengthen their marriage.) It wasn’t easy for her, but she promised she would tell him. “Pastor,” she said, “I trust you enough to do what you ask, but if my marriage falls apart as a result, I want you to know I’m going to blame you.” She didn’t smile when she said that, either.

That’s when I commenced to pray with a high degree of seriousness. (I pray best when I’m scared.) “Father,” I prayed, “if I gave her dumb advice, forgive me and clean up my mess.”

I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. “What happened?” I asked. “When I told him,” she exclaimed, “replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!” And then she started to laugh. “He forgave me twenty years ago, and I’ve been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!” Perhaps you are like this woman who had been forgiven and didn’t know it.

 

With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Adam and Eve, the Minnesota Crime Commission, and this summer’s hottest blockbuster.

You Are Definitely Not Your Introspections

You Are Definitely Not Your Introspections

David Brooks tells us how we ought to think about thinking about ourselves.

O No, Captain! My Captain!: On the Suicide of Robin Williams

O No, Captain! My Captain!: On the Suicide of Robin Williams

In the film Dead Poets Society, Neil Perry, a young prep school boy, goes against his father’s wishes and performs in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The father blames the boy’s teacher, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) for Neil’s disobedience, demanding Mr. Keating stay out of the boy’s life. In reaction to the situation, that evening Neil’s father takes him home, telling Neil he plans to enroll him in military school.

Later that night Neil, unable to handle the thoughts of his possible future, takes his own life.

Of course, today this plot holds a bitter irony since one of Robin…

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The Nerdy Pharisees

The Nerdy Pharisees

When I was in college, a group of pledges from one of the socially-elite fraternities on campus painted “NERDS” in large capital letter on the roof of my fraternity’s house. It was a pejorative statement.

Until that act of vandalism, we didn’t know that we were nerds. We dressed nicely. We drank a lot. We were involved in campus activities. We weren’t the glasses-wearing, teetotaling, social pariahs portrayed in movies like Revenge of the Nerds. We were nice people.

But our niceness was precisely what made us nerds. The ever-evolving landscape of social distinctions can be difficult to discern. And, unless you’re one of…

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In Memoriam: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

In Memoriam: Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Williams’ comedy was more settled into the gap of my parents’ generation than it really was in mine. I, however, grew up watching the best (The Awakening, Good Will Hunting) and worst (Popeye, RV) of his films. He was a household name. A comedian that was so energetic and so child-like that it was impossible to not allow his charisma to drastically change your demeanor. That same energy and child-like-ness, also, made him one of the most devastatingly difficult people to endure during interviews. He would fidget and act like he had drank two gallons of Kool-Aid before coming on…

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New Music: Mac Demarco’s Salad Days and the Impasse of Good Advice

New Music: Mac Demarco’s Salad Days and the Impasse of Good Advice

“Treat Her Better”, and “Go Easy”: the voice of pleading fights down that of advice in Demarco’s latest release.

Mac Demarco’s Salad Days has been, strangely enough, a joy to listen to. If I were a music critic, I’d try and fail to describe the playful self-awareness, the almost-total coincidence between irony and sincerity, etc. I can’t describe musical form too precisely, but suffice it to say, it’s tailored extremely well to the album’s content. And the content is stunning – or would be, if it didn’t have so many layers of irony and alienation covering it over.

In this case, that’s…

A Quick Calvin and Hobbes

refusetoplay

PZ’s Podcast: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

EPISODE 171: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

IMG_3572Guess I never tire of quoting Gerald Heard’s maxim about opting out: “The verb to escape is clear enough — it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

There’s a long back-and-forth within the history of Christian endeavor as to the relative merit of engaging a fallen world in the hope of transforming it; or opting out of it in order to watch, wait and pray. Many dedicated saints have taken the first road. Many others have taken the second. There is obviously room for both.

This podcast examines the second road, and offers another element, too. You could entitle the talk “Feel to Heal”. I believe it, in any event.

Something happened to me on the 26th of July in London, Ontario. I knew it was happening when it was happening. It was even captured “on tape”. You can hear it at the end of this cast, about five minutes into the concluding music. “Good God,” I said to my friend — over the shouting — “he’s really doing it!” Speechless we were. Hope you will be, too, in a good way.

Another Week Ends: Play Week, The Blame Instinct, Calvary, Parenting Trends, and God Save the Girl

Another Week Ends: Play Week, The Blame Instinct, Calvary, Parenting Trends, and God Save the Girl

1) It is “Play Week” at NPR, so let’s have some fun! Among the legions of playground research data, lab rat tickle tests (not joking), and zany stories about parents at “amusement parks”, play is becoming the boon of brain science, the absence of which we feel a threat to the very health of a nation. Erik Erikson, Brigid Schulte, eat your heart out! Tag this with busyness, successaholism, moms “having it all,” you name it, play is really just the current word for freedom—from demand, from time, from broccoli. It is the inspired no-where of imagination, inquiry, and social…

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On TV: Rectify, “Donald the Normal”

On TV: Rectify, “Donald the Normal”

Sundance TV’s drama, Rectify tells the story of Daniel Holden – a death row inmate in South Georgia who is released from prison because of “lack of DNA evidence” after 19 years of appeals and stays of execution.  The series is wrapping up season two, and it’s still unclear to the viewer if Daniel is innocent or guilty of the crime he was sentenced to death for – raping and murdering his girlfriend when he was 18. There are “whodunnit” elements to the show and slow reveals that suggest both that Daniel may have done it, and that he couldn’t…

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Will-lessly (Happy 80th, Wendell Berry)

In honor of the man’s 80th birthday, a poem from his newest collection of Sabbath poems, This Day.

by-j-b-hallWill-lessly the leaves fall,
are blown, coming at last
to the ground and to their rest.
Among them in their coming down
purposely the birds pass,
of all the unnumbered ways
choosing one, until
they like the leaves will
will-lessly fall. Thus freed
by gravity, every one
enters the soil, conformed
to the craft and wisdom, the behest
of God’s appointed vicar,
our mother and judge, who binds
us each to each, the largest
to the least, in the family of all
the creatures: great Nature
by whom all are changed, none
are wasted, none are lost.
Supreme artist of this
our present world, her works
live and move, love
their places and their lives in them.
And this is praise to the highest
knowledge by the most low.

The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of Single-Elimination Childhood

The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of Single-Elimination Childhood

A few thoughts on one parent’s devastating (and hilarious) attack on “America’s Kid-Competition Complex”. Turns out no one ever thought of a good idea in the middle of cramming for the SAT…

Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

I never considered myself much of a fisherman, so when my dad said, “Take a gaff,” I asked what that was. He held up a massive hook. “In case you get a big one,” he insisted. And I answered, “We’ve been fishing all summer and never needed a gaff.” But I took it anyways, because he said so.

My brother, Andrew, and I packed the rest of the rods into the doorless Jeep and off-roaded past the cul-de-sac into the woods, where deep in the trees a river runs. I plopped on the bank where my feet could dangle above the…

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