Month: December 2014

Blog Birthday Party!

About four years ago, I said, “Hey, I’m going to start a blog and write on it at least once a week.” I pretty much assumed this would end up in the Graveyard of Well Intentioned Beginnings, because I’m an ENFP, and that’s what we do apparently. But here we are, several hundred posts later. This is the one-year birthday of this particular blog, which I enjoy writing so much it shouldn’t be allowed.

Downside to the title of this blog...I have positive connotations when I hear the word "heresy."

Downside to the title of this blog…I have positive connotations when I hear the word “heresy.”

As I typically do, here are some year-end highlights in case you aren’t my mom and didn’t read every single post. Or if you’re just dying for some bonus heresy.

Most Popular Post

Three Lessons Frozen Taught Me

This should surprise absolutely no one, given that you can’t exist in the world without hearing someone imitating Elsa. (No one will safely be able to say “Just let it go!” in anger ever again.)

Summary Quote: “Love is a gloves-off, open-gates approach to life that isn’t afraid to let other people in and make them feel welcome.”

The bigger surprise is the one that came in second, just a few hundred views shy, Why I Don’t Wear Jeans To Church. This is also my favorite of the posts that basically explain “Why I Do Whatever-it-is,” because it makes no sense at first, and also because I didn’t offend anyone (I was kind of afraid I would).

Summary Quote: “The short answer is ‘because of a British demon.’”

 

My Favorite Series

Scenes with the Pharisees

Seriously, those are so much fun to write. And, weirdly, they make me understand and care about the actual real-life people they’re based on, even the disciples.

My Favorite “Young Amy Story”

Sticks and Stones

Even with all the silly and/or ridiculous childhood stories I’ve decided to share with the Internet, this one is still my favorite, partially because it was really hard to write, and because I know so many teenagers who needed to hear it.

Summary Quote: “We have the wrong idea of what it means to show others God’s love, I think. It’s not always dramatic. It’s…refusing to believe that any labels—yours, mine, that kid who no one notices—are true indicators of worth.”

My Favorite Theologian Thursday

When God Feels Distant, Part Two

Also part one. But part two is less depressing. I think it’s important that Christians get comfortable with real, sometimes painful, emotions. (Also, Theologian Thursday is something I did in the first half of this year when I posted twice a week. You know…on Thursdays.)

Summary Quote: “We take the dark night of the soul and string up icicle lights and disco balls and glow-in-the-dark smiley face decals. ‘What? Nothing wrong here. Can’t you see how great my life is? It’s just a party! All the time!’”

 

My Five Favorite Posts

The Death of a Rose

Summary quote: “It’s why I make fun of plastic poinsettias and love antiques and write letters and decorate cupcakes that are just going to be eaten and pay money to go to orchestra concerts even though the music fades with the last applause.”

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Summary Quote: “Are we as Christians supposed to be adventurers and wanderers, catching the next train like a hobo in the night, always moving, always waiting for that elusive feeling that we’ve arrived and never quite reaching it?”

The Philadelphia Story and Total Depravity

Summary Quote: “The problem is, we tend to have compassion for our own frailty, but not others’.”

The Problem with Hipster Christianity

Summary Quote: “It’s very, very easy to move from graciously disagreeing with someone to mocking them in a disrespectful way or dismissing them entirely. Because that’s cooler. That’s funnier. That’s more sensational.”

Why We’re Terrible At Accepting Compliments

Summary Quote: “When you’ve done a task well, received recognition, had your name announced as the most likely to do something awesome, there is that terrible sense of foreboding: what if I can’t live up to this?”

It’s been a great year, guys. Thanks so much for joining me!

What topic/question/pop culture reference/theologian would you like to see addressed on The Monday Heretic next year? Now’s your chance to suggest any and all ideas!

 

Christmas and War

“So, if we keep talking about Jesus coming to bring peace…then why don’t we see peace around us?”

The faces of five junior high girls look back at me, eyes wide. Most of them don’t come from Christians families, but every Monday night they attend a program where nice church people help them with their homework and ask them nice discussion questions about the Bible lesson. Normally.

Things never seem to stay normal for long when I’m around. Particularly when the nice church people give me my own group and let me ask my own discussion questions.

Peace3One girl recovers first. “Because Jesus gave us peace inside us,” she says.

And I say something vaguely affirming about reconciliation with God that is true but not the point. Because I can’t explain what I mean if I say, “But that’s not enough.” Not without running through a slideshow of suffering and starvation and sickness and suicide.

It’s not that peace with God is a small thing—it is the ultimate thing. But the Jesus who prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” was not sent here to give us an emotional sense of inner peace. All of creation is groaning, and sin is still here, and we hate what God loves over and over again. It’s all wrong. It’s not enough.

