Month: October 2014

Celebrating Reformation Day with Luther…and Hitler

If you are a candy-eating pagan who thought today was Halloween, well, I’ll pray for your soul. Today is Reformation Day.

Besides sending a long letter to Google about why its homepage features scarecrows and monsters instead of the Wittenberg Door, I decided to celebrate by writing about Martin Luther, the one who basically started the Protestant church on this day in 1517. (It’s more complicated than that, of course. But hey, this is my blog post. I’m summarizing.)

Luther

The problem is, my relationship with Luther is…interesting.

Back in high school, a few of my friends called me “Marty” after Martin Luther. Not because I was super Protestant (though I was), but because I played the famous reformer in a debate. (Not your classic here-I-stand-I-can-do-no-other debate. As I recall, it was against Zwingli on the topic of transubstantiation. I promise this was a class assignment at my public high school. I was not nerdy enough to do this on my own.)

The point is, I identified with Martin Luther. I thought he was just the coolest, because seriously, who wouldn’t want to talk about grace and dramatically nail stuff to doors and sneak nuns out of a convent in barrels, Hobbit-style?

I was a fan. (more…)

What I Learned from Seussical

Whenever I say, “True, true,” I add, “said the Sour Kangaroo.”

Villain with spectacles on a stick. Major win. Read Horton Hears a Who for details.

Villain with spectacles on a stick. Major win. Read Horton Hears a Who for details. (Although we all know the Wickersham Brothers are the coolest.)

This makes absolutely no sense if you’ve never seen Seussical, a show that essentially puts all of Dr. Seuss’s books in a blender and throws in some glitter for good measure. But it’s a fun habit for me, and it takes me back to my junior year of high school. Which, okay, let’s be real, is not a 100% pleasant place to go back to.

Example: if you watched the Warsaw Community High School cast take their bows at the end of that show, it would be like viewing a slideshow presentation of my teenage awkwardness in relating to others.

There’s the guy who I avoided because I never knew what to say to him. The girl who was my exact opposite in basically every way and who might have been as jealous of me as I was of her. The one who thought I was judging him (maybe I was), the one who looked up to me for no good reason that I could see, the one who couldn’t quite figure me out or was too cool to be my friend or only vaguely knew I existed.

And there was sixteen-year-old me, who had been talked into trying out for a chorus role and felt painfully out of place.

The juniors...there I am off to the right, probably not wanting to be in the picture or something.

The juniors…there I am off to the right, probably not wanting to be in the picture or something.

(more…)

The Amish View Gospel

Last month, I was part of Amish fiction author Beverly Lewis’s entourage for book signings and library talks across the gently rolling hills of Pennsylvania. On our day off, we stayed at a charming little place called the Amish View Inn.

What constitutes an Amish view, you might ask? Well, this.

100_2003

So, you know…basically what I could see all the time in my hometown. Or near the college I went to.

But for big city people, I’m sure that corn looked really green and provincial and quaint. So did the very faint scent of manure you could sniff outside if you breathed really deeply, as if someone had sprayed a light oderizer to give the place a more authentic feel.

As soon as I stepped inside the hotel room, though, I started laughing. (more…)

Letter to the Church from the Lonely: One Year Later

Sometimes, I write a blog post and don’t want to share it because I don’t know enough about the subject, or because I’m not sure it makes sense, or because it’s sarcastic to the point of being mean.

And sometimes I write a blog post and don’t want to share it because I know it will make my mom cry. And that, my friends, is a very serious thing.

That was the case exactly a year ago when I wrote about visiting my church for the first time.

I went from a college town of 4,000 with one stoplight...

I went from a college town of 4,000 with one stoplight…

...to this. (Okay, fine, I live in the suburbs. But I was that person who insisted she'd never ever live near a big city.)

…to this. (Okay, fine, I live in the suburbs. But I was that person who insisted she’d never ever live in or near a big city.)

You can read the whole thing if you like, but here’s the summary: I was very, very lonely that first Sunday. Reading it again, I’m not entirely sure how I expected the people around me to know what I needed if I didn’t ask for it.

I think I was actually upset at God for not intervening—God, who knew that I had recently moved, God who knew how lost I felt in a big city, God who knew I just wanted a family. Couldn’t he have told other people?

But he didn’t, and if he had, there’s a lot I wouldn’t have learned, most of which I will save for another blog post. Here’s just one lesson from my time developing a “theology of loneliness.” (more…)

Princess Diaries Theology

When I start giggling in the middle of a sermon or a small group discussion, you have two choices:

Ignore me and think, Wow, she’s strange.

Ask me what I’m thinking and hope it’s entertaining (and not heresy).

Usually, it’s some sort of off-the-wall analogy that popped into my mind in the middle of whatever very serious discussion is going on. (Either that or I’m thinking about which Bible characters would be cast as the Avengers. That might be it too.)

Sometimes my analogies make sense. (“Judas’ betrayal is like Star Wars Mafia.”) Sometimes they make sense, but only to me. (“Irresistible grace is like my hit list.”) Sometimes when I try to explain them…they actually make no real sense at all. (“Servant leadership is like my mom ordering a bacon cheeseburger without cheese.”)

If you ever do ask what I'm thinking, this is probably the best reaction.

If you ever do ask what I’m thinking, this is probably the best reaction.

One of these moments happened to me at the youth group retreat. Pastor Shawn was talking about the power of the gospel to sanctify us in the present, not just to save us in a one-time event that happened in the past.

To illustrate, he read Philippians 2:12-13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

So, you work out your salvation. But your salvation is not based on works, because God works in you. Which sounds like the most nonsensical thing since Starbucks calling small coffees “tall.”

How do we hold these two contradictory things together? How do we make it make sense?

Sometimes putting a story or a picture to it helps, or at least it does for me. So in our discussion groups later, I decided to try this analogy: sanctification is like the two main characters in the Disney movie The Princess Diaries.

PrincessDiaries

Both Clarisse and Mia are royalty. But when you see Julie Andrews, you know she’s a queen. There is absolutely no doubt in your mind. Everything about her puts forth that impression: the way she talks, walks, gestures. The woman can be sliding down a staircase for goodness’ sake, and she still manages to do it regally because that’s who she is. (more…)