All of creation is groaning, and I groan too—and ask hard questions and read Night by Elie Wiesel and cry too often when no one else is. And sometimes I pick up the little ceramic Jesus with the sweet face and the gilded halo and say, “Hello, little baby. Why did you come here?” (more…)

Prepare Him Room

“Let every heart prepare him room.”

Recently, while listening to this familiar Christmas lyric, I felt something inside me say, “Did you hear that? Every heart.”

“Even your overscheduled, frayed-around-the-edges, aching to please others, festive little extrovert heart, Amy. Does it have room for what matters most this time of year? Have you made that room?”

Nope. No, I have not.

Conviction by Christmas carol. Seriously, Holy Spirit, that’s a new one.

Or…is it? Because, as it turns out, I did a little searching and realized I faced this exact same lesson a few years ago, with a different Christmas carol. (What can I say; I’m a slow learner.) The rest of this post is reflections from my twenty-year-old self.

And the time I would have spent writing a new blog post? I’m using it to prepare him room.

Taylor University's annual Candle and Carols chapel

Taylor University’s annual Candle and Carols chapel my sophomore year.

Eight Christmas parties in one week.

On the first Sunday of December during my sophomore year, this sounded like a great idea and the most exciting schedule ever. I was involved in a half-dozen groups and organizations, all of which decided that they needed to distribute frosted cookies at various events to properly celebrate the season. It was going to be so much fun!

By Wednesday, I was a little sleep-deprived, but hey, Christmas only comes once a year, right?

By Friday, I was starting to get sick, dragging through my classes with annoying Christmas songs stuck in my head. I wrote in my journal, “To survive this weekend, I’m going to need lots of prayer, Nyquil, and Christmas fudge.” (Looking back: the fudge was a bad idea.)

By Sunday, I skipped my last party and almost fell into a candy-cane induced coma.

Instead, I stumbled through the snow to the prayer chapel. There, I mindlessly flipped through the hymnal, landing in the Christmas carol section so I wouldn’t feel like a total Scrooge.

I started to read the words to “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” and down in one of those obscure verses we never sing, I froze on this line: “O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”

Have you heard them singing lately?

Me neither. Because sometimes we can be louder than the angels. We cram our schedules full of events, concerts, parties, open houses, movie marathons and jingle-bell tunes cranked up as high as they can go. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they’ve often kept me so busy that I forget what I’m supposed to be celebrating: Jesus’ birth.

But even when we forget, the songs—those carols we hear so often that we don’t really hear them anymore—still tell us what we’re missing.

You can hear it at everyone’s favorite pre-finals basketball game, where spectators clothed in pajamas and costumes (or not clothed in enough of either) sway and shout-sing, “Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright.”

You can hear it in the opening hymn of the Candle and Carols chapel, while resident pyromaniacs plan what they can do with the little flame in their hand, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.”

You can hear it almost everywhere, from Chorale rehearsals, Spotify accounts, Holipalooza karaoke performances, and warbles from the shower stall next to you. Our songs tell us what we value most at Christmas. Joy and cheer? Sure, those are there. But so is peace. So is calm. So is the quietly unexpected wonder of finding a Savior in a manger.

At Taylor University, December can be a rush of fast-paced, holly jolly, festive craziness that is over in about the same time that it takes to tear wrapping paper off of presents. There are dozens of events to go to, plus all the papers and projects you had in your syllabus since the beginning of the year but forgot about. And maybe studying for finals. Maybe.

Please, I’m begging you: slow down. Go to the prayer chapel. Have coffee with a friend to ask “How are you?” and really mean it. Read John 1:1-14 (my favorite version of the Christmas story). Take a walk by yourself in the woods.

Rest beside the weary road. The stress, socializing, and sugar buzz can wait until later.

Why Edmund is Basically Joseph the Father of Jesus

I was reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe recently when I realized something for the first time: Edmund has a really strange name.

No, I don’t mean “Edmund” itself, although it’s not the catchiest moniker ever. I mean the title that he gets at the coronation at the end of the book.

His siblings’ make sense: Peter the Magnificent. (I mean, a little overboard, but, hey, he’s a sixteen-year-old who’s suddenly ruling a whole country. He can use all the PR help he can get.) Susan the Stick-in-the-Mud—I mean, Susan the Gentle. Lucy the Valiant.

And Edmund…the Just.

If that title doesn’t sound strange to you, think about this: Aslan trading himself for a traitor was a great and beautiful act of…mercy. Not justice. In fact, most of us would say that it was an act of mercy instead of an act of justice.

I think this is Edmund's fourth blog post. Because he's my favorite.

I think this is Edmund’s fourth blog post. Because he’s my favorite.

So, okay, you might say, maybe even though Edmund benefited from an act of mercy, his personality was more geared toward justice. Nope, sorry. Let’s jump forward in time to The Horse and His Boy, where the Penvensie rulers are deciding what to do with a criminal.

“Your Majesty would have a perfect right to strike off his head,” said Peridan.

That, my friends, is what we normally think of when we think of justice. The “perfect right” to follow the law and punish the guilty. And how does Edmund the Just respond?

“It is very true,” said Edmund. “But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did.” And he looked very thoughtful.

How do we understand this? Did Lewis just pick a random noble-sounding adjective for Edmund without considering the fact that his entire character arc was based on mercy, not justice? (more…)

Christmas Carol Parodies

It’s been a while since I’ve written some Christmas carol parodies. Since my freshman year of college, actually. So I’m about due. These have basically no theological significance, so I’m not making it my normal Monday post. But I hope you enjoy them!

Carols Black Friday Carol
To the tune of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

I came upon a midnight sale,
The night after Thanksgiving Day.
I tried to say my chatt’ring teeth,
Went “jingle all the way.”
The people waiting in line were tough,
And carefully guarded their place.
All armed with plans and strategies,
And cans of hidden mace.

Then through the doors the crowds all ran,
With grace of a violent stampede.
To be the first to get the deals,
On all the stuff they…“need.”
A harried clerk-elf beat back the line,
While kids ate the fake stuffing snow.
Two moms fought for the last Elsa doll,
To strains of “Let It Go.”

I jumped a toaster avalanche,
And dodged a melee by the shoes,
And found the Tupperware all had gone,
Before I got to choose.
Why do we bother with this each year?
This Hunger-Games-esque shopping spree?
I’ll watch a horror film instead.
To stress myself for free!

(more…)

My Least Favorite Christmas Songs Ever

There are some beautiful Advent hymns that make me appreciate exactly what it means that God came down to live among us. And there are some delightful just-for-fun holiday tunes that get stuck in my head and make me smile.

And then there are these songs. As much as try, I just can’t appreciate them.

These five Christmas songs, in no particular order, are sure to get a groan out of me whenever they play on the radio or (heaven forbid) show up in a church worship service.

The Little Drummer Boy: I’m pretty sure this song gets on Christmas albums solely because bands want to show some love to their drummers and give them an epic percussion solo. But if you can sing “par-rum-pa-pum-pum” without feeling like a total idiot, well, I applaud you. Also, the lyrics make absolutely no sense. Maybe there’s some Middle Eastern cultural tidbit I just don’t know about. Maybe the shepherds watching their flocks by night employed a kid playing drums to, I don’t know, keep them awake or scare wolves away or something. Or maybe there was a shepherd who wanted to be just like David when he grew up, only with a drum instead of a harp. But I doubt it.

Plus, I'm 99% sure it was not a snare drum. Nor was there snow on the ground. Or adorable baby forest creatures.

Plus, I’m 99% sure it was not a snare drum. Nor was there snow on the ground. Or adorable baby forest creatures.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town: Let’s put aside my rant about how talking about an omniscient, kind, mythical figure who rewards good behavior and punishes bad behavior (but only shows up once a year) sets up a terrible theological foundation for understanding God. But come on, guys. “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake”? This is Twilight-level stalking going on here. Not okay. Also, let’s not tell children that the reason they should be good is to get toys. That is a terrible basis for ethics.

Calvin3

Do You Hear What I Hear?: Yes, yes I do. I hear a really annoying and repetitive song. That is completely logically inconsistent with the actual gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. Like, what’s with the verse about the king telling all of the people to pray for peace? I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen. Maybe if we modified it a little. Like this: “Said the king to the people everywhere. ‘Listen to what I say! I’m going to kill your sons, people everywhere. Listen to what I say! A child, a child, send the wise men as my spies. Let us make sure everyone dies! Let us make sure everyone dies!” Catchy, I know.

This kind of "Santa Baby"...totally acceptable. Not what I'm talking about here.

This kind of “Santa Baby”…totally acceptable. Not what I’m talking about here.

Santa, Baby: I don’t think I should even have to defend this one. There is nothing even remotely okay about this song. It is creepy on basically all levels possible.

Away in a Manger: First of all, much like our national anthem, there is no good way to pitch this so that a person with a normal vocal range can sing it. (Every time I try, I remember the line from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever that the song “always starts out sounding like a closet full of mice.”) Also, yes, most carols idealize the nativity scene, but this one might be the worst. I mean, come on, “The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” Gag. And “no crying he makes”? I think Mary would beg to differ. The whole point of the incarnation was that Jesus became human in every way, not that he was a silent adorable little bundle of holy perfection with a pre-fitted halo who never cried or fussed or needed a diaper change.

How about you? Is there a Christmas song or carol that gets on your nerves? Why?